Detroit Tigers: Why is Bruce Rondon Still a Thing?


Train wreck. Dumpster fire. Hot mess. The Detroit Tigers bullpen for many years has been one of the most atrocious in all of baseball. Since 2013, the Tigers have hoped that Bruce Rondon would be the guy who could carry the bullpen and close games with success. Unfortunately, he has become the personification of that dumpster fire and train wreck. With his performance in 2013 and 2015 and his recent shenanigans in Venezuela, he continues to prove that he is the last ember of that dumpster fire that needs to be swept away. 

Bruce Rondon continues to prove that he is the last ember of the bullpen dumpster fire that needs to be swept away

The Tigers signed him in 2007 and he has slowly made his way through the minor league system. His best season was 2012 where he pitched in Lakeland, Erie, and Toledo. In A+ Lakeland, he threw in 22 games and saved 15 of them with an ERA of 1.93. In Erie, he pitched in 21 games saving 12 with a 0.83 ERA.  In Toledo, he pitched in nine games saving two of them with an ERA of 2.25.

Sep 16, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Bruce Rondon (43) looks down after giving up a game tying run in the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Tigers won 7-4 in twelve innings. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Even though his numbers in A+ and AA were solid, he did not perform as well in AAA in 2012 with a walk rate of 7.88 per nine innings. In comparison, in A+ the walk rate was 3.86 and in AA it was 3.74. In 2013, he decreased his walk rate in AAA with 3.94 per nine. He also threw for a strikeout rate of 12.13 per nine in 2013 with the Toledo Mud Hens. For comparison purposes, Francisco Rodriguez who will be closing Tigers games in 2016 finished the 2015 season with the Milwaukee Brewers with an ERA of 2.21, walk rate of 1.74, and 8.07 strikeouts per nine innings.

The Detroit Tigers moved Rondon to the majors in 2013. He pitched in 30 games, finished 12, and earned a WHIP of 1.360. His was in 2013 was 0.5. Then, he had Tommy John surgery in 2014 and did not pitch a game. He returned to the Tigers in 2015 pitching in 35 games, striking out 36 batters, walking 19, and allowing 3 home runs. He saved five games.

Bruce Rondon has been a thing with the Tigers because he has a fastball that can reach 101 MPH. Yes, it is amazing that anyone can throw a ball that fast, but his speedy fastball does not result in the strikeouts that his coaches and fans have been expecting to see. In 2015, the 63 batters he faced and threw a fastball to resulted in six strikeouts. His fastball resulted in an OPS of 1.043. That’s a fantastic OPS for a batter, but not for a pitcher. In comparison, his slider delivered other results. He threw the pitch 196 times, striking out 29 batters, and earning an OPS of .374. The slider reached speeds between 79 and 90. He does not have a changeup worth discussing, which is pathetic for a professional pitcher in the MLB.

It is easy to see why he was punished at the end of 2015. in September, he was sent home due to hit effort. It was evident that he was not throwing the ball well, that his speed was down, and that he lacked any type of intensity on the mound. He simply seemed to be going through the motions. Fans did not seem disappointed to see him go. He is arbitration eligible in 2017, so the Tigers will need to decide what to do with him. With the restructured 2016 bullpen, he might not have a spot on the team so he will most likely pitch in the minors. 

Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers /

Detroit Tigers

Then, this weekend happened. Rondon was pitching in Venezuela for Navegantes del Magallanes where he hit Jose Osuna, a prospect with the Pittsburgh Pirates who was playing for Bravos de Margarita. Once Osuna took his base, Rondon threw to first to keep Osuna in check. This resulted in words between the two and then a bench- and bullpen-clearing brawl with Rondon and Osuna in the middle of it.

Bench-clearing fights do happen in the big league, but this seemed to escalate quickly. It is unknown whether the hit-by-pitch was intentional or just more proof that Rondon should stop being a thing. His lack of stuff is evident in his current statistics in Venezuela. He has a 2.25 ERA in only six innings where he pitched four walks and six strikeouts. Once the fight was cleared, Rondon, Osuna, four other players, and Rondon’s manager were all ejected.

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The evidence that Bruce Rondon cannot handle the pitching mound is becoming clearer and clearer with each pitch he throws.