The Detroit Tigers have had a number of bullpen issues in years past. The case could be made that the bullpen has cost the team a chance at one or two World Series rings. Detroit will now turn to veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez to hold things down in the ninth.
In just his first offseason in charge, new Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila made wasted no time in addressing the team’s lingering Achilles Heel—the bullpen.
Avila brought in elite set up men Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe via trade and free agency respectively, but his most noteworthy move where relief pitchers were concerned was the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez.
To add Rodriguez, the Tigers only had to part with blocked infield prospect Javier Betancourt.
As it stands, the man known as “K-Rod,” will slot in as the Detroit Tigers closer. The 34-year-old is the active Major League leader in games (859), games finished (602) and saves (386), and was particularly effective as Milwaukee’s closer the last two seasons.
Rodriguez amassed a staggering 82 saves for the Brew Crew in 2014 and 2015.
The veteran right-handed pitcher has a chance to post some gaudy numbers with a Tigers club that will be looking to contend. Speaking of numbers…
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By most accounts, the stat projectors at Baseball Reference and FanGraphs agree that Rodriguez will have a solid season.
Baseball Reference projects 60 innings of work for the veteran. In addition, the publication predicts he’ll strikeout 8.9 batters per nine innings while posting 23 saves and a 3.30 ERA.
FanGraphs’ Steamer calls for the former Milwaukee Brewer to notch 65 innings and post 8.03 strikeouts per nine innings. The publication also calls for 32 saves and a 3.79 ERA.
While those numbers look good on paper, Rodriguez has be even better with Detroit.
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For a team that finished 74-87 and finished last in the division, the Detroit Tigers accumulated 35 saves as a team. Rodriguez should have a chance to eclipse that number in 2016.
Simply from a WAR standpoint, with the additions that Detroit made, the team added players that posted a cumulative 13 WAR. In terms of outing players, via trades and free agency, the Tigers offloaded players that had a combined -2.9 WAR. That’s a difference of 15.9 WAR. Throw in full, injury-free seasons from Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Anibal Sanchez, and Detroit will significantly improve where wins are concerned. That should directly benefit Rodriguez’ save totals.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-45 saves and an ERA between 3.20 and 3.45 seems about right for K-Rod. He may not have the fastball that he used to possess, but Rodriguez can still rack up punch outs via off-speed offerings.
The closer struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings over the last two seasons, his career average leading up to 2014 was 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings. The velocity may be gone, but Rodriguez can still close games with the best of them.
Expect a stellar season for the closer in his first season with the Detroit Tigers.
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