Detroit Tigers News

Detroit Tigers: The Bullpen of Victory

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Apr 28, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Kyle Ryan (56) pitches in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 28, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Kyle Ryan (56) pitches in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Detroit Tigers have something that they haven’t had in years – a solid bullpen.

Apr 27, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Alex Wilson (30) pitches in the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 27, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Alex Wilson (30) pitches in the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

For years, Detroit Tigers fans have suffered through the question of how many runs did the team need to score to protect the lead. These worries are over. The bullpen can hold its own.

With the way the starting pitching has been, it is easy to look forward to bullpen pitchers coming in to throw.

The series against the Oakland A’s clearly showed that the bullpen is no longer a vortex of doom. The bullpen has become the collection of conquerors.

At this time, there are three bullpen pitchers who have yet to allow a run. Both Justin Wilson and Alex Wilson along with Matt Boyd all have 0.00 ERAs. Justin Wilson has pitched in 9 innings with 12 strikeouts, 1 walk, and 7 hits. Even though Alex Wilson started a bit late due his time on the DL due to shoulder issues, he stepped right in where he left off in 2015. He has pitched in 5.1 innings, recording 7 strikeouts and allowing 3 hits. Matt Boyd has thrown in 4.2 innings with 2 strikeouts, 3 walks, and 2 hits.

Detroit Tigers
Apr 28, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (57) pitches in the ninth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park. Detroit won 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Wilsons are daily assets in the pen, but Boyd is still officially making his home with the Toledo Mud Hens. His preference is to be a starter in Detroit. His 5.1 innings were in relief for Shane Greene when his blister opened up in his latest start. Even though he was sent back to Toledo after the start, his strong performance was a sign of what fans can expect to see when he earns a permanent spot in the rotation in the future.

The other bullpen pitcher who is quickly making himself a reliable asset is Kyle Ryan. He has pitched in more innings than any other reliever. During those 12.1 innings, he has had 3 strikeouts, while allowing 13 hits and 3 runs. These numbers are not as impressive as the Wilsons’ numbers, but he has protected leads and devoured innings. And, each game he continues to improve – which is what the team and fans want to see. The runs he allowed were all against the Cleveland Indians and the whole team fell apart during that three-game series – so his performance in that series is not much of a worry.

Ryan is only 24 years old, so the Tigers will have plenty of seasons to enjoy this home-grown talent. He 2.45 ERA and 1.182 will only go down as he continues to step in for an inning or two in the late innings.

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Despite the success of the majority of the bullpen pitchers, only one has truly struggled: Drew VerHagen. In 2015, he pitched in 26.1 innings allowing 6 runs while striking out 13. His 2.05 ERA made him a comfortable choice in the late innings last year. But in 2016, something has happened. VerHagen is sitting uncomfortably with an 8.10 ERA – the worst in the bullpen and the rotation. In 10 innings, he has allowed 9 runs, 19 hits, and 4 walks. He is the only bullpen pitcher who makes fans feel queasy when he appears on the mound. He continues to be a favorite of Brad Ausmus, so VerHagen could keep showing up on the mound until he figures it out.

As a long-time Tigers fan, the feeling of relaxation at the end of a game is a new experience. I remember having it as a middle-schooler watching the Tigers in the mid-80s, but not much after that. Even with the flukes against the Miami Marlins and the Kansas City Royals, Francisco Rodriguez also inspires confidence when on the mound. And, Mark Lowe has also shown improvement since the pair of runs he allowed against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Next: Michael Fulmer Could Breathe Life Into the Tigers

This is the beginning of a new era in Detroit Tigers baseball and there is so much to like about it. Now, if something could be done about Justin Upton.

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