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Detroit Tigers: Why We Should Have Seen Bullpen Blowup Coming

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Apr 25, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (7) takes the ball to relieve relief pitcher Blaine Hardy (65) in the eighth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 25, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (7) takes the ball to relieve relief pitcher Blaine Hardy (65) in the eighth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Detroit Tigers have had a terrible bullpen for years. After years old terrible closers and ninth inning heart attacks things began looking better for Detroit relievers. We should have known it was too good to be true.

The Detroit Tigers had one of the best bullpens in baseball during the month of April. During the month of May, things have went sour to say the least. The team is now five games below .500 and fans are calling for the managers head.

While Brad Ausmus may not directly be at fault for his teams poor performance the Jekyll and Hyde act by the bullpen is a large proponent of the Tigers recent losing skid.

April was great for Tigers pitching. The team ERA was 3.69 and it looked like the Tigers could be in contention this season. On May 14, 2016 the team ERA is 5.86 for the month and the Tigers have lost 10 for their 12 games this month.

The bullpen is imploding before our eyes after Justin Wilson, Mark Lowe and Blaine Hardy were so steady in April. Detroit Tigers fans were so enamored by the bullpen in this season’s first month they chose to ignore the signs that said things will get worse. Fans should have seen the decline of Wilson, Lowe and Hardy coming.

LHP Justin Wilson

Acquired from the New York Yankees during the off-season the Tigers added a second Wilson to their bullpen to help lock down the back-end. Ausmus promised he would alternate Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe during the seventh and eighth innings and he has followed up so far. The only issue is it has turned into pick your poison with those two. 

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Wilson was the Tigers best reliever to start the season. It looked like he and starter Jordan Zimmermann were having a competition to see who would give up a run first. Since his stellar April where he allowed no runs and struck out 14 batters in ten innings Wilson has fallen off. In his six appearances in May Wilson has a 15.75 ERA and has stuck out only two hitters. He has failed to pitch a full inning since May 8 including the Mothers Day debacle were he surrendered two runs and failed to record an out.

There is a reason the Yankees gave Justin Wilson up. Even though the Yankees bullpen is one of the best in baseball Wilson was streaky and inconsistent in New York.

Wilson went on similar streaks while pitching with the Yankees. In 2015 his April ERA was a reasonable 3.86 but suddenly spiked to 6.23 in May of 2015. He followed up his less than spectacular May with a 0 ERA in June and a 1.80 ERA in July. Just when you thought things were good his ERA jumped back up to 5.40 in August 2015.

Justin Wilson was not as reliable for the Yankees as he was for the Tigers in April 2016. While history shows he more than likely will bounce back, having another roller coaster reliever is no improvement for the Tigers.

RHP Mark Lowe

Mark Lowe signed a reported two-year, $11M contract with the Detroit Tigers last December following a breakout year with the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. As before mentioned he and Justin Wilson had been sharing the seventh and eighth inning duties until recently when the wheels fell off their early season (not to say they cannot be fixed).

May 8, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Mark Lowe (21) reacts on the mound as Texas Rangers center fielder Delino DeShields (3) runs the bases after he hits a home run in the eighth inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Mark Lowe (21) reacts on the mound as Texas Rangers center fielder Delino DeShields (3) runs the bases after he hits a home run in the eighth inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Lowe pitched to contact a lot in April which result in a low strike out total but a 3.50 strikeout-walk ratio. His 3.12 April ERA just sky rocketed to an astonishing 18.90 in his five May appearances. Lowe was also a part of the Mothers Day debacle where he recorded two outs but also gave up five runs.

Lowe may have the easiest issues to pin point. His track record prior to 2015 showed little reason to offer him a multi-million dollar deal.

After a stellar season with the Mariners Lowe was dealt to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline in 2015 and struggled. Lowe registered an outstanding 1.00 ERA until July with Seattle before posting a 1-2 record and a 3.79 ERA with Toronto.

Lowe’s numbers in Toronto are a bit inflated due to some poor starts but his consistently poor performance throughout his career is what many fans will complain about.

His inability to stick with a team for more than three full seasons should have foreshadowed his potential inconsistency. Still the 1.00 ERA in Seattle last season shows their could still be some life left in that arm.

LHP Blaine Hardy

Blaine Hardy was one of Detroit’s best relievers in 2015.

He is in a unique position because he really is not pitching all that terrible this season. He has a 3.38 ERA this season and had yet to give up a run in May before being optioned to Toledo earlier this week.

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Hardy really had not seen that much time after coming back from a left shoulder injury which landed him on the disabled list. He has seen only 7 1/3 innings of work this year and has looked underwhelming during that time despite his decent numbers.

Even after his impressive season last year Hardy has been on the decline since the second half of 2015. His 2.43 ERA was amazing in the first half of 2015 but his 4.35 ERA left fans wondering what happened to their dependable lefty. His WHIP spiked in the second half of last season and reached 1.84 by seasons end.

Though he did decline near the end of 2015 he was still striking out batters and was able to keep his walks somewhat under control.

Tigers fans hope to see him regain his early 2015 form sooner rather than later. There is really no telling if Hardy’s option to Toledo has something to do with his injury or a lack of confidence from Brad Ausmus to put him in games.

These are only three relievers that have pitched poorly but there are many others who have not met expectations. Some names may have been left of this list that are pitching worse than Wilson, Lowe and Hardy. Francisco Rodriguez, Drew VerHagen and Kyle Ryan have all been less than spectacular at times this season.

Next: Detroit Tigers: Moya makes Gose expendable

Overall fans should have seen this coming simply because this is the Detroit Tigers. Simply put their bullpen has been a dumpster fire and there are no numbers or formulas that can suggest otherwise.

Maybe it will take an ancient guru to walk out to left field at Comerica Park and move the bad mojo over to the visitors bullpen. Instead of investing in bullpen arms perhaps Al Alvia should hire a priest to conduct an exorcism. At this point, Tigers fans will do whatever it takes.

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