Detroit Tigers relievers haven’t exactly been the gold standard in relief pitching over the past few years, however, this year the team has a dependable bullpen. What’s more, Detroit now has depth.
Detroit Tigers bullpen units have struggled in years past, this much is true.
Despite the bad luck in the past, relatively new general manager Al Avila did a fantastic job building a solid bullpen this past offseason.
After a scare on Opening Day—four hits and three runs allowed in just one inning—Francisco Rodriguez has been everything the Tigers have ever wanted (and more) from a closer. The former Brewer has a 1.72 ERA in 15.2 innings pitched, only allowing opposing batters to hit .167. Rodriguez also has 15 strikeouts during the same span.
As it stands, the man referred to as “K-Rod” currently leads the Major Leagues with 13 saves.
Lowe has a 6.61 ERA on the season, but that numbers is high mainly due to a four-game stretch in early May when he allowed eight runs and four home runs in only 1.2 innings pitched. Since that stretch, the right-hander has allowed three hits and no runs while striking out seven in four outings.
Wilson has been excellent. Despite a 4.50 ERA, the reliever’s FIP is an outstanding 1.78 FIP. He’s also struck out 24 batters in just 18 innings pitched.
Not only have the new additions fared well, but incumbent Detroit relievers have also stepped up. Kyle Ryan has been the best of the group with a sparkling 2.89 ERA in 18.2 innings pitched, while Alex Wilson’s 3.13 FIP also stands out.
Warwick Saupold has only pitched in two games, but has yet to allow a run, while Buck Farmer finally seems ready for the Major Leagues. The pitcher has a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 innings pitched and was recently recalled from Triple-A Toledo.
Additionally, there is depth on that very same Toledo team.
Blaine Hardy, who owns a 2.45 ERA in 7.1 innings with the Tigers this season, has posted a 1.69 ERA so far in Triple-A. Another pitcher on Lloyd McClendon’s team who was with Detroit earlier in the season, Logan Kensing, has a 1.59 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 11.1 innings pitched.
Other standouts for the Mud Hens include Preston Guilmet (0.90 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched), Thad Weber (1.86 ERA in 48.1 innings. He could thrive as a swingman) and Drake Britton (1.35 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched).
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This is all without mentioning two of the team’s better minor-league relievers, Bruce Rondon and Bobby Parnell. Rondon has sky-high potential, while Parnell has plenty of experience as a late-inning reliever. While both have ERAs hovering around 4.50, the duo could be extremely successful in the Detroit bullpen.
With the exception of Hardy, Weber and Rondon, all of the relievers listed above who are excelling with Toledo were all brought in by Avila in the offseason.
If last season’s Detroit Tigers taught us anything, it is that poor depth can sink a team fast. The Tigers pitching depth was in fact, poor last season. With more options where the bullpen is concerned, Detroit should be able to withstand the injuries and bouts of inconsistency that come with a Major League Baseball season.
The improved depth should also help the team ultimately make and succeed in the playoffs.