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Detroit Tigers: Bullpen a Strength in 2016

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Apr 30, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (57) celebrates the 4-1 win over the Minnesota Twins with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 30, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (57) celebrates the 4-1 win over the Minnesota Twins with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Tigers teams have been undone by faulty bullpens in years past. However, that isn’t the case this season. Detroit’s relievers have been solid and are thriving ahead of a potential playoff run.

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila did some tremendous work in the offseason, bringing in relievers to help steady a bullpen that featured few known quantities.

So far, two of those acquisitions have been in tremendous form, joining with a number of incumbents to give Detroit a dependable bullpen.

That bullpen showed off some tremendous depth on Thursday.

Alex Wilson, Kyle Ryan and Mark Lowe combined to hold the White Sox scoreless after Jordan Zimmermann struggled through 1.2 innings pitched.

The trio has generally taken a back seat to the likes of Shane Greene, Bruce Rondon and Justin Wilson in key situations, but they thrived against Chicago.

Thanks to the efforts of Wilson, Ryan and Lowe, Detroit was afforded the opportunity to climb back into the game. While the Tigers ultimately lost, the fact that the bullpen gave them a shot to snag a victory is a win in itself.

One reason the relief corps has been so successful has been due to the fact that there is a set order. Pitchers like Ryan and Alex Wilson generally throw the early innings while the likes of Greene, Rondon and Justin Wilson come in to bridge the gap to closer Francisco Rodriguez

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Greene, Rondon and Justin Wilson have been excellent as setup options for manager Brad Ausmus.

In Greene, Ausmus can turn to a reliever able to pitch multiple effective innings. The former Yankee’s stuff has played up in the bullpen, and his numbers have been superb in 2016.

Originally a starter, the 27-year-old a 2.88 FIP on the season. Since transitioning from the rotation, the right-hander has accumulated a 2.80 SIERA and a 3.22 xFIP. Greene has struck out nine batters per nine innings and is allowing opposing hitters to bat just .202 against him.

Not to be outdone, fellow former Yankee Justin Wilson has been a tremendous asset out of the bullpen. He’s striking 10.80 batters per nine innings and has just walked six batters all season. One of those walks was intentional.

The flame-throwing lefty has also posted a 3.60 ERA, a 2.25 xFIP, a 2.15 SIERA and a 1.90 FIP. What’s even more outstanding about Wilson season is that he’s done it all with a sky-high .349 BABIP.

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Rounding out the group is right-hander Bruce Rondon.

Long looked as the future closer in Motown, Rondon has finally started to make good on his outstanding potential. The 25-year-old’s blazing fastball and wipeout slider have both been effective so far.

The reliever’s 4.80 ERA won’t win him any awards, but his 3.88 xFIP and 2.89 SIERA suggest he’s much better. Of all Detroit relief pitchers, only Justin Wilson and Greene have put up a lower SIERA than Rondon this season.

While the setup relievers have provided some much needed and quality innings, the most calming presence has been that of closer Francisco Rodriguez. The all-time active saves leader has notched 30 saves in 40 appearances for the Tigers. He’s also posted a sparkling 2.56 ERA to go along with a 3.46 xFIP, a 3.32 SIERA and a 3.52 FIP.

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If Detroit can continue the team’s fine run of form through the postseason, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Rodriguez save 50 games.

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