Detroit Tigers: Jonathan Papelbon Worth a Flier

Aug 1, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Jonathan Papelbon against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 1, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Jonathan Papelbon against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Tigers relief pitchers have been solid this season. However, the bullpen hasn’t been perfect as of late. Jonathan Papelbon, who was recently released by Washington, could be an intriguing addition.

Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has used a number of different bullpen combinations and relief pitchers in general this season. The likes of Mark Lowe, Shane Greene, Justin Wilson and Bruce Rondon have all been used as setup men for closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Despite the different options, not to mention the likes Alex Wilson and Kyle Ryan, the bullpen has had its ups and downs. Lowe has struggled all season, while Justin Wilson’s ERA over his last eight appearances is a sky-high 11.57.

In other words, Ausmus and the Tigers could use another late-inning arm to add to the mix. Luckily, one just became available in Jonathan Papelbon. The Washington Nationals recently released the reliever.

The former Nationals, Phillies and Red Sox pitcher has had an extremely successful 12-year career. Since entering the big leagues in 2005, the closer has finished 585 games and notched 368 saves. That includes 19 saves in 35 innings for Washington this season.

Detroit certainly wouldn’t need him to close games, seeing as Rodriguez has been excellent shutting the door in his first campaign with the Tigers. However, Papelbon would be an excellent eighth-inning option for Ausmus’ club.

When pitching in the eighth inning during his career, the longtime closer owns a 2.26 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched.

Change of Scenery

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A change of scenery could be just what the 35-year-old needs after posting 4.37 ERA for the Nationals this season. Despite the relatively high ERA, Papelbon does own a 3.68 FIP despite being victimized by a .327 BABIP.

What’s more, his struggles may be attributed to a few poor outings. In his last five appearances, the reliever has allowed nine runs, nine hits and five walks. Opponents hit .455 off him during that span.

However, in the 31.2 innings leading up to that stretch, the Mississippi State product pitched to a 2.56 ERA while only allowing batters to hit .235 against him.

A general change of scenery could benefit Papelbon, but the switch to Comerica Park could be extremely helpful to the pitcher’s success. In his career pitching in Comerica Park, Papelbon owns a 2.30 ERA and 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Despite not pitching in the postseason since 2009, the former Red Sox pitcher does own a 1.00 career ERA in the playoffs. That kind of success could prove useful to the Tigers in October.

Detroit Tigers
Mar 1, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers players watch from the bullpen during the third inning at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

Potential fit with the Detroit Tigers

With Rodriguez set as Detroit’s closer, Papelbon would probably slot in alongside the likes of Bruce Rondon, Alex Wilson and Kyle Ryan as seventh inning options.  Eventually, he could work his way into an eighth inning role, but those jobs belong to Shane Greene and Justin Wilson for the time being.

Adding yet another useful reliever to the late-innings mix makes the Detroit Tigers that much more of a dangerous team now and in the playoffs. Papelbon’s potential addition also allows the team to shorten games more often.

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