The Current Bullpen Options
This year was supposed to start differently.
In a perfect world, Rodriguez would have continued to close games in an efficient manner. Additionally, Justin Wilson and Rondon would serve as dynamic eighth inning options.
Additionally, this scenario would have allowed the team to bring top prospect Joe Jimenez along somewhat slowly, letting him ease into pitching at the back end of games in the Majors.
However, with the month of April nearly in the rearview mirror, Justin Wilson has been the only dynamic thing about Detroit’s bullpen.
The former Pirate has yet to allow a run in 11 appearances, posting a 45.5 strikeout rate (for reference, Andrew Miller led all relievers with a 44.7 strikeout rate last season), a 1.45 SIERA and a 0.31 WHIP.
Wilson has also struck out 13.97 batters per nine frames to pace the Tigers relievers.
Outside of the southpaw however, the results have been mixed to say the least.
The Best of the Rest
Alex Wilson (3.24 ERA) and Shane Greene (2.57 ERA) have both logged solid ERAs to begin the season. However, Wilson sports a 4.53 FIP, while Greene’s FIP is higher still at 4.83.
Additionally, the 28-year-old has walked as many batters—seven—as he’s struck out.
Unfortunately, outside of Justin Wilson, Alex Wilson and Greene have been two of Detroit’s next best relievers.
Blaine Hardy sports a 1.61 FIP on the year, but he’s thrown just 3.2 innings.
It’s perfect reasonable to expect the left-hander to post reliable numbers over the course of the season, but he’s yet to receive extended work.
After Hardy, things get a bit dicey.
Kyle Ryan, who turned a 3.33 FIP despite punching out just 5.7 batters per nine innings in 2016, has seen his FIP balloon to 6.32. What’s more, the lefty has just one strikeout compared to seven walks surrendered.
There’s also Anibal Sanchez, who continues to hold onto a roster spot despite giving up 26 hits, 21 runs (16 earned), eight walks and six home runs in 14.2 innings.
While his 15 strikeouts over the same span are helpful, the surrendering of runs simply isn’t.
This is all without mentioning Rondon, who didn’t look himself in three early outings before heading to Triple-A Toledo.
The flame-throwing right-hander surrendered six runs, four hits and three walks in only 1.1 frames.
Even William Cuevas, who appeared in just one game for Detroit, was hit hard. The former Red Sox reliever was tagged for four runs and three hits while recording just one out against Cleveland.
All of the bullpen struggles have forced the Tigers to use Joe Jimenez in more pressurized situations early. The prospect has looked promising at times, but he’s also looked like a rookie at others.
He has the talent to be extremely successful, he just needs time to acclimate without having to be thrown into the deep end so early.