Detroit Tigers: Starting in 2018, perhaps a bit sooner, bullpen will get younger
By Ben Rosener
Detroit Tigers fans could see a number of young relievers debut with the team in the near future. Moving forward, the Tigers should have a young relief corps.
Detroit Tigers fans haven’t seen the best bullpen units in years past.
The 2015 unit ranked 27th in WAR and last in xFIP. Meanwhile, the 2014 unit checked in at 28th in WAR and 26th in xFIP.
Last season saw a significant improvement, as Detroit’s relievers finished 12th in WAR and 14th in xFIP.
However, the 2017 campaign has seen the team revert back to the bottom of the totem pole in terms of bullpen stats.
Tigers relievers are last in the league in WAR and xFIP this season.
This is somewhat due to the struggles of a handful of players.
Shane Greene, Alex Wilson, Daniel Stumpf and—when he was in Detroit—Justin Wilson have all been dependable.
The Tigers have also gotten some encouraging work from Bruce Rondon (13.50 strikeouts per nine innings, 2.87 FIP, 3.44 xFIP) despite a 10.43 ERA.
However, elsewhere, a number of veterans have struggled mightily.
Francisco Rodriguez hemorrhaged runs and base runners alike in his 25.1 innings with the Tigers, pitching to a 7.82 ERA, a 7.36 FIP and a 5.70 xFIP while surrendering 2.91 walks and 3.20 home runs per nine frames.
There was also the failed Anibal Sanchez bullpen experiment that saw the veteran notch a 7.90 FIP in 21 innings.
Like Rodriguez, his rates for walks and home runs allowed per nine innings (3.86 in both instances) sat comfortably over 3.00.
In addition to Rodriguez and Sanchez, veterans like Blaine Hardy (5.98 xFIP in 19.1 innings) and William Cuevas (four runs, three hits and a hit batter in a third of an inning) also struggled in limited action.
Detroit’s usage of veteran relievers has been hit and miss in the past.
For every Justin Wilson, Joaquin Benoit or Francisco Rodriguez (the 2016 K-Rod), there was also a Joba Chamberlain, Mark Lowe or Joe Nathan.
Additionally, Detroit has also struggled to find long-term bullpen fits from the team’s minor league system.
Jose Valdez, Ian Krol, Angel Nesbitt and Joe Mantiply failed to stick, while Corey Knebel was traded before he could realize his full potential.
Because of the lack of reinforcements from the minors, Detroit has been in part forced to rely on veterans.
That could change as early as September, as a wave of promising relievers make are poised to make their Major League debuts.