This weekend, the Detroit Tigers were swept by the Oakland A’s and in the four-game series, there were a few key takeaways from the series that stood out. The obvious ones were the offense and two good starts from Matthew Boyd and Jose Urena.
The other one was rather cryptic and that was the performance of Joe Jiménez. Manager A.J. Hinch has given Jimenez two opportunities on this road trip since being called up from the taxi squad to prove himself and both times, he did not finish the inning in either appearance in Oakland. His stat line: 2 appearances, 1.0IP 5R 2K 7BB.
The bullpen has been a major weakness so far for Detroit. They are dead last in ERA, (7.17) FIP, (6.36), and xFIP (5.30). They lead the league in home runs per 9 at 2.33 and are second only to the Cubs for walks per 9 at 5.83. To put that in some level of context, the best walks per 9 belongs to the San Diego Padres at 2.17.
A few positive takeaways so far are that Bryan Garcia, despite his ERA of 5.40, is trending better in FIP, which currently is at 2.86. Last season, it was the other way, with a low ERA but a high FIP, meaning that with the lower FIP, he is pitching better than the numbers indicate.
Garcia has already struck out 7 in 6.2 innings pitched, which is trending higher than his numbers from last season in which he only struck out 12 in 21.2 innings in the shortened season. While these numbers are still very early in the season, it is encouraging to see, despite the high walk totals. Michael Fulmer in his time in the bullpen was the only pitcher who did not walk a batter in his short time there.
So why or why not Shane Greene?
Greene is still on the market and apparently looking for the right opportunity.
Greene’s numbers in 2020 on the surface look good. He posted an ERA of 2.60, allowed 9 runs over 27.2 innings pitched, and held batters to just a .224 batting average. That sounds pretty good.
But then looking a bit deeper, there is a slight pause. Yooper, myself, and Chris discussed it was strange to see him and Rick Porcello still available on our most recent podcast. If you dive deeper on Greene, there a few things that stand out that maybe give teams pause.
- His K/9, which has been in the 9’s for most of his career, was the second-lowest of his career and his lowest since he became a full-time reliever at 6.83.
- K% was below 20% at 19.3%, which is lower than his career average of 21.8%. Granted, shorter season last year but still, that does stand out.
- FIP of 3.81 and xFIP of 4.75
- The fastball average went down from 94.3 in 2019 to 92.1 in 2020.
- His cutter, while still an effective pitch for him, lost a little more inches of break from the previous two seasons.
That last point was rather nitpicky as that happens to pitchers who are getting older but still worth pointing out. So, if you are thinking about internal options first, Jason Foley, Ian Krol, Beau Burrows, Kyle Funkhouser, and Wladimir Pinto are your Tigers alt-site relievers who could get consideration for a callup.
Watching Burrows on Thursday pitch in Toledo, according to the radar gun at Fifth Third Field, his velocity has dropped a bit from last season. Krol will probably see an opportunity at some point but Foley has never pitched above A-ball and Pinto, above Double-A and he had the same walk issues as the current trend of Tigers relievers.
Currently down in Lakeland, Detroit does have Wily Peralta but if and when he arrives in Detroit is anyone’s guess and whether he is serviceable is another question. While I understand the messaging is that the Detroit Tigers are not going to spend until next season, signing Shane Greene could provide the bullpen a veteran who is familiar with the bats of the AL Central.
There is an inherited risk if Detroit decided to sign Greene but it is no more than the arms above I mentioned except that Greene is a proven veteran with a track record. Toronto had to place their closer, Julian Merryweather, on the IL and already lost Kirby Yates for the season so they could make a play for Greene but if I am Al Avila, I would at least call and gauge Greene’s interest in coming back to Detroit.
While Shane Greene would help fix the bullpen by providing a 7th inning or 8th inning solution to Soto, Garcia, or Cisnero, the long-term solution is still to fix the walk issues Detroit relievers are having currently.