Shelby Miller's unraveling has created creeping black hole in Tigers' bullpen

Shelby Miller's near blowup against the Angels is a perfect representation of where the Tigers bullpen is now.
Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Angels
Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Angels / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

Going into the bottom of the ninth on Sunday, the Tigers were enjoying a very nice six-lead run against the Angels as they tried to avoid a sweep in L.A., thanks in large part to a career-first inside-the-park homer for rookie Justyn-Henry Malloy and a three-run homer from Carson Kelly. Casey Mize was taken out in the fifth with apparent discomfort, but the bullpen had kept the Angels to just one run to the Tigers' seven.

And then Shelby Miller got the ball to close out the game, immediately giving Tigers fans reason to worry. Miller blew it for the Tigers just two days prior, when he gave up a decisive three-run homer to Logan O'Hoppe, and has blown all five of his save opportunities this season.

Almost immediately, he got off to perhaps the worst possible start by beaning Taylor Ward in the head. Luckily, Ward's helmet seemed to catch the brunt of the blow, but he was taken out of the game and Kevin Pillar took first base as a substitute.

Miller induced two outs on Brandon Drury and Miguel Sanó, and the Tigers were one batter away from wrapping the game up neatly. But Miller couldn't just make things easy on himself. He walked Matt Thaiss, then Zach Neto promptly came up to score all of them on a homer to left field.

Mickey Moniak singled, and then the last of the Angels' 6-9 hitters, Jo Adell, fed off of that momentum and hit another home run to close the scoring gap to one singular run. Things were looking dangerously close to going the way Saturday's game did, when the bullpen blew it and the Angels walked it off in extras.

With lefty and leadoff man Nolan Schanuel due up, the Tigers sent Miller to the dugout and replaced him with lefty Tyler Holton, who was actually able to bring the game to a close and avoid a sweep with a swinging strikeout after a lot of unnecessary nonsense.

Shelby Miller's near blowup against the Angels is a perfect representation of where the Tigers bullpen is now

When Miller was signed, he was coming off the best season of his career with the Dodgers, and he even brought a then 14-game scoreless streak over to Detroit with him, extending it with the Tigers to 19. The Tigers' bullpen was rolling in those early days of April; they had the second-best collective ERA in the majors.

But Miller's decline has coincided with and contributed to the bullpen's decline ever since. His ERA is now in the sixes (6.23) and Tigers relievers rank 20th in ERA and 28th in save percentage (50%). Miller is by far the worst of them; his ERA is the highest of any bullpen arm and his HR/9 is by far the worst at 2.08.

Jason Foley continues to look good (his 13 saves represent the vast majority of Tigers saves), but Holton and Andrew Chafin, who were expected to be huge pieces of the bullpen this year, have also seen their ERAs balloon and balloon.

The Tigers bullpen is in terrible shape, and Miller's outing on Sunday only made that even more evident. If they weren't looking at relievers at the trade deadline before that game, it feels very safe to say that they're looking now.