Valverde Another in Long Line of Infuriating Tigers Closers

I’m sick of hearing about Jose Valverde‘s 49-for-49 save streak last season. We all know how that was constructed: with far too many saves that looked like Saturday afternoon’s harrowing win against the Royals.

A lot has been written about Valverde’s intensity being dialed down a notch – or, apparently, disconnected altogether – when he’s in non-save situations. After the Tigers escaped with an 8-7 victory which should’ve been an 8-4 W, Valverde told reporters, “I wasn’t throwing my fastball for strikes. I don’t know what’s going on.”

[callout title=WHIP Posted by Recent Tigers Closers]
2001: Matt Anderson. 1.32 WHIP, 22 saves

2002: Juan Acevedo. 1.22 WHIP, 28 saves

2004: Ugueth Urbina. 1.29 WHIP, 21 saves

2005: Fernando Rodney. 1.27 WHIP, 9 saves

2009 Rodney. 1.46 WHIP, 37 saves

2010 Valverde. 1.16 WHIP, 26 saves

2011 Valverde. 1.18 WHIP, 49 saves

And in case you were wondering, Todd Jones posted his best WHIP (1.26) in his eight seasons with the Tigers in 2006. And for his part, Valverde amassed his best WHIP (1.16) in 2010, his first in Detroit.[/callout]
Whatever the man’s excuse, it got me thinking again about how the Tigers, unlike other A.L. Central clubs, haven’t had a lights-out closer in the same realm as Joe Nathan and, for a shorter but no less irritating stretch, Bobby Jenks.

Nathan has owned the Tigers since 2004 when he came to the Twins from the Giants. In 59 games against Detroit, Nathan is 2-1 with a 1.48 ERA and 35 saves in 59 appearances; plus, he has 74 strikeouts in 60.2 IP and a 0.907 WHIP. (He’s saved more games against one other club, 37 versus the Royals in just an inning less.) In his A.L. career, including his time with the Rangers this year, his WHIP is 0.952, not to mention a 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Now, on to Jenks. The Tigers mustered a bit more offense against him from 2005-10: 2-1, 2.68 ERA, 22 saves in 39 appearances; 44 strikeouts in 40.1 IP and a 1.091 WHIP. No, he wasn’t automatic, but darn close.

So I decided to look up Tigers closers with the best – or most Nathanesque – WHIP over the past 40 years, trying to find somebody – anybody – who came close to scaring opposing hitters late in the game.

Here’s what I found on Baseball-Reference.com: only two Detroit closers finished with a WHIP under 1.0 since 1972:

  • 1981: Kevin Saucier. 0.959 WHIP – 13 saves, 49 IP, 23 K
  • 1984: Willie Hernandez. 0.941 WHIP – 32 saves, 140.1 IP, 112 K
  • 1985: Hernandez. 0.90 WHIP – 31 saves, 106.2 IP, 76 K

That’s it for the shutdown closers.* Of course, Tigers relievers have posted stellar if not Nathan-
like performances in the past 40 seasons. Here are a few notable examples:

  • 1973: John Hiller. 1.021 WHIP, 38 saves, 125.1 IP, 124 K
  • 1977: Steve Foucault. 1.090 WHIP, 13 saves, 74.1 IP, 58 K
  • 1978: Hiller. 1.072 WHIP, 15 saves, 92.1 IP, 74 K
  • 1988: Mike Henneman. 1.05 WHIP, 22 saves, 91.1 IP, 58 K, 1.05 WHIP

*In the case of Hiller and Foucault, those were the days when closers routinely pitched two or three innings (sometimes more), so it’s clearly not apples-to-apples with today’s one-inning specialists.

All this is to say, outside of Hernandez in 1984 and ’85 and Hiller in 1973, the Tigers have not had an automatic guy in the ninth inning.

I think it’s safe to say we expected Joel Zumaya to be in the Joe Nathan/Mariano Rivera galaxy by this point of his career. Now we’ll have to wait and see if Bruce Rondon is the hammer we’ve been wait for.

In the meantime we’ll have ride the ninth-inning rapids with Valverde and hope that near-disasters like Saturday’s are the exception, not the rule.

Yeah right.

Fungo Flashback: Game 163: Microcosm, The Sequel Nutshell

Game 163 was one year ago today tomorrow. Here’s our recap … Not to bum you out or anything.


ESPN highlights available here.
knockedoutboxer.jpg
The Score: Twins 6 – Tigers 5, 12 innings

The Gist: The Tigers and Twins played a game for the ages and both teams followed the respective scripts of the past three weeks. For the Tigers, that meant squandering countless opportunities and watching a division lead evaporate. For the Twins: everything going their way. Rick Porcello was awesome, Miguel Cabrera showed up for the first part of the game and Fernando Rodney, while taking the loss, pitched almost brilliantly in what was assuredly his last Tigers performance.

The Quote: “No matter what we did, it seems like it wasn’t meant to be. This is the best game, by far, that I’ve ever played in no matter the outcome.”Brandon Inge

The Stat: 1 – The go-ahead run scored by Don Kelly in the 10th. Oh, how I wish it would’ve held up — for his sake.

Up Next: Spring Training, Lakeland, Fla., February 2010

Follow The Daily Fungo on Twitter: @DailyFungo

How are Former Tigers Faring in 2010?

Rearview Mirror.jpgLooking around the majors there are plenty of former Tigers doing well — and some not so well. Here’s a look at some of the more notable players and their current numbers:

  • Placido Polanco, Phillies: .314 avg., 6 HR, 42 RBI, .348 OBP. Currently fifth in the N.L. in hitting, which is just another reason the Tigers (and fans) are regretting his departure.

  • Omar Infante, Braves: .347 avg., 7 HR, 37 RBI, .837 OPS From Rob Neyer: “At the moment, he doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify [for the batting title]. To reach 502, he needs another 169 in the Braves’ 38 remaining games.”

  • Andres Torres, Giants: .287 avg., 13 HR, 57 RBI, .869 OPS. Torres is the embodiment of stick-to-itiveness. Nearly a decade after he was touted as a centerpiece of the Tigers new wave of young talent, he’s downright essential to the Giants offense. Good for him.

    Continue reading “How are Former Tigers Faring in 2010?”

Game 163: Microcosm, The Sequel Nutshell

ESPN highlights available here.
knockedoutboxer.jpg
The Score: Twins 6 – Tigers 5, 12 innings

The Gist: The Tigers and Twins played a game for the ages and both teams followed the respective scripts of the past three weeks. For the Tigers, that meant squandering countless opportunities and watching a division lead evaporate. For the Twins: everything going their way. Rick Porcello was awesome, Miguel Cabrera showed up for the first part of the game and Fernando Rodney, while taking the loss, pitched almost brilliantly in what was assuredly his last Tigers performance.

The Quote: “No matter what we did, it seems like it wasn’t meant to be. This is the best game, by far, that I’ve ever played in no matter the outcome.”Brandon Inge

The Stat: 1 – The go-ahead run scored by Don Kelly in the 10th. Oh, how I wish it would’ve held up…for his sake.

Up Next: Spring Training, Lakeland, Fla., February 2010

Follow The Daily Fungo on Twitter: @DailyFungo

Tuesday Tananas: Feeling the Moment, Power Poll Respect and Steve Kemp’s Pain

bananas.jpgJust saw the news that Fernando Rodney has been suspended for three games for his inexplicable heave-ho of the ball after Friday night’s win. Well, it was inexplicable to me; Rodney says he was only “feeling the moment.” Still, a three-game suspension? Please.

Anyway, enjoy him, folks. He’ll be frustrating another team’s fans next year.

Continue reading “Tuesday Tananas: Feeling the Moment, Power Poll Respect and Steve Kemp’s Pain”

Disco Demolition Night 30 Years Later

Disco guy.jpgYeah, so Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney ruined our night tonight. We’re used to that. Take heart. The Tigers still cling to first place.

Doesn’t do much for you? Me either.

So instead of cursing the Tigers bullpen, let’s travel back 30 years to July 12, 1979 and revisit Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, courtesy of Joe LaPointe‘s article in yesterday’s New York Times.

Unlike the commonplace pyrotechnics of Zumaya/Rodney, this doubleheader included the on-field destruction of disco albums between games. Then things got, well, unruly. As Alan Trammell sums it up:

“The outfielders were definitely a little scared and Ronnie (LeFlore) wasn’t usually afraid of anything.”

The thing I remember most about that game was watching Sox owner Bill Veeck limp out on the field with his wooden leg — I had no idea he lost an appendage — to beg the rock-and-rollers to get off the field (and keep their rainchecks!). And I can still hear George Kell trying to describe the action without falling into a “kids-these-days” rant. (Or did he? Does anyone else remember?)

Even Dave Dombrowski, then a 22-year-old gopher for White Sox GM Roland Hemond, had a role in keeping the peace.

Oh, as for the games, the Tigers swept the double-dip 4-1 in the opener and then won the nightcap in a 9-0 forfeit. The victories brought the Tigers within 14 games of the division lead.

What are your memories of Disco Demolition Night?

This ‘n’ Tat

A few random thoughts on the recent play of the Tigers…

The Cleveland Clinic: Justin Verlander is once again proving that when his stuff is on, there are few better in the AL… And Edwin Jackson has proved my (and others’) skepticism about this deal unfounded. He seems to be the pitcher everyone in LA and Tampa’s front offices thought he would be.  Score another coup for Dave Dombrowski…Can Curtis Granderson have a better weekend than he did in Cleveland? This one will be tough to top, but it’ll be a blast watching him try.

Rodney Being Rodney: Watching Fernando Rodney is infinitely more nerve-wracking than Todd Jones EVER was! Watching the Tigers game Sunday, I was just about to tell my dad that seeing Rodney come in from the ‘pen didn’t make my stomach hurt as much as it used to.  The he started to do Fernando Rodney things. My favorite is when he walks guys after getting them down 0-2.  He’s a free agent after this year. For the sake of my stomach, and my heart, I hope he tests the market.

He’s My Tiger: Can we please get some love for Ramon Santiago? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Every time he plays, he does something to help the Tigers win a ballgame. Nothing against Adam Everett, but Santiago is more than the fill-in that Jim Leyland and the brain trust see him as. He deserves to be playing most of the time at short.

Tattoo You: Or me. On Saturday, I put my Tiger fandom where my…er…arm…is…

reunion-tattoo-009

It’s real, folks.  What should my next one be?