By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
It’s been a wild week with runs a plenty in Chicago. So there have been lots to talk about including a game that started with a 7-0 lead and ended with a loss.
Kurt and Holly will answer a question based on one inning of action in that game. No answers were shared. No dialogue was had beforehand. It always makes for good, frank conversation starters. So let’s take a look.
Given Monday’s blown save, should we be concerned about KRod? How should the Tigers handle this year’s closer situation?
I take no issue and have no concern about KRod based on his blown save Monday night. It was his first since the home opener. And since then, he slowly became more effective and on the verge of dominant in his closer role with the Tigers.
What concerns me is when closers begin to throw too many pitches and I would imagine it’s a tough call for a manager to decide when or if he should get someone warmed up. KRod threw over 30 pitches in what was his third consecutive appearance. I would think as a manager, you have to be on high alert for pitch count.; especially in this circumstance where your closer has been run out there a lot in the last week.
I understand, confidence in your closer is key. Most don’t like to see anyone warming up in the pen while they are out there to close a game. It’s a psychological game. Imagine how your closer would perform if you warmed up a guy in the pen, just in case he falters. But KRod is a guy we need to make sure we protect.
After already wearing him out the night before, what’s he doing warming up a fourth consecutive night on Tuesday? After 3 consecutive appearances and a high pitch count in the third one, my orders would be that he not even pick up a baseball in Game #4.
I have no concern about KRod going forward. In fact, I was ready to write a blog on how successful he has been so far this season. I put it on hold after the blown save. Maybe the discussion should center around how important it is that we give him every opportunity to remain effective. Because he has been very good.
But since Brad has been resting guys with frequency this season, the practice should include a closer important to the success of this team down the road. He may have learned a valuable lesson about KRod’s effectiveness pitching in a third consecutive game.
A proven closer is very similar to an expensive sports car. They both need to be cared for and driven well. And in the case of KRod on Monday night, it was more about overusing him than his actual skills.
When Frankie came into the game, it was his third straight night of closing and understandably, he was probably tired and off his game. There was also an instance where he came off the mound awkwardly which may have also impacted his game. And it was his first blown save since Opening Day in Detroit, so my red alert siren wasn’t going off, although it was on low hum.
But if you’re a Tiger fan, you’re naturally on edge about the bullpen. So potentially, we start getting nervous whenever we see the slightest slip. I’m not worried now, nor will I be if it happens again in 3-4 weeks. But if it re-occurs next week, then that’s a different story.
I would hope that Al Avila is more pro-active than Dave Dombrowski was in guiding how the bullpen is used. In 2014, Nathan was showing a pattern of faltering which was ignored by Ausmus. And then when Soria was acquired, he sat in the pen for over a week and the topic became a big deal. Dave even had to address it in the media and say that all the decisions were up to Brad.
So should the worst case scenario play out this year where KRod starts to lose it, I would hope that Al, combined with Brad’s higher level of experience, won’t wait to pull the trigger. I do fear Ausmus’ rigid thinking where he puts someone in a specific role and then is loath to take him out or at least mix things up a little.
But should something happen, I would hope that new management, new players and hopefully new thinking will allow the decision-makers to go outside the box and make changes. For the first time in many years, the Tigers now have some pitching depth. They have some veterans and youngsters both in Detroit and Toledo who could step into the role. A little experimenting may have to happen but at least now the team has some choice.