By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
Today’s topic addresses the roller coaster ride of the Tiger bullpen. That’s right, inconsistencies affect all aspects of the game and this situation is no different.
Kurt and Holly have not shared their answers to this Thursday question, but both can’t wait to see what the other has to say. The envelope please?
Are we just seeing the normal ups and downs characteristic of most bullpens or should we have reason for concern?
The Tigers’ bullpen is symbolic of the way this team has been playing all year – up and down. When they were good, they were really, really good. When they were bad, they were……..well, you get my drift.
The BP is better this year – some may say it couldn’t get any worse than it was last year. But there are – or were – some good arms in there for a while. But this bullpen has had a revolving door attached to it with starters being turned into relievers and then back to starters again. It makes for a reliever roster that is not set and constantly fluctuating – not something you want when you are desperate to get to the playoffs.
The lead domino lately has been Jordan Zimmermann, who appears headed to lose his starter slot. As this factor tumbles, it then impacts the 6 other pitchers who have moved back and forth from starter to reliever. And in turn, it impacts the effectiveness and regular pitching of the relievers who aren’t the “7th inning guys” or the “8th inning guys.”
Could it be that the bullpen has simply been less effective because Boyd and Norris were removed in order to join the starting rotation?
This revolving door, combined with the fluctuating roles of Pelfrey and Sanchez, are certainly factors that can occasionally off-set results.
But then we also need to address the overuse of 3 – Lowe, Greene and J. Wilson – who have gone downhill as the summer progressed. Lowe may simply turn out to be a bad signing, but Justin likely is suffering from injury if you follow his stats ever since it was announced that his elbow was not doing well.
But also consider that a bullpen is only as good as it is used. Ausmus seemed to pick the same guys with the same predictable results instead of selecting pitchers like Buck Farmer, who did an exceptional job the other night, more often.
And then there’s Bruce Rondon, who hasn’t given up a single hit in his last 6 appearances – and probably should be used more often than he is.
The last factor to consider is how tired some of the pitchers may be and if you add age, it can be recipe for real concern. If you glance at KRod’s stats from month to month, you’ll see a pattern where he is allowing more runners to reach base more often since early August.
If we look at the big picture overall, the concern really is about giving the lion’s share of innings to 4 guys who are simply not pitching well and not giving Alex Wilson more company on the mound.
Every team goes through the same thing. The bullpen, especially the back-end, is going to have their bad games. The season is too long. But what happens with good pens is eventually, as guys continue to pitch, they will get their groove back. Their dependability returns.
But I can’t say that is the case with the Tiger pen right now. The Tigers have been forced to go to other pitchers in their most critical setup roles. Mark Lowe imploded early, hasn’t recovered and really doesn’t even have a role in the pen anymore other than mop up duty.
Justin Wilson has pitched well, but has had plenty of lapses of late; to the point where confidence in his dependability and durability has taken a major hit.
Shane Greene had to come in and take over the role Mark Lowe had occupied and dominated for a good long while; but now he has been in a lengthy funk in which he is just now beginning to dig out. So who’s next?
Well, Alex Wilson always seems to be the guy who has to step up. And he is beginning to take on that familiar role again for the Tigers when he was overpitched. He is filling roles all over the game, which is fine when he is healthy, but the Tigers must be careful, knowing how important he is to the pen.
Bruce Rondon, who is now coming on of late, has found himself pitching later in games all the time, even pitching in the 8th the other night.
So it’s a good news, bad news story. The Tigers have some depth in that pen. But the depth was supposed to offer the Tigers a long list of weapons to throw at the opposition. Their depth wasn’t meant to replace guys who have not been effective in their roles.
It’s too late in the season to have disrupted roles. It hasn’t been for lack of trying; the Tigers had established roles coming out of spring training, but the situation now is not like we had hoped.