Why Dave Dombrowski’s Moves This Off-Season Will Be Good For The Bullpen


Last year, the Detroit Tigers had one of the worst bullpens in the entire league. They had a 4.29 ERA which was good for 14th in the AL. In the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles, they infamously blew up in both Games 1 and 2.

The Tigers’ bullpen failures (and outfield issues) have already been documented before. Fans are sick of the Tigers’ bullpen being questionable for years now. The memory of David Oritz and Shane Victorino‘s grand slams in the American League Championship Series in 2013 still brings tears to Tigers fans’ eyes.

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It’s not easy making a bullpen either. Just ask Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski. After 4 straight American League Central titles you’d think he’d be better at making a bullpen.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been smooth sailing all 4 years. The best season among those divisions crowns was Jose Valverde‘s fluky yet perfect 49-49 in save opportunities in 2011.

In the 2013-2014 off-season though, Dombrowski did try his best to shore up the bullpen. He signed the best reliever on the market in Joe Nathan and took a flier on New York Yankee afterthought Joba Chamberlain. A bit into the season he tried to fix the problem too by signing Joel Hanrahan to an incentive-laden deal. By mid-season he realized that the bullpen was horrible and traded for Joakim Soria.

Tigers fans fail to realize is that Dave Dombrowski did exactly what is needed to make a solid bullpen. He signed top guys, took a bet on low-risk pitchers, and traded for an All-Star reliever. It all just blew up in his face in spectacular fashion in the playoffs.

This off-season Dombrowski is again working at fixing up the much-criticized bullpen. He’s signed Joel Hanrahan to a minor league contract filled with incentives. He’s also picked up low-risk, high-reward players like Josh Zeid.

In order to make a formidable bullpen these type of low-risk, high-reward moves are necessary. Dave Dombrowski is doing exactly just that.

Oct 5, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Andrew Miller (48) pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the seventh inning in game three of the 2014 ALDS baseball playoff game at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Though fans may want Andrew Miller or another top-end reliever they fail to realize Joe Nathan was exactly that last off-season. Nathan had a 1.39 ERA in 64.2 IP in 2013 making him one of the best free agent relievers possible. Tigers fan know how disastrous his 2014 season was though.

Relievers are often unpredictable and their performances will fluctuate randomly. This is exactly why creating a reliable bullpen is such a hard task.

In reality, Dave Dombrowski is also strapped for cash now that he resigned Victor Martinez. He’s already started his project on the bullpen and it’s still only early-December. There’s still plenty of time to solidify the bullpen.

Now, your thoughts. Do you like Dombrowski’s moves thus far? Or do you think he should aggressively pursue a certain relief pitcher? Who? Or are you comfortable with the bullpen? No matter who Dombrowski signs this off-season, he will have to fix the problem called the bullpen.