How Will The Detroit Tigers Bullpen Look In 2015?


For Detroit Tigers fans the juicy part of the off-season is already over after the 2014 Winter Meetings. The rumors have been stagnant besides a few about whether the Tigers will be re-signing Max Scherzer anytime soon.

Though you never know what Dave Dombrowski has up his sleeve this may be the roster Tigers fans will be seeing this upcoming baseball season. The list of problems include the starters may have some problems while the lineup looks to have a few small holes.

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Then there’s the much-criticized bullpen. The Detroit Tigers bullpen in 2014 racked up a disheartening 4.29 ERA which landed them at 14th in the American League. Only the Chicago White Sox had an ERA worse than the Tigers did last year.

Though Dombrowski has already begun his efforts to strengthen the bullpen there are still plenty of holes. There’s a reason that the mere image of Joe Nathan trotting out of the bullpen strikes fear in the hearts of many Tigers fans.

As of now the only locks of the bullpen seem to be that same Nathan along with Joakim Soria, Al Alburquerque, and Bruce Rondon.

After the locks you get some combination of Blaine Hardy, Ian Krol, or Kyle Lobstein to fill one of the lefty spots in the bullpen. A couple of low-risk, high-reward players in Joel Hanrahan, Alex Wilson and Josh Zeid also exist. These types of players are exactly what you need to strengthen the bullpen.

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  • In the case of Nathan he fell off a cliff in 2014. He posted a spectacular season in 2013 posting a 1.39 ERA in 64.2 IP. He was one of the best free agent relievers out there and Dombrowski went and signed him to a 2-year/$20 million contract.

    Though Tigers fans were clamoring for an Andrew Miller or David Robertson, Nathan was exactly that after the 2013 season. The only difference would be the amount of money Nathan received but that’s primarily because of his age. Nathan is the perfect case of why bullpens are so hard to form because of their year-to-year inconsistency.

    The key to Nathan being successful in 2015 will be his command. His 0.897 WHIP in 2013 exploded to a 1.534 WHIP in 2014. He proved in 2013 that he can pitch without the velocity and still be wildly successful. The key to 2015 will be for him to locate his pitches.

    In 2015 though the odds will be against Nathan as he enters his age-40 season. If Manager Brad Ausmus rides with a struggling Nathan for too long the season can turn ugly for Tigers fans very quickly.

    Oct 3, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joakim Soria (38) reacts after walking Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (not pictured) during the eighth inning of game two of the 2014 ALDS playoff baseball game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles won 7-6. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    Then there’s Joakim Soria. Soria like Nathan was a pickup engineered to bolster the Tigers bullpen. Dombrowski mid-season saw the problems with the bullpen and picked him up while sending two good prospects over to the Texas Rangers in Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson.

    Tigers fans aren’t exactly fond of Soria as he posted a 4.91 ERA in 11 IP sandwiched around a stint to the Disabled List. He was at his worst in the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles allowing 5 ER in 1 IP.

    Though Soria has undoubtedly struggled with the Tigers he’s still the best pitcher available in the bullpen. The only question mark that arises for him is how he’ll bounce back next season. Fans will point to his missed 2012 season due to injury as a huge question mark.

    Even though Soria has plenty of question marks he’s still the best pitcher in the Tigers bullpen. Compared to Nathan who is turning 40 Soria should and will be depended upon to produce by Ausmus this season.

    Besides the two most expensive pitchers out of the Tigers bullpen there exists Alburqurque and Rondon. They figure to be the dark horses of the bullpen and key to the Tigers bullpen success. If these two are to exceed expectations the back-end of the bullpen may not be as terrible as once anticipated.

    Except there are still some questions about these two young pitchers. Can Rondon stay healthy for a full season or will he become the next Joel Zumaya? Will Alburquerque be able to replicate his successful 2014 season? And then will Ausmus finally use him in high-leverage situations?

    There are plenty of question marks for this Tigers bullpen just like in seasons past. If the Tigers can get notable production from the likes of Hanrahan, Zeid, or Wilson though, that will go a long way for the Tigers to be at least have a league-average bullpen.

    The bullpen doesn’t pitch nearly as many innings as the starting staff does but the finishing games will be vital for the Tigers in 2015. With an improved AL Central each game will prove to be vital and the Tigers just can’t afford to let one of the worst bullpens in the AL to hold them down.

    Now, your thoughts. With the Winter Meetings over do you expect to see another move for the bullpen? Or do you think Dombrowski is already done with his moves? Who do you think the closer should be for 2015? Whatever your thoughts the Tigers bullpen will have to step up if the Tigers are to capture that elusive World Series ring.