Detroit Tigers Position Breakdown: The Bullpen


Mar 14, 2015; Lakeland, FL, USA;Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan (36) throws a pitch during a spring training baseball game at Joker Marchant Stadium. The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Detroit Tigers 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

(This is the the last installment of my series breaking down the Detroit Tigers position by position for the 2015 season.  For the rest of the installments of the series, click on the respective position: Catcher, First Base, Second Base, Shortstop, Third Base, Outfield, Starting Pitcher)

To say the Tigers bullpen was awful last year is an understatement.  The Tigers bullpen last season was atrocious, and angered many fans (including myself) during the regular season and the American League Division Series against the Orioles.

The bullpen cost the Tigers too many games last year, and it all starts with late inning pitchers.

When the Tigers signed Joe Nathan last offseason, everybody thought they finally had the lockdown closer they were looking for.  The opinions of those people quickly changed once the season went underway.

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  • Nathan posted a 5.61 ERA with a 1.515 WHIP, 19 saves and opposing batters hitting .274 against him before the All-Star break.  This alone, was making fans unsettled and already calling for Nathan’s role as closer to be stripped away.

    He then settled down after the All-Star break, posting a 3.70 ERA, 1.562 WHIP, 16 saves and opposing batters hitting .243 against him.  Though he did improve, it still wasn’t enough to make keep his role as closer in most people’s eyes.

    Joba Chamberlain’s end to the season also didn’t help the cause, as he posted a 4.97 ERA, 1.50 WHIP with opponents batting .271 against him.  Even though he did deal with family issues towards the end of last year, it just showed how awful the back-end of that bullpen was last year.

    This was the glaring number one need the Tigers had to resolve this offseason and in a big way.  What did they do to drastically improve the bullpen?  Absolutely nothing.

    Sure they resigned Chamberlain, brought in lefty specialist Tom Gorzelanny via free agency and right handed Alex Wilson via Boston in the Rick Porcello trade, but these moves weren’t big enough to make the bullpen significantly better.

    Chamberlain has shown flashes of good pitching, but seems to have difficulty finding consistency that’s plagued him throughout his career.  Gorzelanny is a veteran who had a career year last year, posting a 0.86 ERA with a 1.429 WHIP in 23 games out of the pen.  Wilson had splendid stats last season, posting a 1.91 ERA with a 0.886 WHIP, but like Gorzelanny didn’t pitch in a lot of games (18 games).

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    When you look at the remaining pitchers in the bullpen, Al Alburquerque, Ian Krol, Angel Nesbitt and Joakim Soria, none of them can really compete even with Nathan to be the closer in Detroit’s bullpen.  Thus, pretty much handing the closing duties to Nathan for 2015, but possibly with a short leash.

    The Tigers had one glaring need that everybody knew they had to improve drastically on, and the front office did hardly anything to fill that need.  They added a couple nice arms, but nothing to drastically change the aura in that bullpen.

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  • In a more competitive AL Central with the drastic improvement of the White Sox, and the already set in talent of the Royals and Indians, the bullpen will have to be in its best form throughout the entire season in order for the Tigers to win a fifth straight AL Central title.

    The only problem is, without much improvement this offseason, the bullpen doesn’t seem capable of doing just that and could be mostly why the Tigers may not win their fifth straight Central title.

    What do you think about the Tigers bullpen this season?  Do you think they have the arms to improve from last season?  Is a repeat performance of the bullpen from last season is inevitable?  Who do the Tigers need to get to make the next step forward to improve their bullpen?  Share your opinion in the comment section below.