Is The Detroit Tigers Bullpen Really Fixed?
The Detroit Tigers made major headlines this offseason with the big signings of Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann, but perhaps as important as those two big-name players — especially to fans who watched last year’s team day in and day out — was the major overhaul of the bullpen.
The Tigers bullpen finished in the bottom-five of just about every statistical category in 2015 (strikeout rate, ERA, and FIP, to name a few). They combined to blow 24 saves while nailing down only 35. And whether you go by win probability added (+0.08) or wins above replacement (-0.1) they added basically zero value to the club.
A bad bullpen wasn’t the only reason the Tigers missed the playoffs, but it might be the reason they finished in last place. With an average bullpen maybe they could have approached the .500 mark. Perhaps they wouldn’t have sold at the deadline and kept things interesting into September.
We don’t really know what the alternate reality might have been, but we do know they were very bad and that Al Avila spent much of his offseason solidifying the late innings to avoid a repeat performance.
Enter Francisco Rodriguez (2015 ERA: 2.21), Justin Wilson (3.10), and Mark Lowe (1.96). This new late-inning trio should be an instant upgrade over 2015 — even if they shouldn’t be expected to repeat their stellar ERA marks — to help nail down games, but the Tigers will still need to find additional contributors to fill the middle innings.
The bullpen will be better in 2016 (it would be impossible not to be), but is it fixed? Is it a good bullpen? Could it actually be a strength of the team? We’ll have to see.
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