In this edition of from the vault, take a look at former Detroit Tigers closer José “Papa Grande” Valverde and his four-year tenure with the organization.
The Detroit Tigers would make their most recent World Series run back in 2012, closer José Valverde was the guy who would be their ninth-inning man the entire season. Valverde would have a twelve year season while spending four of them with the Tigers from 2010-2013.
During his four seasons here, Valverde would make the American League All-Star squad in back to back seasons for his performances on the mound. After some time with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros, he would come to Detroit where he pitched in sixty games in 2011.
Valverde would close out fifty games, collecting twenty-six saves over sixty-three innings pitched. He had a 3.00 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP, all while striking out sixty-three hitters. Nicknamed “Papa Grande”, Valverde had much more in the tank for the 2012 season where he would lead all of baseball in saves.
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Valverde would pitch in seventy-five games, closing out seventy, collecting forty-nine saves on the season. He would manage a 2.24 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP, and strike out sixty-nine hitters over 72.1 innings pitched.
He even received some Cy Young Award votes to become a nominee, coming in fifth in that category. However, the last two years with the Tigers would not be as kind to Valverde as 2012 was.
It seemed his 2012 performance would be his last peak before a regression would drastically change things for Papa Grande. In 2013, Valverde would appear in seventy-one games, collecting thirty-five saves over sixty-nine innings pitched, with a 3.78 ERA, a1.25 WHIP, and forty-eight punch outs.
He would spend one more season with the Tigers where he pitched in twenty games, totaling 19.1 innings pitched, only racking up nine saves on the season. His career in the big leagues would come to an end after the 2014 season where he pitched for the New York Mets.
Though his career was much more than just four seasons with the Tigers, fans should remember Papa Grande and his antics on the mound. He would enter the game by spitting water from the bullpen and then jogging out to the mound.
That was not all though, Valverde would put on a show for fans, with a very unorthodox delivery on its own that made it fun to watch him pitch. After closing out a save, he would often celebrate, truly putting on a show for the fans watching.
Looking back into the vault of former Detroit Tigers players, it is hard to pass up Papa Grande and all of his antics on the mound that are a reminder of a time when the team was a contender.