25 June 2012
Justin Verlander gave the bullpen the day off on Sunday with his 117-pitch complete game victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the Tigersâ€™ relief corps, as currently constructed, has been lights out when asked into the game. As a group, theyâ€™ve allowed just one earned run to score in their last 17 innings of work (since the extra inning loss to the Rockies 10 days ago). But the solid goes back further than just the last week and a half. In the month as a whole, Tigers relievers have logged 66.1 innings while only allowing a 2.44 ERA.
There have been some rocky moments with Tigers relievers on the mound this season to be sure, but most of those moments came earlier in the year with the likes of Collin Balester and Daniel Schlereth in the ball game. Because of some of these outings, the Tigers rank 12th in the American League in bullpen ERA, but the guys currently out in the bullpen have pitched much better than that.The seven relief pitchers on the 25-man roster at the moment are: Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, Duane Below, Brayan Villarreal, and Luis Marte. These seven players have worked a combined 180.1 innings, struck out more than a batter per inning, and recorded a 2.94 ERA. That ERA would have been good for third best in the American League. And all this from a unit thatâ€™s still missing Al Alburquerque who was one of the bright spots a season ago.
Itâ€™s still more than a bit unnerving to not know what the teamâ€™s going to get out of closer Jose Valverde when he returns to action in the upcoming days, but the fact that the rest of the bullpen has been so good helps calm some of the fears of late inning implosions.
A strong bullpen is so important, especially down the stretch and into the playoffs, but it was something the Tigers couldnâ€™t rely on while they were struggling in April and May.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.