Monday, April 03, 2006

Wild card contenders, or the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked? Part 3

Click to read Parts 1 and 2.

Part 3 of " Wild card contenders, or the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked" will cover the bullpen. My preview is 8 words: "I have no idea how they will do."

Honest. I don't have a clue. For a perfect example of how mercurial a bullpen can be, just go back 12 months. Remember last season, when all Tiger fans thought the bullpen would be a team strength with Kyle Farnsworth, Uggie Urbina, and Troy Precival? The starters would just need to get thru 6 innings and the "FUP" system would close out the 7th, 8th, and 9th. Start chalking up the holds, saves, and wins! Umm...Yeah, that sure went as planned. As we all know, the "FUP" system lasted all of a few weeks, due to injury (Percival), insanity (Uggie), and trades (Uggie and Farnsworth). Percival is now working as the highest paid advance scout in history. Farnsworth took his fastball and flaky demeanor to Atlanta, where he gave up one of the biggest home runs in Astros history, then to free agency, and ended up with the Yankees. Uggie chanelled Marcellus Wallace and is currently rotting in a Venezuelan prison on attempted murder charges. The Uggie for Placido Polanco trade looks even better now, doesn't it?

With "FUP" just an unpleasant memory, the Tigers had to rebuild their bullpen. Dave Dombrowski started by signing a 38 year old closer who caused Tiger fans to grow more than their fair share of gray hairs from 1997 to 2001, Todd "Rollercoaster" Jones. Talk about a risky 2 year signing. Do you trust a closer who had 5 saves, total, while bouncing around MLB from 2001 to 2004, then suddenly blew up for 40 (!) saves with the Marlins in 2005? The Tigers asking any remotely level headed Tiger fan to think Jones can repeat his 2005 over 2 more seasons is asking for a high level of denial. What's the odds of the 'Coaster continuing to pitch at an elite level? For even 1 season? 50/50? 20/80? Your guess is as good as mine.

The dominos have already started to fall in regard to the 2006 pen. The Rollercoaster pulled his hammy on the last day of spring training. He's now in the 15 day DL. He of the 12 career saves and surgically rebuilt arm, unproven Fernando Rodney, suddenly becomes the closer. Unproven fireballer Joel Zumaya, either the closer of the future, or a rotaion mainstay, depending on who you want to believe, is on the staff as a middle relief man. We're all waiting to see what direction the Tigers will send him.

Who else will be sitting in the pen? Chris Spurling. That name inspires a total lack of confidence. Jason Grilli. Who? Bobby Seay. Once again, who? Jordan Tata. The Tigers 2005 minor league pitcher of the year, called up to take Jones' roster spot, is utterly unproven at the MLB level. Then there is Jamie Walker, who's again slotted as the designated "Get out 1 or 2 left handed hitters in the 6th thru 8th inning" position. At least that job is covered with a proven arm.

So from my relief pitcher count, that gives the Tigers 1 aged closer on the DL, 1 never will be, 2 who in the hell are these guys and why are they on the Tigers, 3 prospects who are totally unproven at the MLB level, and 1 very good situational lefty.

So I'm not all that enthuisiastic about the Tigers opening day bullpen.

Then again, I thought the Tigers would have a great bullpen in 2005. As a bullpen is always in constant a state of flux, the odds are pretty damn good that more than half the pitchers currently in the pen won't be by the end of the season.

So when it comes to the Tiger bulllpen, I have one suggestion. Cross your fingers and hope...

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