Monday, July 14, 2008

TWFE's Detroit Tigers mid-season grades: The bullpen

In part 2 of of TWFE's Tigers mid-term, I grade the relief pitchers. 

For much of the season, the pen had a revolving door, with the Tigers desperately trying to find the right combinations, while attempting to replace the injured Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya. Though some relievers gave us more grief, than relief, and are no longer in Detroit (Zach Miner went from 8th inning setup man, to long relief, and finally to Toledo) the lineup has recently stabilized, mostly for the better.

Freddy Dolsi: B

Dolsi came out of nowhere, otherwise known a Single A ball. He has pitched better than anyone thought possible from such an inexperienced kid. Dolsi's been a nice addition to the pen, surprisingly effective in a late innings setup role while Zoom and Rodney were laid up. Effective enough to be considered a possible closer after the Todd Jones era mercifully ends after this season.

Dolsi has the stuff to pitch in the late innings, a potential closer, but does he have the mental makeup? That's yet to be determined.

Casey Fossum: B-

The lefty middle reliever got off to the rockiest start possible (2 games, 1/3 of an inning, 5 hits, 5 earned runs, literally throwing batting practice), leaving Fossum with an ERA of 135.00 after his 2rd appearance. Since that low point, he has improved immensely. Fossum's 3.1 inning, 6K performance in a come from behind win over the Tribe last week, may have been the Tigers' best relief appearance of the season. Call me crazy, but I bumped Fossum up from a C+ grade just for that appearance, a game the Tigers needed to win, as he was that good.

There has been some talk of Fossum moving into the rotation as the 5th starter, but it appears the Tigers will stay with Eddie Bonine, whom will be on a very short leash.

Bobby Seay: C-

Seay was damn near lights out in 2007 as the Tigers' LOOGY, but has not been near as effective this season, as his 1.40 WHIP and .260 BAA attests. For a pitcher who is asked in 90% of his appearances to just get 1 or 2 outs, and LH bats at that, Seay needs to perform much better in the season's 2nd half.

Aquilino Lopez: B+

After pitching himself onto the opening day roster in spring training, all Lopez has done this season is pitch often, and pitch well.  Yet he was sent down as the odd reliever out when Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya were activated. He was quickly brought back from Toledo after Zach Miner stopped throwing strikes, blowing up in a loss to those God damn Twins.

If there is one thing Lopez does, and does well, it's throw strikes, which is kind of a prerequisite for a reliever. (As was learned by the likes of Francisco Cruceta, Francis Beltran, Yorman Bazardo and Miner, all sent down for the committing the reliever's Cardinal sin: The base on balls.)

Fernando Rodney: F

If anyone has been the Fernando Rodney of 2006, please let the Tigers know where to find him, OK?

The once lights out Rodney seems intent on pitching himself into Jim Leyland's doghouse, and possibly out of favor in Detroit. He's given up 2 home runs since coming off the DL, which doesn't sound all that bad. But both were soul-crushing, hope killing, 8th inning blasts that turned what should have been Tiger victories into bitter defeats.

Rodney has been unable to throw his normally knee-buckling change up for stikes, which makes his fastball seem like fresh meat to hitters, and every outing an adventure. I no longer trust Rodney as a setup man, I don't believe other fans trust Rodney in the 7th-8th innings, and I have to wonder how much longer the Tigers will. He's been a huge disappointment. 

Joel Zumaya: B-

Zoom missed much of 2007, and the first couple months of 2008, with the oddest injuries imaginable. The shoulder injury suiffered this past off season could have been career ending. Amazingly, Zumaya has returned, along with his velocity and attitude. His control? Still a work in progress.

Zumaya is far from sharp, 12 walks in 11.1 innings is not what you want to see from your setup man. But his triple digit fastball, more often than not, has gotten Zumaya out of trouble. Trouble mostly of his own making.

Zumaya reverting back to his 2006 form is vital to the Tigers 2nd half chances. He's part of the way there, but not all the way.

Todd Jones: B

What is there to say about The Rollercoaster that hasn't already been said? I have the Pepto Bismol at the ready whenever Jones enters the game He's a fan heart attack waiting to happen. Jones gets by on smoke, mirrors, grit and prayer. His fastball couldn't break...well, anything. . He's incapable of handling any other role in the pen other than closer. But...there's always a but with The Rollercoaster...Jones is 17-19 in save opprtunities. No, I can't explain it either.

When it comes to grading Jones, overrated they may be, as flawed a stat as it is, it's all about the saves. No matter how he gets them, they all look the same in the box score. And much more often than not, you see "Jones SV" in his stat line.

As for the aforementioned Miner, Cruceta, Bazardo, Beltran and Danny Bautista (Though the Tigers' handling of Bautista, ending up with his being picked up by the Pirates, where he's been fairly effective, is more than a bit of a head scratcher), let's give them a D as a group. There's a reason (Walks, walks, and more walks) they are no longer in Detroit.


  1. I'm making my blogging rounds right now to trash to good name of Todd Jones. Not only has he openly said he would never welcome a gay teammate, he just isn't that good of a baseball player. So he's slightly bigoted and a below average baseball player. He's also 40 years old and making $8 million this season. Batters are hitting .300 off him for the season. He has the worst K rate of all closers. He has the worst K/BB ratio of all closers. He has one of the worst ERAs and Component ERA's amongst all closers (only Eric Gagne is worse).

    Seriously, what is there to like? I don't understand.

  2. Blake, I don't care for some of Jones' personality "quirks" (To put it kindly) either. I've brought up his homophobic attitude on TWFE in the past, and I agree, he's a bigot. He often comes off as your typical spoiled ballplayer when he complains about some perceived media or fan slight.

    But when it comes to closers, the only stat that matters is save %. Jones has converted 88% of the time, which is excellent for any closer.

    Would I prefer the Tigers have a better pitcher at the end of the pen? Of course. Do I "like" Jones as a person or a player? Not really, as everything you say is true. Are saves overrated? Extremely. Has Jones done his job? To be honest, yes. The numbers (I should say "number," as I'm only talking about converting saves) don't lie.

  3. Yeah, I guess that's where I'm torn about. The guy is nearly dead last (or close to it) in every closer related stat except for save percentage. Last I checked, he was 10th in the bigs in SV%. Not the best, but acceptable for almost any team.