Thursday, February 3, 2011
2011 Tigers Preview: The Bullpen
Heading into the 2011 season, the Tigers bullpen stacks up with Jose Valverde as Closer, with newcomer Joaquin Benoit taking on the role of primary set-up man, Ryan Perry and Joel Zumaya will try and get to Benoit, with Daniel Schlereth, Brad Thomas and Robbie Weinhardt filling out the remainder of the Bullpen.
The long relievers for Detroit will be Daniel Schlereth, the son of former NFL lineman Mark Schlereth, Brad Thomas and Robbie Weinhardt, who will have some spring training competition from Al Alburquerque. Schlereth and Thomas will also split time in the role of ‘left-handed relief specialist”; to face left-handed batters in key situations.
Jose Valverde will once again be the Tigers closer. The two-time NL saves leader (2007 & 2008) finished 9th last year his first with Detroit and in the American League. For his career Valverde, averages 10.7 K/9 IP and 24 saves with a 3.15 ERA, which is exactly what you want from your closer. Valverde also only had 3 blown saves for the season, in 2010.
Setting up Valverde, will be Joaquin Benoit, who comes to Motown after spending 2010 in Tampa Bay as the Rays primary set up man. The 33-year old brings a career 31-28 record with a 4.47 career ERA with him. GM Dave Dombrowski signed Benoit to a to a 3-year $16.5M contract after a career best season in Tampa. Part of the problem last year was inconsistency in close games getting to Valverde to slam the door shut, and if Benoit picks up where he left off in Tampa, the Tigers will be in quite good shape.
The Benoit signing also allows the Tigers to take some pressure off of soon to be (Feb 13) 24-year old youngster Ryan Perry who has pitched in 113 games the past two seasons in the Tigers Bullpen with Flashes of brilliance and loads of inconsistency. While compiling a 3-6 record and 3.69 ERA over his career, Perry has struck out an average of 7.6 batters per nine innings, but also walked 4.4 BB/9.
Perry and Joel Zumaya, who is trying to shake the injury bug and prove he can pitch effectively, will help get to Benoit and Valverde. Zumaya, who hasn’t pitched a full season in Detroit since his rookie year of 2006, says that he is in good health for 2011, and if Detroit can get a full-season of Zumaya, the Tigers will be really tough to beat.
Bullpen: Thomas, Weinhardt, and Schlereth will all be improved for 2011 over last year, and Schlereth could fill Zumaya’s role albeit from the Left side, later on in the ‘pen if Zumaya succumbs to the injury bug yet again. In Benoit and Valverde the Tigers have two of the best in the American League at the back-end of the Bullpen, all they need from the starters is to get to inning 5 or 6 and the Tigers bullpen crew could nail down a victory.
The White Sox and Twins all have had serious losses in their pitching staffs, so the advantage in the A.L. Central bullpen battle should end up with Detroit.