What is going on with Valverde?

When Jose Valverde threw just eight of his 20 pitches for strikes July 21 against Texas, it was a rare bad outing for him, one that seemed like an exception to an otherwise All-Star season. He had trouble gripping the ball, he adjusted, and that was that.
A week and a half later, everybody is trying to get a grasp on what Valverde’s problem is. And plenty of people were asking why manager Jim Leyland went to Valverde in the eighth inning Friday night and kept him in for 60 pitches to finish off a win.
Until Friday, Valverde’s season high was 27. His career-high pitch count was 48 in 2004. He hadn’t thrown more than 38 pitches in a game since 2006. Once Valverde got to 40 pitches Friday, he was still working his way into a jam, let alone trying to work his way out of it.
Valverde’s called third strike on Mike Cameron sealed the win with his 60th pitch of the night. Even if you take away four pitches for an intentional walk, his pitch total dwarts any long work he has pulled off before, and it left some fans wondering what Leyland was thinking.
Internally, Leyland was wondering a bit himself.
“That’s one of those catch-22s,” Leyland said. “I saw that happen with Joe Torre and [Jonathan] Broxton early in the season. You’re in a catch-22: Do you or don’t you? How many? 
“I don’t really know the answer, to be honest with you. I’d be lying if I said I had the exact answer. It certainly wasn’t something that we wanted to happen, but it did. We got the win. I’m sure he’s not going to pitch the rest of the series.”
To answer the first question first — what’s going on with Valverde’s struggles — the indications suggest it was more of the same as the earlier outing.
“He was just having trouble gripping, it looked like,” catcher Gerald Laird said. “He had no command, trying to find his command. That’s basically it. His velocity was good. His split had good action. He just couldn’t find his release point to put it in the zone.”
Valverde didn’t put it in those specific terms, didn’t want to talk about what might be wrong until he looks at video on Saturday. But when asked if this outing was similar to the other one, Valverde indicated his belief that it was similar.
“I didn’t have my command like I normally have,” Valverde said. “My pitches, my slider and fastball, I tried to throw to different sides. I’ll try to look at the video tomorrow and figure out what I’m doing wrong.”
Why Leyland kept with Valverde as the pitch count went up was a different question. Leyland had Ryan Perry warming up while Valverde loaded the bases and then watched David Ortiz emptied them. He kept Perry warming up. But he never showed any hint of going to him.
“I will say this: He did not pitch for four days either,” Leyland said. “So it wasn’t like he was pitched out. If he was pitched out a little bit, I would’ve never brought him in [the game] in the eighth. He hadn’t pitched for four days, so that was a good out for him to get. 
“The whole thing was throwing the ball over the plate in the ninth inning. It wasn’t so much getting hit. I mean, Ortiz got the big hit there, but it wasn’t hits. The control was the issue.”
Valverde won’t be available again until Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the White Sox, meaning his July numbers are finished. He gave up just two earned runs in 34 outings over the first three months. He gave up 11 earned runs in July on 14 hits in 12 innings with 11 walks and 18 strikeouts.
Suffice to say, if those numbers are a harbinger of a second-half slide, if Valverde can’t figure out what’s wrong with his grip or his command, the Tigers bullpen will fall apart from there. They’ve filled enough holes as it is, but they don’t have a ready-made fill-in closer. If he can regain effectiveness, if not the same dominance, Detroit still has a shot at a late-season rebound.
If it’s a matter of grip or mechanics, that’s one thing. If Valverde is wearing down, that’s trouble.

9 Comments

Well I hope that everything is okay. If he is gone if the Tigers already weren’t toast they couldnt lose him. That would be the nail in the coffin.

So JL just kept coming up with no answers, again.
Everyone including JL knows there is daylight between VV, Coke and the rest of the bullpen for handling late inings pressure.
So when JL saw Francona pinch hit the righty McDonald for the poor hitting lefty of Hermida (.203/.257), JL without obviously thinking went to his righty matchup just to show he is on top of the managerial macho chess game.
McDonald’s stats show he is hardly a power hitter with 222 AB’s for 6 HR’s .257/.324/.392 with even splits of .264/.319 against lefties and .252/.327 against righties.
JL surely didn’t forget Coke has a lower ERA against righties of 1.96 with no HR’s in 23 innings. The lack of faith shown in relieving Coke was absurd given the 6-1 game, low pitch count and pitching well with 2 K’s.
From my recollection, the only trip to the mound in the 9th occurred after the second walk and VV was left alone for a further 30 pitches in the innings.
Someone in the dugout was obviously frozen dirtying their pants.
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Hopefully JL looks himself in the mirror and realises his time has long gone.

I wonder if Mariano River has ever thrown 60 pitches in a save?

Can you even imagine Girardi pulling a stunt like that.

Good stuff, Jason.
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Interestingly, the Tigers bring up the rear in save opportunities in the AL this season. Valverde has 22, converting 21. This is one of those strange stats that maybe don’t mean much, but it seems that we rarely go into the 9th with a lead of 3 runs or less. It wouldn’t appear that Valverde is wearing down from this season, but perhaps over the long haul of his entire career. I’m going to assume a mechanical thing.
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I’m pretty sure the current Chicago roster is not the one they’ll bring to Detroit on Tuesday.
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–Rich

Wow, Jason is being diplomatic, but if you read the article carefully, he is questioning JL’s strategy (or lack thereof) pretty seriously. And we should, too. This year is probably over, but I think we need a new manager next year.

Jim Leyland is the problem
Injured man playing and got injured for the season. But he likes resting healthy players.
He doesnt mess with the batting order unless its needed to put a worst player in a spot for a good bat
Closer in the 8th in an open game. 60 pitches in 1 and a 3rd inn.
Stealing third with runner in scoring position. But Ajax almost never tries to steal second . In any other team , he would have green light.
Boesch not benched for a couple of days
Raburn in the third spot

And JL is signed for the next year

I agree for the most part that this is Jim’s fault. You should never leave your closer sitting for 5 days between games. Yes, we lost all 4 to TB but bring the guy in somewhere just to get a little work so he doesn’t get too cold. As for resting Boesch I honestly believe that would be the worst thing to do, you have a guy in a slump you don’t tell him not to swing you get back to basics and try to help him out of that slump. I personally think its time for Raburn, Inge and Ryan Perry to go. They’ve all had enough time to prove themselves and haven’t performed well enough.

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