Game 6: Leyland looks to sort out bullpen

One of the things about a bullpen by committee with few (if any) set roles is that if a reliever can’t retire a hitter he is supposed to retire, his struggles tend to put the rest of the bullpen order out of whack. Left-handed pitchers who can get right-handed hitters out make a world of difference. A left-handed pitcher giving out a hit to a left-handed hitter, while inevitable, tends to have a bigger effect.

Phil Coke’s struggles against right-handed hitters are well-known, and Jim Leyland admitted said Sunday’s game that he left Coke in to finish out the eighth inning to give him a chance against some right-handed hitters. The results were a Vernon Wells double and a Francisco Cervelli RBI single.

For all practical purposes, though, the inning began to fall apart with a left-handed hitter. Travis Hafner greeted Coke with a first-pitch single to right on an elevated breaking ball, putting a runner on ahead of Wells’ double. That meant Ichiro’s fly ball to right, instead of the third out to strand a runner on second, was a sacrifice fly for the second out before Cervelli’s two-out single.

Hafner was 1-for-6 with two strikeouts against Coke heading into the day.

That said, Leyland didn’t diminish the importance of Coke retiring right-handed hitters.

“We’ve got to get Cokey, Dotel and these guys going,” Leyland said. “That’s why I let him pitch to the right-handers. But he’s going to have to get these guys out.”

As you might remember, right-handed hitters went 40-for-101 against Coke last year. They’re 4-for-5 off him so far this year. The one out was pretty notable, as it came from switch-hitting Ryan Doumit for the final out on Opening Day at Minnesota.

According to STATS, Coke threw fastballs with 69 percent of his pitches to right-handed hitters last year, with just 19 percent changeups and 12 percent breaking balls. Against left-handed batters, he threw close to an even split of fastballs and breaking balls.

Coke’s percentage of fastballs to right-handed hitters was even higher in 2011 at 72.5 percent. But then, so was his fastball percentage to left-handers that year.

“It’s just puzzling to me with Coke because he has the repertoire that he has,” Leyland said. “If you’re a one-pitch pitcher or something like that, or one pitch with just a mediocre second pitch, OK, I can figure that out.”

At that point, it was a 5-0 game, and Dotel needed to pitch. He began the ninth inning against right-handed hitting Jayson Nix and gave up a leadoff single, Nix’s third hit of the day. After a single from left-handed hitting Brett Gardner and a groundout from lefty-hitting Robinson Cano, he gave up a two-run single to right-handed hitting Kevin Youkilis.

It was just Dotel’s second outing of the regular season. He faced two batters Thursday against the Twins.

“We’ve got to get Dotel going,” Leyland said. “He hadn’t really pitched much in Spring Training. He needs to get out there and throw some pitches.”

Play of the game: As mentioned in the game story, Jayson Nix was 1-for-11 with five strikeouts off Justin Verlander before he got a hanging changeup and sent it out to left for a two-run homer in the second inning and a 3-0 Yankees lead. It was a pitch selection Leyland questioned, and one that Brayan Pena regretted.

Biggest out: The Yankees shut out the Tigers offense by holding the middle of the order — Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez — to a 1-for-12 performance on the game between CC Sabathia’s seven shutout innings and David Robertson’s inning of relief. One of the outs was Robertson’s strikeout of Miguel Cabrera on a check swing following Torii Hunter’s leadoff single. It didn’t stop the rally, because Fielder singled a few pitches later, but is slowed the momentum and kept the Tigers from putting something serious together.

Strategy: Matt Tuiasosopo made the Opening Day roster to serve as the left fielder against tough lefties, and he filled that role admirably with two singles and a walk against CC Sabathia. So why did Leyland keep Tuiasosopo in the game to bat against the right-handed Robertson? Long short story, Leyland was looking for a three-run homer to get them back in the game, and a right-handed pull hitter getting a ball up in a wind blowing out to left was what he saw as his best chance.

“In case you’re wondering, I left him in there that inning because the ball was [carrying] to left and it wasn’t going anywhere to right,” Leyland said. “And I was just hoping with two guys on, he might run into one and get one up in the wind. That’s why I left him in there. He’s got the capability of hitting a home run, so you’re trying to get a quick three there.”

Robertson struck out Tuiasosopo on three pitches.

Line of the day: Jayson Nix went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and two runs scored.

Stat of the day: 1 — Run allowed against the Tigers by Mariano Rivera since 2000. It was a Curtis Granderson home run in an 8-6 Tigers loss at Comerica Park on April 29, 2009.

Print it: “I think CC’s actually better as a pitcher. He’s a pitcher now, and not a thrower.” — Torii Hunter

52 Comments

Print it: “I think CC’s actually better as a pitcher. He’s a pitcher now, and not a thrower.” — Torii Hunter.
Torii: What planet do you live on? CC has been dealing for a lot of years now.
Forget about accommodating the media. Just continue to play ball like you can.

I have commented a few times of late about Coke and am in total agreement with JL’s evaluation. The guy is a huge puzzle. And an important piece of the larger puzzle called the bullpen.

I think it is time to pull the plug on Coke. He hasn’t pitch well since he arrive, just look at his WHIP over the last three years. To me he pitches to left handed batters in the 6th or maybe in the 7th only.

Interesting bullpen trends developing all around the league after 6 of 162 games.
There were a few teams this weekend having issues with their ‘pens’ already. Axford is imploding, again, Holland is having problems at KC and rumors about him losing the job, Putz blew a save yesterday for AZ. Marmol lost the closer role again. Cishek for the Marlins blew the save yesterday and finally Soriano blew one for the Nationals on Saturday as did Jim Johnson (O’s). Having a closer is not a certainty by any means.

Coke and Dotel are now specialist only. Dotel is still useful. Downs looks like he is ready to take the next step. Drew might be able to take the next step but have wait and see.

If specialist work is all they end up doing, it makes you wonder if there’s a role for Bruce Rondon up here fairly soon.

I would agree but for one thing. Tigers need to develop Rondon slowly and accurately because there is nothing in next free agency concerning closers except for a three guys that are over the age of 36.

Don’t want to come off as hysterical after one week’s play, but we kind of knew this could be a problem even before spring training. Everybody knew, actually, although it didn’t stop the national media from drooling over the Tigers. It’s possible we’ll need Valverde for bullpen depth if nothing else. It also appears they’re not grooming Rondon strictly as a closer either.
Some of this will be alleviated when the starters begin going deeper into games.
I’m wondering how much baseball will actually be played in Detroit this week. Not a good forecast.

Valverde has passport issues. Hasn’t arrived in the States, yet.

What if we find out he really is Juan Valdez and he is thirty-eight years old?? I like JVV but could not pass(port) it up.

oh here we go!

Rich, of course it is a bad forecast, because I have a ticket for Wednesday, I seem to have terrible luck sometimes with rain at Tigers games!

How’s this for luck? I’ve had tickets for Tigers at Astros in Kissimmee for ST games in 2008, 2012, and 2013. It’s rained all three times, the first two washed out, and this year’s played in the rain. My wife even told me when I ordered the tickets this year not to, because it would rain.
As far as we’re concerned, it rains 365 days a year in Kissimmee.

It was sunny in Kissimmee on the last Thursday of spring training. My first time there, it sure is a cozy park.

lol – you win on that one!

Torii is now the designated “talker” after a Tiger loss. Q used to do alot of that last year. They pick the guys who like to talk and are comfortable in front of the camera and try to cheer up the fans.

Dotel vs LHB n 2012:288/.360/.413.772 2.38 SO/BB. Limited exposure to LHB was the key for his success last year.
Coke , everybody knows he is at most a LOOGY. Babip last year:400. 475 vs RHP. A little bad luck too. 0.99 GB/FB did not help either.

Pitcher not only closer being hit hard. Last night both Weaver and Darvish added their names to the casualties of the season( or the long ST?) Not many of them were in the WBC

didn’t the good lefty from Tampa get smoked last night too?

big time.

yes, in the other thread I posted a link to ESPN with the numbers of the big starters with their worst outing in the same day

Weaver hurt his non-throwing arm avoiding a liner back at him. He only got 15 innings of work in ST and doesn’t look like himself.

if al al can step up, as well as downs, and villarreal then i don’t mind to have 2 specialists in the pen — as long as they are used properly.

or rondon could be substituted for villarreal, but it would be the same.

Those are big ifs though, aren’t they?

small if (al al), big if (downs) and medium if (villarreal) with an equal size if as an insurance plan (rondon).
.
overall i think because our starting pitching is so good – and our offense should be the same — it’s not as big of a deal as we’re making it out to be.

Last year our pitching staff did some mighty fine work. We went to the World Series and after losing to the Giants we decided to part ways with our closer, Jose Valverde. Now in April 2013 , we find ourselves with possibly the twelve best pitchers held over from our 2012 staff. No Joe Schmoe from the Kokomo team, etc. It cost Mr. I some big bucks as four of our starting pitchers were up for some big raises. To keep it right, we extended the contract of Justin Verlander, too. Now we will continue to play our schedule out for the next three weeks and see if at the end of April we need to make any adjustments. Several of our pitchers know the route from Detroit to Toledo. Maybe one or two of them will make the trip. With Valverde now signing a minor league deal we have plenty of options.

As long as we’re clear on the fact that a weak bullpen will kill this team no matter what kind of offense or starting pitching we run out there. Not saying we have a weak one yet, mind you.

out of curiosity, what letter grade would you give this bullpen?

I think we have an above average bullpen. near the 75th percentile. Right now i understand it looks average.

The gist of an earlier comment was that the bullpen arms are good, but the pitching has been poor. I would agree with that analysis. So…should potential or performance be graded?

yea i know i know. i think it’s reasonable to go half and half.

Last year, AL,: 10th in ERA. 9th in saves 10th in IP 12 in WHIP. Some are more mature ,others are with the sun on the back

Interesting how much Coke has changed having to pitch in higher intensity situations. Will have to pay more attention but don’t think he overly calls off the pitch selections.
Man, I would even like my chances at the moment against his waist high flat pitches.

I think Jason’s earlier reply to Barry on this blog is particularly interesting given the content of this blog article as well as the article he wrote today entitled “Wait won’t be long for Castellanos, Rondon.” Is this a case of connecting the dots?

Maybe though why he pitched the 8th is perplexing.
Hopefully Benoit can prove a few of us wrong, me included that he can make the big step up to the final inning.
Dirks must be second guessing himself at the moment. A problem that has arisen by not having any true pinch hitters on the bench and finding playing time with few positions available.

Dave B, Agreed. Dan, JV must have more movement on his fastball. Rain, rain go away, It is baseball season. Go Tigers! –Dave

“Not since the Toledo Mud Hens boasted Curtis Granderson and Joel Zumaya on their roster in 2005 …” I was surprised by that, and checked: Verlander made the jump from Erie. One season in the Minors to RoY( I still think that he deserved to be All Star that year and but for the two bad outings vs CWS, the Cy Young was within reach) to the best pitcher in MLB

Go Blue!

I still think that Castellanos would have plenty playing time. LHP: 50 games or even more. As soon as the other team fully realize the weakness they will put their LHP in line. Beck retweeted a CWS beat writer saying that CWS does not need a LH until July because they dont play the Tigers before.
VMart wont play 152 games even as DH. A couple of games of for Jackson and Torii played only 140 games last year.
We are talking about 60-80 games and 240 AB.

He’s in Toledo to learn to play LF.

“Wait won’t be long for Castellanos, Rondon
Top Tigers prospects getting more seasoning at Triple-A before call to the bigs”

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130408&content_id=44218216&vkey=news_det&c_id=det

So who goes? 2E. Kelly? If I had to guess it would be 2E. For that to happen he will have to become ineffective.

I know this may not be an easy question to answer but does anyone know what was going on between Youkilis and Justin after his double in the 1st inning?

Lip readers could detect Verlander saying to Youkilis, “Did you say something?” a couple of times. Youk just responded, “What?” .. from a blog called The cutoff man

I saw that. i agree with the cutoffman

was wondering that myself, he sure seemed ticked about something

Ortega struck out the side in the 8th inning with 14 pitches.
He had a few “moments” ins ST this year too.

Halftime of a very entertaining title game in Atlanta. This one’s going down to the final buzzer.

Why is Valverde closing for the Wolverines?

Henning again, campaigning to trade Cabrera.
Jackson and Scherzer, FA because of Boras? Andrus signed an extension. Until the CBA expires, Boras would be open to an extension

Relief pitching is all about putting zeroes on the scoreboard to either hold a lead or to give the offense a chance to comeback. Last time out?? Dotel two runs. Coke two runs. Villarreal five runs. Alburquerque three runs, which were charged to Scherzer. Let’s see what the bullpen does in the next six games.

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