Game 8: What to do with Brayan Villarreal

Here’s the good news for the Tigers: In a league where a lot of teams scour to find a high-strikeout specialist they can call on whenever they need a big out with runner on base, the Tigers have two of them.

Here’s the bad news: In a league where teams can make pitchers pay dearly for walking guys, the Tigers have two relievers who can walk their share.

“I think he rears back and flings it, and flings it pretty good,” manager Jim Leyland said of Brayan Villarreal, “and sometimes it’s in the strike zone and sometimes it’s not.”

Between injuries and issues, they’ve spent most of the last couple years with only one. By the time Al Alburquerque returned last September from elbow surgery, Villarreal’s late-season struggles had already started to limit his usefulness. Now, with no closer and Leyland playing matchups with his relievers for 2-3 innings a game, you can make the case he needs both of them if he’s going to make it work, just to have one of them available on any given night.

Alburquerque finished out the eighth inning in Tuesday’s win over the Jays. Wednesday was Villarreal’s turn once Toronto put a runner on base on Darin Downs in the seventh to bring the potential tying run to the plate. What followed was 19 pitches, seven strikes, 18 fastballs, one slider, one swing and miss, two foul balls, and no other swings.

And before you ask why he was in there, keep this in mind: Villarreal got ahead on 1-2 counts to both of his final two hitters, Edwin Encarnacion and Mark DeRosa. Both times, he followed with three consecutive pitches out of the strike zone.

There’s a difference between getting ahead of a hitter and losing him, and just completely losing the strike zone.

“it’s amazing really,” Leyland said, “because for the most part the first pitch to every one of those hitters, Villarreal threw a nasty pitch for strike one and couldn’t throw another strike after that, throwing the ball in the dirt. He just had problems.”

So why keep him in after the second walk to Encarnacion to face DeRosa? Well, the aforementioned fact that he was getting ahead of hitters was one reason. The other, ironically, was that they needed a strikeout or a double play in that situation. He had worked himself into such a jam that they needed somebody like him to get out of it, though Leyland said before the game that Alburquerque was available.

“You know he throws strike one nasty,” Leyland said. “If he does get the ball around the plate, he’s got a chance to strike the guy out or has a chance to get a double play.”

He was a pitch away from the strikeout and couldn’t get it, though he threw all fastballs to DeRosa.

Leyland did not regret putting Villarreal in that situation.

“I thought you have a guy that throws 95, 96, 97 mph with a good slider, and you’ve got four right-handed hitters coming up,” Leyland said. “I don’t want to sound like I’m defending my decision, because I’m not. I would make the same decision again. He’s got to pitch. We’ve got to see if he can do it. It’s that simple.”

So far, Villarreal has given up eight runs on four hits with more walks (five) against outs (four). He believes he has a mechanical issue with his shoulder that he needs to watch on video and fix. The question is whether the Tigers can afford to take him out of action for two or three days to work out his issues.

On the one hand, Triple-A is sometimes the best place to work on issues. On the other hand, who from the minors can fill his spot well other than closer in waiting Bruce Rondon, and can the Tigers afford to take Rondon out of development duty?

Play of the game: Octavio Dotel got Valdespinned on Emilio Bonifacio’s comebacker leading off the eighth inning, and still had the presence to field the play and throw to first for the out before hunching over in pain. Win or lose, that deserves some sort of mention.

Biggest out: As badly as Steve Delabar struggled to find the strike zone after replacing Mark Buehrle with back-to-back bases-loaded walks in the fifth inning, the Jays would’ve have had a chance at a comeback had Delabar not settled down from a 3-1 count to get Alex Avila swinging at back-to-back pitches for the strikeout.

Strategy: As mentioned above, Leyland stuck with Villarreal to face Mark DeRosa after back-to-back walks in the seventh, looking for the strikeout or the double play. He got to another 1-2 count before missing on three consecutive pitches.

Line of the day: Brayan Villarreal — 0+ IP, 0 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 19 pitches, 7 strikes.

Stat of the day: 3 — Bases loaded walks for the game.

Print it: “I have a lot of confidence in my fastball. You could see that they couldn’t hit it. Even when they knew that pitch was coming, they couldn’t hit it. That’s my best pitch, and I have a lot of confidence. I just have to throw it for strikes.” — Villarreal on his pitch selection, with 18 fastballs out of 19 pitches.


1:40 am and MLB Network just reported Scott Sizemore tore his ACL..again. Out for the season. Isn’t that awful.

I hope Brayan can get it together. When he’s good, he’s very, very good. But, not right now. Better get him straightened out.

geez, that guy can’t catch a break

that’s so sad. with that said, it makes me feel better for getting david pauley for him.

Entering this season I thought three areas may very well determine if Detroit is a legitimate WS contender. The areas are: ability to consistently hit leff pitching. The bullpen, but not the closer. With no established closer, can the bullpen get into a rhythm. Lastly, smallball and speed. After the third worst offensive showing in a WS ever, can the Tigers advance runners with bunting and base stealing. From a game management POV, one guy cannot be permitted to beat a team ( whether he is on your team or not ) yet it happened last night.

It’s gotta get better….they are not going to be perfect…but they (the pitching) staff has got to be better. Like Rich said in te previous thread…starters have got to go 7….that alone will help a lot.

Well duh Brayan, of course you have to throw them for strikes. Frustrating game yesterday, waited out a very long rain delay, was freezing cold, rain here and there, and we lost a nice lead. Needless to say my husband was thrilled but the rest of our group not so much. Good news was we got bobbleheads of Miguel and of course, we were at a ball game which even cold and wet still trumps work. The relief pitching was way off, although was glad to see my Cokie do his job well. Can’t imagine having to play in that weather yesterday, and Rickie did a nice job of pitching.

I wish I could edit that – Rickie did a nice job of pitching the 1st 4 innings is what I meant to say but he is a starter and not a long-reliever. Frustrating on the pitching, on a different note Fielder beating out plays at 1st base was a bonus!

No reason to edit that TigerGirl. Rick Porcello pitched superb for five innings. He put up four zeroes and then allowed one run in the fifth. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

They couldn’t Byran thorugh this yesterday this is not good. When a pitcher gets into a funk, guess what, you get him out of his funk ASAP. How do you this, very simple, when a pitcher’s pitches are in the dirt raise the target but not on every pitch. You can tell him his release point is off but I don’t think he will get the message on the mound. So hopefully lesson learned and AA has to recoginize this. BV will probably pitch well next time out.

Avila visited once and the pitching coach once before Leyland came out to pull him. Villarreal just couldn’t make the necessary adjustments yesterday.
as a side note, recently watched part of an interview between Charlie Rose and Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus recalled that the best lesson he learned from his golf teacher was how to make in-round adjustments on his own. this seems one of the marks of a pro…recognizing one’s own faults and self-correcting. Tigers do have several young pitchers who are still developing their skill.

That the thing once a pitcher get into a funk sometimes words not going to help. Sometimes a pitcher can’t himself out of the funk, so change the location of where he has to pitch may work.

BV had a few rough outings the last week of spring training. He was good the first half of camp. I thought Marte out pitched him during that stretch, but he has struggled in AAA. It maybe time to call up Luke Putkonen. Dotel is still struggling, but your forced to let him try to work through it.

On Leyland seeming to defend his decision: I wouldn’t second guess him on that any more than I would John Gibbons re Delabar. You don’t expect big league pitchers to walk everybody. The problem with B-Real was that his pitches were so off that the Jays hitters never considered swinging, even behind in the count. Most of Alburquerque’s misses are down in the zone, looking for the swing and miss. He is the more reliable of the two, whether he’s liked or not.
Nothing against Putkonen in particular, but if that’s the kind of pitcher we turn to, we have problems. Somebody needs to step up and become the go to guy. So far, it’s like playing Russian roulette.
Call up Rondon before April 20 and not use up an option?

“B-Real” is how i am going to refer to him from now – that’s a good one.
In regards to B-Real: option a) Jones fixes it here in the MLB, if that doesn’t work option b) B-Real heads to Toledo and you bring up either Rondon, Below or Ortega depending on how depleted your BP is.
Interestingly enough our best arm in AAA right now is Shawn Hill (2 QS, 14.1ip, 0.84 whip, 7Ks/0BB, 5ER)

I am not too sure how we ended up with the pen in such a state of flux.
We effectively have the same pen less a closer with the addition of a reliable long man in Smyly assuming that is still his role.
JL states Benoit is the most reliable closer, but rightly states he has to take care with him and limit the amount of pitching three consecutive games which he has done only four times the past three seasons.
Is that though sufficient reason to then have to mix and match the whole bullpen?
Given Valverde pitched on 3 or 4 (once in 2010 & 2012) consecutive days 8 times in 2010, 5 times (+1 post) in 2011 and 7 times in 2012, I think not.
How bizarre the possibility of Rondon and Valverde pitching together at Toledo.

Thing about Smyly is that he really is a 6th starter in the bullpen. I don’t think they can bring him in back-to-back days. So the “problem” on Wednesday actually started on Tuesday when Leyland used Smyly for 2/3 of an inning. I think they need to subconsciously set up Smyly to pitch the same day Porcello does, because Rick has problems past the 5th inning.

i think we’ll get this game started on time today.

Very, very good point. Porcello for five. Then Smyly. We still have time to see that used three times before April 30th.

This mix-and-match situation coupled with short stints by the starters will lead to a burned out pen by the end of May.Then it’s “SEASON OVER.”

we’ll get to warmer weather don’t worry the starters will go longer very soon

danny worth in 25abs has a .440OPS in AAA. Yikes what the heck happened huh? depression from not making the 25 man?

i take this with a grain of salt. players’ performance goes hot and cold. the full season result is the measuring stick. though in the short term, it does hurt a player’s chances of being recalled if he’s slumping.

Evan maybe you’ll feel better to know it wasn’t Pauley—it was David Purcey!!!!

touche. one is lefty and one righty but both met similar fates in our organization

The law firm of Purcey, Purcey & Pauley. Or was that vice versa.

Maybe “Zorro” was too much pressure for him He can’t “save” everyone. So, B-Real, it is, and he’s got to get his act together. For real.

As far as Porcello, yea, I’d try him as closer.

Team stat percentage of inherited runners that’s score 65%………yuk.
How that breaks down individually in the pen……
Villareal (B-real)…..100%

There is not one reliable guy there so far. But let’s get real Smyly was good once and also had a very bad outing. Benoit has been alright but also gave up a bomb. Starter need to do there job and go longer than 5 innings I believe that will cure a lot. The walks have just got to stop and that goes for all of them. It’s just incredible. You can not give up a 6-1 lead if you expect to contend.

it’s tough to witness a win slip away like it did yesterday, but i’m not wringing my hands about it. the season is long. they need to figure out who can do what and when. i suspect most tiger fans figured it would be a bumpy ride, and so it is. on the plus side, it does increase the drama of each close game, which adds to the entertainment value for me.

I understand your point, Maybe a Suicide Watch is not in order, but this situation definitely requires a sense of urgency. Afterall, the Tigers had a lengthy ST and now 11 days of the season to figure it out.

Great post Gk. The sad thing is that many of the IR situations just never should have happened. Just too much micromanaging. The Walks?? Through eight games, our staff has given up thirty-two total base on balls. If you project that out over one hundred and sixty-two games, you wiil be at about 650 walks. Last year our pitchers were fantastic and allowed only 438 walks. We are looking at a potential of over 200 more walks in 2013. No way that can happen.

Fister seven pitches in the first. Blue Jays must be hacking.

Pingback: :: Brayan Villarreal: Early candidate for Tigers’ punching bag | The Daily Fungo :: Mike McClary's Detroit Tigers blog featuring analysis, commentary and history

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s