Game 19: The return of the Big Potato

I have no idea how Jose Valverde’s return is going to work out. For people to look at Valverde not throwing a splitter on Wednesday night and point out that October weather is cold in Detroit, too, requires a huge presumption about Valverde closing.

This wasn’t a move made for October. The Tigers can find a closer for October at the Trade Deadline if they don’t think they have that guy in house then. This was a move made for now.

What I know is that the Tigers did not want to continue with a bullpen by committee. They wanted a set closer. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have scouted Jose Valverde a couple days after sending Bruce Rondon to Triple-A Toledo at the end of Spring Training, and a couple days before the season began in Minnesota.

This wasn’t an indictment of how Joaquin Benoit was pitching, or even about how Phil Coke was pitching. Once the Tigers signed Valverde to a minor-league contract, the question was simply whether he was pitching better than he did last year. Once they saw that, they didn’t need to run him through the motions at Triple-A Toledo. They saw all they needed.

Say what you will about the case for using your bullpen situationally the whole way through, using your best reliever in the eighth inning for the middle of an opponent’s lineup if those are the toughest outs. The Tigers were never going to be in that school of thought, right or wrong.

“Ideally, you’d like to have a one-person closer at the end of the game with a good club,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told the Detroit Economic Club on Wednesday at their annual luncheon. “We looked at some different alternatives. It really didn’t fall into place with getting that one person.”

Jim Leyland can play matchups, but he feels better playing them from the sixth inning through the eighth than doing it into the ninth too.

That showed on Wednesday. With the ninth inning set, he used Al Alburquerque in the sixth inning for just the second time this season. He played the matchups in using Benoit against Mike Moustakas with two outs in the seventh, not only because Moustakas had good numbers against Phil Coke, but because he knew he’d want Benoit against the right-handed hitters that followed anyway.

With the ninth inning set, no matter who’s up, it lets Leyland focus on matchups with the seventh and eighth. With the ninth inning set, it lets Leyland avoid wondering what he’ll do if the leadoff man reaches base in the ninth.

Is Valverde the man for that long term? No idea. He’s the man for now, and they’ll see how it works out. Remember, Santiago Casilla was closing games for the Giants at this time last year. The Tigers are on the hook for Valverde for just $2 million guaranteed, and have $3 million more tied to incentives. If they decide they want to go in a different direction this summer, they can. If they decide Bruce Rondon is ready in the summer, they can go that way, too. If they like what they see with Valverde, they can say he’s their guy and gear their bullpen around him.

Valverde’s stuff at least gives them hope he can handle the job right now. The fastball has new life. Whether it’ll have that same life after a couple months of closing, nobody really knows. If it does, the Tigers have to like what they have. If it doesn’t, the Tigers don’t have to sit around hating it.

One more note, and an ironic one at that: If one believes in the notion that any decent reliever can get you at least 25 saves without much problem, as one scout floated this spring, then one should believe that if Valverde has better stuff than he did at the end of last year, he can handle the job. Of course, if you believe in that theory, then you probably tuned out this closer debate a long time ago. Time will tell.

20 Comments

A return to normalcy.

Good to get the first one. It is hard to imagine that we went twenty days between ninth inning close situations. Play some tight games men!! We need him to get a few more opportunities on the home stand. Let’s say by the end of May he has nine save chances. If he saves eight, we should be extremely happy. Seven?? No doubt about it, we will be grumbling. Six?? Probably some of you will be organizing to do terrible things. Five?? DD will take care of it for us. This is not and never will be rocket science. Baseball is a brutal results based business. If this fails, he may have company leaving town. Can he succeed and save over thirty games for us?? Absolutely!!!! Last six seasons he has been one of the best. No doubt about it. We have work to do. Beat the Royals. Win the division. That’s what we are all about.

My first thought was that Billy Butler got all of that last pitch. In my mind I had already conceded the run. Was pleasantly surprised it died short of the wall. One positive, VV did throw strikes.

Rich …on the previous thread you were asking why try seemed colder? Well mother nature sucks (haha) and it was that damp cold where it goes right through you as opposed to just cold.
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Yes Valverdes routine on the mound did seem strange. I’m not so worried about him not using the splitter sat night either. Only time will tell!

today is weather day at the park. fittingly, i think the park will see some weather this afternoon. probably some time between noon and 2pm. well see how it all plays out.

maybe delay that by an hour (1-3pm). And mark that precip as a snowy mix. ridiculous, but the end of winter is only days away – at least here in SE michigan.

I think the annoying thing all along was hearing the line that they were ok with closer by committee when they truly were not, just makes them seem silly saying it one day and saying they need a set closer the next day. I think most people feel a closer role is needed but I guess no one wants to own up to their faults in public.

He had a good performance although 2 long fly balls on a warmer night might have been home runs. I’ll take it along with a win – I can’t imagine playing that game last night, my cousin went to the game, not sure if they made it the whole game, it was a slowly played game. Nice to see VMart get a few knocks. Come on spring!!! My main concern was him not getting booed last night, I hate that kind of stuff but it seemed quite a few were standing and clapping for him. Did I miss it, or did they not mention him not wearing his glasses either?

i noticed that, also his facial hair was multi colored. [shakes head]

A former scout here mentioned two things: Valverde was opening his shoulder so he missed a couple of times the strike zone . And Avila was sitting inside ( as you must do after two walks to open the strike zone) and Scherzer was throwing it outside.
Villareal said that he is OK going to Toledo because he needs to fix a mechanical issue

He mentioned it when Valverde was pitching to Butler.

He needs to get closer to the edges. What you have there is hittable.

Verlander (and Scherzer) with lower speed the follow up to the Passan story:

http://mlbbuzz.yardbarker.com/blog/mlbbuzz/article/verlander_unconcerned_by_early_velocity_dip/13478347

What was it, 32 degrees in MN on opening day?? It’s been really, really, really, cold!! Did Verlander or Scherzer pitch in LA?? Those were are only warm weather games. When it warms up, they will light up the radar guns.

I see Valverde as just another reliever, but management here wants a closer so he’s it. Like TigerGirl, I have to wonder at all this. Didn’t everyone know Leyland wouldn’t do an entire season without a closer?
According to the schedule, there are no games in October. People make a mighty big assumption to think there will be.

i wonder if the typical success rate of a bullpen by committee is better or worse than that of an average closer. If it is, then does the rest of the bullpen’s success rate compare to that of a team with a closer. The more i think about it, i think if Papa can do an average job i’ll be an improvement over a closer by committee scenario (with this club).
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and if last night – a cold cold cold night for Papa – was what he had after only throwing to kids wearing braces in front of 63 people…..well then, i think he’s going to round into form and do an average to above average closer job for us.

The good, the bad and the ugly; good movement on his fastball, bad location except on the first out and no splitter.

have been a bit critical in past of Tigers’ management tendency to keep vet players in important roles beyond their ability to perform. more or less, loyalty to a fault, bringing these guys back until they prove they have nothing left. Polanco is the only recent exception that comes to mind, and finding his replacement was a fiasco. so the offseason move away from Valverde seemed atypical for this management team.
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now that the committee approach is abandoned, will be interesting to see how much leeway they give to Valverde, and whether Rondon/Alburquerque/other is now plan B. problems for another day…congrats to Papa Grande for getting the job done yesterday in no-stress fashion!

Yeah, the advantage of a closer is that the other relievers know their roles. It doesn’t need to be this way, but that’s how it works in this day and age. It would take several years to change the philosophy, but as of right now, that’s how it works.
There are many things in sports and life that could use a philosophical shift but (insert Jim’s voice) “It is what it is.”

Meeting my granddaughter for the book fair so the first inning or two is yours!! Go Tigers!!!

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