Game 70: When even mop-up innings go wrong for Valverde

Jose Valverde’s track record in non-save situations is well-known, not just this season but his entire Tigers tenure. One expects a little edge to be missing from a high-intensity closer when he doesn’t have a save to wrap up.

Even so, Wednesday wasn’t good. It was a 9-3 deficit when he came in, but it was 13-3 after just 10 Valverde pitches, including a few hanging splitters.

“These are always situations I’ve found over the years that when they’re not really big situations or intense situations, sometimes closers don’t perform very well,” Leyland said. “I don’t think that was all of it. I think it was probably some of it, but certainly not all of it.

“I don’t want to sit here and look like I’m making excuses because I’m not in any way, shape or form. Things have to be a little bit better.”

Excuses or none, Leyland didn’t simply brush off this performance. He hadn’t pitched since Friday’s series opener in Minnesota, so whether he’s still the closer or not, he needed to get some work five days later. Whatever the score, he was going to get the work. They wanted to see better than that.

“It was an opportunity where we felt like he needed to pitch today, no matter what, Leyland said. “So we put him out there, and I think he threw one good split and a bunch of them that weren’t too good. That was obviously not a very good outing for him.

“You give him a little bit of a reprieve because there’s not much adrenaline probably in that situation, but he definitely needed to pitch. It didn’t work out too good for him today.”

In many ways, it was a no-win situation for Valverde, and a tough spot for Leyland to insert him. If he retired the O’s in order, it was a meaningless inning in a rout. If he didn’t, it was going to be another example of his struggles.

What happened was another level of struggles. After back-to-back foul balls from Manny Machado, three consecutive Valverde pitches went for base hits — a splitter grounded to left for a Machado, a 95 mph fastball for a Nick Markakis liner to left, and a 94 mph fastball that Adam Jones pummeled deep into the gap in right-center.

After Valverde missed with back-to-back fastballs, he threw three consecutive splitters to Chris Davis. He missed the first and took the second. He couldn’t miss the third.

“Split right into my barrel,” Davis said.

Davis’ evaluation might have been the most relevant of all.

“The first one he threw me was one of the better ones I’ve seen from him,” Davis said of Valverde’s splitter, “and the one away was good location. The last one was a good pitch. It just caught too much of the plate.”

Pitching coach Jeff Jones continues to work with Valverde on the splitter, trying to close his delivery and raise his arm angle so that his grip actually gets it to split instead of sit there like a hanging changeup. Like Davis, Jones saw the split from a couple pitches. He did not see it from the home-run ball.

It was the sixth home run Valverde has given up this year. He hadn’t given up many in a full season since 2008, when Houston’s homer-friendly Minute Maid Park was his home.

Five of those homers have come off the splitter. He gave up just three last year when he was throwing fastballs almost all the time.

“He does appear to be pushing it just a little bit,” Leyland said. “I can’t really explain it.”

Valverde allowed one more single but retired the side to finish out the game, including a called third strike on a splitter to Travis Ishiakawa. He gave up four runs on five hits.

He had a smattering of boos as he came into the game, and he was showered with them as he walked off. For someone who had one of the ultimate seasons for a closer just two years ago, it wasn’t pretty.

Leyland, who has stood up for Valverde, didn’t completely dismiss it this time.

“You don’t like to see that happen to anybody, particularly a veteran like Jose,” Leyland said. “But we all go through those moments where we have to take our shots. You don’t like it, but you understand it. That’s been going on in this business for a long time, and certainly I’m not campaigning for anybody not to express their feelings however they want to express them.”

When Leyland was on WXYT Wednesday morning, he said he wasn’t ready to cut ties with Valverde yet, that he still deserved an opportunity to show whether he can get his stuff back. When asked if he’s any closer to a decision on Valverde, Leyland didn’t sound like any move was imminent, but didn’t dismiss the notion that he’s being evaluated.

Wednesday’s outing, as rough as it was, nonetheless counts as a game finished, his 18th on the season. His contract incentives kick in at 25, with $500,000 each at the 25th, 30th, 35th, 40th, 45th and 50th game finished.

“First, I don’t make that decision,” Leyland said on an evaluation. “That would be a decision that Dave [Dombrowski] and myself and the coaches would make, but I’m not going to panic after coming into the game at 9-3 or whatever it was. I think we just wait and see. I don’t think that’s something that we need to talk about today.”

It will undoubtedly be talked about within the Tigers offices soon.


Dont panic? Pitching BP and giving away games like candies?and 500 K for doing that

1. Tsoap continues to make solid contributions.
2. Appreciate the fact that Porcello didn’t collapse. Six of the nine hits came in the fourth. He pitched a clean fifth and sixth after the debacle. This was a positive growing pain.
3. We had ten players come to bat. All but Fielder had at least one hit.

Hey, it can be a stretch sometimes. As previously stated, this game revealed a slew of weaknesses for this team. We are being helped by the weak Central Division, and I know starting pitching is good. I’m not sure about the Post Season even if we make it. David D needs to show some baseball smarts over the next month. Free the Clown from his and my misery!

I think we can officially call Leyland “Macho Mouth”.
The stuff that pours out of there is mind numbing sometimes.
Illitch might be spending his money wiser by considering a different style of manager rather than bringing in Bottomless Pit solutions such as a 50 home run guy who might not hit 25.
In the end—-Money talks. And that is why Valverde will be turfed.
Valverde has finished 18 games this season. According to Baseball Prospectus, he will get a $500,000 bonus if and when he finishes his 25th game, then an additional $500,000 every five games finished after that. Keeping him around will get a bit more expensive in the not too distant future.
Thanks to his bud JL, Valverde only needs to finish 7 more games like he did today to make a cool half Mil (severance package?).
My bet is David Dombrowski will intervene though. DUH!
Jim Leyland also was quoted saying this: “I’m still going to use Valverde,” he said. “I just don’t think you discard him just yet. I think you still have to give him the opportunity to see if he can anymore or he can’t. I think you have to figure that out.”
Double DUH!!
It’s beginning to get very silly.

Macho Mouth again:
“I don’t want to sit here and look like I’m making excuses, because I’m not in any way, shape or form,” Leyland said. “Things have to be a little bit better. But like I said, today was a day where it was a combination of things. Ricky lost his composure, and the Teagarden home run was a killer. Davis’ homer, I don’t worry about that much. But he lost his composure, and it bit him.”</I.
Funny how the veterans get candy coated and the mild-mannered young guys subtly BBQ's with a tinge of blame.

Game was lost in the 4th inning…….the hitters certainly aren’t capable of bailing out their pitcher. 4th inning I knew it was done…for this team to win they have to have a near flawless pitching performance followed by at least 4 or 5 runs. To use a term my dad used to use…they have no gumption.

Have you heard of Joey Votto? Justin Morneau? How about Jordan Lennerton?
In the long line of Canadian 1st basemen with first names beginning with J.
This guy is ours.
He is pounding the ball for Toledo. And get this, he knows what to do with his glove too. Best defensive in the Eastern League last year.
Bring him up and DH Prince.

” If he retired the O’s in order, it was a meaningless inning in a rout.” While that is true to many fans – the real fans wanted to see his splitter progressing. You can’t only work on your stuff in the highest pressure situation in the game. Costs the ball club games, fans.

If he is called up will be to have 25 players in the dugout .There is no place for new blood in this team under the current manager


Well, Detroit fans have proven hystrionic and classless behavior/comments are not the sole property of New Yorkers.

I don’t feel sorry for millionaires who are past their prime. Papa can retire with dignity and still play ball, just not in MLB.

To me the biggest problem with this team is inconsistency.

goodbye papa crapyourself,
you can just go away with your pals too Leyland, absolutely no balls, he’s just a bully with the media, your time is past due too Jim, getting slammed at home and once again, even without a Tigers batter getting hbp, like Avila vs. twins, no Tigers pitcher throws up and in, or drills a batter inside on the hands/hips/legs. Push the opposing batters off the plate, way too comfortable, make them move their feet.
I am starting to think this a bit more since beginning of the month, that several (key) players on the team are tuning out Leyland. His platoon BS and bullpen mismanaging, just some subtle signs.

I don’t have proof, it’s just certain mannerisms/body language on the field, in the dugout that I/we see that I get a feeling that all is not well between players and Leyland.
His not being able to take a joke when Verlander walked around to the other end of the dugout to avoid him and the handshake of doom a few starts back, the bullpen dysfuntion, and his choices everything is so rigid and set in stone with 1 pitcher per inning usually, watching the players in the infield few times rolling their eyes, and of course with Valverde blowing saves and the sheer anger/frustration look from many including JV, Miggy, Prince key players.
Who knows if I am on to something, or completely off base?

The players are all going to say to the media how much they love playing for him of course, what are they gonna say, the stuff that I/we do?

I from everything I have ever heard of Jim Leyland, players do like to play for him, and this is not from current roster or even people who have played here from 2006. I watch a lot of the MLB channel and that comes from ex players he’s had and player polls that have been done…….that being said I personally don’t agree with all his moves, but I’m sure every fan base says that about their manager…..they all error and I’m sure Leyland hasn’t been in the big leagues for all these years because he’s an idiot
Regarding that Verlander incident, my opinion was a few things going on there. First Leyand had been very sick for a few weeks and probably was annoyed he was made to walk down to the other end. Secondly you have all these big personalities making a ton of money…..managers make a lot less. How many other professions do the workers make less than the person in charge? Justin Verlander to me has always been kinda arrogant and too big for his britches and always tried to push the envelope. Leyland probably wasn’t in the mood for Verlander that day!
All that being said I think way too much was made of the whole situation. Guess what people at work get on my nerves too…..and we’re not overpaid athletes who their whole life have been told everything they do is ok!

As Sparky said. ” the dog no longer wag the dog, the dog is wagging the tail” and manager must live with that or go. Cito Gaston was successful and was fired because he wanted discipline. Omar Vizquel wants to be a manager but Morosi already grilled him because Omar criticized a player. Hanley Ramirez was lazy in a play and was fined. Then Freddy Gonzalez, a very good manager, was fired
As they saying goes: there are 25 players and one manager , it is easier to fire the Manger.
Dont ask Grilli,Rhymes, Sheffield,Farnsworth,Ledezma their opinion. Also the too many players called up to be benched : Pauley, Below, Worth, Tui, even Rhymes,
He must like Valverde, that why he left him throw that 50 pitches vs Boston that began his problems. Or the open games when he was called . He said his problems were caused by overload,He said he was tired. I guess he did not call himself to pitch.
I have read ( not here)that Avila was overplayed because he wanted to play. Some JL fans think Avila fill the lineup cards
By monday, the odds are they will be tied for first by then. We will see

Dan, good one. Macho Mouth also said “I am not going to panic after coming into the game at 9-3 or whatever it was”. Really? You don’t know what the score was? I played a lot of baseball and many, many years of softball. We always thought we could win. No lead was safe. Kaline Ron, I like your post. El Tigre, discipline. I like 2E but when he went to 3rd on that ground ball? The manager should have been in his face. Well, Friday is the start of summer. Go Tigers!

It’s possible that Leyland’s reputation for running a good clubhouse stems from the type of people he has play for him. Mostly veteran gentlemen or players on the brink of losing their jobs. I believe Jim had as much trouble with Pudge and similar types as anybody. I would say he’s an average manager who has learned how to survive in the game. My take, you may agree or disagree or call me dumb.

I agree and you are smart. Maybe DD should step in. I wonder what Mr. I is thinking?

this offense just needs to wake up and 90% of the problems will work themselves out. Why can we not hit after the 7th inning? Does Llyod and Co. not give scouting reports of the opponents bullpen?

Yesterday’s game it looked like our hitters are expanding the strike zone.

DD step in? These pen problems are a lot of his doing…..he was the one who anointed Rondon and didn’t get any reliable seasoned pen help.

Rich I dont know possibly maybe, the thing is that none of us know. I would presume that in any work environment, especially one with that many big egos not everyone is going to like everyone. I can only go by what I hear from local reporters and those who have been around the situation.

Oh and I don’t believe the players, Below, Rhymes, worth. .etc were mistreated or underused. They are AAA players at best and after they moved on from Detroit, they all spent a majority of their time in the minors or are out of baseball. Wasn’t Ledezma the guy who ate his hat for gods sake.?

How can any of us know what the atmosphere in the clubhouse is like. We can only guess by taking visual cues on TV. (And the odd quote I guess). But I will say that we have a team right now that doesn’t seem to be pulling together. A team that looks defeated early in games.A team that does not come back in late innings. A team that looks like they are waiting for something bad to happen.
A team that needs its leader (and like it or not, believe it or not, that is unquestionably Miguel Cabrera) to show them the way. His personality may have to evolve a little further but he is the guy they need to fire this team up. And I don’t mean just with his bat, but with his heart.

Don’t know how you figure it, but I’m beginning to wonder about JL’s ability to manage. Why keep Porcello in the rotation when you got Smily? Why platoon 2E when he obviously can hit righties? Why platoon Pena when he can hit both ways? I’d rather give up an occasional stolen base for the hits Pena will get for us. Avila’s had enough time to get his act together. Hopefully DD will get us some bullpen help soon before the deadline. If he’s good at anything, it trades! I’m for JL retiring at season’s end. Let’s get us a dynamic manager who isn’t afraid to take some risks. JL is way too conservative.

to Kaline Country Ron,
You are right on. JL is not treating his players like men and I think some of them are losing respect for him. I appreciate DD’s hand off attitude about JL managing, but it’s time for them to have a come to Jesus meeting!

Thanks for the nice comments guys,
By watching the Tigers for almost 60 years, it doesn’t make me an expert, but sometimes I just get a feeling about things.
I am wary of this 4 games coming up against a good redsox team. Living in boston, I get my share of what’s going on with them. This nava kid is playing real well. I will be stuck with nesn instead of mlb extra innings, so tv on mute and will listen to Dan and Jim.
Lastly, in the past 2 weeks, Cabrera stopped wearing his left elbow pad. Has anyone heard why?

No Ron…regarding Miggy…..seriously didn’t even notice…..about the time he started slumping a bit.

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