Results tagged ‘ Todd Jones ’
When it comes to naming the best closer of the season, it’s hard to beat perfection.
Statistically, Jose Valverde had it, going 49-for-49 in save opportunities. Now, he has the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year award to go with it. He becomes just the second Tiger ever to win the annual honor for the game’s most outstanding relief pitcher.
Valverde didn’t win any of the six Delivery Man of the Month awards. There was always somebody with a better performance over the short term. For the entire season, however, Valverde’s performance ranks among the best of all time.
Only former Dodgers great Eric Gagne saved more games without blowing an opportunity than Valverde, whose 49 regular-season saves obliterated Guillermo Hernandez’s franchise record of 32 straight saves in 1984. He also toppled Todd Jones as the Tigers’ single-season saves king.
Jones set a Tigers record with 42 saves in 2000, earning himself what was then called the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year award. He paid Valverde high honors Tuesday night by impersonating Valverde’s save celebration after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 4 of the AL Championship Series at Comerica Park.
“I think we’re both right-handed, but I think after that, the comparisons kind of go away,” Jones said. “Jose has had an amazing year. He’s an amazing closer. People don’t really realize how hard 50 out of 50 saves is until you watched me or had a chance to go out there yourself.
“He’s a fierce competitor, and I think everybody enjoys him in the clubhouse. Everybody on the team has said nothing but great things. He’s just had an amazing year.”
Valverde posted a 2-4 record and a 2.24 ERA, allowing 52 hits over 72 1/3 innings with 34 walks and 69 strikeouts. Opponents batted just .198 against him, demonstrating what manager Jim Leyland has called a tremendous ability to keep hitters from centering his pitches.
In just save situations, the numbers were even more formidable, with just three runs allowed on 26 hits over 49 innings with 20 walks and 50 strikeouts. Two of those runs scored on home runs.
Those numbers complemented the bottom line, the saves converted. Though Milwaukee’s John Axford, Atlanta rookie Craig Kimbrel and Pittsburgh’s Joel Hanrahan received votes, they weren’t going to beat out Valverde.
The results for a Tigers team that won its first division title since 1987 provided the substance behind a style that has made Valverde one of the game’s unique personalities. Time and again, his save celebrations have delighted fans and irked opponents, whether it was a crossing of his arms or a dance around the mound. His superstitions before he throws a pitch have become ingrained in Tigers fans’ memories.
“I don’t know what I do [after the game],” Valverde said earlier this year. “You guys can tell me what I do, but I don’t know. Somebody told me you do something different. I told him I have no idea what I’m doing. I swear to God. When I’m pitching, I’m not paying attention to what I’m doing. My mind is on doing my job quick and that’s it.”
For all the celebration he displays puts on a save, Valverde has downplayed every individual honor that has come his way this year. His goal, he said, is for the team, not himself.
“I’m not looking at what I do this year,” he said. “What I look at all the time is how my team’s doing. I have to figure out how to win the game, enjoy the game. My numbers stay over there. If we go to the World Series, we’ll remember this for a very long time.”
As reported yesterday, it’s slow going for Todd Jones in his rehab, so he’s heading home to Alabama to work out here. He’s expected to come back to Detroit at some point in September, but at this point, it appears unlikely that he’s going to pitch when he gets back. The shoulder isn’t any better.
He apparently had a recurrence of his right shoulder soreness after that long outing Friday night and was placed back on the disabled list this morning, retroactive to Saturday. Gary Glover’s contract has been purchased. Look for more on the site later this morning.
UPDATE @ 11:40am: Jones said he basically pushed himself too fast. He knew it, but he felt like he could help the team. Once he got out on the mound, the pain in the back in the shoulder flared up whenever he got out of his mechanics. The plan is for the Tigers to activate him when rosters expand Sept. 1.
Todd Jones is still the closer, but he’s not going to be the overtaxed closer.
“I’m gonna watch him closely,” Leyland said Friday, “maybe use somebody else from time to time.”
That doesn’t mean he’s out, or even that he’s sharing the closer’s job. But one theory Leyland came up with for Jones struggling was the fact that he pitched a day game after a night game.
Leyland didn’t say exactly who he would go to for tonight, but said most nights it would probably be Rodney or Zumaya. Both are available tonight, as is everybody but Jones and possibly Casey Fossum.
In other news, Edgar Renteria gets another day off, though he said his left hamstring feels “a lot better.” Leyland hopes to play him Saturday and Sunday to try to get him some momentum at the plate going into the break.
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