By: Eric Thomas
The Tigers are 5-2, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. The team has a giant weak spot with a target painted red: #TheBullpen. If you worried about the Tigers relief pitching, you were absolutely right.
At least they’re consistent.
It’s early to draw conclusions, but is it? The bullpen was the problem at the beginning of last season, and it culminated with Dombrowski’s now famous Jose Valverde booty call in at the end of April last year. How did the season end? In the ALCS when the bullpen blew one of the greatest displays of starting pitching in playoff baseball history.
Five thoughts about #TheBullpen:
1. They’re not as bad as last year – No! Wait! Put down the rock, I’m serious. In spite of all the Tums, Rolaids, and Pepcid needed to watch the Tigers, they still sit at 5-2. #TheBullpen has been #awful, but at least the team isn’t the games losing games. Last year, they reliably gave up the game winners. It’s small comfort, considering how the last two games have happened. Thank Victor Martinez, who’s been a beast at the start of the season.
2. Ian Krol could be good – He has been so far. He entered the second game against the Dodgers in the bottom of the tenth, clinging to a razor thin lead. He faced two batters and threw utter filth. He’s young; he’s bound to make mistakes; he could be in the zone at the moment. Krol is a bright spot in a bullpen that’s full of holes.
3. Fister’s hurt right now – I understand the sentiment, but stop making the comparison until Doug actually starts pitching for the Nats.
4. They may need Drew Smyly in the bullpen – This hurts to admit, because Jeff Riger floated this idea before the season and I made fun of him. Joe Nathan has been solid most of his career until he strapped on the Olde English “D” and now he looks like every other Tigers closer. He admitted to reporters he has a dead arm. Great. He’s experienced, so he’ll pull out of it; he may have pulled out of it toward the second half of the tenth inning disaster against the Dodgers. Even if he does, Smyly will probably be vital out of the pen. He may have to hold off starting until the team can find a patchwork solution in late innings.
5. HOW IS THIS STILL A PROBLEM?! – Dave Dombrowski has been a first class general manager for the Tigers, maybe the best they’ve ever had. The team has stayed in contention for several years, and his decisions have proven prescient in most instances. For all his success, he’s had a very odd blind spot when it comes to the pen. This has been the Tigers’ Achilles heel since Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney flamed out. No lead is safe; you can’t tune out of any game. For the fans confident that Dombrowski will eventually “figure out the pen,” I have to ask you: has he ever “figured it out” before?