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The One Tiger Flying Under the Radar [BLOG]

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BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 13: Joe Nathan #36 of the Detroit Tigers heads to the clubhouse after the Tigers defeated the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 during a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 13, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

BALTIMORE, MD – MAY 13: Joe Nathan #36 of the Detroit Tigers heads to the clubhouse after the Tigers defeated the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 during a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 13, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

riger Jeff Riger
Jeff Riger, has often been asked, "Why are you like this?" Simply ...
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By: Jeff Riger
@riger1984

This year’s version of the Detroit Tigers is very impressive. Their offense is the best, their starting pitching is the best and they have the best winning percentage in game as well.

They’re even beating good teams too after completing a three game sweep against the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles…

So with all the success it’s only normal that sports radio guys like myself throw out the phone number and ask who the team’s MVP so far is?

The obvious guys always come up like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Players like Rajai Davis, Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez and Joba Chamberlain have also gotten a lot of deserved credit. In fact everybody not named Phil Coke has been praised as the Tigers enjoy being 12 games above the .500 mark.

However there is one guy that might be just a bit overlooked…

Joe Nathan.

To be fair there was a short span where Nathan wasn’t even needed because the team was scoring so many runs but when called upon he’s gotten the job done.

Nathan started rough, allowing 5 runs early in the season during a span of about a week when he was suffering from a “dead arm.” Since then, he’s been automatic allowing just a single run in 12 innings and outings.

Nathan did the job again on Wednesday afternoon in Baltimore where he faced the heart of the Orioles order and came away with his 10th save of the season. Nathan threw, what seemed to be a perfect strike to Chris Davis that would have ended the game but he didn’t get the call. So he walked Davis, but was able to get Nelson Cruz to fly out, a guy that had hit a 3 run homer off Verlander earlier in the game.

After the early season blip, Nathan has been near perfect and is proving why he’s one of the greatest closers ever to play the game.

However he’s more than that here in Detroit. He’s a guy that can finally be trusted and fully believed in when that bullpen door opens in the 9th. I asked on Twitter on Tuesday night – after Nathan converted his 9th save – who was the last Closer that Tigers fans actually believed in?

The responses rolled in…

Names like Hennaman, Anderson, Rodney, Jones and Valverde filled my ‘interactions’ screen and I immediately didn’t buy it. The guys listed above had their times of success but nobody ever felt “confident” when they toed the rubber. Even Valverde, who converted 49 of 49 saves in 2011 didn’t exactly instill confidence in the process. He would put a lot on before he eventually got out of it.

Let be honest…

Detroit fans have always held their breath in the 9th. The last Tiger that fans believed in was Willie Hernandez back in 1984 and that was 30 years ago.

When Valverde was driving you nuts, you prayed for consistency in the 9th.

When Lima handled the closing duties, you refused to watch the horror show.

Hell, Jones was called the “roller coaster”. What does that tell you?

Fans have long joked and cried about the Closer in Detroit. Well, no more!

Nathan, after so many games of sweating, nausea and stomach pains has finally allowed Tigers fans to relax in the 9th. He’s been great however nobody seems to be talking about him.

If the Tigers lead after 8, they’ll win the game thanks to Nathan.

So the next time you turn on the radio and the host is asking for the team’s MVP remember Nathan, the man that has taken all the nerves out of that once unbearable 9th inning.

So who was the last Tigers closer that you actually had confidence in?

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