Now that’s out of the way…The Tigers bullpen last year was disaster and there wasn’t a ton done to address it this year; however positives have to be that Bruce Rondon is back, we have Joakim Soria for an entire year, and the Joe Nathan is in the last year of his contract. Here’s a look…
Joe Nathan – Joe has had a great career, may be a Hall of Famer, and should really be someone you want to cheer for…until he opens his mouth, then forget about it. His 2.89 ERA and 376 saves are impressive, but his slider is gone, his fastball velocity is way down, and it just doesn’t look like there is much hope. Joe’s spring numbers are a little over inflated due to one bad outing (he’s had 5 total) where he gave up 4 earned runs. Otherwise he had not been scored upon. Either way, I think age has crept up and the fans are in his head, so I’m expecting Nathan to be released by the All-Star break.
Rest of the Pen
Joakim Soria – Acquired last year to shore up the pen, Soria had a rough go and was sidelined by injury for a month. He came back September 10th and shut things down leading to fans calling for Soria to replace Nathan in the playoffs (and down the stretch) as closer. Soria is in line to replace Nathan this year if it comes to it, has thrown in 3 games and has not been scored upon. If right, expect an ERA around 3 or lower who can close games and will strike out a bunch.
Bruce Rondon – Rondon threw a very good first appearance after being out last year due to a torn ligament in his right elbow. The second appearance didn’t go quite as well giving up a run with velocity down on the fastball; however from the sounds of it, he was back up around 99 mph today. If healthy, expect triple digit velocity leading to strong strikeout rates, however also keep in mind that he’s just 24 and had some control issues in the minors. Rondon is hopefully the closer of the future in Detroit
Joba Chamberlain – The Tigers decided to bring Joba back in 2015 signing him to a one-year $1mm contract. He’s given up a couple runs so far this spring in 3 innings or work, but fully expecting him to iron things out as spring goes on. Hopefully we’ll see the Joba of the first half of last year who had a 2.63 ERA and .226 average against in 41 games with a 9.6 k rate, compared to the second half Joba who sported a 4.97 ERA and .271 average against in 28 games with a shrinking 6.8 K rate. Either way, I’m happy to have him back as I think he’s a great clubhouse presence and thankfully Derek Jeter retired so we don’t have to worry about Chamberlain hitting him again and having a nervous breakdown on the mound
Al Alburquerque – Al Al showed progress last year as he tossed amazing numbers his rookie year in 2011, was injured in 2012, had set backs in 2013 with a 4.59 ERA allowing 1.5 runners per inning pitcher (6.2 walk per 9 rate) but struck out a ton (12.9 per 9 k rate) with that nasty slider. Then last year Al Al figured things out it seems as the walk rate declined to a reasonable 3.3 per 9, with the k’s dropping, but just to 9.9 per 9, but the WHIP was the best sign as he was down to 1.169 supported by a 2.59 ERA. The home run total was slightly up where he allowed 1.1 for every 9 innings or work (up from 0.4) but that’s really nitpicking at this point.
By the way, if you missed JV getting Al Al with the exploding golf ball trick, you can check it out here!
There are a few contenders for remaining spots including the left specialist and they include Kyle Ryan (0.00 ERA in 6 innings this spring), Angel Nesbitt (1.80 ERA in 5 spring innings), Kyle Lobstein (3.00 ERA in 6 innings), Rafael Dolis (4.50 ERA in 6 innings), Ian Krol (5.40 ERA in 5 innings), Josh Zeid (5.40 ERA in 6.2 innings), Blaine Hardy (6.35 ERA/5.2 IP), Tom Gorzelanny (7.20 ERA/5 IP), Buck Farmer (8.44 ERA/5.1 IP)
If everything goes as planned, Nathan snaps back to his normal self, Soria is a perfect setup guys, with Rondon as the 7th inning lock-down guy making ball games essentially 6 inning games.
In reality, my expectations are that Joe Nathan flames out, is replaced by Joakim Soria who I pray can stay healthy along with Bruce Rondon, Joba slots in to the 7th with Al Al and our bullpen will once again be the downfall of this ball club.