The Tigers might have been able to avoid a loss last night if Jose Valverde would’ve been more timely in pitching himself out of the closer’s role, ya know, before all these really important games.
Valverde was obviously very good last year, but his perfection was in part a statistical fluke. Perhaps even a deal with the devil. The Phillies Brad Lidge also achieved perfection, going 49 for 49 in the regular season and playoffs in 2008. The following year the ghosts of Pujols past caught up to Lidge. He was dreadful. I guess we should be thankful Valverde was only unnerving in ’12, rather than producing Lidge’s horrifying stats from ’09. 31 saves was just fine, but with that came an 0-8 record with a 7.21 ERA and a WHIP of 1.80. He was a rollercoaster, after a two thousand calorie meal. After that unblemished World Series season Lidge had, he was never quite the same again.
Unless they’ve reached the end of their patience with Valverde, and that’s unlikely seeing how stubbornly loyal this team can be, the Tigers are now stuck. He’s the closer. In all likelihood he will be put back on the mound in all closing situations. Hold on for your life.
Things might’ve been better at this point for the Tigers if Valverde had done us all a favor and pitched himself out of the closer’s role sometime during the season. At least that way, the Tigers could’ve prepared an alternate plan. Either through trade or some in-season grooming.
To the naked eye, Valverde’s stuff hasn’t been as vicious as it was last year. Right? According to Fangraphs, his fastball has been roughly the same velocity as it was in ’11, but what that stat doesn’t account for is that pitch’s lack of movement. We have to drill into some stats for that. Flat fastballs, regardless of their velocity, get pounded. And that’s seen in Valverde’s career low strikeout rate, and the jump in his line drive rate. He’s also getting fewer swinging strikes than ever before. We’ve seen it so often this season, but stats support that Valverde is a BS in the box score every time he enters a game a lead of less than three runs.
If you want my blunt opinion, I think Valverde is awful, and if the Tigers advance tonight, I think they should seriously consider removing Valverde from the closer’s role. Benoit’s been just as worrisome of late, so perhaps it’s time to test the chops of the currently unutilized Brayan Villarreal as closer, or see if Drew Smyly’s season long poise will translate effectively to the final three outs of a game, in postseason baseball. Could those choices be THAT much worse than we’ve seen from Benoit and Valverde so far?
Whether the Tigers lose tonight, or win the World Series, I do know this, with every passing day we move closer to the final days of saying, thinking and hearing – Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers closer. Vomit.
Without blowing through the “Who Should Be The Tigers Closer in ’13” post, you know I’d be fine with Villarreal, Alburquerque or even Bruce Rondon winning the job in Lakeland. Throw hard, come cheap is how I want my closers.
Want another option? I think the Royals will surely buy him out of his 8 million bucks in ’13 and ’14, and I know he’s coming off major arm surgery, but that makes him cheap(er). I’d be alright signing Joakim Soria for ’13, seeing if he can win the closer’s gig until Rondon is ready in ’14, and he gets in the neighborhood of 5 million to prove he’s got his filthy stuff back.