Detroit Tigers: 36-28, 1st Place (4.5 ahead of Cleveland).
Well the Tigers had a much-needed day off to shake off their latest one-run loss (their 11th), a 2nd consecutive Valverde home run derby which even had manager Jim Leyland playing hot potato. When Leyland says “who the (expletive) should I close with?” he does have a point. It wasn’t Leyland’s idea to have Valverde as a closer, and he has tried everyone from Coke to Benoit to Alburquerque to Rondon in the role, with nothing but problems. And when you look at the trade options Dombrowski has (Papelbon?) I can imagine he has his own expletives.
This Closer creature is a mysterious beast, often record-setting one year and a scapegoat the next. And it is also a fairly new creature, one perhaps spawned by a baseball writer who created the Save statistic (thanks to StorminNorman$ for the link, I recommend reading this). One thing in the article that’s hard to argue with: Billy Beane’s point that you can look at all the probabilities you want, but closing a game is an emotion magnet, with the fans, the writers, and even the players drawn in. There is something about being ahead in the 9th and then losing that just does not sit well. The fan comments on blogs are one thing, but even the Tiger players looked demoralized Wednesday.
So the logical answer to Leyland’s question might be that you don’t need to “close with anybody.” Does it really make sense to only use who is supposedly your best relief pitcher in “save situations,” games that statistically you are overwhelmingly going to win no matter who pitches? It is almost a self-perpetuating system: closers are judged–and paid–by numbers of saves, then used in such a way to maximize their numbers of saves without a real thought whether this is really the best way to use them. Oh, and they only pitch the 9th and only the 9th inning.
This is not to suggest that there is any chance of Jim Leyland doing anything other than having a Setup Guy/Closer system. In that light, I’ll throw this in: last night Rondon K’d the side in the 9th for a save for the Mud Hens.
Just for fun:
World Champion 1968 Detroit Tigers bullpen:
In other news, the Tigers signed Johnathan Crawford, their top pick in the draft, along with 18 others, including Ben “Little Bro” Verlander.
As for tonight, the big news is that Ajax is back! To make room for Jackson, Avisail Garcia has been returned to Toledo. There is also a guy in Center for Minnesota who may look familiar: Clete Thomas gets the start for the Twins tonight.
Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Austin Jackson. Let’s see if Austin can wake up the road offense. He is only 4-for18 career against Diamond, but I am predicting he comes back with a flourish.
Today’s Welcome Back Ajax Lineup:
Avila gets the start even with the lefty pitching; Infante works his way up into the 8th spot.