Leyland and Bullpens

I’ve never met Jim Leyland personally. I’m sure he’s a swell guy (perhaps Tom in Lakeland can give us a few anecdotes). For the most part, I like what he does with the team.

But I think he’s wrong about the bullpen.

Can you name a single reliever from the Tigers’ system that’s seen some kind of lasting success in a Tigers uniform? Our best relievers in recent history were FA signings (Benoit, Dotel, Valverde). Other relievers have left the Tigers and turned into ALL STARS elsewhere (Grilli, Rodney). Let’s get a discussion going on this and see who else we can come up with.

When Rondon came up yesterday, we all knew that Leyland would look to use him as soon as possible. Leyland loves to throw young guys into high pressure situations. No matter what the failure rate.

Smyly threw 14 pitches. During which he, oh, you know, struck out the side. Unless Smyly is going to start tomorrow, there was no reason to pull him. Especially after the Tigers failed to score in the 10th, because that means that we’ve not burned another pitcher after Rondon if Rondon gets through the inning (I’m certain that Rondon was only going to get 1 inning). It was a complete gaffe on Leyland’s part, and it may have cost us the game.

Now, if Rondon turns into the closer we need, and he can mature so quickly during the season that he’s a weapon in the playoffs, then let’s remember tonight’s trial by fire.

But Leyland’s track record doesn’t look good.


  1. Bill

    June 30, 2013 at 12:59 am

    Personally i am tired of the “blame leyland for everything” mentality. Detroit is a tough baseball town. The players we have run out of town lately-grilli, rodney, rayburn were booed unmecifully and talked about with hate on the local talk shows. We fans are just as much to blame. Patience? There is none in detroit! We are not a good baseball town. We are a good sports radio talk show town. Just listen to people complain every day! It really is sad!! Would you want to play here if you were a big leaguer? Would your family? Even miggy was booed and talked about his 1st year here.

    • Coleman

      June 30, 2013 at 1:46 am

      I know what you mean about the radio talk shows (and did you ever read the comments section of a Free Press story?). I don’t think Detroit is unusual in this aspect though. I spent the evening in Cincinnati listening to how Dusty Baker is the worst manager in the league, and he has no idea how to manage a bullpen. I think it is the nature of the medium, and is the same in a lot of places.

      I do remember when Cabrera first came here–there were a lot of critical comments about his “attitude” and “laziness” and who knows what else, including critiques of his facial expressions. That sort of criticism is a pet peeve of mine: I think most players care and are trying–not everyone can be on their game every day, in any profession, but reading lack of motivation or worse into that can get quite silly.

      I do actually think Detroit is a great baseball town, and if players are sometimes criticized beyond measure, they are also loved beyond measure. And players DO like to play in Detroit: partly because it pays well, partly because there is the feeling the they can contend for a ring there, and partly because they like the fan interest.

      • Coleman

        June 30, 2013 at 1:47 am

        And partly because they like playing for Leyland.

    • Jerry the Tiger Fan

      June 30, 2013 at 2:28 am

      I would love to play here. The owner will overpay to have you play in Detroit. The manager accepts (some might say embraces) mediocrity. You can go through the motions and fail over and over again and there are no consequences! What is not to love?? Ol’ Smoky will take care of you and continue to run you out there. VMart is just the latest example of Ol’ Smoky’s blind loyalty. If I am a major league player I am having my agent get in touch with Double D and Mr. Ilitch’s endlessly deep pockets. I can take a few boos and nasty calls to radio stations as a small price to pay for all of the perks.

  2. Coleman

    June 30, 2013 at 1:35 am

    “Jim Leyland believes he may finally have the Tigers’ bullpen straightened out.”


  3. JimEggersUSMC

    June 30, 2013 at 1:52 am

    Bill’s comment above answers a question I have had for some time. Out here in the wild west I can’t (or don’t) list to Detroit talk radio. It appears that as much as we all discuss the Coaching and Managing of this team,we are much kinder than what is expressed over the airwaves back there. I just looked at thr Tigers coaching staff. There is a pitching and bullpen coach and a pitching coordinator. I HOPE that JL is not making ALL the desicisions as to who pitches when and for how long, and who do we keep or send out as things change or guys get hurt. The GM and his staff must have input too. So, blaming Leyland for everything is at the least unfair, and at the most a waste of time.

    • Jerry the Tiger Fan

      June 30, 2013 at 2:32 am

      What is unfair about it? He is where the buck stops in terms of game management. Leyland made the call to leave JV in to pitch to Luke Scott tonight. Leyland made the decision to pull Smyly after one easy inning and insert Bruce Rondon for the 10th inning. Leyland makes ALL of the in-game decisions. The criticism of Leyland is fair. What is a waste of time is the platitudes thrown Leyland’s way from broadcasters that just keep regurgitating the same tired (and false) crap over and over that Leyland is on of the best managers in the game.

      • Jerry the Tiger Fan

        June 30, 2013 at 2:34 am

        Let me add that JV was over 100 pitches thrown and that Smyly (a lefty) was loose and ready to come into the game to face the LEFT-HANDED Scott. That was a horrible decision by Leyland to try and coax JV thru the 8th inning tonight.

  4. JimEggersUSMC

    June 30, 2013 at 1:53 am

    cannot spell that deciding word to save my life.

    • Coleman

      June 30, 2013 at 1:56 am

      Luckily I can’t think of any possible scenario where your life would hinge on you doing that.

      • JimEggersUSMC

        June 30, 2013 at 2:29 am

        bride says I can be a drama queen at times

  5. Kevin in Dallas

    June 30, 2013 at 7:45 am

    I think that Leyland knew he wanted to use Rondon before the game started, rather than letting the game dictate who he uses.

  6. Kevin in Dallas

    June 30, 2013 at 7:50 am

    I don’t have a problem second guessing Managers. They get compensated well enough for us to do it, and that’s just the business of sports. I do think that Leyland has opened up his ways a bit this year with the lineup. He doesn’t seem to have that strict platoon in place anymore, and I think his PH has been spot-on.

    To give you some perspective on the Rangers –

    People revere Washington around here, though there was definite panic when the Rangers lost 6 in a row. Though no one ever called for his firing. His bullpen management gets attacked the same as Leyland’s.

    • Vince in MN

      June 30, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      It may be that, for whatever reasons, most managers aren’t particularly good at managing bullpens; or sometimes entire pitching staffs as in the case of Baker, who has had a reputation for destroying arms for years (see: Mark Prior and Kerry Wood from his Cubs days). I think Sparky (“Captain Hook”) was an exception, although there were a couple of instances in his career here where overuse could be claimed. In any case, in the current era, relief pitching has assumed a much greater importance to team success with the onset of Closer, Setup man, etc. theories than in previous times, and it seems that understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your bullpen staff and how to and how not to implement them, should be an essential strength of any potential manager’s strategical thinking. Leyland clearly lacks this ability. I’ve been watching him for 7 1/2 years now, and it was apparent a long time ago that he just doesn’t get it. There are times of course when the staff is so bad that there isn’t much one can do, but this year is not one of those times. Obviously this isn’t the greatest relief corps ever assembled, but a large part of the failures has had to do with its misuse.

    • Vince in MN

      June 30, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      Kevin, as far as the strict platoon thing goes, that was only ever intended to be applied to Dirks/Tui and to a lesser extent Avila/Pena. With Tui and Avila indisposed it is more catch-as-catch-can for the moment. I actually thought the platoon idea for those two spots was a good one and would have utilized it even more; Avila has so far gotten way too many PAs vs. LH, for example. As far as the opening up of the lineup, what about sticking with the black hole #5 DH just like last year, only worse?

  7. Coleman

    June 30, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Of course it does add a level of pressure to bullpen management when you know that when it is time for the bullpen to take over, your offense is finished for the day. (Since I ran the last set of numbers, the Tigers inning 7-9 OPS ranking has dropped from 14th out of 15 to 15th out of 15). Leyland’s frustration with his offense has been showing.

    • Vince in MN

      June 30, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      By “his offense” I can only attach the conditional of “his lineup”, which of course has nothing to do with “his bullpen” and is deserving of a separate thread all its own.

      The unevenness of offensive production is kind of amazing. The fact is they seem to blow a lot of chances to score more runs 1-6 also, so one could argue that if they just scored more runs early, the 7-9 problem wouldn’t be such a big deal; shifting the responsibility from ‘the bats’ to ‘the early bats’, puts a different perspective on it.

      • Coleman

        June 30, 2013 at 1:09 pm

        Leyland plays the ’84 Tigers in the middle innings, and then subs out the 2003 Tigers for the late innings. Or so one would think from the numbers.

  8. Vince in MN

    June 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Very interesting Lee Panas JV analysis:

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