Can the Detroit Tigers win a World Series with Jose Valverde being the closer? If you had asked this question last year, MLB nation would have looked at you funny, but Valverde has been a shadow of himself thus far in the 2012 postseason. The Tigers will have to be steadfast in this process and make a decision one way or the other on who will be the closer from here on out.
Detroit Manager Jim Leyland stated on Sunday that “If I have to mix and match for a longer period of time, I’ll do that,” when speaking about the closer role. Leyland also assured the public that Valverde would not close Game 2 if the opportunity arose. Well, it did, and Leyland stuck true to his word and Phil Coke earned his first postseason save on Sunday to ensure a 3-0 game win and a 2-0 series lead.
Consequently, Leyland has opened a can of worms heading into Game 3 and the rest of the playoffs. The wily Manager tried to make fun of the situation by saying, “I cannot give you one name. I have a suggestion box down by my office.” All jokes aside, which pitcher gives the Detroit Tigers the best opportunity to beat the New York Yankees on Tuesday night?
Valverde and Joaquin Benoit are the only members of the Tigers bullpen that have allowed a run this postseason,so Detroit has some flexibility to possible make a change. Other members Al Alburquerque, Drew Smyly and the veteran Octavio Dotel have all picked up Valverde’s slack and may get a primetime chance on Tuesday night.
The well documented “Closer-by-Comity” is for last place teams, not World Series Champions. Since the Century began, it is hard to find a World Series Champion without a dominant closer. For example, Mariano Rivera, Brad Lidge, Jonathan Paplebon, Brian Wilson and even Troy Percival all led their respected clubs to titles by closing postseason games.
The Tigers must rectify the closer role before it is too late and stick with one pitcher in the ninth. Time will tell who will be called upon to get that last out whenever the Tigers need it.