Any time Justin Verlander takes the mound the Detroit Tigers must feel like they can breathe a half sigh of relief at least. The guy is one of the best pitchers of the last decade and still going strong. Even coming off of a rough start or two here and there, he still is a favorite to dominate his opponent and so often does. He did exactly that to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday afternoon but didn’t get the win. A blown save by Jose Valverde ruined the great start and the Tigers lost in the tenth inning.
Valverde basically said that it was just one of those things that happen. While I don’t totally disagree with that on a general basis, for the Tigers specifically it is not just something that happens. It is in fact something that has happened entire too often to this team. They are in first place with a very good offense even when they are slumping. They have one of the better starting pitching staffs in MLB. Their starters 3.40 ERA ranks fourth in the majors and 1st overall in the American League. What happens when the ball gets handed to the bullpen?
It isn’t always good, I can tell you that. Think about this stat for a minute. The Tigers have 36 wins, not too shabby unless you look at this stat. They have 14 saves in 23 save opportunities. This team could easily have over 40 wins right now if it weren’t for a lackluster closing group. That stat ties them for 21st in MLB for saves in save chances. What other two teams have that exact same ratio? The Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros are the other two. Yeah, I don’t have to tell you where to look for those two teams in the standings.
That isn’t great company to be sure but the Tigers are lucky. They have remained in first place with basically no closer to speak of. Does a team need a closer? Well, yes in order to be consistent and efficient as a group they do. The results are clear. The Tigers need help with their relief and especially the closer situation. Are they doing okay without it now? Yes. Will they win it all without a strong consistent closer? No.