The Detroit Tigers have found the perfect closer. His name is Joaquin Benoit.
Everyone in Detroit knows it — that is except Jim Leyland, who continues to refuse to bestow that title on one individual Tigers pitcher, now that he’s taken it away from Jose Valverde. Leyland doesn’t want anyone to take away what he has determined as his right to determine who the closer is.
Forget about what Leyland says. The closer is Benoit. He’s been there all along. Leyland just declines to admit it.
Benoit came in the ninth inning and retired the side, striking out one and preserving a 7-6 MLB victory Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays. Leyland has occasionally split the closer duties between Benoit and Drew Smyly. In the past, Benoit has been the setup man for Valverde. But when Valverde failed, Leyland was looking for another closer. Benoit’s name kept coming up but Leyland continued to balk at such a notion.
Now it should be clear to Leyland and to all Tigers fans who the closer is and should be.
Benoit has all the credentials of being a good closer. For this season, he’s 2-0 in 34.1 innings with a 1.83 ERA. He’s seen action in 33 games. He has fanned 42 batters and walked 10. Those are pretty good stats. Those are closer stats. Those are the kind of stats that will qualify Benoit for being an effective closer for the Tigers.
An effective closer is one who shuts them down with a one-run lead. That’s what Benoit did on Tuesday. Whether or not Leyland wants to admit it, he has found his closer. There’s no doubt about it.