With the bullpen struggling this season, the Detroit Tigers went out and added a reinforcement, signing reliever Joel Hanrahan.
Hanrahan has missed all of this season and all but nine games last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he still brings an All-Star caliber arm to the Tigers’ pen. He served as the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ closer for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, saving 40 and 36 games respectively in the two seasons and was an All-Star in both years.
While Hanrahan likely won’t be the team’s closer, he could help solve the bullpen problems. Joe Nathan is the Tigers’ closer and that won’t change, so Hanrahan should slide into the setup role. This spot was a major weakness for the Tigers, as the presumed setup man before the season, Bruce Rondon, is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
In his two seasons as the closer for the Pirates, Hanrahan posted a combined ERA of 2.24. A number even remotely close to that would be a great addition to the Tigers’ bullpen, which currently has the second-worst ERA in MLB at 5.37.
Hanrahan has been at his best when he has limited the number of walks. In 2011, Hanrahan allowed just 2.1 walks per nine innings, which in turn helped him post the best numbers of his career. That low rate helped him post the second best SO/BB ratio, 3.81, and ERA, 1.83, of his career while appearing in 70 games, two short of his career high. Hanrahan had his highest BB/9 ratio with the Boston Red Sox last season before the surgery, and the Tigers will look for him to improve from that.
Hanrahan will need some work in the minors to get back in to game form, but his signing is great news for the Tigers. If all goes as planned, he will give the Tigers a reliable relief option that could push Nathan to improve in the closer role.