To the chagrin of many fans, the Detroit Tigers‘ bullpen woes of years past have continued in 2014. Joe Nathan, who the Tigers signed last December in the hopes that he would be the first lock-down closer the team has had in years, has disappointed mightily. Although Nathan pitched a scoreless ninth and was given the win in yesterday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, he gave up two hits in one inning, struck out zero and was bailed out by his defense. For the most part, he did not show any significant signs of improvement.
Therefore, the closer’s role remains an issue for the Tigers. Nathan has rightfully been given every opportunity to work through his issues, but he has continued to struggle. The Tigers do have Joba Chamberlain who can close games, but he has really solidified the eighth inning role and the Tigers may not want to take him out of a spot in which he has flourished. Closers Huston Street and Jonathan Papelbon might be available via trade, but the Tigers may not have the prospects to spare.
However, help may still be on the way in the form of Joel Hanrahan, who was signed to a one-year contract by the Tigers on May 2. Hanrahan, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery and appeared in just nine games for the Boston Red Sox last season, has slowly been progressing per multiple reports.
Obviously, it would be a stretch to expect Hanrahan to come back and immediately start pitching like he did for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011 and 2012 when he saved 40 and 36 games, respectively. However, if he is healthy, he should be able to help out the Tigers’ bullpen in some capacity.
Tigers relievers still have a whopping ERA of 4.78 — a number which must come down if Detroit wishes to reach its ultimate goal of winning its first World Series since 1984. It should also be noted that, despite his two aforementioned terrific seasons with Pittsburgh, Hanrahan only has a career ERA of 3.85 and a lifetime WHIP of 1.40, which can in part be explained by his early days with the Washington Nationals before he hit his stride with the Pirates.
Nevertheless, Hanrahan’s career ERA is nearly a full run lower than the ERA of the Tigers’ bullpen at the moment. If he can just put up numbers that are similar to his career numbers, he will help the team immensely. The Tigers could indeed use a healthy Hanrahan right now.