It is no secret that the bullpen has been an issue for the Detroit Tigers in 2014. Tigers relievers are currently sporting a 4.44 ERA, which is 26th in MLB, and they also have a BAA of .274 that ranks 29th in baseball. With the Kansas City Royals hot on their tail and just 2.5 games back in the AL Central, the Tigers cannot afford to let the bullpen continue bringing them down.
Last night, the Tigers defeated the Toronto Blue Jays by a score of 5-4 in comeback fashion, but closer Joe Nathan‘s roller coaster season continued when he took Tigers fans on a ride that they are all too familiar with after enduring years of watching Todd Jones, Fernando Rodney and Jose Valverde.
Nathan eventually got the job done, earning his 24th save on the season, but he gave up a single and walked two batters, ultimately pitching his way into a bases-loaded jam with two outs. It took a spectacular sliding catch by Rajai Davis in foul territory to secure the win. If the Tigers had lost after the heroics at the top of the ninth, it would have simply been demoralizing.
Nathan is far from the only question mark that exists in the Tigers’ beleaguered bullpen, though. Newly-acquired Joakim Soria is sporting a 12.27 ERA since joining the team last month, and the Tigers did not pick up the quality left-handed reliever many felt they needed at the non-waiver trade deadline.
There are, however, a few bright spots. Joba Chamberlain has seemingly bounced back after going through a little bit of a rough patch, and lefty Blaine Hardy has continued to be a pleasant surprise, perhaps helping explain why the Tigers did not go out and acquire that extra left-handed reliever last month.
Lefty Phil Coke has also been much better after an abysmal month of April. Al Alburquerque has been decent as well, pitching to the tune of a 3-1 record with a 3.12 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. That said, few would argue that the Tigers could use another formidable arm in the pen.
GM Dave Dombrowski may want to consider making a waiver wire deal for another bullpen arm before playoff rosters need to be set. Simply put, a bullpen that has an ERA around the 4.50 mark will be facing an uphill battle in the postseason.