Easily the most enjoyable thing about watching Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde blow a save is perusing Twitter in the immediate aftermath. The seething hatred that fans conjure up in 140 characters or less is often a thing of beauty. In fact, it may be the only enjoyment that can be obtained from such a horrific event.
The embattled closer who somehow made it look fairly easy in his first 6 save opportunities of the season (1 blown save, 0.75 ERA) entered Friday night’s game with a 5-3 lead. By the time he left he had given up four hits and two homers, including the game-winning three run blast by reserve outfielder Chris Dickerson. Manager Jim Leyland was visibly, and understandably, perturbed at the unnecessary loss.
Valverde’s ERA ballooned to 3.55 with the meltdown and he cost Max Scherzer a chance to move to 8-0 on the season. Scherzer set down the last 16 batters he faced against a potent Orioles lineup. He deserved better. The Tigers deserve better.
The Big Potato has turned stressing out all onlookers into a true art form. Last night the strain was more than he could bear. How long will the Tigers put up with him? He is 5 for 7 in save chances. That’s a small sampling but prorate that out a bit and he might be 25 for 35 by season’s end, which is entirely realistic and even more unacceptable.
Detroit doesn’t have an internal option to comfortably move into the closer’s role, although Joaquin Benoit has to be the closest thing to it. His 1.88 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 29:8 K to walk ratio is stellar, numbers becoming of any good MLB closer. The problem with elevating him to the 9th inning is it critically shortens up the late inning options for Leyland. Al Alburquerque and Brayan Villarreal’s lack of command and dual demotions can be pointed out as cause for blame as to why Benoit simply can’t be moved from the setup gig.
Detroit needs a 9th inning man that can be trusted implicitly. Valverde might be good enough to get the Tigers to the playoffs in this division, but we all know he isn’t the guy. Don’t think for one second that this fact is lost on the Tigers either.
The Tigers probably can’t trust future closer Bruce Rondon at any point this season based on how he looked in spring and during his brief call-up earlier in the year. Even so, Rondon has dominated AAA hitting this year allowing just 9 hits in 19.2 innings of work. He has a 0.46 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and a 22:7 K to walk ratio to support his 10 saves. If only he could translate that to the big leagues like Detroit had hoped. Maybe next year?
Or maybe Detroit says, ‘Hey, it can’t get any less comfortable than running Valverde out there’ and they give him a shot in the coming weeks. Stranger things have happened but the more likely culmination of this mess will come in July when the Tigers trade for a relief arm better suited for a 9th inning role on a playoff team.
Some fans will ask the why not now question. The main reason why Detroit can’t pull the trigger on such a trade here in early June is simply because most teams are still trying to figure out if they are true contenders or merely fooling themselves. Once the dust has settled and rank and order has been by and large determined, then GM Dave Dombrowski can go into attack mode on the trade market as he so often does.
In the meantime, Twitter will be ablaze with Valverde haters with each hit surrendered, run allowed, and game blown. Try to keep in mind though that this isn’t the main course, this is barely the appetizer.
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