This offseason, they upgraded.
The signing of All-Star closer Joe Nathan and relief pitcher Joba Chamberlin have showed that the Tigers are working to correct this issue and bring a title back to Detroit.
Nathan brings something that the Tigers have been looking for since former closer Jose Valverde had one good season in 2011 as the closer; stability.
Nathan was one of the top closers in all of baseball last year finishing the season with an ERA of 1.39 and tacking on 43 saves in the process in 46 attempts of sealing the deal. Nathan’s presence brings a lot of experience to the table, even though he is off to a slow start this season after struggling in the first two games. But compare that to how the bullpen as a whole was handled in general last year, and it will still be looked at as an upgrade.
In 2013, the Tigers were testing many pitchers to see who would try and step up and become the closer. They started the year with lefty Phil Coke, who responded to the challenge for the Tigers in 2012 and was red hot in the playoffs when Valverde seemed to have reached the lowest point of his career. Coke started 2013, however, with struggles and lost his role, forcing the Tigers to give Valverde another chance.
After Valverde was given another shot to try and redeem his role, he failed. In 12 save opportunities in the 20 games, Valverde blew three saves and his chance to stay with the organization in the process.
Once the Tigers finally made the right move to give up on Valverde, they decided to give relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit the nod. Even though he did have two blown saves in 26 attempts, Benoit was able to hold down the fort for as long as possible and have the Tigers feel a little more comfortable about who their closer would be last year.
This year though, the Tigers and their bullpen are looking to make a statement. With signing big name pitchers and even recently claiming former Baltimore Oriole lefty Mike Belfiore to bring a mix of right and left-handed pitchers to the table, the Tigers are trying to make sure that their bullpen won’t hold them back from winning the World Series in 2014.