There are 30 days until spring training begins. We're inside a month! yay!
But Rob and I have a lot of the 40-man roster yet to go. Today I continue nibbling around the edges.
What happened last year?
It's like I always say. Don't worry so much about bullpen help. You'll have some guys with name recognition flame out and others with no name at all do just fine.
With Daniel Schlereth both dinged up and ineffective, the then-27-year-old left-handed Darin Downs got the call to the big leagues by Detroit in July after 10 seasons in the minors spent with four organizations.
For the season, he made 18 appearances, accounting for 20 2/3 innings. His ERA of 3.48 wasn't phenomenal, but it's not bad either. He had 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings, which is nice enough, but he also walked 3.9 per nine innings..He was left off the post-season roster when the bullpen shortened.
The Tigers didn't use him as a LOOGY, but they could have: He had 48 plate appearances against right-handers and 38 against left-handers. However, he was just so much more effective against lefties: a .171 batting average against, .408 OPS against, 10 strikeouts and just three walks.
What needs to happen this year?
Downs needs to continue his success against left-handers. He'll have to continue to be effective against right-handers as well, given the crowded bullpen Detroit has. It's not the strongest bullpen in the big leagues -- though not as weak as some maintain. However, the ability seems to be bunched up at a level slightly ahead of Downs. Working against him is the fact manager Jim Leyland never really goes for the LOOGY thing anyway. Frustratingly to the fans, he'll leave left-handers on the mound even when splits suggest a more prudent course would be to put someone else out there.
2012 stats / 2013 projection
*2012 stats and 2013 projections (Bill James version) via Fangraphs.com
The part where I predict something
That Downs made it to the majors at all was a remarkable accomplishment: Several years earlier, he was line drived and suffered a fractured skull. That, of course, explains some of why he spent a few extra years in the minors. But even then, it was slow going up the levels with inconsistent results and several setbacks.
Sometimes when a player doesn't make his major league debut for so long, there's pretty good reason for it. Downs looked liked he belonged, but it's hard to project that magic continuing for another year.
Still, it's easy to see him as a player who is given ample opportunity to prove he belongs. If used correctly, he just might.
It was really a great story for him to reach the majors at last. You can't help but root for him to stick around in 2013.