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Grading the Tigers: Relief Pitchers

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Jose Valverde celebrates after hearing his 2011 final grade.
Jose Valverde celebrates after hearing his 2011 final grade.

Friday, I finally graded the starting pitchers -- only about two and a half months late. (Oops.) This afternoon, I will finish off the grades with the relief pitchers. One name comes up twice: Phil Coke was both a starter and a reliever. It's hard to grade him as either, because he really didn't have enough innings in either role. But I felt like I needed to supply some sort of grade for a guy who spent almost the entire season in the MLB. So you'll find one here.

For the sabers out there, you probably noticed in the starting pitcher grades I didn't rely on a lot of saber stats or FIP or anything. When giving out grades, I'm more interested in assessing what really happened than what should have happened. However, those stats are certainly useful for telling you about the future.

Relief Pitchers

Jose Valverde -- A

Valverde should not be confused with the elite closers in baseball. He's a step below the tip-top in the game. But you cannot deny he had a terrific season -- for the most part. 49 saves in 49 attempts during the regular season with a 2.24 ERA in 72 innings is pretty darn good. He did struggle a bit outside of save situations -- though not nearly as often as people believe.

Joaquin Benoit -- B+

In the month of May, people declared the acquisition of Benoit a failure. People were telling us the Tigers should just cut the ties with him right then and there. It's a good thing they don't run the club, because Benoit was an important part of the Tigers' success in 2011. Combined with Valverde and Al Alburquerque, he was part of a late-innings bullpen that hardly ever coughed up a lead. Benoit had the relief corps' best WHIP (1.049) while striking out more than a batter per inning.

Al Alburquerque -- B+

Alburquerque was fun while he lasted. He posted an ERA south of 2, and the team's second-lowest WHIP. He struck out an amazing number: about 13.5 batters per nine innings. He also allowed just 10% of inherited runners to score. However, he's knocked down a bit for also walking 6 per nine innings.

Daniel Schlereth -- C

I hazard the guess this is going to be the controversial grade here. But in spending some time this morning looking over stats, I'm not sure I see the same thing others apparently do. Schlereth walks too many, yes. He's second to Alburquerque with 5.7 walks per nine innings. However, he also strikes out a fair amount (8.2 per nine) and didn't allow the walks to hurt him too badly. His 3.49 ERA wasn't awful, and the rate of inherited runners he allowed to score score (31%) compares fine to his teammates (34%) and league average (30%). Frustrating? Maybe. Awful? Not really.

Phil Coke -- C

Coke actually had a higher ERA as a reliever (3.71) while allowing a higher percentage of runners to score (41%) than did Schlereth. However, due to a better strikeout to walk ratio and pitching in higher-leverage situations than Schlereth, I decided they both deserved the same grade. One thing I'll say, I'd call Coke's number before Schlereth's. But I think some of the stats aren't as agreeable as we'd like.

Ryan Perry -- D

Perry's inherited run percentage (29%) was actually better than Coke's or Schlereth's, but that's about all he had going for him. Perry walked too many (5.2 / 9IP) while not striking out enough (5.8 / 9 IP). His WHIP was an astonishing 1.62 while his ERA was 5.35. He just never lived up to any of the hype, so now he's playing for the Nationals.

Bonus:

Don Kelly -- A+

Because I had to.

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Actually you almost have to applaud all (well most) of the players above for actually managing to pick up a fair number of innings. The Tigers featured quite a few relievers who just couldn't do anything right and who didn't spend all that long in the D. I nearly scored Duane Below. He had 29 innings in relief. Probably put him around a C- if I had.