What if I told you one of the Tigers' most-effective pitchers this year was in the bullpen rather than his old home in the rotation? What if I then told you his role in the bullpen was relegated to mop-up duty?
Sounds far from ideal, doesn't it? That's just the case with Drew Smyly, though.
Smyly's 1.73 FIP is the second-best on the team, behind only Anibal Sanchez. He strikes more than a batter per inning, doesn't walk many, has a .276 OPS-against vs. left-handers and .628 OPS-against vs. right-handers. Early in the second, you could proclaim him a key component of the late-innings bullpen. He was handed a lead and asked with pitching in multiple innings to protect it.
More recently, he's been tasked with pitching in lost causes and low-leverage situations.
Even Jim Leyland knows this isn't right, as he recently told reporters/MLB.com's Jason Beck:
"We really have to get a situation ironed out as far as Smyly is concerned," Leyland said. "He's doing a fantastic job, obviously. If you can have two of those lefties available each night, it's a good thing, but I also want him to pitch. So it's a little tricky."
You want your best pitchers in the right places. If the Tigers truly were trying to put the best rotation together, Smyly would be in it. If the Tigers were trying protect a lead, Smyly'd be the one with the ball. Not Darin Downs or Phil Coke, much as I like the former and acknowledge the Tigers are stuck with the latter.
Truly, it seems like such a waste.