Yesterday the Tigers had two quality relievers. Today they have three. For that, we celebrate.
Still, there are two days remaining until the trading deadline, and Dave Dombrowski may try to add another reliever. But with four solid options in the playoff bullpen, Dombrowski really doesn't need to. Why? Because last year, the Giants proved four is enough when they won the World Series while really only using four relievers.
The Giants' "top four" last year featured Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, and Tim Lincecum. Those four combined to pitch 10 2/3 innings across four games, giving up exactly no hits, two walks, and 17 strikeouts. The two other relievers that the Giants used, Jose Mijares and George Kontos, only recorded one out each, with the former retiring the only batter he faced and the latter allowing two runs on two hits.
Now, that isn't to say that the Tigers' "top four" will come anywhere close to matching the Giants' bullpen's dominance almost a year ago. The point, rather, is that in the playoffs, it is better to have a few superb relievers rather than seven decent ones.
Managers shorten their bullpen much like they shorten their rotation. Had the Giants traded for a reliever at the 2012 trading deadline, that reliever could have either pitched the 2/3 innings pitched by Mijares and Kontos or taken innings away from someone like Tim Lincecum. Either way, there would have been no value added, no matter how talented the reliever they added was. They had four relievers, and for the 2012 San Francisco Giants, four was enough.
One of the main reasons why the Giants were able to only use four relievers was because of starter Tim Lincecum's ability to pitch more than one inning. Lincecum actually went 2 1/3 innings in both Game 1 and 2, retiring all but one of the 15 batters he faced. Luckily, the Tigers have two starters in the bullpen during the playoffs in Smyly and Porcello. What's more, Smyly and Porcello have been better than Lincecum this season, and Porcello's stats improve significantly when he is limited to one time through the batting order.
|Limcecum in batter's 1st PA||.253||.352||.416|
|Porcello in batter's 1st PA||.241||.285||.315|
|Smyly in batter's 1st PA||.199||.251||.274|
*all stats via baseball-reference.com; AVG, OBP, and SLG are the average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage of the opposing batter
In adding Jose Veras, Dave Dombrowski has successfully limited Jim Leyland's ability to use Al Alburquerque, Bruce Rondon, and Phil Coke in any high-leverage situations in any potential playoff games. All three of them are able to come in to face one single batter, but Benoit, Veras, Smyly, and Porcello should be able to cover the vast majority of innings after one of the Tigers' four workhorses leaves the game. Any additional reliever would likely cut into the workload of the Tigers' "big four," and since there aren't really any available relievers who would be an upgrade over Smyly or Benoit, expect Dave Dombrowski to stand pat for the remainder of this trading season.