When the Tigers announced that they had re-signed Phil Coke last November, I think we can all agree that was not the move we had in mind when the Tigers were suppose to be revamping their bullpen. When I learned that Cokes $1.9 million deal was not guaranteed, I thought that the only way the club would keep him past Spring Training would be if he pitched lights out in March. To my surprise, Coke pitched well in Lakeland, and would once again find himself heading north for the summer.
Well, the season started, and Coke struggled right out of the gate. In a total of 6 2/3 innings in April, Phil allowed 6 runs and a .442 wOBA against. May wasn't much better for him, either. In 10 2/3 innings, he gave up 7 runs along with a .376 wOBA against.
On the fateful night of June 8 when the Tigers were playing the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park, Phil Coke turned his season around. Coke entered a 2-2 game with two men on and David Ortiz at the plate. I was in the crowd, and for reason I was feeling cautiously optimistic about the decision to bring Phil in. How can a guy that sprints in from the bullpen and enters to the song Thunderstruck not pump you up? Anyway, after Big Papi had worked the count full, and after my heart had skipped a few beats, Coke gave up a long, loud fly out to dead center field. Regardless of how far the ball was hit, it went in the scorebook as your average F8.
That moment, as Jim Leyland would say, got Cokey goin’.
For the majority of the rest of the season, Phil Coke pitched much better, and eventually earned his role back as the team’s primary LOOGY.
Overall, he finished the season with a pedestrian 3.88 ERA and a 3.98 FIP, but both are relatively low when compared to the atrocious start that he got off to. Overall he posted 6.36 K/9 rate, a 3.10 BB/9 rate, a 1.53 WHIP, and a .339 BABIP in 58 total innings. Coke, who has always been much tougher on left handed batters, held them to a .308 wOBA and a .691 OPS.
Phil Coke was nothing special in 2014, but was also not the problem in the Tigers' bullpen. He was about as league average as a pitcher can be, as evidenced by his 100 ERA-, his 103 FIP-, and his 0.0 WAR. There's no denying that he got off to a putrid start, but he found his footing in June and continued to be solid till the end of the season. Like usual, he was not good against right handed batters, but that's something that we, and the organization, has understood for quite some time now.
Every interview that I have seen involving Phil Coke paints him as a fun loving, charismatic clubhouse guy. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and is not afraid to tell it how it is. He's the type of guy who is easy to root for. As evidenced by my Coke shirsey, I am a diehard Phil Coke supporter, and was extremely happy to see him somewhat regain his form once June rolled around. He was not "2012 Playoffs Phil Coke," but he was serviceable at times in 2014, and was certainly not a waste of a roster spot.