On July 5, 2014, seven earned runs were charged to the Tigers’ reigning ERA champion Anibal Sanchez. Two of those were allowed to score by Phil Coke. And then, in his first start after the All-Star break, Sanchez was charged with four earned runs, two of those being allowed to score by Ian Krol.
Allowing inherited runners to score has been another in a long list of weaknesses that have been featured by the Tigers' bullpen in the 2014 season. The 35 percent of inherited runners scoring is the second highest percentage in the American League, second only to the Angels who are currently undergoing a bullpen makeover.
Krol has been one of the least effective relief pitchers in the American League this season. And he has the highest fielding independent pitching rating (5.76) and the lowest fWAR (0.5) among qualified relief pitchers.
Krol's ERA is high enough, but that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. He has allowed 11 of the 30 base runners that he has inherited to score, most among Tiger relievers. Krol (11), Coke (11), and Al Alburquerque (10) have combined to allow 32 inherited runners to score, none of which impact their ERA.
Since making his major league debut with the Washington Nationals in June 2013, Krol’s minus 0.8 fWAR is third worst among all relief pitchers currently in the major leagues, and his home run ratio is the highest among relievers who have pitched at least 50 innings.
These numbers don’t help manager Brad Ausmus when he needs to go to the bullpen with runners on base. But the sad fact is that he has gone to these pitchers too often in such situations. This is either poor managing on his part, or bad management on the part of Dave Dombrowski for relying on the likes of Krol and Coke despite a recent history of very little success in the major leagues.
We’ve seen this movie before, and the reruns are getting old and tired. When the bullpen completely imploded at the end of the 2012 season, leaving Jim Leyland with no good options when late inning relief was needed, Dombrowski decided to stand pat, counting on rookie Bruce Rondon to take over the ninth inning role to start the 2013 season, despite never having pitched an inning in the major leagues. When that didn’t work, and Rondon was optioned back to the minor leagues before the season, the Tigers scrambled to find a closer, even bringing back Jose Valverde from oblivion, before settling on Joaquin Benoit.
Benoit proved that he was a bona fide closer, and got the job done for the remainder of the season, until a fateful pitch to David Ortiz in October. But he left for San Diego as a free agent at the end of the season. Dombrowski acquired three relief pitchers to replace the three who were departing the Tiger bullpen. Joba Chamberlain, Joe Nathan, and Krol are the new guys in the bullpen. One of them has done a good job, the other two have not.
It is obvious that the Tigers need to acquire some insurance for Nathan, and they need some help in the late innings even if Nathan regains his form. What they don’t need is to keep the likes of Krol on the roster, in any role. The Tigers are carrying three left handed relief pitchers in their bullpen. They have faced more right handed hitters than lefties. Coke and Krol have been particularly brutal when facing right-handed hitters.
The fact of the matter is that Krol isn’t even particularly good against left handed batters, allowing a .311 on base percentage, and a slugging percentage of .400 against them. Right handers have hit .375 with an OBP of .427, a slugging percentage of .727, and an FIP of 8.38. That’s not a misprint.
One thing that Krol is particularly good at is serving up home runs, with a HR/ 9 ratio of 2.05. Despite all this, he remains on the major league roster, and Ausmus continues to bring him in during close games, in almost any situation. This should not be allowed to happen.
Krol is not the only problem that the Tigers have in their bullpen, but he has three options remaining, and the Tigers should use one of them, forthwith. Who they bring up to replace Krol on the roster is another matter. Pat McCoy is still on the disabled list, but Evan Reed, Justin Miller, and Chad Smith are all better options than Krol at this point.
On a brighter note, Coke has not allowed an earned run since June 14, and has an FIP of 2.77 in 11 appearances. Alburquerque has been prone to the home run ball this season, but has yet to blow a lead in a save situation.