The Cleveland Indians made a solid move to bolster their pitching depth yesterday, signing left-hander Bruce Chen to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Chen's base contract will be worth $1 million, plus another $1 million in incentives based on his performance with the major league club. While the Tribe already has a solid rotation in place, Chen is a crafty veteran capable of eating innings as a starter or pitching out of the bullpen.
He might also be the most frustrating pitcher in AL Central history. Or, at least, it seems that way.
While it seems like Chen has been in the division since man invented fire, he did not join the Kansas City Royals until the 2009 season. Since then, he has lain waste to the other four teams in the AL Central while simultaneously putting up horrible numbers against everyone else, resulting in a 4.53 ERA in six seasons with Kansas City.
Well, not really. Each fanbase in the AL Central feels that Chen has done inordinate amounts of damage to their respective favorite team's psyches, when in fact he has been largely mediocre. Here are his career numbers against the other four clubs in the division.
|Chicago White Sox||19||129.2||8-5||3.40||1.20||6.32||2.71||1.60||.732|
If anything, only the White Sox should be afraid of this signing. Chen's 3.40 ERA against them is over a full run better than his career 4.58 ERA, and his .732 OPS allowed is 40 points lower than his career average. Meanwhile, the Tigers have handled Chen quite well. He has lost nine of his 20 career starts against them, and his 5.42 ERA is nearly a full run higher than his career mark.
The numbers prove it: Bruce Chen is not a Tiger killer. Except on certain occasions.
Chen has the infuriating tendency to occasionally put together a dynamite outing against the Tigers (and other teams, I'm assuming), which gives him a perceived "Tiger killer" reputation. Without further ado, here are the three most frustrating "Bruce Chen makes the Tigers look awful" moments.
3. June 4th, 2010: Chen's first victory
Chen joined the Royals in 2009, but it took until this date for him to notch his first win against the Tigers. He wasn't particularly nasty in this game, but was able to work out of a couple jams while Max Scherzer struggled opposite him. Scherzer allowed five runs on nine hits, while Chen held the Tigers scoreless. Both of his earned runs came when Kyle Farnsworth gave up a three-run homer to Brennan Boesch immediately after Chen was pulled from the game. Both starters worked five innings, but Scherzer and Ryan Perry combined to allow three runs in the bottom of the sixth to give the Royals a 7-3 lead.
2. April 9th, 2011: Phil Coke gets hosed
The "Phil Coke as a starter" experiment was interesting while it lasted, and makes you wonder how on earth the 2011 Tigers won 95 games. However, Coke was actually quite good in this matchup. He only allowed three hits in 6 2/3 innings, but also gave up four walks. Even with all the baserunners, he only allowed two runs and kept the Tigers in the game. Unfortunately, Chen was much better, holding the Tigers scoreless for six innings. Chen only gave up three hits and a walk in this game while striking out seven. To cap it off, Chen's final out came when second baseman Will Rhymes was thrown out at home plate by a relay from Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar.
1. August 29th, 2012: The granddaddy of them all
This might be the most frustrating baseball game I have ever watched. Newly acquired Anibal Sanchez was brilliant for the Tigers, holding the Royals to one run in seven strong innings. Bruce Chen was better. Somehow, some way, Chen was able to hold the Tigers scoreless for eight innings while allowing just four hits.
That doesn't tell the whole story, though. The Tigers were unable to score Austin Jackson from third base with one out in the first inning. Nor Miguel Cabrera in the same situation in the sixth inning. They grounded into a pair of double plays in between. Then, with a pair of runners on base in the ninth inning, the Tigers were unable to put the ball in play against closer Greg Holland.
The circumstances surrounding the game made it all the more frustrating. The Tigers were locked in a heated battle with the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central lead at the time. The loss put them three games behind the Sox as September approached. The night before, Delmon Young had hit a controversial fly ball into the right field corner that was ruled foul. Had it been ruled fair -- we're still not sure which side of the foul pole it landed on -- the Tigers would have taken an 11-9 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
Just go away, Bruce.