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Tigers' Angel Nesbitt can't stop runners from scoring

As a rookie, Nesbitt is being asked to strand a high number of runners, and lately, he's failing.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday night Angel Nesbitt relieved Alfredo Simon in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and the worst possible thing happened -- a grand slam.

With all three runners scoring, this increased Nesbitt's inherited runners scored to 8-of-22 (36 percent). Only Al Alburquerque (43 percent) and Joba Chamberlain (38 percent) have been worse. The league average is 31 percent.

The surprising number here is the numbers of inherited runners that Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has asked Angel Nesbitt to strand, and 22 runners puts him in the top five in all of baseball (all stats are as of June 4).

Relievers Team Inherited Runners
Fernando Abad OAK 29
Javier Lopez SFG 25
Cesar Ramos LAA 24
Justin Wilson NYY 23
Angel Nesbitt DET 22
Paco Rodriguez LAD 22

Nesbitt is the only rookie on that list. It’s unusual that Ausmus would give the ball to a rookie in such crucial situations. And they are crucial, as leverage index indicates -- at least, more crucial than most Tiger relievers are pitching in.

Below is the average leverage index of Tigers relievers with at least 10 innings pitched. One is average pressure, above one is high pressure and under one is low pressure.

Tigers relievers Leverage Index
Joakim Soria 1.800
Joba Chamberlain 1.229
Angel Nesbitt 0.996
Tom Gorzelanny 0.909
Blaine Hardy 0.585
Alex Wilson 0.497
Al Alburquerque 0.402

Baseball Reference

Nesbitt is at around average pressure, and yet he ranks third-highest among Tiger relievers. The leverage index for Nesbitt in Tuesday's game was 1.49. Brad Ausmus likes to assign roles to his relief pitchers. Soria is the closer, Chamberlain as the setup man, and Nesbitt is the supposedly the guy that comes in with runners on-base.

One has to wonder why Al Aburquerque isn’t in this role (or at least isn’t pitching in higher leverage games). Last year his leverage index was a bit below one at 0.980 but that was also the third-highest among Tigers’ relievers with at least 20 innings pitched -- very similar to Nesbitt this year -- behind Joe Nathan (2.198) and Joba Chamberlain (1.541).

Alburquerque’s 47 inherited runners last year was second on the team to Phil Coke’s 52, and only 13 of them scored for a rate of 28 percent. Only Evan Reed’s was lower among relievers with 20-or-more innings pitched, at 19 percent.

You can’t looked too much into small samples, especially when they're only one game. Before Tuesday’s game, Nesbitt only allowed 5-of-19 runners to score (26 percent), which is below league average.

But Nesbitt has also shown signs of wearing down of late, and it will be interesting to see if Ausmus continues to go with Nesbitt in these type of situations if Nesbitt is unable to strand runners when asked.