DETROIT -- Alfredo Simon successfully avoided speaking to the media after Sunday's bludgeoning of a 10-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals. As it turned out, that moment would be the only aspect of his day in which he escaped unscathed, as his on-field antics were far less fruitful. The loss is just the latest of a rough, up and down season for Simon. You never know what pitcher you're going to see, before it's too late. They can't afford to do the same next year.
The bullpen shared in the blame for a loss that was worse than the final score would indicate. But Simon bore the brunt of the responsibility. Of the 10 runs, he gave up eight and 13 of the 19 hits. Kendrys Morales homered off of him twice and Paulo Orlando joined the fun with a two-run shot of his own. Typically Simon will start to regress around the fourth or fifth inning before catapulting out of control. But that started on the first batter Simon faced on Sunday.
"He was up all day long, around the belt," Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said after the game. "That's really not what you want at any time when you're pitching. Sometimes you get away with it with a popup or a fly ball, but the Royals took advantage of it."
Such has been the case for Simon all year long. There have been times when he's pitched a gem or survived long enough to keep the team in the game before the Tigers were forced to go to their bullpen. They've been lucky but the luck dispenser keeps running out and "Houdini" only has so many tricks. Not only did Simon's short start tax the bullpen, it put Detroit in a bad spot with a doubleheader coming up on Monday versus the White Sox.
Going into the 2015 season the move to acquire Simon was a puzzling one. While he'd had a stellar first half in 2014, he quickly regressed to the mean after the Midsummer Classic. The Tigers believed Simon could still be better than his second half 4.52 ERA, and they bet on a more stable arm this season. Judging by the results and Simon's previous track record, it didn't turn out. And the crux of it is, not many -- if any -- were surprised.
As a result of the three straight extra inning games and a doubleheader on the horizon, Simon wasn't going to be pulled after the first, second, or third inning. He was going to have to wear it a little bit because the team had no other choice. There's a small consolation that the Tigers have won three of their last four series' and had their first four-game win streak since the season began, but like everything else this year, it quickly sputters and dies.
Postseason contention has been out of the realm of possibilities for the Tigers for a couple of months now. That is largely due to the pitching staff. And with Simon and his 5.21 ERA in the rotation it's always a matter of gambling with little hope of winning. During most of his starts, Simon's pitches are up in the zone and when he doesn't pay for it, he just barely escapes multiple times. Sunday was one of those days where he didn't and it was a snapshot of his year.
"It's been kind of a see saw for him," Ausmus said. "He's been really good, and then he's had days where he's been bad. For whatever reason, it seems like from start-to-start we weren't sure which Alfredo would show up. Sometimes he would come out and dominate, and other times he would come out and have trouble getting the ball down in the zone. When he had trouble getting the ball down or had trouble throwing strikes, is when he would have his rougher outings."
Those issues were never hidden, though. They stood out like a sore thumb and showed no signs of being resolved from the get-go. The shopping list for the offseason is bound to be large and chief among them is the rotation with the bullpen nipping at its heels. Simon is a free agent after this season. If the Tigers are going to improve in 2016, they need to get off the see saw with Simon. Because they can't afford to keep him if they're serious about contending.