I assume if you are reading this post that you are some sort of masochist. Either that, or you are a Kansas City Royals fan who wants to revel in a series of gory meltdowns from the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen. Believe me, there are some really good candidates for this installment of our “Top 5” series.
The criteria for this list was simple: if a reliever was bad, they would have a poor Win Probability Added (WPA) for the game. The worse the WPA, the better a candidate they were for the Meltdown of the Year. As an added bonus, I will be providing my subjective determination of the quality of meltdown on a scale of one to five poop emojis.
The list of names that just missed the top-five came as a bit of a surprise, as there were several low-leverage relievers that managed to yak a game up. Warwick Saupold and Drew VerHagen gave their best to qualify, but fell just short. Who managed to defeat them?
5. Alex Wilson
Date: September 4 | WPA: -.55 | Opponent: Kansas City Royals
Sometimes even the best relievers have off days. Alex Wilson had his second straight very good year in 2016 and was rightly awarded with set-up duty in the stretch run. There’s just one rule with him: never, ever bring him in with runners on base. Manager Brad Ausmus learned this lesson the hard way as it took Wilson a grand total of six batters to turn a 4-1 lead into a 5-4 deficit. However, Justin Upton hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth, preventing this from being a total disaster.
4. Shane Greene
Date: September 7 | WPA: -.57 | Opponent: Chicago White Sox
The month of September was not a kind one for the faint of heart, as three of our top five implosions occurred during that timeframe. This one sucked in particular because Ausmus did everything right. He pulled a struggling Anibal Sanchez after five innings and let Bruce Rondon and Alex Wilson bridge the gap in the middle innings. Then Shane Greene came on in the eighth and promptly blew Detroit’s 4-3 lead. He only faced four batters, but three of them managed base hits. Ausmus turned to Justin Wilson, who fanned the flames nicely, and it turned out that apparently only Mark Lowe was ready to end the hellacious nightmare. The White Sox won 7-4.
3. Mark Lowe
Date: May 8 | WPA: -.65 | Opponent: Texas Rangers
Mark Lowe is lucky that he escaped this game alive, because pitchers that blow Justin Verlander’s shutout attempts tend to go missing shortly thereafter (is that why we never saw Lowe in June or July?). To be fair, Lowe was not the only one who made some mistakes in the eighth, as Justin Wilson put two runners on with nobody out. Still, it was Lowe’s job to protect a 2-0 lead and, uh, he did not do that. After a single, groundout, and sacrifice fly it seemed he could potentially limit the damage, but then Lowe completely unraveled, hitting Elvis Andrus before allowing a grand slam to former Detroit legend Bobby Wilson. And then, for good measure, Delino DeShields hit another homer.
2. Francisco Rodriguez
Date: August 9 | WPA: -.82 | Opponent: Seattle Mariners
Every closer has meltdowns, so it is not a surprise to see Rodriguez on the list. This one was still pretty crushing, though, coming as it did on the heels of a go-ahead 15th inning home run by Victor Martinez (at roughly 2 a.m. Eastern time, no less). Walks will kill you, and a one-out walk killed Rodriguez in this game. It is conspicuous to note that yet again Justin Wilson blew up in this game, as he blew the save in the eighth by giving up three runs. No question, this was a tough one.
1. Francisco Rodriguez
Date: September 24 | WPA: -.89 | Opponent: Kansas City Royals | Box
There really aren’t any words for this one. This is without a doubt one of the most crushing games in recent Detroit history.