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The Tigers’ bullpen is better than it was a few weeks ago

Really, it’s not as bad as you think.

Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Coming into play Tuesday, the Detroit Tigers are in a relatively good position. They are starting a homestand after a 4-5 record on their West Coast road trip. They are enjoying the return of one of their star players from injury, in J.D. Martinez. And their bullpen is better.

Wait, what did you say? Hold on, hear me out.

Since the beginning of May, the Tigers bullpen ranks 13th in Major League Baseball according to FanGraphs’ version of WAR. For the month of April, the ‘pen was 28th in the league. The relievers’ collective ERA has improved from 6.43 to 3.41. They are stranding more runners on base (83 percent compared to 65 percent), and opponents’ batting average on balls in play (BABIP) has dropped from .329 to .230. If you want a particularly eye-opening stat, the bullpen was worth negative 0.7 WAR in April. So far in May, the ‘pen has a positive 0.4 WAR — that’s more than one full win above replacement level in half the time.

Francisco Rodriguez and Anibal Sanchez are the only relievers with an ERA above 1.50 this month, and both of theirs are in double digits (12.27 and 11.25, respectively). Shane Greene is the only one of the remaining five pitchers that has given up a run in May, period (and he’s only given up one). Combined, Justin Wilson, Blaine Hardy, Alex Wilson, and Chad Bell have given up no runs and just six hits in 15 innings work, walking three and striking out 16 in the process.

So what’s my point in all of this?

The Tigers bullpen isn’t as bad as we thought.

But why? A few reasons. First, the only carryovers from April not named Wilson, Hardy, or Greene are Sanchez and Rodriguez. Bruce Rondon (six earned runs in 1 13 innings) and Kyle Ryan (7.94 ERA in eight games) were optioned to Toledo on April 10 and 27, after both made the team out of spring training. William Cuevas (four earned runs in a third of an inning) was optioned April 15, a day after he was called up. Warwick Saupold (6.23 ERA in 4 13 innings) was optioned April 21. And Joe Jimenez (six earned runs in 4 13 innings) was called up and sent down a few times in April before being sent down most recently on May 1 (he has since had a back injury).

Additionally, those guys named Wilson, Hardy, and Greene have been lights out in May. They were good in April, but they’ve been incredible this month. As I mentioned before, only Greene has allowed even a single run between the four of them and it was a home run to Mike Trout on May 13. So out of 66 batters faced by those four pitchers, only one (Mike Trout) has crossed home plate.

And let’s not ignore Bell, who has allowed only two of the 11 runners he has faced to reach base, though he’s only pitched in two games so far. It’s an admittedly small sample size but he has been great in his limited duty.

This all adds up to a bullpen that’s better than we realized.

For everyone's sake, let's hope it continues that way.