State of the bullpen: the Tiger bullpen has improved in several categories when ranked among AL teams’ bullpens, mainly at the back end where games are often won and lost, but they still have a ways to go before they’re comfortable with what they’ve got.
The elimination of Valverde in favor of Benoit as the closer, and the relegation of Phil Coke with corresponding ascension of Drew Smyly into a late inning set up role have improved the overall performance of the bullpen.
On the season, the Tiger bullpen ranks 12th in the league in ERA at 4.12, but fifth in FIP at 3.50, with a significant difference of 0.62 between the two numbers. That would tend to suggest either some sub par defense, which is a given, or a hefty share of misfortune. A BABIP of .313 would tend to support that theory as well.
Over the past 30 days, small samples be damned, the pen should show improvement, right? Not necessarily. The ERA has risen to 4.34 and the FIP is up to 3.66. The same trends are evident in strikeouts, where the Tigers are doing well, and walks, where they’re not so good. It seems that the plan of rearranging the furniture around the organization isn’t producing the results that they’d like, even if they're showing some stability in the late innings.
Before we dive into the updates, check out this cool customized fangraphs chart. It contains the stats for all the trade candidates on your BYB relief ballot, plus the Tigers' relief pitchers used this season. The default ranking is WAR, but the table is sortable, so you can rank all the candidates by ERA, FIP, WHIP, or whatever stats you fancy, and see how the candidates compare to the current Tigers this year. Hint: you'll find many of the Tigers on page 2, and all but two of them in the bottom third of the chart.
Trade Candidates: No need to repeat the list of candidates. You can find a pretty good list here, with BYB’s own profiles of each candidate. If you haven’t done so yet, you can vote for your favorite.
Jesse Crain: There is no clear favorite in the BYB fan poll, but Crain leads all candidates with 14% of the vote despite the fact that he’s on the DL. Worse yet, he’s on the White Sox. Nothing to report on the field. Crain has a right shoulder sprain, but said that he hopes to be back by the end of next week. He has a 0.74 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 19 holds in 36-2/3 innings He will be a free agent after this season, so he’s a rental.
Kevin Gregg: I chose to feature Gregg’s photo in the fan poll story because I figured he would be one of the more likely candidates for the Tigers to acquire. The Cubs have no reason to keep him, but his performance hasn’t been inspiring recently. The Chicago closer allowed nine runs in his last ten innings, raising his ERA from 0.77 to 2.97, closer to his 3.75 FIP, but he has managed to save 18 of 20 chances. Still on the radar, but stock is dropping rapidly.
Francisco Rodriguez: The artist formerly known as K-Rod now has a lock on the closer’s role in the Milwaukee bullpen. Still holding the single season record with 62 saves from his Halo days, Frankie sports a 1.14 ERA, with a 1.01 WHIP, 26 strikeouts and just 8 walks. An FIP of 2.97 suggests some good fortune, but he would be a welcome addition to any bullpen with the way he is pitching. The Brewers are well out of contention, and should be selling to the highest bidder.
Today's hot rumor: Buster Olney tweeted that the Tigers are very interested in Rodriguez.
There is some hope in the Tigers' organization that when the dust settles, they will be the team that lands Francisco Rodriguez. We'll see.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 20, 2013
Scott Downs: the Angels’ primary lefty continues to pitch well, and owns the third lowest FIP among the 21 pitchers on your BYB relief ballot. The thing to watch here is whether the Angels can get themselves back into contention. With a $5 million contract and free agency looming after this season, Downs is under the radar of the national media, but should be on yours.
Steve Cishek: the Marlins closer by default has pitched as well as any of the candidates over the past 30 days, with an ERA of 2.19, an FIP of 0.86, and a WHIP of 0.97. Cishek is not a rental, so Miami isn’t in a hurry to trade him unless they can get closer value in return. Tiger scouts have been seen at Marlins games recently, so they’re at least watching. Other Marlins of interest might include Chad Qualls, Mike Dunn, or Ryan Webb.
Greg Holland: What? He wasn’t on the list! Well, the Royals lost five straight games before the All-Star break, and if they’re going to be sellers, they have been known to sell within the division, and Holland is one darn good pitcher. They have Kelvim Herrera, who was supposed to take over the role this season, and he has recently been recalled. (Sound familiar?) The problem here is that KC is probably too close to contention to consider trading their all star closer especially within the division. Even if they did, they'd want a closer's ransom for such a popular player. So probably never mind.
Brandon Lyon: Scratch this one off your list. The Mets released the former Tiger set up man and he was signed by the Red Sox. He could provide sneaky value to a Boston team also looking for bullpen help with Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan out indefinitely.