Friday, June 15, 2007

What To Do About Rodney And The Bullpen

The Tigers’ problem is obvious. Their bullpen stinks. The solution, however, isn’t as apparent.
Admittedly, I don’t have a simple solution for it. A few weeks earlier, I advocated that the Tigers bring up a young pitcher or two from the minor leagues and use them in relief roles. I still think that may help, but their biggest problem right now isn’t long relief (although that hasn’t been good, either), but a setup man. If the starter gives the Tigers seven good innings, who do they turn to during the eighth inning of a close game? The answer just can’t keep being Fernando Rodney.
I hear people say Rodney has always struggled. That is not true. He was pretty good for the Tigers last season. And he was their setup man for most of the season, not Joel Zumaya, although I thought the roles should have been reversed many times (Zumaya would pitch the seventh). I don’t agree with those who think Rodney should be sent to the minors or released. I do believe, however, he should be moved back to where he isn’t pitching with the game on the line. Where he can work an inning or two and stretch out a little bit. I do wonder if he is healthy. I had Dan Petry on my radio show Thursday night, and he said it looked like Rodney may be slowing down his delivery and tipping off his change up. Whatever, his velocity is down and the command of his fastball is spotty.
Trades for bullpen help are risky and seem to seldom work. Bullpen help usually comes from within. Even closers just kind of appear. Remember Bobby Jenks with the White Sox? There are some decent relief pitchers on bad teams - Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka from the Rangers and Chad Cordero from the Nationals. All are expensive in terms of salary. Each would cost more in terms of players than maybe what the Tigers have to offer among prospects not named Cameron Maybin. The Tigers veteran pitching has little trade value. I just don’t see it happening.
Adding to the issue is Zumaya’s injury. Who knows? In all the years of covering baseball, I have never heard of that injury before. It might be a big deal. Then again, it might not be.
One answer might come from dropping a starter into the setup role. Nate Robertson, assuming he gets the zip back into his fastball, might work there. But that would be a huge sacrifice to ask because starters get a lot more money that setup guys - and Robertson is just starting to get to a point in his career where he is starting to make big money. Besides, isn’t Robertson a better starter than both Chad Durbin and Mike Maroth? In the short term, I might try Wilfredo Ledezma in the setup role. He struggles with his command at times, but at least he has decent stuff and tends to step up to challenges.

Random Thoughts

- How come people are so quick to jump on Craig Monroe? Seems to me like he has been a very good player for the Tigers the last couple seasons. He had a horrible game Thursday, but he has been one of the Tigers best clutch hitters in recent years. He has also averaged 90 RBI the last two seasons. They loved Bobby Higginson for a long time in this town and he topped 90 RBI just two times during his career with the Tigers.

- It was very pleasing that Nicklas Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy again. He is an utterly brilliant hockey player. He is so smooth and subtle, yet effective. If you go to the game and just focus on him, it’s amazing how much he does each shift. Lidstrom covers more than half the ice defensively, he has an incredibly strong stick tying up forwards, nobody is better at making the right decisions bringing the puck out of his own zone and he is the best in the world on the point of the power play. When he skates backward along the blue looking for hole to either shoot or pass the puck, it is classic stuff. Nobody has ever done that better. Outside of Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman, nobody has played better for the Red Wings. With all due respect to Red Kelly, Lidstrom is by far the best defenseman in Red Wings history.

- I am covering the All Star Game in San Francisco and do hope that Barry Bonds is not added to the roster for one reason above all: It would be the Barry Bonds Circus. It would take away from all else about the game. That includes Jim Leyland managing the American League squad, perhaps Justin Verlander starting the game and Magglio Ordonez playing a significant role.

- Curtis Granderson is really playing good baseball. It would not surprise me if he becomes a force for the Tigers like Garret Anderson was for the Angels a few years ago. It’s one of the more underrated stories about the Tigers season thus far.

- The dynamic surrounding the Yankees is weird. When they play poorly early in a season, there is panic in New York. Then when they go on a hot streak and get right back in it, everyone kind of goes, "Ah, you knew that was going to happen - they’re the Yankees." Mike Mussina threw well the other day. That is every bit as important to the Yankees as the addition of Roger Clemens.

35 Comments:

Blogger Fred Brill said...

Book,

I admit that I am one of those who would like to set Rodney adrift on a slow floating iceberg. Yes, I do remember how good he was last year. But we would be 4 or 5 games ahead of Cleveland by now. Frustrating.

My question to you is:

"when would you feel confident enough in him to use him?"

Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, (and Sammy Sosa) should not only have asterisks beside their names, but should also have red-lines through them.

Having said that though - leaving Bonds off the roster - on his home field would be too big a slap in the face. It would draw more attention than him being there.

I liked your reference to NHL awards yesterday being Canada's Oscars.

When I lived in Atlanta, they had the original Flames - and were regarded a step above roller-derby and wrestling (the fake kind). To live in Ontario after that - where Hockey is bigger than football is in the south - it is hard to imagine unless your over here. Yet in North America it comes in a distant 4th of the big four sports. Too bad. When you feel the Canadian passion for hockey - you can't help but fall in love with it. You even begin to appreciate the 3-down CFL game.

Have a great time at the all stars Book. Bring us back t-shirts!

Quick Question - any thoughts on Nashville Predators if they moved to Hamilton? (If some of you don't know where Hamilton is, you will after the Predators move there and likely rename to the Steelers!)

11:15 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your right the pen is a mess, I'm not an expert so I don't claim to know what to do, but they need to do something because the nothing they are doing is not working.

I was listening last night, and it was nice that you were defending Craig, and I am glad you are because I can't right now. He has not really been performing all year. Look at his game log stats for the year, they are not good and he has not been coming through in the clutch with the only exception the Baltimore game. I like Craig but I do not understand why Leyland has not rested him a few days before today. And I do believe that he should of been pinch hit for.

11:36 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Anonymous,
More people seemed to agree with you instead of me. Dan Petry, a former player, agreed with me. Leyland made a point to say why he didn't pinch hit for him in his post game press conference. There was no guarantee pinch hitting for Monroe would have won that game. But I will guarantee, if they pinch hit for him, the damage would have lingered. It's why you don't pull a QB in the middle of series or a fielder in the middle of an inning. You don't pinch hit for one of your regulars with the game on the line. You don't show him. Guess we'll have to agree to disagree - and that's fine. You're points are valid. I just don't agree with them.
Caputo

11:53 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
I would love to see the Predators move to Hamilton - but on one condition. They play one of those outdoor games at Ivor Wynne Stadium against Ottawa with Tommy Joe Coffey and Russ Jackson dropping the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff. (LOL)
Caputo

11:56 AM 
Blogger Bill said...

Pat, I don't understand the comparison between Monroe and Higginson. Higginson was reviled at the end of his run, and that was more for his contract. Higginson was a much better player, both offensively and defensively and pretty much any stat outside of RBI would display that.

At the same time, people will start to love Monroe when he cranks it up in July and in the end he'll produce similar numbers to the rest of his career. Not bad for an affordable outfielder, but at over $4 million this year, and more next year, he's not nearly as good of a value.

12:35 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Bill,
I am talking about when Higgy was rolling and everybody loved the guy. He had two really good years that were better than Monroe the last two years, but not that much better. He was a .272 hitter lifetime, Monroe is .261. Defensively, there wasn't that much difference. Higgy threw out more guys, but they ran on him a lot. Range-wise, he wasn't any better or even more consistent. Any how many cluth homers did Higgy hit? How did he do in the playoffs? Bobby Higginson didn't play on a winning team from his senior year in high school in 1987 until he was forced into retirement. Look it up. That's true. My point is Monroe has become a scapegoat. He is not a great player. He may have just had his two best seasons in the major leagues. But he doesn't deserve the "bum" label a lot of fans - too many in my opinion - are giving him.
Caputo

12:50 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat, he is a major league ballplayer. He would have gotten over it. If Polly would have got the hit, C-MO would have been the 1st person to slap his hand with a hi-five. It is a team game. I still love the guy, but a slump is a slump. I want B-bque Grilli gone. he as lost it. Curtis should have one the Gold glove last year. maybe he will this year.

1:39 PM 
Blogger Bill said...

Pat - you can't really compare Bobby's lifetime average against Craig Monroe at his peak. If you look at their performance from ages 26-29 (2003-6 for Monroe, 97-00 for Higginson) Bobby comes out easily on top, and that excludes his 96 season which was excellent, and includes his miserable injury shortened 99 season.

Higginson ba/obp.slug - 284/366/489 w/ 94 homers over 2132 ABs

Monroe ba/obp/slug - 267/312/466 w/ 89 homers in 1980 ABs

And at that time Higginson was one of the better players on a losing team, while last year Monroe was one of the worst players on a great team.

I agree he shouldn't be scapegoated and the guy isn't a bum. He had an awful game yesterday so he can and should catch heat for that. But he wasn't the only reason they lost.

He's still going to catch heat though, because among the starting position players only Sean Casey brings less to the table. Every other position is at least average, and corner outfielders aren't that hard to come by meaning it is one of the easiest to upgrade.

Great discussion and I appreciate the responses.

2:48 PM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

You know what you really have to tip your hat to the Spurs.

1) they are not a team you can really hate. If so what is to hate about them. They are very similar to our Pistons.

2) They have won 4 titles. They play/played as many games as the Pistons in the playoffs over the past few years and then some. Yet they seem to not use being tired as an excuse. They stayed quite. Poised. Did there thing and one. To me what this shows is the Pistons aren't as good as they say they are. They are not championship calibur. They are probably a 4th or 5th seed in the west. An the fortunate ones to be in a weak East. They couldn't even escape that.

I think you have to put T.D. in that class as one of the best big men to ever play. The guy just wins. He could of signed else where. He stayed put and basically kept the Spurs on the Map.

Now on to the Wings. I love Lidstron he has been my favorite player since he's been there. If he isn't in the top 5 wings I don't know who would be. I don't mind us signing Hasek and Chelios again. But are the wings going to sign anybody that is not close to wearing depends. Crap.. I would really like to see them add a Ryan Smyth is that likely.

Tigers might be in better shape then we think in the bull pen. If you can add a Robertson and Durbin or Maroth to the Pen that helps. I think Robertson could some what replace Zumya in the pen for now. Be that pumped up reved up 7th and 8th inning pitcher. Hell if Jones goofs up against the Royals again I think Durbin is a solid bull pen guy more so then Maroth. AT the same time the guys I'd send packing are Rodney and Girilli. They been the most inconsitent guys in the pen. They were good last year people forget they didn't have to pitch all that often cause most of the time the starters were going at least 6 or 7. But we should of one Wednesday. Every time Rodney and Girili get in there its bombs away. We are about to hit July. Personally I don't want to get rid of monroe. We are about to start hitting the time (in perfect fashion) this guy gets hot. he's proved it the past two years. The All Star game would be a joke if Polonco, Magglio, are not starting in the Classic. (you can make a case for Pudge) Verlander, Bonderman and Granderson deserve to be there in my opinion as well. Guillen, The Yankees and Redsox always load up but the tigers are just as talented this year and deserve multiple reps.

3:00 PM 
Anonymous Danny said...

Pat, big ditto on your comments regarding Monroe. He's going through a bad time like a lot of the hitters have. He is what he is - a good player. He bats 8th guys! He’s had a lot of big hits in the past. With the lineup 1-6, Casey picking it up and Inge hitting better since he broke his toe, hitting is not the problem here. Seems like folks get spoiled and want a Mags or Sheff in every slot. Geez, you CANNOT pinch-hit for an every day starting player in June. Leyland would not do it.

With most of the Tigers losses being close – you could look back at every game and say “if this guy did this or that then we would be 55-10”. Also would drive you crazy. One of the many really cool things about baseball is that there is a game every day. Easy to move on (turn the page as Leyland says.)

It’s obvious what the problem is. With Verlander, Rogers, Bonderman, Miller, and a healthy “2006 Nate” starting, this lineup, and a couple of decent stoppers in the pen, this club is ready to roll.

Don't know about Ledezma in the setup spot after yesterday. But you might as well try him there though a few times and see if he takes to it.

Still hoping Dave does something by All Star Break. He certainly didn't rule it out in the interview I heard - just said it was probably too early now.

Cheers,
Danny

4:03 PM 
Blogger Andrew M. Fanco said...

As if the tigers needed more bullpen problems. You see this infighting in Toledo? No good.

http://sports.espn.go.com/minorlbb/news/story?id=2905667&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines

Neither Colon nor Karnuth are going to be able to help anytime soon.

4:17 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Anonymous,
I freely admit there is more than one way to look at it. Obviously, though, I take a different view on Monroe. As for Grilli, he has to start pitching well soon or they will move him out of there. Leyland was clearly miffed about the way he pitched on Sunday against the Mets.
Caputo

6:08 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Bill,
Higginson was better statistcally, and probably a slightly better player. But he also had the benefit of playing a couple years at Tiger Stadium with the short right field porch, at Comerica Park where it is easier to hit home runs as lefty hitter than a righty. The numbers are different, but not that different. And name a game Higgy won with a huge hit. I can name several from Monroe.
Caputo

6:12 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Maddog52,
Everybody respects the Spurs, but the wow of that team is limited. I am not sure that perception is fair to that franchise, though. I agree Smythe would be a perfect for the Red Wings. They need another in-front-of-the-net winger. I agree - the Tigers should have 5 or 6 players at the All Star game. If they don't and the Yankees do, that's just wrong.
Caputo

6:16 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Danny,
The bullpen thing aside, the Tigers are in great shape. I really think they are very good and will make the playoffs. Verlander, Bonderman and Miller could be about to accomplish special things. They are 15-2 combined heading into the Philly. That says a lot.
Caputo

6:19 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Andrew M.Fanco,
Yeah, that was quite the incident. But to be honest, I have never thought much of Colon as a pitcher. He has bad command of the baseball. The other guy wasn't much of prospect.
Caputo

6:20 PM 
Anonymous Brian in GP said...

I personally think Rodney is hurt, that or he is so mentally deficent that he thinks he needs to throw slower in order to locate his fastball, in which case its all mental. tonight he was throwing 88-91 mph with an 82 mph changeup. we could bring up alot of guys in our minor leagues witht that kind of stuff, to me the only way rodney will be effective is if he learns a cutt fastball, his change and fastball have the same movement.

craig monroe is a second half player, with this lineup we can afford that now more than ever. with that said if he doesnt come thru huge in the 2nd half of the season he is gone no doubt.

lidstrom is the best hockey player i have ever witnessed, he deserves every award he gets. i am 20 so that should explain that.

bonds will make the all star team no doubt, who else would you pick off the giants?

granderson is the man, i imagine him either as a #3 or #6 hitter down the line, his work ethic will make up for his strikeouts(largely youth)

the yankees are always interesting, in the end, their talent will always keep them in the race for the playoffs. this year i dont see them making it though

11:43 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Brian in GP,
I, too, think Rodney is hurt. It's probably why his velocity is down as much as aiming the ball. He just doesn't look like himself. I think it was smart of Leyland to bring him in earlier instead of later. I wasn't impressed with the left-handers, though. At your age, Lidstrom has been the best of the Red Wings. You didn't see Yzerman before he hurt his knee. Lidstrom is such a great and the greatest of the active athletes in this town.
Caputo

2:02 AM 
Anonymous Brian in GP said...

Pat.

I appreciate your quick response, about the red wings though, i can only help but think what if. What if Jiri Fischer doesnt die on the ice, what if Konstantinvov doesnt have that accident (excuse my spelling). With those two i could see the red wings as dominate as there reputation suggests.

2:11 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Brian in GP,
Konstantinov was a truly great player. He was jsut 30 at the time of the accident. It was not only a tragedy in the truest sense, but might have cost the Red Wings another Stanley Cup or two. Fischer was just coming into his own. What a nice kid. But they are still going to be really good next season. They just have a knack for finding players.

9:46 AM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Hurt or not hurt, Rodney has to sit down. Something else must be going on - you know Leyland couldn't want him out there gettin ripped. And I am certain they must have had Docs looking at his arm.

The problem is the bullpen situation is contagious.

Would you keep driving if you knew you had to slow leaks in your front tires? Ok - I actually do that - but what sane responsible person would continue to let eight run leads in late innings slip away?

Even if you approach Maroth and / or Robertson (when he comes back) with the idea that short relief duty is temporary. Even bonus them for it.

I have discovered that drinking two extra beers before the seventh does not help.

9:47 AM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

PS - Monroe is NOT a bum. Last year Inge, Thames, and Granderson were painted as bums by Detroit fans too.

Nobody has a 100% average in clutch situations. These three are above average in the clutch. I also add Thames to that list.

These "fringe" players would easily be leaders on most other teams in the league. Lets not test that to see if it's true quite yet.

And stats can say whatever the presenter wants them to say.

9:53 AM 
Anonymous Joe said...

Pat

Really enjoy listening and reading your opinions about the Tigers. I'm on a family road trip to see the O's at Camden tonight and then Tigers/Phills tomorrow. The Pen is a mess and last nights game drove home the point even further. With Rogers returning any day now, how about putting Miller in the pen to try and patch up getting the ball to Jones?
Thanks
Joe

10:10 AM 
Anonymous chief said...

Book,

The bullpen doesn't have to be dominant or out of this world. It just has to go from Awful to mediocre in order for the Tigers to be one of the top 3 or 4 teams in the game. So, I'm not that worried.

10:18 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
It doesn't make sense, but the saying, hitting is contagious is true. Same with the bullpen. People have no faith in Rodney. I don't blame them, but he has had some success in the past and a chance to be good in the future. They can't put him in with the game on the line. LOL on the beer comment. You might want to a shot of something strong inbetween.
Caputo

10:46 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Chief,
You're right about it not having to be dominant. But it has to be a lot better than this if they are going to get far. It would be a shame to have that offense and those young starters and not go far into the postseason, or maybe even not get there, because of the bullpen. It is troublesome when an 6-run lead doesn't feel like enough.
Caputo

10:49 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Joe,
Thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it. To me, Miller has to start. Whether it is here or in the minor leagues. He is just too good to mess with outside that realm. We'll see how it goes in that bandbox park today, but I think he is special and could give the Tigers an enormous shot in the arm that could have a domino effect to help the bullpen. Something like maybe Nate Robertson as setup man. An interesting concept - if he were willing.
Caputo

10:51 AM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Good, we saw a bad outing by Miller, and the good news is the bad news was not all that bad.

Miller has a bad outing under his belt.

I know most are pushing for it, but I am afraid I smell a trade coming. And it smells costly.

10:13 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
Like you, I thought that start was a pretty good sign Miller is ready. That's a tough park and he pitched out of trouble early. He did give the Tigers a chance to win the game. I thought they should have. I don't think they will make a trade for awhile.
Caputo

9:22 AM 
Anonymous Danny said...

Pat, Miller looked pretty good for a bad outing in that bandbox. Kept them in the game. It was interesting how he looked MUCH better (down and corners) when he was in a jam and really needed the K or ground ball.

What is your opinion on Bazardo? I know Dave signed him with the Marlins and likes him.


Cheers,
Danny

12:12 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Danny,
I haven't seen enough of him to have a real good feel about his pitching. However, he is the type of guy who often emerges in the bullpen, even as a setup guy. He's been traded a couple times after having success. Jeff Frazier is a marginal prospect. Ron Villone is not a great major league pitcher. I just wonder why.
Caputo

3:16 PM 
Blogger Bill said...

Pat - you remember the Monroe big hits more because they are more recent, and the Tigers weren't playing that many big games when Higgy was in his prime. But here are a couple of big homers:

July 2001 - Down 1 run in the top of the 9th Higgy hits a 3 run homer

June 2000 - Down 1 run in the 7th, a 2 run homer puts the team ahead

July 2000 - A 7th inning homer ties the game

July 99 - Down a run with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th against Mariano Rivera a solo shot ties the game

Sept 98 - Down 2 runs in the bottom of the 10th with 2 outs a 2 run homer ties the score

June 98 - With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th a 2 run homer ties the score

May 98 - A 2 run homer in the top of the 8th puts the Tigers up by a run

And these were just homers.

Statistically, visually, it doesn't matter - Higginson was the better player.

8:02 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Bill,
Thanks for sharing that research with me and the rest on the blog. Higgy had a fine career. That wasn't the point. It was I think Monroe deserves better than some people have given him lately. His latest big hit was a key two-run single Sunday in Philly.
Caputo

10:28 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand the pinings for putting Maroth in the Bullpen. He has already shown that he is best in the rotation, and doesn't seem to do well out of the pen.

Monroe is a good player. I very good defender and a good hitter when he concentrates. He just seems to be a player like I was: unless the game is on the line it is difficult to do your best. When the pressure was on, I always played my best, and I knew that no one could overmatch me, and they never did. But like Monroe, I didn't do that when the game wasn't on the line. For some people, you need the pressure of everyone counting on you to really pull out your best stuff.

4:05 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Anonymous,
I agree with you on Maroth. I just don't see his style working out in the bullpen. If he isn't good enough for the Tigers starting rotation, which may be true soon, he may not be good enough to be on the Tigers. His value in trades is limited. Robertson is better than he is, I would say, but also better suited to the bullpen. It's an interesting situation - and makes Maroth's next few starts important to his survivial. In the past, when put in these situations, he has mostly done well. We'll see this time.
Caputo

5:17 PM 

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