Tigers bullpen woes fall on Dombrowski
In truth, Leyland hasn't had much to choose from.
The Tigers' farm system simply has not procured quality relief pitching. Nor has Dombrowski been able to garner effective relievers from elsewhere that were not costly.
The Tigers have four quality relievers. One is a high-priced free agent closer, Jose Valverde. Another is a high-priced free agent setup man, Joaquin Benoit. Phil Coke was acquired as a part of an expensive trade involving a premier player, Curtis Granderson. The only exception is Alberto Albuquerque, a journeyman minor leaguer the Tigers discovered in the Dominican winter league. And he's often been unavailable lately because of an arm ailment.
Two factors have killed the Tigers' bullpen this season. One was Dombrowski's decision to re-sign Joel Zumaya to a one-year, $1.4 million contract despite his history of injuries. It was risk that obviously didn't pay off. Another has been the lack of development by Ryan Perry, a first round draft choice from 2008. He has been, to say the least, undependable and is at Toledo.
The Tigers' first four selections that year were college relievers. Second-rounder Cody Satterwhite and third-rounder Scott Green missed last season with injuries and have just returned. Satterwhite is still in the rookie Gulf Coast League, but at least is throwing again. Green has moved up to the short-season New York-Penn League and has a 7.71 ERA in two appearances after pitching mostly in the Gulf Coast League this season. The Tigers traded fourth-round pick Brett Jacobson to Baltimore for Aubrey Huff. He has since been traded to the Twins organization. He has a 4.78 ERA in Double-A.
Dombrowski's theory is that the best bullpens are developed within - and I agree with that premise. But the Tigers aren't developing relievers. Look at the revolving door from the minor leagues this season. Lester Oliveros, Brayan Villarreal, Adam Wilk, Robbie Weinhardt. Those are your homegrown products.
Dombrowski did trade for David Purcey. He was OK for awhile. Lately, though, home plate umpires keep repeating the name of a famous baseball book when Purcey has been on the mound.
Winning a division, even one as lame as this version of the A.L. Central, is extraordinarily difficult without bullpen depth. It why you end up with Chance Ruffin making his major league debut with the bases loaded. It's a constant game of throwing stuff on the wall to see what sticks.
I've heard over and over from Tigers fans, "How could Leyland put that (name the reliever) in that situation."
Answer: Because he didn't have a choice.
That's not necessarily on Jim Leyland, but his general manager.