Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why we may be overrating Jose Valverde

Common perception (mine, too) is Jose Valverde is a much better closer than the Tigers had in 2009 (Fernando Rodney) and 2006 (Todd Jones), the last two times they played more than the regularly-scheduled 162 games.
"Better?" Sure. The "much" part might be an overstatement. Consider.

Valverde is 37 out of 37 in save opportunities, which is getting a lot of notoriety. But Rodney was 37 out of 38 in 2009. There is unease and anger whenever Tigers Jim Leyland puts Valverde in non-save situations. Another example was Monday, which I'm not sure should count in the angst department (the Tigers held a 4-1 lead when Donald Kelly unexpectedly hit a home run in the top of the ninth, turning it into a non-save situation).
Then it was like he was Todd Valverde or Papa Rodney. Roller Coaster. Demon Drop. A couple runners on. Run allowed. Tying run to the plate. Then save.
But it took 22 pitches to get that save, but at least it wasn't the 60 pitch-debacle last year at Fenway Park. Valverde also had a rough outing the day before against Cleveland - despite picking up the save. He threw 17 pitches in that inning, allowing the tying run to third base. He won't be available tonight.
Valverde's WHIP (walks per innings pitches) is 1.265. Jones blew six saves in '06, but his WHIP was 1.266. Rodney's WHIP in '09 was 1.467.
To claim Valverde is much better in save situations and worst in non-save situations than Rodney is not true. Valverde has a 2.25 ERA, Rodney's was 4.40 in 2009 - although there is little difference between the two in closing games.
Jones had a 3.94 ERA in 2006.
There is the eyeball test. Rodney and Valverde are similar in regard to "stuff." Rodney threw in the high 90s, setting up his changeup. Valverde throws in the mid-90s, setting up his splitter. I'd give the edge in command of the baseball to Valverde compared to the '09 Rodney, especially in his recent outings before the last two. Also command period. Valverde seizes the moment better - and isn't about to draw a three-game suspension for chucking the ball into the stands anytime soon.
Jones was past his prime in '06. His fastball was in the low 90s, and he really didn't have a second pitch of note other than a sloppy curveball. But he was deceptive. He had an ugly motion which made the ball appear later to hitters. But he was solid in the postseason that year. No earned runs and four saves in seven appearances.



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