Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why Jose Valverde is the best closer the Detroit Tigers have ever had

Down through the years, Tiger closers have been the source of considerable consternation.
Willie Hernandez had the greatest season ever by a Tigers closer, in 1984, when he pitched 140 innings, had a terrific record (9-3) and ERA (1.92) and closed all but one save opportunity. He was the AL Cy Young winner and MVP.
But it didn't last. He was ultimately booed out of town. Mike Henneman and Todd Jones were roller coaster rides. They in the middle-of-the-pack on balance, although you have to admire Jones for his longevity and body of work given his limited ability. He got a lot out of a deceptive motion and a sloppy curveball.
Fernando Rodney? Does he count? Please. John Hiller was great for a period, but it was a long time ago - when the role of closer was much, much different.
Jose Valverde is probably the best closer the Tigers have had. He throws in the mid-to-high 90s, has a nasty slider, a serviceable slider and has developed consistency. The only time he has faltered was the second-half of last season when he was hurt.
You know a closer is really good when it is just taken for granted he will get it done. 43 out of 43 is spectacular. So Valverde hasn't been so good in non-save situations. Ultimately, did it matter?
My column on Lions victory over Tampa Bay Sunday:



Anonymous John said...

Your assessment shows just how weak the closer position has been for the Tigers over the years. I've never seen Valverde be really dominant. With respect to his remarkable season thus far (hard to be critical of 43 for 43) I never feel 100% confident that he is going to shut the other team down. I keep waiting for the bottom to fall out and him to blow two or three saves in a row.

We agree, he's the best we've had, which is a sad commentary on our closer position.

5:46 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not so sad when one recognizes that the closer just isn't that important. What you are looking at with nearly all of these guys is a very small sample size. One doesn't have to be great to pitch one scoreless inning.

Keep in mind there is a reason why pitchers become closers, it's because they aren't good enough to be starters. A closer can live with 1 or 2 really good pitches. A starter needs at least 3. A starter has to get through the lineup 4 or 5 times a game. The closer benefits from only having to pitch to batters once.

8:42 AM 
Anonymous woody said...

closers are different...add a quirky edge to a game that is mostly finesse. Valverde's antics are amusing...probably not seen similar flamboyance since Kevin Saucier who had a brief turn as closer.

It's been a career year for him. I believe when he signed he was quoted as saying there's no reason why he shouldn't have a 50 save season. Sounded like a bit of hyperbole then, but he's almost there.

2:21 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Well, the Tigers have never had a Mariano Rivera. But who has. There closers have essentially been middle of the pack most year.

1:13 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

I hear you on the closer. Doesn't as much as then they would come out and get other pitchers out of jams. Pressure and arm strain a lot less than it used to be.

1:14 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

What I find odd about Valverde is that the other teams don't hold those antics against him. Means they respect him.

1:15 PM 

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