Detroit Tigers, Joe Nathan and whether this is a longstanding problem or an aberration
Nathan is 39. Pitchers hit a wall at some point. Could that be happening with Nathan, or is this just an aberration? We've seen mixed evidence so far this season.
The Tigers had other options at closer, most notably the younger Francisco Rodriguez (32), who leads MLB in saves with 17 for Milwaukee. K-Rod, who had a bounce back season with Milwaukee last season before being traded to Baltimore in a trade deadline deal, got a one-year, $3.25 million (with $500,000) deal with the Brewers as a free agent.
Nathan and K-Rod are similar at this stage. Both throw low 90s fastball, but rely on their slider as their outpitch, although Nathan slider is more tightly wound and K-Rod's more a classic 12-6 break.
|Joe Nathan: Latest Tigers' closer to struggle|
It's the second time the Tigers have passed on K-Rod. They did last year at the trade deadline. He was traded for a marginal minor league prospect. The Tigers opted instead for Jose Veras, who threw the hanging curveball to Boston's Shane Victorino, which resulted in series-deciding home run in Game 6 of the ALCS.
A couple things about Nathan: Manager Brad Ausmus didn't do him any favors by not letting him start the ninth inning Wednesday in the 3-1 loss to Oakland. At 100 pitches, even as well as starter Anibal Sanchez was pitching, he was living on borrowed time. It's not a tough call for managers (although it gets many fans riled up because they want a complete game for the starter). It should be understood managers are always tempting fate by sending that starter out in a one-run game to start the ninth. It puts the closer in a much more precarious spot to enter with runners on base, especially at second, which was the case Wednesday.
Frustration about closers has long haunted Tigers' fans. Ernie Harwell nicknamed Todd Jones "Roller Coaster." But it's a description that has fit every Tigers closer from Willie Hernandez to MIke Henneman to Jones to Fernando Rodney to Jose Valverde.
Nathan, signed to a two-year, $20 million contract, was supposed to be different. So far, any way, that hasn't been the case.
And given the shaky nature of the rest of the Tigers' bullpen, it is discomforting.
My column. Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh, Calvin Johnson and why a window of opportunity could be closing on the Detroit Lions: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140528/window-of-opportunity-could-be-closing-for-stafford-suh-johnson-and-detroit-lions-pat-caputo-writes