Dave Dombrowski has been very busy this off-season. He has been making sure that the Detroit Tigers batting lineup will be one of the most dangerous lineups in the MLB by adding Edgar Renteria, Jacque Jones and Miguel Cabrera. He has re-signed Kenny Rogers for another year. He has also added the last piece to his starting rotation by picking up Dontrelle Willis. Willis will be in Detroit for a couple of years now that he's signed a 3 year extension through 2010. Now, DD has Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson set as his five man rotation. His batting lineup consists of Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Edgar Renteria, Jacque Jones/Marcus Thames and Ivan Rodriguez.
What more does he need to actually make the Tigers more than a hitting, superpower and a decent pitching rotation?
Well people, last year, the Tigers had one of the worst bullpens in the league with a 4.37 ERA. Now with Joel Zumaya out for a half a season, this bullpen won't be any better than they were last season. About two weeks ago, the Tigers signed reliever Tim Byrdak to a one year, $712,500 contract. This leaves Chad Durbin as the odd man out. Durbin made a few starts in the beginning of the season, in replacement of the injured Kenny Rogers. He actually did pretty good as a starter. Once Rogers returned, Durbin was sent to the bullpen and he finished the season of with a 4.72 ERA. Not so good, is it?
Byrdak was probably the second best resort for Jim Leyland. He had a 3.20 ERA and he did his part when he was called upon. Durbin is still a youngster, so I expected him to develop this year. He was gaining confidence after his starting numbers were straight. In 19 starts, he compiled a 6-7 record and 4.88 ERA. He wouldn't be offered a 2008 contract, so now he's in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
One reliever who 'isn't a fan favorite in Detroit is Jason Grilli. This was a guy who has blown so many, critical games for the Tigers last season. He had a stretch when he was booed by everyone (including me) at Comerica Park, every time he came running out of the pen. Now he did lower his ERA down to 4.72, but that was when the pressure was off of him and the Tigers weren't alive in the playoff push. I do expect him to come back next season because of the decent stretch he had towards the end of the season, but he will be on a short leash when it comes to critical games.
Macay McBride is a reliever that the Tigers got from the Atlanta Braves, in exchange for a lefty, Willy Ledezma. McBride definitely didn't get his job done, as he posted a 4.96 ERA. Just like Jason Grilli, he was booed, a lot at home. I didn't feel bad for him, because every time he was called on, it seemed like he couldn't buy an out. So later on, Leyland got sick of it and sent him down to the farm system to get him prepared for next season.
There were just a couple of relievers that tried to help out the Tigs bullpen. One of those relievers was Bobby Seay. He didn't get the recognition that he deserved, because he had the lowest ERA out of all the relievers in the bullpen. He had a 2.33 ERA, while when Zumaya came back, he posted a 4.28 ERA. Seay doesn't have the electric arm that Zumaya has, but he knows how to get the job done. I feel that Seay is the best reliever in that bullpen.
Another guy that you could sometimes rely on to get you a quick and easy, three outs was Zach Miner. He's had his fair share of struggles last season, but he still managed to put up a 3.02 ERA from the pen. Leyland mainly brought out Miner right after the starter was done, and Miner has gotten comfortable with that position. In critical games, he did manage to struggle a lot. He's not a good pitcher when he's under pressure or when he's pitching in big and important games. I would call him a choke. But I can't hate on the guy because he did get his job done at most times.
Fernando Rodney seems to be a hated guy in Detroit, but I honestly love the dude (no homo). He was injured for the first half of the season, which caused him to put up bad numbers early on. He tried to throw too hard and that caused him to miss the strike zone. When he came back from his injury, he became a threat out of the pen. He had a streak where he didn't allow a run through 13.2 innings pitched. He went 1-1 with a 2.82 ERA in 21 outings following the all-star break. He was very reliable for Leyland, and Leyland had no doubts is putting Rodney out there to get out of a jam. Rodney has done stupid things out on the mound, but unlike Miner and Grilli, he can pitch in pressure situations. This shouldn't be surprising because the year before, Rodney had a respectable 3.52 ERA. He finished off the '07 season with a 4.26 ERA.
The closer situation has already been taken care of. Zumaya was expected to close for the '08 season, but with him out for half the year, DD decided to bring back the roller coaster, Todd Jones. Despite Jones' 4.26 ERA, he still managed to get 38 saves. He is also one of those relievers who knows how to get the job done.
There will be some new faces in the Tigers bullpen for the '08 season. These pitchers include Denny Bautista, Francisco Cruceta, Virgil Vasquez, Clay Rapada, and Jordan Tata. Tata and Vasquez have already pitched a couple of times for the Tigers last season. Tata has given up 12 runs in 14 innings pitched as a Tiger. Vasquez has given up 16 runs in 27 innings pitched. These are still young guys, and they do have good stuff. They will need to develop it over the next season to be reliable out of the bullpen.