The Detroit Tigers yet again have an ailing bullpen with no consistency. The Tigers have no expendable pitchers in their thin bullpen; everyone, regardless of how bad or good, is valuable because of need. Detroit’s bullpen is a deflating hot air balloon; everyone’s waiting for it to land.
Closer Joe Nathan blew his sixth save today. Is anyone still believing in this guy? Really, he’s been bad, bad to the tune of a horrifying 5.36 ERA. Nathan gets beat up like a pinata. Fans are tiring of his appearance, the same aura they had with past closers, being glued to their seat with stomach pains and suspense. The Tigers need consistency out of their veteran, otherwise that whole bullpen will collapse in the postseason once again.
In some cases, some argue that Nathan isn’t that bad, that the numbers actually portray him to have a bad supporting cast. Well, numbers hide many aspects, just as they hide Nathan’s erratic pitching, lack of a crisp release, and consistency with good movement on his pitches. The numbers don’t show opposing batters bailing Nathan out with idiotic swings. The numbers don’t fully show how awful his accuracy is. The numbers don’t show how Nathan’s pitches get smoked into the outfield, where the outfielders make stellar plays to save him. They’re simply recorded as outs, hiding his repulsive play.
The Tigers cannot go on this way. It’s surprising; why wasn’t the money given to reliever Joaquin Benoit? Benoit was a darn good closer for Detroit, and did decently in the postseason (outside of the David Ortiz grand slam, of course, but that’s a story in its own).
When Nathan said he had a “dead arm”, manager Brad Ausmus wasn’t alarmed. Now, it’s appearing that comment held some frightening truth to it. Truth that still exists today. On numerous occasions when Nathan earned saves, he almost blew them. Many times, the opposing team has a major rally brewing in his midst. He is giving teams a quiet confidence of always being able to win. This type of confidence in the postseason will propel opposing teams, but haunt Detroit.
It’s the aching worry it has been for some time now: what are the Tigers to do? They traded for reliever Joakim Soria, aiding the bullpen, but even that can’t extinguish the flame of worry. Soria has been a really good closer in the past, but who knows how it’d work out for the Tigers.
To put it bluntly, Nathan needs to get the ball rolling. He’s a veteran with an incredible amount of experience. His pitching location needs to improve, along with a smoother release, otherwise the Tigers are facing doom. Leaving the closer role up for grabs to the remaining pitchers isn’t a move for a World Series. It certainly won’t instill any confidence in that bullpen, either.
Nathan was signed on this team with the belief in a World Series. It’s time his play matches up to it.