The Closer: Jose Valverde
It’s is easy to be concerned on the surface, as he had just 26 saves in 2010. However, he had just 29 opportunities. Overall he posted a 3.00 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 9.00 K/9 over 63.0 innings of work. Clearly, the stuff is there and all he needs is increased opportunities.
In fact, there is only one number to be concerned about, and that’s his walk rate. He’s never had consistent control, but 2010 was a big regression from previous seasons (below are his BB/9 by season):
- 2005 – 2.71
- 2006 – 4.01
- 2007 – 3.64
- 2008 – 2.88
- 2009 – 3.50
- 2010 – 4.57
Of course, even if we assume an improvement in this regard, he’s going to regress in his BABIP (.239 in ’10). He has a career WHIP of 1.17, right along the lines of his 2010 mark. That’s what we should expect moving forward, so even with the expected improvement in control its not going to make a huge difference.
Where we can expect an improvement is in the strikeout department. His 9.00 K/9 was actually a career low, as his career mark is 10.68. An improvement there, as well as increased chances to close games (they easily could be better than the 81-81 record they posted in ’10), will certainly help his overall appeal.
He’s not going to be among the elite closers in the game, but he should remain solid and be a good play in all formats.
The Next In Line: Joaquin Benoit
After missing the 2009 season, Benoit returned with a bang in 2010 amd posted a 1.34 ERA and 0.68 WHIP over 60.1 innings for the Rays. He turned that into a fat three year contract, one that the Tigers could quickly come to regret.
While he enters the year as the setup man, a major regression is likely coming. He’s never shown the type of control he did in ’10 (1.64 BB/9). He enjoyed a miniscule BABIP (.201). He had an other-worldly strand rate (95.1%). Yes, he is a pitcher who should enjoy a solid strikeout number (11.19 K/9 in ’10), but outside of that his numbers are likely to come crashing down.
Don’t buy into him based on his 2010 performance. It’s extremely unrealistic.
The Rest: Joel Zumaya, Daniel Schlereth, Ryan Perry
We know all about Zumaya’s ability, but he seems incapable of staying healthy. He is expected to be ready for Spring Training, but is there any guarantee that he manages to make it through the entire season? Schlereth has tremendous stuff, but needs to find some control (minor league BB/9 of 5.76). At this point consider him a lefty specialist, though he could develop into more.
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Make sure to check out our previous Breaking Down The Bullpen columns: