Saturday, May 26, 2007

My Solution to the Detroit Tigers Bullpen Woes: Chad Durbin to the 'Pen

The Detroit Tigers lost their second consecutive game to the Cleveland Indians on Saturday afternoon, wasting a fine effort from Justin Verlander, losing 6-3 when relievers Jason Grilli and Bobby Seay gave up four runs in two innings, wasting what was a 3-2 Tigers lead. Grilli's stat line was truly horrifying: 0 innings, 3 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 home run on 9 pitches. Almost hurts as bad as the liner he took off his leg which removed him from the game. Not as if manager Jim Leyland wasn't going to get the hook himself anyway.

And it's not as if Tigers fans can hope Grilli's injury will keep him out of action for any significant time, because, the bullpen is a Mash unit at the moment, with set-up man Fernando Rodney sent to the disabled list this afternoon with a sore shoulder. That puts both set-up men from the start of the season, Rodney, and flamethrower Joel Zumaya, on the DL, leaving the Tigers nobody to pitch before closer Todd Jones. Veteran Jose Mesa, brought on as insurance for Rodney and Zumaya, has not lived up to the premium the Tigers are paying him, and Grilli has been awful the entire season. Every Bobby Seay, who had been pretty decent up until today, is now struggling, and the Tigers were forced to call up Zach Miner to replace Rodney in the 'pen. It's a critical situation for the Tigers and there is only one way to fix it.

When Chad Durbin first joined the Detroit Tigers starting rotation, replacing the injured Kenny Rogers, I was not sold. After his first two outings (both very shaky) I called for Andrew Miller to replace Chad Durbin in the Tigers starting rotation. Since then, though, Durbin has put together some great performances, and has proven himself to be a very valuable member of the Detroit Tigers team. He is 4-1 and the Tigers have won 6 of his 9 starts and he has done absolutely nothing to deserve losing his spot in the Tigers starting rotation. But, in the best interest of the team, in order to save the Tigers bullpen from itself, and to save the Tigers team until Rodney and Zumaya return from the DL, the Tigers have no choice but to move Durbin to the bullpen.

The move has nothing to do with Durbin's struggles as a starter and everything to do with how impressive he's been on the mound. He has pitched so well, he may be one of the only guys Jim Leyland can count on in the late innings of games. And unlike Mike Maroth, who may also be a candidate to remove from the starting rotation, he has more experience coming out of the bullpen and may adjust better to that role. The Tigers have to ask themselves where do they need the most help right now, their starting rotation or their bullpen? And with Andrew Miller waiting in the wings for a spot in the rotation to open up, the Tigers could completely rejuvenate their bullpen without losing a lot in their rotation by calling up Miller and moving Durbin to the 'pen.

With the addition of Miner, and moving Durbin to the bullpen, Jim Leyland would have a lot of options in the late innings. Durbin and Miner could pitch three, four innings if need be, or just get a batter or two. And if Ramon Colon, currently rehabbing from neck surgery, can come back sooner rather then later, the Tigers could have an entirely new and improved bullpen with just a few moves. Plus, Troy Percival is likely going to attempt a comeback, and while his initial run with the Tigers never got off the ground due to injuries, if he's healthy, he could be a savior if the Tigers signed him. And he can't be any worse then Jose Mesa at worst. He's somebody the Tigers need to take a hard look at.

As the team proved today, with Rodney and Zumaya out, the current bullpen just does not have enough talent or firepower to get the job done on a regular basis. But, the Tigers could, and should, make a bold move by moving Chad Durbin into the bullpen to strengthen it, and move Andrew Miller to the major leagues to join the starting pitching rotation. Sure, it's a gamble, on Miller's inexperience and Durbin's adjustment to relief work, but the Tigers need to do anything and everything they can to help their struggling 'pen and moving Durbin into that role may be just the trick the Tigers need to shake things up for the better.

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Anonymous said...


Let's say Rogers comes back healthy within 6 weeks...That is 3 LH pitchers in the rotation that nibble. Either Maroth or Robertson have to go (in a trade or into the Bullpen). By the time Rogers gets back it could be too late. Miller is a power pitcher and has a totally different style.

Scott Warheit said...

I agree with you on the lefties in the rotation, but that's how the Tigers started last season (and planned to start this season before Rogers was hurt) and I don't think it's the worst idea to have Robertson, Maroth, and Rogers in the rotation. While you are right, Rogers and Maroth are both more location pitchers, Robertson throws in the low to mid 90s and gets a decent amount of strikeouts (unlike, say, Maroth).

I think this may be Mike's last season in Detroit anyway. Miller's got to find a spot in the rotation somewhere for next year, and if Rogers comes back, and the choice has to be made between Maroth and Robertson, I think Robertson wins that choice every time.

Thanks for reading and commenting.


Anonymous said...

I think its interesting that the same Tigers fans that are savaging Leyland for pulling Durbin tonight were largely the same group howling that Durbin should have been pulled from the rotation after his first few starts. I wouldn't blame Leyland for what happened against the Rays, Durbin is the kind of pitcher that tends to serve meatballs up as he gets more tired, its not entirely unreasonable for Leyland to pull him after 6. Six solid innings is all you should ask of Chad Durbin. If it were Verlander, Rogers, Bonderman or even Robertson that left after 88 pitches, I might be willing to rip Leyland.

As for the Jonesy tonight, what can you say? It's not everyday you give up the game-winning hit to a future murderer.

Scott Warheit said...

I think pulling Durbin was one of those judgment calls that was going to haunt Leyland either way. He keeps him and he gives up a home run or something, and people scream that he should have been taken out. He takes him out and the bullpen blows it, and Leyland's an idiot there too.

He can't be afraid to use his bullpen or we're really in trouble. At some point, you have to hope the guys struggling in the 'pen pitch their way out of their slumps.

Hopefully sooner rather than later.


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