Joe Nathan was supposed to put an end to the late-inning problems for the Tigers. After a couple of years of dealing with Jose Valverde and moving setup men into the closer’s role, the Tigers said “screw it” this past season and paid out money for a Proven Closer. ™ Except Joe Nathan has been pretty awful and the patchwork in which Brad Ausmus has engaged hasn’t been successful either.
Last night, after Nathan pitched in two consecutive games (and wasn’t all that good in them anyway) Ausmus called on Joba Chamberlain to protect a 3-2 ninth inning lead. It went like this:
- Brock Holt single;
- Dustin Pedroia walk;
- David Ortiz three-run homer which essentially ended the game.
Chamberlain gave up another single after that and the inning could’ve gotten even more out of control if it hadn’t been for a subsequent double play. When it was all said and done, the Tigers ended last night with a bullpen ERA of 4.77 which is the worst in the American League.
Chamberlain had been pretty effective on the year until last night, but performances like that are what give managers pause about putting them in save situations. As do contracts like Nathan’s, for what it’s worth. The idea of just pitching your setup man in the ninth inning a la Joaquin Benoit just presents so many hurdles, real or contrived, just doesn’t come easily to most teams.
Or course, it’s probably worth noting that Joaquin Benoit was pretty darn good last season. Just sayin’!