Skip to content

Tigers lose because Jim Leyland’s closer-by-committee really wasn’t

Apr 3, 2013, 7:40 PM EDT

Jim Leyland AP

Jim Leyland said all of the right things this spring after Bruce Rondon failed to step up and win the Tigers’ closing gig. He didn’t seem the least bit disturbed to go with a closer-by-committee situation while waiting for things to shake out.

And then he went and seemingly abandoned the idea in the second game of the season.

Game 1 worked out perfectly for Leyland: the Tigers beat the Twins 4-2, with Joaquin Benoit getting four outs in the eighth and ninth and before stepping aside for Phil Coke with lefty Justin Morneau up. Morneau struck out and Ryan Doumit flied out to end it.

Game 2 didn’t. Leyland went with the same exact arrangement in a 2-1 game, even though this time in meant Benoit would face lefties Joe Mauer and Morneau in the eighth and Coke would get the righties in the ninth. Benoit did his job in the eighth, but he walked Trevor Plouffe to start the ninth before getting pulled. Coke came in and retired the lefty Chris Parmelee, only to give up hits to right-handers Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar and take a 3-2 loss.

In Coke’s defense, Escobar’s double to the warning track in center should have been caught. It appeared that Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks both thought the other would haul it in. Still, even if it had been caught, it would have been a game-tying sac fly and a blown save for Coke. And it was a well hit ball by a pretty terrible hitter.

But the whole idea here is that Leyland has a bunch of similarly talented relievers and needs to play matchups as a result. And he didn’t. Coke was successful in an expanded role in the playoffs last year, but right-handers torched him for a .396 average in the regular season. Lifetime, righties have hit .299 against him, compared to .232 for lefties. He is a matchup guy, not a closer, and the obvious call was to use him in the eighth tonight.

Leyland, though, trusts Coke. More than he does Benoit. Far more than he does Al Alburquerque, even though Alburquerque has a 1.57 ERA and a .143 average against in 57 1/3 innings as a major leaguer. If not Coke, one gets the feeling it would have been Octavio Dotel finishing this game, even though he’s the third or fourth best right-hander in the pen.

Of course, I’m probably overreacting here. It’s the second game of the season, and Leyland deserves a chance to feel things out. At the same time, given that it is early in the season, why not see what Alburquerque and Brayan Villarreal can do in those pressure situations? The Tigers already know exactly what they have in Coke. And trying to make a closer out of him is like shoving a square peg into a round hole.

  1. dawgpoundmember - Apr 3, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    I do not understand why he didn’t try to stretch out Downs.

  2. torrigjp - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    Pump the brakes Matt, it’s gonna be okay.

  3. elwaysmilehighdenver - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    The cola closer choked. Desperately need a shut down closer that they can rely on.
    Jimmy Smokes needs to get this done sooner rather than later. Is Brian Wilson still available?

  4. gosuhgo - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    I’m glad Phil Coke is back to regular season form so I can go back to hating him. Damn it, Phil. Why did you get my hopes up in the postseason?

    • Old Gator - Apr 4, 2013 at 12:00 AM

      I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to pick up Heath Bar Bell pretty soon for some players to be named later. Just be patient.

    • historiophiliac - Apr 4, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      I hope I’m free of the choke Coke bandwagon fans now. How much did it hurt to hear “first blown save of the Tigers season”? 2nd game. Grrrrrr. 😦

  5. paperlions - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    Well, that didn’t help…but failing to get an XBH against Kevin Correa (or any Twin pitcher) didn’t really help with the whole “winning” thing either.

    • historiophiliac - Apr 4, 2013 at 9:28 AM

      Oh, go work on your grit.

      • paperlions - Apr 4, 2013 at 9:46 AM

        I already took a shower today.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 4, 2013 at 9:50 AM

        Dog licks don’t count.

      • paperlions - Apr 4, 2013 at 11:05 AM


      • historiophiliac - Apr 4, 2013 at 11:18 AM

        Super mean. Did you not get enough Kozmania last night? Are you crankylions? There, there. Don’t have little fits.

  6. worldseriestiger - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:22 PM


  7. cusoman - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    Maybe, just maybe… it wasn’t the pitching but the lights-out twins batting?

    hhhhaahahahahaha! Sorry guys, couldn’t hold that in. (/twinsfan)

  8. hieronymous27 - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:08 PM

    The bullpen will be the Tiger’s Achilles Heel for 2013.

  9. leylandslung - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:13 PM

    You don’t deserve to win scoring only 2 runs

  10. unclemosesgreen - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    As Doug Coughlin once famously said (before being kidnapped by Xenu) of any bullpen committee that includes Phil Coke: “Everything ends badly. Otherwise it wouldn’t end.”

  11. philliesblow - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    We knew going into the season that closer could be an issue but this team is supposed to have a dominating starting staff and a great offense. The offense isn’t putting up many crooked numbers. 2 runs in 7 innings against Kevin Correia ain’t gonna cut it. Verlander & Sanchez both went only 5 innings. Once the starters start going 7 innings you have a better chance of BBC (bullpen by committee) working out as you can spread 6 guys over 2 innings instead of 4 innings.

  12. jonrox - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:53 PM

    Not only did he give up on the closer-by-committee idea, but he also chose the absolute worst pitcher in that bullpen to do it with. Coke is a pretty good LOOGY, but he should never face a RH batter, and certainly not with the game on the line.

  13. windycity0301 - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    I’m sure Carlos Marmol is available…

  14. ghouchens - Apr 4, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    And the second guessing begins.

  15. Minoring In Baseball - Apr 4, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    Yeah, it was a bad call by Leyland, but it’s only game 2 and I doubt anyone needs to be jumping off buildings. Blame Coke if you want, and some fans will, but poor defense and impotant offense is the reason the Tigers lost. As the weather warms up, so will the Tigers bats.

  16. sparty0n - Apr 4, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    One more added to the list. Reason #127 I’m not a Leyand fan.

  17. historiophiliac - Apr 4, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    PS Matt, I know you’re trolling me with that hat. It’s the season already. Dump that hat picture.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. C. Correa (2552)
  2. G. Stanton (2515)
  3. H. Ramirez (2496)
  4. G. Springer (2488)
  5. B. Crawford (2309)
  1. M. Teixeira (2288)
  2. H. Pence (2219)
  3. J. Baez (2208)
  4. J. Hamilton (2167)
  5. Y. Puig (2111)