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Phil Coke goes from Tigers’ playoff closer to Triple-A

Aug 21, 2013, 10:15 AM EDT

World Series Tigers Giants Baseball AP

Phil Coke was one of the heroes of the Tigers’ playoff run last season, taking over for Jose Valverde as the primary closer while allowing one run in 10.2 innings. And now, less than a year later, he’s been demoted to Triple-A.

Coke’s performance this season certainly hasn’t been pretty with a 5.00 ERA in 36 innings, but it’s not that far off from the 4.16 ERA he posted in 227 innings during his first three seasons with the Tigers and a deeper look at his numbers shows a reliever being misused. Coke has always been good against lefties and struggled against righties, but manager Jim Leyland has used him like a traditional setup man rather than like a southpaw specialist.

Coke has held lefties to a perfectly decent .716 OPS, but because righties have knocked him around for an .834 OPS and he’s faced more righties than lefties the overall results have been ugly. And it was the same story last year, as Coke was very good against lefties and very bad against righties while facing an equal number of both. If the Tigers used Coke to his strengths he’d still be in the majors, although Coke has balked at the idea of being a specialist anyway.

  1. dluxxx - Aug 21, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    Not saying that one at bat makes a big difference, but Coke was brought in to get out Morneau (lefty) last night, and he immediately gave up a double. I don’t think that’s what got him sent down judging on his numbers, but he certainly wasn’t effective as a lefty specialist last night either. He threw 5 pitches. One to Morneau, and 4 to Doumit (intentional walk) before he got pulled for Bonderman. You know you’re struggling when you get pulled for Bonderman…

  2. hieronymous27 - Aug 21, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    Coke needs to find a league of only left handed hitters. Then, and only then, would he have value. Maybe he and Papa Grande Velverde can open up a hot dog stand. I for one will not miss Coke’s theatrics when he is called on from the bullpen and his running in to the mound to save the day only to end up crapping the bed. Things go better without Coke. No post season for Phil. He’s done as a Detroit Tiger.

  3. historiophiliac - Aug 21, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Let’s not go overboard with this “hero” of the post-season stuff. I think what this tells you is that he was decent and V-Wiggles was so bad, he looked fabulous by comparison. We have better options now, thank you.

    • historiophiliac - Aug 21, 2013 at 12:55 PM

      Oh, sorry to offend you, Mrs. Coke.

  4. Detroit Michael - Aug 21, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    It’s about time. Thank you, Dave Dombrowski.

  5. Detroit Michael - Aug 21, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    I disagree with the last paragraph, Aaron. Most left-handed relievers still face a considerable number of right-handed batters, and I don’t find blame in Leyland’s usage of Coke (other than he was used in high leverage innings during April – June too often).

    Coke enjoyed the platoon advantage in 48% of his plate appearances. Among left-handed MLB pitchers with 30 or more IP year-to-date, that ranks tied for 21st. He also was used to face LHH more exclusively than Smyly or Downs, the Tigers’ other two primary left-handed relievers this year.

    Only 6 LHH relievers so far this year have the platoon advantage 55% or more of the time. The facts are that LOOGYs still face a lot of right-handed batters and need to have some effectiveness against them to hold their jobs.

  6. pappageorgio - Aug 21, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    Who was called up?

    • historiophiliac - Aug 21, 2013 at 12:56 PM

      Jose Alvarez

  7. grumpyoleman - Aug 21, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    Can you imagine if a starting lefthanded pitcher got pulled everytime a righty came up

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