Detroit Tigers: Bullpen is Lowe Down This Season

Detroit Tigers are seemingly plagued by an underachieving bullpen season after season, this year being no exception.  Mark Lowe has become the poster-child for this year’s struggles.

Detroit Tigers fans have seen some frustrating aspects to the 2016 Tigers season, but the bullpen ranks up there as perhaps the most frustrating.  It seems like every year, the bullpen is an issue for the Tigers.

There has always been a player to blame it on (remember Phil Coke, Jason Grilli, and Joba Chamberlain?).  This year we have Mark Lowe.

I wish HBO had followed the Tigers during the off-season, a la “Hard Knocks” to find out why Al Avila thought signing a 33 year old reviler to a deal worth more in one season than he had made his entire life was a good idea.

Fans all know that Lowe has not been good this year.  In fact, he has been downright awful.  To add further insult to injury, Lowe is making $5.5 million (per Spotrac) this season and next.

Past Signings

I thought the Bobby Parnell signing could pay off, just like I thought the Joel Hanrahan signing and the Neftali Feliz pickup in years past were decent moves.

No one pinned their hopes on any of these players, but the potential was there.  Each of these players had proven track records, and the cost was low.

None of these paid dividends, but the low risk-high reward moves are sometimes the best ones to make.  It’s all about potential. Where was the potential besides Parnell?  Instead of a balance of potential and known-risk, Avila went the opposite direction.

More on Lowe

Lowe was high risk:  $5.5 million for a relief pitcher who had one good partial season.  Lowe was not even that good after his trade to Toronto.

By comparison, Feliz is making $3.9 million for the Pirates, putting up better numbers and a 0.9 WAR.

Sure he was a disaster last season with Tigers, but take a look at his career.  Ignoring 2015, take a look.  Look at 2010, 2011, and 2014.  Feliz showed he has “stuff.”

Now take a look at Lowe’s rather pedestrian numbers from the same time pe

Detroit Tigers

Aug 11, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Neftali Feliz (39) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the sixth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

riod.  Lowe had not had a positive WAR since his rookie season before last year.

I’ll even through in a comparison to another Pirates reliever, Antonio Bastardo.

Bastardo signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Mets before the season.  He has a 0.3 WAR this season.  Let that sink in.

Antonio Bastardo has a positive WAR this season.  Neftali Feliz has a positive WAR.

Are Feliz and Bastardo the answer?  No.  Is Lowe the only problem?  Absolutely not (see Justin Upton‘s early season struggles, and injuries to Nick Castellanos, J.D. Martinez, and Jordan Zimmerman, just for starters).  I’m the first to say that I hope Lowe turns it around for next year, but I still do not understand why Al Avila made this deal.

Avila made some shrewd moves this year that have paid off, so I cannot harbor too much resentment.  He unloaded a struggling Ian Krol to get Cameron Maybin (don’t even get me started on whether Krol should have been a Tiger in the first place).

He was able to get rid of Andrew Romine 2.0 in Mike Aviles to get Erick Aybar.  He traded to get Francisco Rodriguez.  But he failed to adequately address the setup and specialty roles of the bullpen.

Avila learned on the job fromm Dombrowski.  Here’s hoping he’ll break away from that and upgrade the Achilles heel of this team.

I’m not asking for Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen.  I’ll settle for David Hernandez or Marc Rzepczynski.  If Avila is going to spend the money, bring in a proven reliever with a proven track record.  Otherwise, we’ll be in the same place we are right now: hanging hopes that we can sneak into the playoffs.

This team should be better than hoping they can back into the playoffs.

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