Roundtable: Can the 'Pen Hold?

Ready to talk Tigers? Want to hear the opinion of the TigsTown staff on some of the hot button topics of the offseason? Welcome to the TigsTown Roundtable! This week's question: Can the bullpen as it stands now hold its own come crunch time?

Paul Wezner, Senior Editor
The short answer is yes, the group can hold, but in reality, it's not that simple. On one hand, Todd Jones has blown just three saves in 27 opportunities. On the other, his ERA is still well into the 5's and a good a number of those saves have been of the three run variety against teams that are more or less offensively challenged. Jamie Walker has quietly been his effective self, and Joel Zumaya has proven he can work out of tough jams at his young age. Fernando Rodney had a great start but has struggled as of late, but Rodney should return to earlier season form. The bullpen will also have the benefit of adding at least one of the starters to the group. So, can Todd Jones really hold down the fort? The Tigers are likely just going to have to find out, because without a top notch closer on the market, the Tigers are married to Jones for better or for worse.

Mark Anderson, Associate Editor, Minor Leagues
If Todd Jones remains in the closer's role, I'm not convinced this bullpen will hold up in tight games down the stretch. While Jones has a nice shiney number in the saves column, he's been anything but dominating; something the Tigers will need if they are to truly contend for the World Series. While both Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya have had rough patches, both have the dominating arsenal that can kill teams if they get hot. I'd rather play my odds with the youth and bravado of those to, than I would the wily veteran, Jones. In an ideal world, the Tigers would parlay some of their minor league pitching depth for an impressive bullpen arm to help solidify the end of games.

Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I think the bullpen can hold its own, but the starters must continue to pitch well and get deep into games, so the bullpen doesn't wear out down the stretch. Jason Grilli has been solid in a middle relief role, and outside of Sunday, Wilfredo Ledezma has done a good job as the second lefty. The Tigers could also possibly turn to Jordan Tata (if he isn't traded) and Chris Spurling in September for extra innings if they need them. Jamie Walker continues to fly under the radar as one of the top situational pitchers in the game, and outside of a dreadful three-game stretch earlier this month, Fernando Rodney has been terrific. Think about this. Rodney has allowed 23 runs total this year and 10 came in those games around Independence Day, so he's given up a scant 13 runs in 35 games. Joel Zumaya has gotten a lot of attention, and rightfully so. When he was scored upon Friday night, it was only the third time since June 1 that he had allowed a run, which covers 19 appearances. The huge key will be Todd Jones, and whether he can handle the pressure of closing on a contender. Even though Jones has been in the big leagues since 1993, he has worked exactly 1/3 of an inning and made one postseason appearance, which came in 2003 with Boston. Jones has been outstanding of late, having allowed only an Albert Pujols home run in his last 10 appearances. Overall, this group has been tremendous, and I think they will be fine during the regular season, but I would be willing to bet that if Jones struggles at all come October, you'll see either Rodney or Zumaya get moved into the closer's role. Keep in mind that three of the last five World Series champions had either rookie closers (Bobby Jenks in 2005 and Francisco Rodriguez in 2002), or a young pitcher (Byung-Hyun Kim in 2001) there, so it's not uncommon to go that route if necessary.

Have your own opinion on the issue? Ready to talk about it? State your opinion on the Detroit Tigers Open Message Board and go head to head with the experts!


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