Apr 26, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Jose Ortega (56) delivers a pitch in the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers: Woes in the bullpen?

Apr 26, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Phil Coke (40) looks on after walking in a run in the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. (Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)

Once again, the Detroit Tigers are in a bind on the mound as pitching woes have come early to the Motor City. While they aren’t the only club who has had pitching trouble at this point in the season, it has been a common theme for some time in Detroit. Over the last few seasons, the Tigers have constantly been trying to address and readdress the various kinks in their bullpen.

After their first twenty-three games, the Detroit Tigers bullpen is sporting a 5.37 ERA, second-worst in the American League. Only Houston’s bullpen owns a worse ERA (5.86) than Detroit. However, the team ERA for the Tigers is 3.79, currently fifth in the American League, but that has also been the result of starting pitching making up for what the bullpen has lacked. The issues of the pen have become paramount as they could either make or break the Tigers as the season progresses.

At the center of this is Phil Coke. Through seven appearances, he has an ERA of 8.10 over 6.2 innings pitched. Tigers fans at this point have had enough of him. Outside of Coke, the rest of the Tigers’ bullpen presents a mixture of the good and bad.

Left-hander Ian Krol has been tough on left-handed hitting this season (.125 BAA).  Al Alburquerque and Joba Chamberlain both have been decent at times, but then again, have also struggled. They seem to be going through some growing pains.

While Joe Nathan has presented the Tigers a viable closing option, he has also struggled. While it does look like they will be keeping him in the closer’s role for the season’s long haul, it also looks that Nathan was just a replacement for Joaquin Benoit. At the moment, Nathan has saved four games, while sporting an ERA of 5.06. He was won two games for the Tigers as well.

Depending on how May and June go for Detroit and their bullpen, it could quite possibly determine what they will do at the trade deadline or even before then. They are reportedly kicking the tires on possibly being in the running for Joel Hanrahan, but they may also look else where. It should be interesting to see if and how the Tigers address these issues and work the kinks out. The weakness of their bullpen has been the crux that has either made or broken their postseason success in the previous seasons.

(Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.)

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