Since Valverde's surprising return to the Tigers on April 23, he has helped to stabilize the Tigers bullpen.
Even though the sample size of Valverde's work is small, he has only allowed one earned run in six innings pitched and has held hitters to a .053 batting average in converting three out of four save opportunities. If it were any other veteran closer, fans would be thrilled with those numbers.
Granted Valverde's performance on Mother's Day was ugly, but his return to the Tigers has paid off immensely.
Valverde's presence alone has allowed the Tigers to return to a more traditional bullpen, which allows every pitcher to have a defined role.
On paper, closer-by-committee is a brilliant idea, but it's difficult for pitchers to know which role they are preparing to pitch in each game. Closers have a special mentality to be able to finish games and some pitchers cannot handle that additional pressure. A manager telling a middle reliever that he is now going to be used to close, isn't fair to that pitcher.
Now with Valverde as closer, Tigers manager Jim Leyland can use his relievers in a defined role and each pitcher knows what is expected of him.
While this article isn't an endorsement of Valverde as closer for the rest of the season, fans need to look at the team results since Valverde has returned. The Tigers are 11-6 with Valverde on the roster and 9-9 without him.
While several factors can be taken into account for the Tigers playing better, stability helps on a team and that's what the Tigers are experiencing now. Granted the starting pitching has been fantastic and the Tigers' bats are heating up, but a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and for now, it is strengthened.
Was yesterday's blown save a sign of trouble to come? Who knows, but for now, the Tigers will continue to live with Valverde as closer.
Valverde has brought structure to the bullpen—and at the very least—bought time for Tigers management to determine if he can be relied upon throughout the remainder of the season.
*All statistics are accurate as of May 13.
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