Jose Valverde is a cancer to the Detroit Tigers.
He had a disappointing end to the Tigers’ 2012 regular season, an even worse performance in the playoffs and, recently, he’s shown more glimpses of the terrible 2012 pile of junk than the unhittable 2011 version of himself.
Valverde is 0-1 with a 3.93 ERA and three blown saves in only 12 opportunities. His three are tied for fourth most in baseball this season, but the three players with more have each had at least six more opportunities than Valverde.
The Tigers’ closer started the season on fire, rendering opponents hitless in his first five appearances. He had only one blown save and a 0.75 ERA after his first 12 appearances this year but has since regressed.
In his last seven games, the 35-year-old has gone 0-1 while giving up seven earned runs, including five homers and two saves in 6.1 innings.
While Valverde was promising at first, he’s shown time and time again that he cannot be trusted—especially in tight situations.
The Tigers are 39-29 after Max Scherzer's 10-0 start. Detroit is five games up in the American League Central, with the best team batting average in MLB.
The Tigers boast the best hitter on the planet, the best starting rotation in baseball and one of the scariest lineups since the New York Yankees' Murderer's Row in 1927. But Detroit cannot and will not win a World Series with the Big Potato on the mound in the ninth.
Because the Tigers are in such a bad division, they will capture their third straight AL Central championship, but it will be despite the effort of Valverde.
The lights shine brightest in the playoffs—especially in the World Series—and Valverde shrinks the most when the pressure heats up.
No one wins a World Series without at least an above-average closer.
Last season, Sergio Romo helped lift the San Francisco Giants to their second World Championship in three seasons with an unbelievable playoff run.
After a 4-2 record with a 1.79 ERA in the regular season, the Giants closer was superb in the postseason, posting a 1-0 record with four saves, a 0.84 ERA, an unblemished opponent average and three saves against the Tigers in the World Series.
In 2011, closer Jason Motte helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series with a 2.19 ERA, one walk and five saves in as many postseason opportunities and, in 2010, Brian Wilson and his borderline psychotic persona led the Giants to the World Championship with a perfect ERA and five saves, only giving up five hits in 10.2 postseason innings.
Closers are a special breed. You need someone with intense focus and incredible control to win a ring.
Valverde has the crazy part down, but the rest just isn't there anymore.
Manager Jim Leyland took an unofficial shot at general manager Dave Dombrowski on Friday, essentially throwing his hands in the air, stating he's doing the best with the roster he has.
“Some fans believe Valverde is a Leyland creation,” Leyland said in a Detroit Free Press article by Steve Schrader, quoted by Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “They think the manager loves him or he wouldn’t be here. I don’t understand who they think we should be closing with. I’m asking that question, ‘Who the (expletive) should I be closing with?"
Leyland is just as frustrated as fans are with the handling of the closer situation since the end of last season.
The Tigers have been wrong every step of the way determining the closer for this year.
The day after Detroit was swept out of the playoffs, Valverde was rightly let go. The Tigers were joined by every single MLB team in their disdain for Valverde's services in 2013, and they focused on another direction.
That focus incorrectly turned to rookie Bruce Rondon.
Everyone knows how poorly that decision has worked out for the Tigers thus far and Detroit doesn't have time to worry about Rondon's development this season.
The Tigers don't even have time to wait until the July 31 trade deadline.
They need to make a move now.
Tom Millikan wrote an article for 97.1 the Ticket stating why he thinks Rick Porcello, who's been rumored as trade bait for the better part of a year now, should replace Valverde as closer.
Putting Porcello in the back end of the bullpen and moving second-year lefty Drew Smyly is an interesting concept that could work, but regardless of what the Tigers do, almost anyone on the rubber in the ninth is a better option than Papa Grande.