Francisco Rodriguez Replaced as Tigers Closer by Justin Wilson

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2017

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 11:  Francisco Rodriguez #57 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park on April 11, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers named Justin Wilson their new closer in place of Francisco Rodriguez, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Tuesday. 

Rodriguez has a 8.49 ERA in 13 appearances this year. He blew saves in back-to-back games as the Tigers lost to the Oakland Athletics last Saturday and Sunday.

"I'm more embarrassed than anything else," Rodriguez said of his early struggles, per Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today.

The Detroit Free Press joked about the impending sense of doom Tigers fans have felt when Rodriguez took the mound in relief:

Freep Sports @freepsports

And now, for what many of us weren't waiting for... K-Rod is warming up in the #Tigers bullpen https://t.co/4A5qtzwjYf

The 35-year-old is coming off a relatively solid debut season in the Motor City. He racked up 44 saves and posted a 3.24 ERA along with a 3.83 FIP, per Baseball-Reference. His career-low 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings were a cause for concern, though.

Opposing hitters are now teeing off on Rodriguez's fastball. Here's a comparison of how hitters performed against the pitch in 2016 versus 2017, per Brooks Baseball:

Velocity90.10 mph88.77 mph
BA Against.225.350
SLG Against.3001.000
ISO Against.075.650
Source: Brooks Baseball

The frequency with which Rodriguez throws his fastball exacerbates the problem. Through 11.2 innings, fastballs have accounted for 44.67 percent of his pitches, according to Brooks Baseball.

Moving Rodriguez out of the closer role makes sense for the Tigers. The team can't afford to keep using him in the ninth inning until he turns things around. Wilson, meanwhile, has pitched well this year, allowing only two earned runs in 13.2 innings. Wilson is also striking out 14.5 batters per nine innings, according to Baseball-Reference.

Given the team's struggles in the bullpen over the years, Tigers fans are well aware of how damaging it can be to lack a reliable option in high-pressure, late-inning situations.

Demoting Rodriguez will offer some help to Detroit, but it doesn't remedy a bullpen that has the second-worst FIP (5.14) in MLB, according to FanGraphs


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.