The Detroit Tigers’ bullpen has been the team’s ultimate downfall in recent postseasons. From Jose Valverde’s implosion, to the unlikely events in Boston, to the meltdown against Baltimore, the Tigers have had their share of problems in the department of relief pitching.
Take the bullpen struggles and couple them with a newly-minted, but largely-untested, back of the rotation and you realize Tom Gorzelanny is the perfect signing for the Tigers.
He’s not the biggest name, and he won’t summon thoughts of Trevor Hoffman when thought of by the fans, but he’s still a quality addition—an addition that makes sense for the Tigers.
Detroit’s bullpen is bad. You can look at statistic A or statistic B, but the bottom line is that the unit was poor in 2014.
Gorzelanny wasn’t the top option on the market, and with another team may not have been valued as much. However, with the Tigers Gorzelanny is an impact signing.
When I say he wouldn’t have been valued as much with another team, I’m in no way knocking Gorzelanny he had a fantastic season last year, with a 0.89 ERA in 23 innings—it’s just that other teams have more pitching depth.
With the Tigers, Gorzelanny has the potential to make an impact as a reliever and a starter.
The former Pirate made his name as a starting pitcher with Pittsburgh, winning 14 games and posting a 3.88 ERA in his first full major league season. After that, Gorzelanny struggled and eventually moved to the bullpen as a swingman, making the occasional start while predominantly working out of the bullpen.
From 2011 to 2013 he posted a 3.67 ERA in 188 appearances, 26 of which were starts. The lefty struck out 240 batters in 262.1 innings during that span.
The genius of the signing is that Gorzelanny provides ample cover in the Tigers’ two potential problem areas: the bullpen and the back end of the bullpen.
Detroit’s bullpen will be a very different looking bunch in 2015. Two of the team’s most consistent performers, Joba Chamberlain and Blaine Hardy, aren’t likely to feature as prominently. Chamberlain is a free agent and unlikely to return, while Hardy struggled down the stretch and will face competition from the likes of the returning Bruce Rondon and Ian Krol as well as newcomers Alex Wilson, Josh Zeid and Angel Nesbitt.
Gorzelanny is the also the perfect deputy for new starting pitchers Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon.
Should either Greene or Simon struggle, they can shift to the bullpen and work on improving while Gorzelanny fills in for a few starts.
In addition, should Simon have trouble replicating his All-Star numbers from 2014 (which is completely possible given his second-half struggles with the Reds last year), manager Brad Ausmus can flip-flop the two. Gorzelanny has experience in the rotation, while Simon has had success in a relief role. He turned in a 2.78 ERA in 99 relief outings for Cincinnati from 2012 to 2013. He threw 148.2 innings over that span, striking out 115.
If Gorzelanny thrives as a reliever (as his track record would suggest) or does the same in a starting role, it will be a successful signing. Even if he does a little of both and posts respectable numbers, the Tigers will have made another shrewd signing. The transaction was especially shrewd considering Gorzelanny signed for a reported $1 million, much less than fellow pitchers Zach Duke and Andrew Miller fetched.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.