07 April 2012
We all knew the streak would eventually end. Jose Valverde, the All-Star closer who was a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities a season ago blew his first chance of the season on Thursday.
I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the Tigers picking up the $9 million team option on Valverde’s contract for this season (I’m a big believer that you don’t pay for saves), so watching the Somewhat Smaller Potato labor on the hill while Justin Verlander’s lead evaporated got under my skin a little bit. I got over my annoyance as soon as Austin Jackson’s ground ball skipped through the infield but, upon reflection, I really shouldn’t have been all that annoyed in the first place.
The blown save on opening day wasn’t necessarily the result of Valverde pitching poorly, it was more of a result of the Red Sox simply getting hits. DIPS theory tells us that pitchers have very little control of whether or not a batted ball falls in for a hit so, outside of strikeouts, walks, and home runs, we can credit very little of what happens to the pitcher. Valverde’s line of 1 K, 0 BB, 0 HR is going to get the job done way more often than not. His ERA may be 18.00 after Boston scored two runs while he was pitching, but his FIP (which I believe to be much more representative of how well the pitcher actually pitched) is a miniscule 0.39.
My issue with Valverde has been his elevated walk rate (it’s been above 4.2 per nine innings since he’s been in Detroit), but walks were obviously not an issue in this game. So Jose sits in the books as 0-1 in save opportunities, but if he’ll succeed far more often than not if he can maintain a strikeout per inning rate while keeping the walks low.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.