The White Sox started 2012 without a “proven” closer. That bothered some people, but Ventura and the White Sox moved forward anyway. It didn’t quite work out the way they wanted it to so Addison Reed, an unproven closer himself, then got a shot. That…worked…out, I guess. Well it wasn’t awful. Meanwhile in Detroit, the Tigers had the proven OCD stylings of Jose Valverde. So proven was he that converted all 49 of his save opportunities the previous year. 2012 wasn’t a repeat of that success. He blew 5 saves, his ERA jumped, and his strikeout rate dropped nearly 7%. He wasn’t awful, just not as good as he had “proven” to be the year previous. And now he’s got no job.
Valverde’s fall from grace was slow, so looking at his 2012 stats as a whole doesn’t tell the complete story, but you can get an idea of his problems by looking at the small sample the 2012 playoffs has to offer. 4 games, 2 HR, 9 total runs, all spread across 3 series. It was so bad that he lost his job as closer mid-playoff run. The Tigers learned something from this. While they’re busy doling out cash to build up a fearsome offense, they can’t really afford to drop $9M on a closer like they did with Valverde last season. What we’ll likely see instead is them giving a youngster a chance.
Bruce Rondon looks to be the whippersnapper getting the shot, and he’s got heat. Clocked in the triple digits with his fastball, he’ll be missing a lot of bats but his control issues could keep bats on shoulders as well. Baseball-Reference has him listed as 6’2, 190, while a scouting report from Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks mentions him at 6’3 260. Who knows when those measurements were initially taken but at 21 guys tend to grow into the body type they’re going to carry into adulthood. He’s a big kid and at that age he’s got time to get bigger still. This could prove an issue for Detroit*, we shall see.
*I know, I know, he’ll fit right in, actually. It’s a big team!
Young managers are the new thing. Managers aren’t all the same but the results produced from skipper to skipper probably isn’t that great so why pay a high-priced manager to call your game? The same thing may apply to closers in the eyes of many executives. Why pay a Jose Valverde close to $10M when you can potentially get similar results from a guy that has a few years before he’ll get into 7 figures? It sort of worked out for the White Sox last season. Let’s see how it works out for the Tigers.