For three years prior to this season, the Detroit Tigers relied upon closer Todd Jones. Well, if by relied upon you also mean suffered through. His performances were so vomit-inducing; he even earned the moniker “The Roller Coaster.” And if he hadn’t looked like any of the fat slobs who play in a softball beer league (a.k.a. any of us), we probably would’ve been angrier with him.
Todd Jones is a nice jolly guy, a baseball Santa Claus if you will, and we dealt with it. At least we thought we were dealing with it. In reality he was getting the job done much more often than not.
From 2006-2008 he saved 86-percent of his games. The American League average over that time was roughly 67-percent. The gold standard, Mariano Rivera, saved games at a 93-percent clip.
So, despite the stomach-turning, we were pretty lucky to have Jones around. Now we’re Jones-less but there is still plenty of drama thanks to Fernando Rodney.
Rodney is in his first season as a full-time closer. As of now, you can’t ask him to be any better: 19-for-19 in save opportunities. But man he makes it interesting and at times, nerve wracking. As pleased as I am with his ability to close the game out, even if it takes a few batters, I still have the same doubts I did when Jones took the hill. My biggest question: can any team win a championship with such an up-and-down closer?
The Yankees’ dynasties in the late 90’s and early 00’s showed us the benefit of a lockdown closer (Rivera). The Angels had K-Rod, the Marlins had Ugueth Urbina. Boston had Keith Foulke and Jonathan Papelbon. Chicago relied on Bobby Jenks while the Phillies could call on Brad Lidge. I would love to have a Mariano Rivera but I’d also love to be dating Marissa Miller. We can’t have everything.
All of the above teams had closers people regard as the best in the league. All of them have World Series Championships. Of course it’s not a sure thing. The 2006 Cardinals didn’t need a strong closer in that series and Byung-Hyun Kim was anything but clutch for the Diamondbacks in 2001. But that’s two series out of the last ten where the winner didn’t have a great closer.
I’m done with my statistical analysis/breakdown. Even if history is not on the Tigers side, I’m going to make up for all the Todd Jones bashing I have been guilty of for three years.
I’m going to appreciate a good thing the Tigers have going. I can only watch one game at a time. Watching the opposing team execute a two-out walk or a lead-off hit in the ninth inning of a one-run game can be tough to put into perspective. But when Rodney & company finally get three outs and the Tigers win, I should be thankful.
Rodney will go out and get the job done, even if it kills us all. I’m just going to enjoy it. The more games he has to save, means the more games Detroit is winning.