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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Valverde matches Hernandez, but Jose is no Guillermo

With a save in Saturday's 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, Tigers closer Jose Valverde matched the franchise Willie (Guillermo) Hernandez with his 32nd consecutive successful save. Hernandez, of course, was a perfect 32-for-32 in the World Championship season of 1984.

So am I writing this to say that Valverde should be a Cy Young/MVP candidate.

No. Hardly.

When you look at the rest of Valverde's numbers in comparison to Hernandez, they pale.

Valverde's ERA is a full run higher (2.92 to 1.92). Hernandez finished 68 games — Valverde is on a pace for 73 — but pitched 140.1 innings. If Valverde does indeed get to 73 games finished, he'll probably bury the single-season team record for saves (42, Todd Jones, 2000) with close to 50, but he'll only have 75 or so innings pitched.

And he won't come close to Hernandez's WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 0.941 — Valverde's is currently 1.297 — or his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.11 — Valverde's is 1.73.

But don't take this to mean that I think Papa Grande isn't valuable to the Tigers.

Again — hardly.

He's blown a total of three saves in 61 chances. Yes, he's been a roller-coaster in non-save situations, but he's been money when the save is on the line.

And that brings us to the other issue: Money.

Aside from the first-round pick it cost them to sign him, Valverde has cost the Tigers $6.9 million last year, and $7 million this year. He's got a club option for $9 million for next season, something the Tigers would be wise to pick up. Or if that's too much to invest in a guy who will be 34 on Opening Day, they might want to start renegotiations.

Either way, there's no one in the Tigers' system currently who's ready to be the closer of the future. Joel Zumaya is unsigned for next year, and hasn't pitched in more than a year, anyway. One former first-round pick, Ryan Perry, has been up-and-down — both literally and figuratively — and is currently in Toledo trying to work through his control issues. Another first-round pick, Chance Ruffin, could be the player-to-be-named-later in the trade-deadline deal with Seattle, and has only 15 innings pitched above the Double-A level to date, anyway.

Until someone else steps up to be an internal solution, the Tigers need to keep Valverde around — especially since it's not like they're going to get anyone on the open market for much less than the $9 million price tag they already have Valverde for in 2012 — if they want him.

And, the way he's going now, why wouldn't they?

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