Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/20/14
Detroit-tigers-kansas-city
Jose Valverde is 35 years old. Players in their late 30s never get better naturally, so his decline will come — sooner rather than later. However, as we sit here a day after Valverde’s resurfacing with the Tigers and first save of the season, there’s nothing to suggest that his decline is imminent in 2013. Moreover, Valverde never deserved to lose the Tigers’ closer’s role in the first place, so the reunion between the two sides not only benefits both parties, but the breakup itself never should have occurred. Back on Oct. 30, 2012, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated to reporters that the team had no intention of bringing back Valverde. This came on the heels of the closer’s well-documented meltdown in the postseason, blowing consecutive saves in the ALDS and ALCS. What Dombrowski exemplified was how far Valverde has fallen in Detroit, with the reliever essentially being looked at as a broken commodity. But while there’s no question that Valverde pitched very poorly during the playoffs, it begs other questions about how Dombrowski and the Tigers evaluate players. In short, Valverde was coming off a season in which he converted 35 of 40 save opportunities, pitched almost 70 innings for the second consecutive seasons and was just a calendar year removed from finishing fifth in Cy Young voting. Given the dearth of relief pitching and dependable closers around baseball, why isn’t that a player you’d like to return for another season? The usual mitigating stat that’s referenced on Valverde is his declining strikeout rate, which is worrying on the surface. After averaging about a strikeout an inning the previous three seasons, in 2012 Valverde’s ratio fell to 6.3 per inning — almost two fewer strikeouts per nine frames. While that correlated with an ERA about a run-and-a-half higher than 2011, all of Valverde’s other peripherals say the ERA was a fluke. The likely culprit for Valverde’s ERA is an increase in home runs allowed, but that also looks like a statistical outlier. While Valverde’s line drive rate in 2012 was essentially identical to 2010 (around 18 percent, which is why his home run increase looks like a fluke), other peripherals improved. His walk rate fell from the previous two seasons by almost one free pass per nine innings, so while his strikeout rate fell, his strikeout-to-walk ratio only declined a tick. Valverde’s fly ball ratio did increase in 2012, but it also fell in line with his peripherals prior to Detroit, when he was still a dependable closer. And, interestingly enough, in 2012 Valverde made no major changes in his approach — basically throwing the same pitches in the same situations about as often — so he hasn’t even begun to try to adjust his game plan as he’s aged. That bodes well going forward, as it gives him another tool to get hitters out. Basically, Valverde’s park-adjusted ERA (ERA+) hasn’t fluctuated much since 2006. He’s just as effective as he’s always been, whatever the peripherals say. To be fair to the counter-argument — and to show that Valverde is indeed aging — the most worrying number for the reliever, which is indicative of his declining strikeout rate, is Valverde’s falling swing-and-miss percentage. After hovering around 21 to 24 percent for most of his career, Valverde fell to 17 percent in 2010, rose to 19 percent in 2011 and fell to 12 percent in 2012. However, that only indicates an aging pitcher. These types of peripherals by themselves don’t solely indicate success or failure, and Valverde has shown other ways — as mentioned earlier, his lower walk rate — of adjusting. The point of all this hashing over SABR pet numbers is that, though Valverde has shown some signs of decline, he’s also showed signs of compensating and finding other ways to be effective. Basically, pitchers go through cold streaks and occasionally blow games, and the fact that Valverde fell out of favor in Detroit so hard and quick is only due to the reactionary nature of sports nowadays. The Tigers went out on a limb with their closer and are now eating crow. The question is why, with all the indicators that Valverde should continue to be successful in the short-term, Detroit was so fast to burn its bridges with a pitcher the team now will depend on to win games.
PLAYERS: Jose Valverde
TEAMS: Detroit Tigers
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

C-USA hired PR firm to help Marshall’s playoff chances

Wilson denies rumored Harvin rift, blames media for scrutiny

Report: Cowboys could limit DeMarco Murray's touches

Lakers announce Steve Nash to miss season with back issues

Is Mack Brown the best option for SMU?

Jeremy Kerley on new contract: 'Bentleys for everybody'

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Buss: Any FA who won’t play with Kobe ‘probably a loser’

NFL to start airing its own anti-domestic violence PSAs

Ex-Bronco John Boyett punched cabbie, told cops to call Elway

Former NFL QB still feels effects of concussions every day

Robert Klemko given four-week suspension from The MMQB

Michael Vick: Percy Harvin won't be a monster here

NFL teams facing potential must-win scenarios in Week 8

WATCH: Jeremy Lin poses as Adidas employee for prank

WATCH: Peyton screams at fans to 'shut the f- up!'

Father auctioning off infant son's soccer club allegiance

Love thanks T'Wolves fans in essay for not burning his jersey

WATCH: Browns WR 'kicks out' son over favorite player snub

Memorabilia dealer wants Todd Gurley reinstated immediately

Aaron Rodgers gave girlfriend Olivia Munn a 'special ring'?

The 10 college football programs with most to gain in Week 9

Most disappointing potential dynasties of divisional era

WATCH: OHL hockey coach goes off on reporter: ‘F*** you!’

PK Subban as Michael Jackson at Canadiens' Halloween party

Tigers News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

NFL teams facing must-win scenarios in Week 8

Programs with a lot on the line this week

Wilson denies rumored Harvin rift

Lakers: Steve Nash out for season

Is Mack Brown SMU's best option?

Are sports leagues finally getting serious about domestic violence?

Brian Urlacher rips Jay Cutler

On Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and embracing newfound roles

Top NFL storylines: Week 8

Kiffin's mom worried for son's safety

Report: Goodell will have to testify

Penguins do 'O Canada' following tragedy

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.