Universally, media and fans alike felt like the Tigers biggest issue last year was their bullpen. Tigers President/GM Dave Dombrowski has addressed it by trading for a middle reliever and signing the best free agent closer on the market-Joe Nathan. Nathan comes at a reasonable price (2 years; 20-mill with a club option) and his track record is undeniable. He ranks tenth all time in saves and is coming off a season where he had 43 saves, boasted his second best ever WHIP and registered his second best ERA of 1.39.
There are some who don't like it because Nathan is 39 and there are others who feel like he's lost something on his fastball. I would ask them how old is too old and how old is not old enough? If he's too old at 39, was he too old at 38? He's lost a little something off his fastball, but since when does that mean a player can no longer be an effective closer. Mariano Rivera didn't have one, he used a cutter to become the best ever. Koji Uehara tops out around 89-90 with his fastball and he was good enough to help the Red Sox win it all. Jim Johnson had 50 saves, but he sure doesn't have an electric fastball. Look at one of the best in the game in Aroldis Chapman of the Reds-awesome stuff, reaches triple digits, but Nathan was better in close situations (blew 3 to Chapman's 5); had a better ERA, WHIP and BAA.
ESPN"s Keith Law idiotically suggested Nathan is a, "traditional, one-inning, break-the-glass-only-in-save-situation closer." Who isn't? Look at the numbers: Craig Kimbrel 68 games and 67-innings; KC's Greg Holland the same thing; Rivera appeared in 64 games and pitched 64-innings. All these guys are one-inning closers-Soriano, Chapman, Rodney, Romo, Balfour, Grilli. There aren't many Willie Hernandez's any more.
Nathan's signing doesn't guarantee the Tigers a division, league or world title, but it sures up the back end as well as they could have hoped. Now, the Tigers just got to get the game him.
Matt Shepard is the play-by-play voice of University of Michigan basketball, Eastern Michigan University football and the Detroit Lions television network. He can also be found on TV locally on Fox Sports Detroit and nationally on the Big Ten Network for college hockey and baseball.Learn more.