2012 Prediction Series: Jose Valverde

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

During the offseason, Justin Verlander disguised himself and unsuccessfully attempted to get into the perfect club. If there was such a luxurious lounge for closers, Jose Valverde would have had a police escort and Kate Upton’s boobs would not have gotten in the way.

Arguably the best closer the Tigers have ever had – wait, what?Valverde was a perfect pitcher in 2011 when it came to doing his job, saving every game he was called on to … save. He was 49 out of 49, not including the three doors he slammed shut in the postseason.

Yeah, he had a 5.79 ERA/1.71 WHIP in non-save situations, but that’s not exactly why he was given a two-year/$14 million deal with a third-year option worth another $9 million, which the Tigers were happy to exercise, followed by a 30-second Jose Valverde themed dance party. In save situations, the Big Potato spits it into another gear, the celebrations get a bit more elaborate and the innings more routine. It’s still hard to believe some fans actually had a problem with the Tigers signing this guy, who is more affectionately known as Papa Grande.

What he needs to work on:

It’d be nice to see him get his walk rate back down to what it was from 2005-2009, when he was walking just a little over three batters per nine innings. During those years, he was also more than compensating for any free passes by striking out a lot of hitters per nine. Unfortunately, his last two seasons have seen him striking out career lows per nine, which means some of the luck may eventually wear off and it won’t just be non-save situations where he sees an inflated ERA.

What he needs to do to improve: 

If his strikeout rate doesn’t recover a bit, he needs to cut down on the walks. If he doesn’t cut down on the free bases, he’ll have to mix it up a little more than he did in 2011 when he relied heavily on his fastball and not much else. Like Grey says of Verlander, though, I think we may have already seen the very best of Valverde. Tigers fans will be better off hoping for him to stay healthy rather than him improving on his 2011 season.

What he will do: 

Face it, he’ll probably blow a handful of games and his ERA will likely drift closer to his career average than 2011′s. That doesn’t mean he won’t be amongst the best closers in the game (or players; remember he blew 14 games over two seasons in which he received MVP votes). He’ll have 30-40 saves because the Tigers are going to win 90-plus games and he apparently has new dance moves! But I don’t think expecting another 0.55 ERA during save situations is good for anybody’s health.

Walkoff Woodward Bubblegum Card Prediction

IP 64, K 62, BB 33, 38 saves, 3.07 ERA

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