Walkoff Woodward

Concerning Detroit Baseball
March 11, 2014

30 Tigers in 30 Days: #19 — Phil Coke

Phil Coke | Pitcher | #40
Age: 31
2014 salary: $1.9 million
2013 statistics: 5.40 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 38.1 IP, 3 HR, 21 BB, 30 K, 4.93 BB/9, 7.04 K/9
Projected role: Bullpen

Hang loose! (Photo by your friendly neighborhood blogger)

Hang loose! (Photo by your friendly neighborhood blogger)

Phil Coke is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and smothered in secret sauce. No one really knows what, exactly, we’ll get from the mercurial lefthander for the 2014 season. Coming into the 2013 season, Coke was expected to compete for the closer’s role, but struggled out of the gate and never really got it together. Coke recently admitted during spring training that he was dealing with personal, off-field issues and intimated that he might not have been completely focused at times.

Coming into 2014, Coke seems as good a candidate as any for a bounce-back year. However, outside of halves of seasons where he’s put up passable numbers, Coke has yet to maintain it through an entire season. And in 2013, he was just downright awful, as both lefties and righties feasted on him.

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
vs RHB as LHP 39 89 71 11 20 7 0 2 14 10 .282 .395 .465 .860 .300
vs LHB as LHP 45 88 77 15 23 6 0 1 7 20 .299 .345 .416 .760 .373
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/11/2014.


In 2013, Coke seemed to lack a consistent release point, as seen here. Coke doesn’t appear to have much of an idea of where his pitches are going. An inconsistent release point or arm slot might have contributed. Has he gotten it under control? If he has gotten it under control, is it something he can maintain for an entire season? Or is the inconsistent release point just something Coke will have to battle for the rest of his career?

With Ian Krol putting together a strong spring, manager Brad Ausmus insisting he isn’t married to the idea of two lefties in the bullpen, Coke’s own shaky performance thus far, and the fact Coke’s contract is non-guaranteed, the 2013 postseason may very well have been the last we’ll see of Coke in a Tigers uniform. If you are in love with the idea of two lefties in the bullpen, keep in mind that Luke Putkonen put up a strong reverse platoon split, meaning the big righty was effective against left handed batters:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
vs RHB as RHP 27 72 65 10 17 0 0 4 6 10 .262 .319 .446 .766 .250
vs LHB as RHP 22 55 50 4 13 0 0 0 3 18 .260 .302 .260 .562 .406
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/11/2014.

Putkonen, who’s been having a solid spring himself, could be used against left handed batters. Putkonen’s array of offspeed pitches made him tough on lefties in 2013; if Coke continues to struggle, perhaps Putkonen comes north and the Tigers stick with only one left hander.

Another potential option, besides taking a second left in the ‘pen, is Al Alburquerque. Alburquerque struggled in 2013, but he’s been stingy against both righties and lefties for his career:

I Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
vs RHB as RHP 98 257 207 21 33 7 0 3 47 82 .159 .319 .237 .556 .244
vs LHB as RHP 83 198 169 18 33 2 0 2 24 73 .195 .301 .243 .544 .326
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/11/2014.

The Tigers also have Casey Crosby, Kyle Lobstein, José Alvarez, and Duane Below, though Lobstein and Alvarez are viewed as starters (and potential rotation depth should a starter get hurt), and Crosby and Below seem like long shots at this point.

All of that being said, should Coke make the opening day roster and things go right for him, you can expect a year like 2011, where he posts a slightly elevated ERA but the peripherals look solid. ZIPS projects a 4.47 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 46.3 IP, 3.50 BB/9 and 7.78 K/9. ZIPS also expects Coke’s low HR/FB to normalize a bit, from 0.70 HR/FB in 2013 to 0.97 HR/FB in 2014.

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