The Tigers made a splash this afternoon, inking former Angels closer Troy Percival to a two year deal, paying him $12 million. A couple of years ago, Troy was probably the best closer in the American League, if not all of baseball (Think pre-Gagne and Smoltz). The operative part of that sentence is the phrase “a couple of years ago.” Since then, he’s steadily declined, and although he’s arguably our best arm in the pen, he has a degenerative hip problem (Thank you Pat Caputo. I heard this on his radio show this evening) that could rear it’s ugly head at any time.
On the face of things, he had a solid 2004 season. He was 2-3, with a 2.90 ERA, and he saved 33 games. But it’s not so much his 2004 numbers that bother me as much as how they compare to the past couple. Let’s take a look at a few things. First off, strikeouts/9 innings
That’s some serious decline. What about WHIP? Probably a more telling stat then ERA for a closer.
Again, a decline. Finally, let’s look at Percival’s “Stuff”
That’s not good. He’s gone from a top line dominating closer to what could be considered a less then average thrower.
As a basis of comparison, here were some other 2004 Tiger reliver’s “Stuff”
Ugueth Urbina 8
Jamie Walker 8
Estaban Yan 3
Al Levine -18
Danny Patterson -15
So Percival was not nearly as bad as Danny Patterson or Al Levine, but not nearly as good Urbina, Walker, or even Yan.
I know this contrary to what a lot of the press is saying, but this deal only makes sense if we keep Urbina and use him as a setup man/spot closer. Percival is at an age and condition where he can’t neccesarily close back to back games, so we need Urbina to spot him. We turn Urbina into the pen work horse, and we pick our spots when we use Percival.
In order to warrant the $6 million a year, we need at least comparable numbers to 2003, if not somewhere between 2002 and 2003. But even then, this is a guy who hasn’t thrown more then 58 innings since 1998. I don’t know if the team can warrant paying $6 million for 50 innings of work. I think we could have done better had we found two decent relievers for $3 million a piece, or used the $6 million as a down payment on a top line starter.