You never know with closers these days. They can be an automatic ninth inning stopper one season and then just completely flop after that.
Valverde maybe fits this mold better than anyone else. After his record-setting 2011 season where he didn’t blow a single save, he posted one of the worst relief playoff outings in recent memory.
For those that may have forgotten (not you of course, Tigers fans), in game one of the 2012 ALCS, Valverde forfeit a 4-0 9th inning league to the Yankees behind a pair of two-run home runs. The Tigers did come back to win in extra innings and then cruise through the series – just for the record.
But lets take a few step backs, before the 2012 playoff run that doomed Valverde’s career:
- In 2011, Valverde set the record for most saves in a season without blowing a single save: 49
- Valverde is 1 of only 2 players with 25+ saves in 6 straight seasons (Papelbon the other)
- Valverde’s Career Numbers: 277 saves, 35 blown saves, 3.11 ERA
At 34 years old, Valverde could still have plenty saves left in him, and one person who is convinced the former Tigers closer deserves to be given another chance is Jim Leyland.
Speaking of Valverde remaining un-signed, Leyland said:
“I’m shocked, totally shocked. Broken-hearted, can’t believe it. This guy was absolutely fantastic, absolutely fantastic for us. One of the best teammates I’ve ever managed. For three years in a row, he had the most saves and the beset percentage. I can’t believe it. In a two week period, it seemed like everything this guy did got forgotten about. I just can’t even imagine that.”
If 2012 proved that Valverde just can’t be trusted when the pressure is on, maybe he just needs some pressure taken off him: A set-up role on a team that’s rebuilding? A chance to close games again in the National League?