Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gr8: #7 Joaquin Benoit, Set Up Man-Beast

The “Great Eight of 2011” will be a look at the eight Tigers that impressed me the most in 2011. The order I am choosing these players in is not necessarily who the best overall player was. No, these guys are simply the ones that made me say “wow” more than anyone for whatever reason.

Here’s what I said immediately after the free agent signing of Joaquin Benoit in last year’s offseason:

It’s a gutsy move by Dombrowski, but if Benoit pitches close to like he did for the Rays, it’s one that we’re all going to be thrilled about. It also gives Joel Zumaya more leeway in making his comeback as he won’t be counted on to immediately be the bridge to Jose Valverde in 2011.

Zoom who? Good gawd, I love being right.

Benoit wasn’t a slam dunk, though. He started out great. Through April 22nd, Benoit had a 0.92 ERA in his first 10 appearances. Two appearances and nine days later, that ERA was 8.18. Let the early season panicking begin! Indeed, I was part of that, too, as my personal choice for a setup man, Grant Balfour, was dropping his ERA to sub-2 numbers in Oakland at that time. Stupid Dombrowski NEVER listens to me!

But Benoit would only have two bad outings the rest of the SEASON after that. The dude was a beast and a big part of why the Tigers didn’t lose a game all year when leading after seven innings. Joaquin Benoit was the man.

He only allowed three earned runs in all of June. In July, he allowed one. After a rough outing on August 2nd against Texas, Joaquin Benoit didn’t allow a run the rest of the year. If that’s not some impressive shit, I don’t know what is.

And never was Benoit’s brilliance more on display than in the playoffs where he would repeatedly be called upon to pitch multiple innings due to Jim Leyland not being able to trust anyone in the Tigers’ young bullpen. Benoit went 7.2 innings over 5 games and allowed only one run. You can’t ask for more in a playoff setting than that.

With his injury history, advancing age, and the unlikely chance of his repeating his miracle 2010 numbers with Tampa, I was skeptical of the 3 year deal DD gave to Benoit. But after a year of seeing the man in action, I think we can safely say he’s the real deal and an essential part of the Tigers’ chances at another pennant in 2012.

Fun stats that jumped out at me:

-Right handed batters hit only .184 against him. (Lefties-.248)

-His home ERA at spacious Comerica Park was 3.55. On the road, 2.25. That’s odd.

-Overall in the second half, his ERA was 1.33, allowing only 4 earned runs. He is the Raburn of the pitching staff.

-With 2 outs and RISP, hitters only batted .143 against him. That’s awesome to a fan like myself who is so accustomed to Tiger relievers coming in with runners on base and them immediately scoring before FSD can get the guy’s stats on the screen.

-In 14 games against Minnesota and Chicago, Benoit gave up exactly ZERO runs. I should own his jersey by now.

So yeah, Joaquin Benoit is good. Damn good. (But I’d still like to get Balfour for the 7th inning, puh-leeze, Uncle Dave?)

1 comment:

Jay Hathaway said...

Perhaps we can get Balfour now that fellow Aussie Brad Thomas has departed.  I believe we have a 1-Australian quota to fill.