Jose Valverde led the National League in saves in 2007 and 2008.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In case you missed it, the Detroit Tigers signed former Houston Astros closer Jose Valverde to a two-year, $14 million deal.
This is great news for Valverde owners.
In going to Detroit, he pitches in a much more pitching-friendly ballpark as compared to the "bandbox" in Houston with the "Little League" left field porch. Consider that Valverde's ERA at home last year was 2.43 and on the road was 2.22.
He also heads to a club which scored exactly 100 runs more than the team he left (743 vs. 643) and gave up 25 less (770 vs. 745). That translates into more opportunities to save ball games. Tigers closers collected 42 saves last year, compared to 39 for the Astros.
Despite a stint on the DL from late April until mid-June, Valverde earned 25 saves in Houston. He pitched in 52 games (54.0 innings) and struck out 56 with an ERA of 2.33 and a WHIP of 1.13. Valverde led the National League in saves in 2007 and 2008.
Valverde should certainly be able to put manager Jim Leyland at ease based on a comparisons between last year's Tigers closer Fernando Rodney. Although Rodney had 37 saves in 2009, he was a "heart attack" to watch. Rodney's 4.40 ERA was the worst of any closer with 35-or-more saves and his WHIP of 1.47 was second only to Brad Lidge (1.81) in ineptitude.
Currently, Valverde is the 12th or 13th closer off the board, but that was before the signing. His value should rise because of opportunities and the more favorable ballpark. Given Rodney's production as a starting point and Valverde's better pitching stats, a 45-save season is a good possibility. That total, plus a strikeout-per-inning average makes Valverde a top-five closer in 2010.
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