November 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Kurt Mensching

Bruce Rondon may be Tigers' best plan in ninth inning

Tigers prospect Bruce Rondon, who turns 22 in December, had a 1.53 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 52 appearances ranging from Single A Lakeland to Triple A Toledo. (Robin Buckson/Detroit News)

The MVP debate — Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera or Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout — brought advanced statistics to the forefront.

WAR (Wins Above Replacement), a sabermetric statistic, became the centerpiece.

Could that string-theory of baseball tell you who was most valuable, or did it fail to capture the entire story of a player and miss the point of the award?

Cabrera took home the hardware, either a victory for those who believe one statistic can't tell you everything or a victory for those who are happy we're talking about WAR.

But here's a look at a statistic we can actually measure a little simpler: the save.

An official stat since 1969, those who look at the value of it claim the save is overvalued.

It gives agents and players permission to ask for far more money simply because they pitch the final inning of a game — sometimes.

Toughest three outs

Jose Valverde had 110 saves during his three seasons with the Tigers.

But during Valverde's entire stay — even his 49-for-49 season in 2011 — Valverde always seemed on the verge of blowing a game.

He allowed too many runners, but often escaped because he only needed to get three outs and often had more than one run to work with.

Baseball people will tell you there are no tougher outs to get than those final three.

So, when Valverde stumbled in the postseason, so did the Tigers' chances.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland insisted the Tigers simply could not win the World Series going closer-by-committee.

Why overpay?

With Valverde gone, and the Tigers having filled their need in the corner outfield with Torii Hunter, the bullpen is the center of attention.

Specifically, a closer.

Names being tossed around are Joakim Soria, Jonathan Broxton, Rafael Soriano and Ryan Madson. And, Indians closer Chris Perez could be on the trade market.

Still, none of those options is perfect. Some players are coming off injuries, others haven't been effective.

Maybe that's why Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said Bruce Rondon is in play. Why overpay for saves when you've got options in house?

Rondon hasn't thrown a pitch in the majors, but that's not necessarily a problem if he can perform like he did in the minors.

The right-hander, who turns 22 in December, had a 1.53 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 52 appearances ranging from Single A Lakeland to Triple A Toledo.

Simply, teams shouldn't overpay in cases of uncertainty, especially when it's quite likely a player inside the organization can do the same job for less money.

The Tigers would be wise not to go shopping for saves this offseason.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog ( He can be reached at

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