My dream that could save the Tigers’ pitching staff

Maybe the key to fixing the Detroit Tigers' pitching staff is Justin Verlander's girlfriend Kate Upton?

Maybe the key to fixing the Detroit Tigers’ pitching staff is Justin Verlander’s girlfriend Kate Upton?

Following yet another blown save by the Detroit Tigers, I was tossing and turning, and it took me awhile to get to sleep. When I finally did, I had the strangest dream.

In my dream, I was Brad Ausmus and had assembled the pitching staff in the clubhouse for an emergency meeting.

“Look, guys, we have a hell of a lot of talent on this staff, but the way we’re using our resources just isn’t getting the job done. We’re blowing too many games. I’ve tried everything I can think of. It doesn’t matter who pitches in the seventh, the eighth, the ninth—we’re letting too many slip away.”

From his seat at the front of his cubicle, Joe Nathan says not to worry: he’s been closing his whole career, he’ll get it back together, and he’s not going to let one bad outing rattle him.

“That’s what you said in April, Joe,” Max Scherzer pipes up. “And in May, and in June, and in July. And now it’s August, and you’re still blowing saves, except for the times the final out gets caught at the warning track.”

Nathan shrugs and returns to examining his retirement prospectus.

“I’ve tried every Larry, Jo, and Curly,” continues Ausmus, trying to make light of things. “Jo as in Joe Nathan, as in Joakim, and even Joba. Nothing’s working.”

He sounds a bit perplexed, but then his—my—mood brightens.

“I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to think of a solution. Then I was watching MLB Network the other day and this sabermetrics guy came on and started talking about his idea that instead of a closer, you could use what he called an opener. His idea was to pitch a reliever in the first inning of the game, and then bring in the starter in the second inning.

From the lockers of Scherzer, JV, and David Price shouts arise.

“The more I heard about this, the more I thought his idea was interesting,” says I, meaning Brad, “but it didn’t go far enough. Maybe relievers could pitch into the second or third inning! You could do match-ups the first time through the lineup, and the opposing manager wouldn’t dare put up pinch-hitters because he’d be firing his bullets way too early!”

The whole pitching staff is now staring at me—at Brad—like I’m crazy, but I persist: “There’s nothing in the rules that says you have to announce your starting pitcher days ahead of time and stick to him—it’s not official until you bring out the lineup card to the umpire, is it? So we could have two, three guys warming up before the game, and they wouldn’t know who was going to pitch.

“Then we’d get one of the starters up in the first inning, so you’d be ready by the third or fourth. I might use two, three, four relievers before you come in and hold back a couple relievers for the very end or extra innings if we needed to. Then when a starter came in, he could pitch six or seven innings and finish the game. Of course, then he wouldn’t be a starter.”

The Cy Young winners start to stand up and huddle.

“Wait a minute, boys! I know you’re worried you won’t be getting the Ws you deserve any more. But wins alone don’t define the quality of a guy anyway—sorry to say this, Max—because they’re so dependent on run support.

“And look at it this way—you won’t see so many of your best efforts wasted when the bullpen turns a W into a no-decision or even a loss! In fact, you’ll probably get more Ws this way. You’ll get them if you are the dominant pitcher in a victory, because you can’t give them to a guy who starts the game and doesn’t go five, but come to think of it you can’t give a win to a pitcher who comes in and finishes a game if he enters with a lead, so you’ll get some saves too! And if we’re even or trailing when you enter the game or fall behind later, you’ll have even more chances to be the pitcher of record in a comeback win in the later innings.”

My monologue continues. I have the sensation of being unable to stop talking.

“I know you guys in the bullpen will have to adjust a little, but you’ll still be doing much the same thing, whether it’s pitching an inning or four or five outs or to a single batter.

“At first you might miss the adrenaline rush of riding in on your white horse to save the day, but a run counts the same whenever it’s scored—and let’s face it, none of you guys are going to lead the league in saves this year anyway, and the save is an even more bogus stat than the win…

By this point the Cy Youngs and the Jos grab some bats and start to walk slowly and deliberately toward their rookie manager. I shiver and gulp.

But in the nick of time—just like it usually happens in dreams—the clubhouse door opens, and Kate Upton walks in wearing only a big grin and a bikini. She grabs JV, who drops his bat, and plants a big kiss on him. Then she turns to face the rest of the mob, and in her best acting voice (not very good, but who cares?) says loudly: “Hey boys, what’s the problem here?”

And I swear to God, she puts her arm around my shoulders and says, “Braddie and I discussed his idea over dinner last night, didn’t we?” I smile and nod. I wish I could remember that part of the dream, but I can’t. “And I think it’s such a great idea that after every game you guys win from now on, I’m going to give massages to everyone who pitched that day.”

A big cheer goes up from the assembled hurlers.

“Just make sure you shower first, Joba. I’m not your Chambermaid, you know.”