Tuesday, I was watching MLB Now, MLB Network's new afternoon show featuring Brian Kenny and Harold Reynolds and a pretty moderator/referee/presenter whose name I don't recall. Early on, they got talking about the Detroit Tigers' lack of a designated closer, and it went something ... like ... this:
Kenny: This is brilliant, and Jim Leyland's just the manager to do it well.
Reynolds: You're wrong, Brian. You need a closer, and Phil Coke's the closer.
Kenny: But the Tigers say they don't have a closer.
Reynolds: I don't care what they say. Go back to last October, and what Coke did. And look at what he did in the Tigers' first game this season. I'm glad we'll have the tape of this show, because when we look back in August, Phil Coke's going to be the closer and he'll have 20 saves.
Kenny: Have you seen his numbers against right-handed hitters?
Reynolds: It doesn't matter!
Kenny: It does matter!
and ... scene!
My apologies to Brian and Harold for misquoting them; I should just record every show because it's really good, but I didn't think of it until afterward. Anyway, I must respectfully agree with Brian Kenny and disagree with Harold Reynolds. While I do believe that Jim Leyland will eventually designate a closer -- the temptation is just too great, even for an I-don't-give-a-damn-guy like Leyland -- but I don't think it will be Phil Coke.
Why? Because in his career, Phil Coke has ALLOWED A .300 BATTING AVERAGE AGAINST RIGHT-HANDED HITTERS AND TEAMS HAVE A LOT OF RIGHT-HANDED HITTERS.
Yes, today's an easy day to make this point, because Phil Coke blew a save opportunity. He faced three batters. While none of them was particularly potent, here's how things went:
L Fly ball
B Double (walkoff)
Granted, the last of those was reportedly cheap. But it would have gone for a sacrifice fly; Coke would have blown the save regardless, though he might not have actually lost.
Obviously it's just one game. But there's very little in Coke's four-year career as a major-league pitcher to suggest that he's your man when the game's on the line and a right-handed hitter is coming up. I've little doubt that Jim Leyland will come to the same conclusion before Memorial Day.