Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Leyland doesn't argue for show: "I'm not going to make a fool of myself."

    If you thought Jim Leyland was merely trying to fire up his struggling, injury-depleted troops when he charged out of the dugout to dispute umpire Marty Foster's obviously erroneous "safe" call at second base on Monday night, then you don't know the Tigers' manager very well.
    Because Leyland doesn't do that. He doesn't believe in it.
    "I'm not like some managers who go out there after the umpires to fire up their team," Leyland insisted last week, before his latest outburst.
    "I've never been a manager who did that. To me, that's just a sign of frustration.
    "If I've got to do that, we've got a horse-manure team," Leyland added.
    "I'm not going to go out there and make a fool of myself if I think the umpire is right," Leyland continued.
    "I'm not going to lie to my players when I think the umpire made the correct call. I'm not going to just put on a show for the fans."
    Monday night, Leyland was convinced Foster was wrong -- on two counts.
    First, the umpire called the sliding B.J. Upton safe when the replays clearly showed rookie Will Rhymes had tagged him out.
    Then Foster accused Leyland of spitting on him.
    That was what really set the Tigers' manager off.
    "That was a blatant lie," Leyland, still seething, told reporters after the game.
    "That's a serious accusation and I'm not gonna accept it," Leyland said. "I'm not going to take that from anybody. I don't even spit on the ground."
    According to Leyland, he had been munching on a mouthful of sun flower seeds when Foster's "safe" call sent him racing out on the field. When Leyland launched his protest, some of the seeds flew out of his mouth and struck the umpire's shirt. But it was unintentional.
    Nevertheless, it is possible the Tigers' manager could be suspended after the incident is reviewed by the commissioner's office.
    "I don't know what they're going to do and I don't give a damn," Leyland said after Monday's game. "I'm tired of protecting umpires. I'm tired of not being able to say anything. When you start accusing somebody of doing something, you'd better be careful. I'm defending myself. If you want to kick me out, that's fine."
    My favorite Leyland ejection occurred in 2006 when he came out of the dugout in the middle of the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium to dispute plate umpire James Hoye's idea of balls and strikes. But just as the argument was warming up, the traditional singing of "God Bless America" began. Leyland stopped in mid-epithet, respectfully stood at attention alongside the the umpire until the song ended, then, knowing he was gone anyway, resumed his tirade.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tigers' rash of injuries have other teams hoping to make a desperation steal

    Dave Dombrowski's phone is going to ringing nonstop this week. Other teams, having heard about the injuries to Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen, smell blood. They are like sharks in the water, hoping the Tigers might be desperate enough now to do something dumb.
    There is no sympathy in baseball.
    With the trade deadline looming at 4 p.m. on Saturday, everybody is looking for a good deal -- or a steal.
    There is real feeding frenzy during this final week to make trades without waivers.
    "Things change daily at this time of the year," Dombrowski said. "These days are like weeks the rest of the year."
    And other teams know the Tigers have plenty of fresh meat in their farm system.
    But most of the best of the Tigers' young prospects are already needed in the big leagues. And they are not about to part with promising young pitchers Jacob Turner or Andy Oliver unless they are offered another "Miguel Cabrera deal" -- in other words, a trade simply too good to turn down.
    Ryan Strieby, Wilkin Ramirez, or Charles Furbush might be available but they aren't likely to bring much in return.
    A report out of Washington alleges the Tigers have "great interest in Nationals' slugger Adam Dunn. That might make sense, depending upon the Nationals' price.
    The 30-year-old Dunn, who is due about $4 million the rest of this season before he becomes a free agent at the end of the year, is a bona fide slugger. He is currently hitting .281 with 23 homers and 63 RBIs. And he has belted at least 38 home runs each year since 2004.
    Dunn, who is definitely not another Aubrey Huff, would help Cabrera carry the slugging load and ease some of the pressure on Brennan Boesch and the kids Jim Leyland now finds himself forced to play every day.
    On Saturday, Leyland flatly denied that the Tigers have any interest in veteran third baseman Mike Lowell or left handed  pitcher Ted Lilly. Of course, that was before Ordonez and Guillen joined Brandon Inge on the disabled list.
    Meanwhile, Dan Haren -- who supposedly was near the top of  the Tigers' "wish" list, even though the Tigers were on Haren's "no trade" list -- was traded to Angels on Sunday.
    I have never understood why teams like the Diamondbacks willingly shower a player like Haren with millions of dollars, ($44.75 million for four years) then dump that same guy less than halfway through his contract because he is making too much money.
    Sometimes baseball doesn't make much sense.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Injuries to Ordonez, Guillen open door for newest Tigers Larish, Rhymes

    Will Rhymes was having a late dinner in a Toledo restaurant Saturday night with his mother, his girl friend and his twin brother when his cell phone rang. It was Mud Hens' manager Larry Parrish.
    Rhymes stepped outside to take the call. When he returned to the table, he couldn't hide his huge smile.
    After six years in the bushes, he was finally going to the big leagues for the first time. 
    "I was a little shocked," Rhymes admitted Sunday morning. "Everything is going fast right now."
    Shortly after 11 p.m. Saturday, Jeff Larish had just returned to the apartment he shares, ironically, with Rhymes, when he got his call.
    Having been summoned to the big leagues twice before, in 2008 and '09, he knew what to do. Larish rushed back to Fifth Third Field and hurriedly began packing his equipment.
    Then Rhymes walked  through the clubhouse door. "When I saw him, I knew we were both going up," Larish said.
    Neither player slept a great deal Saturday night. First thing Sunday morning, they drove to Detroit together in Larish's car.
    "I talked to him all the way up," said Larish, the seasoned veteran of the two, as he moved into the locker recently vacated by Ramon Santiago while Rhymes sat at a table with Tigers' vice-president and legal counsel John Westhoff, signing his first big league contract.
    "There's a lot of things you have to go through when you first get to the big leagues," Larish said. "But most of them, you have to experience for yourself."
    Larish checked the lineup card posted outside the locker room and saw he was starting in the opening game of Sunday's doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays.
    "It's the same game," said the young left-handed slugger who can play first base or third. "I'm just going to try to relax as best I can and be myself."
    Just then, Jim Leyland, still clad in his underwear, marched into the clubhouse to greet his two new players.
    First, he shook hands with Larish. Then he spotted the 5-foot-9, 155-pound Rhymes, who caught Leyland's eye in spring training with his hustle and his hard-nosed approach to the game..
    "Whattaya say, Rhymesy?" the manager exclaimed.
    "You're playing the second game today," Leyland told him after the two embraced.
    "My mother and brother and girl friend are all coming to the game," Rhymes replied proudly.
    "Well, tell them to get here early," Leyland said, "just in case I pinch hit for you in the second inning."
    Then the manager laughed and walked away.
    Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Houk takes rumors of 1973 tampering by the Tigers with him to his grave

    Did the Tigers tamper with Ralph Houk in September of 1973 by inviting him to become their manager while he was still managing the New York Yankees? I long ago suspected that was true. So, briefly, did the American League.  But no evidence ever surfaced to prove it.
    Now we will never know. With the passing on Wednesday of Houk, at age 90, both he and former Tigers' general manager Jim Campbell, who died in 1995, have taken that secret to their graves.
    Back in the fall of '73, there were accusations and speculation that Campbell and the Tigers had broken the rules.
    It was no secret that Houk and Campbell, both career baseball men from the old school, were friends. It was only natural that they would talk. And those conversations would eventually have focused in their respective situations.
    Campbell, fed up with Billy Martin's antics and insubordination, had fired the fiery Tigers' manager in early September of 1973. Meanwhile, in New York, Houk, the no-nonsense battle-hardened "Major" who had earned the Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart during World War II and who had led a battalion of Rangers during the Battle of the Bulge, had become fed up with new Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner's constant meddling.
    When Houk quit as the Yankees' skipper, much to Steinbrenner's surprise, minutes after the final game of the '73 season -- which, ironically, was against the Tigers -- Campbell hired him almost immediately.
    Both men insisted everything was done on the up-and-up. The suggestion of impropriety, they said, was simply sour grapes on the part of the Yankees over unceremoniously losing  their manager.
    The story had a short shelf life, especially after the AL conducted a cursory investigation and dismissed the charges.
    But I still believe that deal was secretly hatched sometime in mid-September, after Campbell canned Martin but before Ralph resigned.
    Houk managed the Tigers for five mostly miserable years from 1974 through 1978, winning 363, losing 463, never finishing higher than fourth in the AL East.
    The patient yet firm Houk was the perfect antidote in the wake of the tempestuous Martin as the Tigers embarked on an overdue rebuilding program after trying in vain to coax one more championship out of their aging 1968 team.
    Personally, I found Houk a treat to cover -- even after he threw his spikes at me during spring training, sailing his shoes inches above my head as I sat in a chair in front of his desk in his Marchant Stadium office after I had sharply criticized the Tigers' lackadaisical performance in my column the previous day.
    I ducked. The spikes missed. Hopefully, Houk was a better shot with a rifle during World War II than he was with his shoes.
    But I knew Houk, who never criticized his team publicly, was using me for target practice to send a message to his players, who were seated just outside his open office door.
    "Boy, is the manager ever mad," the players must have thought. "We had better play harder or he'll throw his spikes at us."
    The next day, when I walked into the Tigers' dugout, Houk just cackled. "Everything okay, captain?" he asked.
    I understand what he meant. "Everything's fine," I replied.
    And neither of us ever mentioned those flying spikes again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Inge's busted hand hurts Tigers' postseason hopes and possibly his future

     It's amazing how quickly things can change. In a moment. In one pitch.
    Two weeks ago, Brandon Inge was standing in front of his locker, a smile on his face, talking about how much fun baseball had become again.
    After suffering through an increasingly painful second half last season, then undergoing off-season surgery on both knees followed by a lengthy, often frustrating rehab, Inge was admittedly amazed at how much better he felt.
    He was running much faster. He was again fielding like the Inge of old. And he was finally hitting with regularity once more.
    Early in the season, even Inge had his doubts.
    "I didn't want to panic anyone, but I was afraid they (his knees) weren't coming around," he admitted. "Earlier in the year, when the adrenaline hit me and I pushed it, I'd get instant feedback from my knees. But now when I push off, the only thought is the goal of getting where I want to go."
    Aside from the fact it took him longer to loosen up his knees before the start of each game -- a small price to pay -- Inge, at age 33, felt as good as new.
    He was looking forward to a solid second half.
    Then, in an instant, everything changed.
    Inge was struck on the hand by a pitch from the Rangers' Scott Feldman on Monday night.
    Now Inge, a guy who hates to sit still, is staring at four to six weeks on the shelf with a busted bone in his left hand.
    It was a costly blow, both for the Tigers' suddenly flickering postseason hopes, and possibly for Inge's future.
    Two weeks ago, there was little doubt the Tigers would offer Inge a new contract when his current deal expires at the end of the season. Inge has made it clear he hopes to stay here and, even at $6.6 million, he remains a bargain in today's baseball.
    Now, depending upon how effective Inge is when he returns, the Tigers might want to rethink that decision.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Jekyll-and-Hyde Tigers' inability to win on road is inexplicable, but nothing new

Blame it on Bill Brown. That's as good an explanation as any for the Tigers' continued inability to win on the road.
Brown is the Tigers' long-time, and long-suffering, traveling secretary. He sets up the team's charter flights, he reserves the hotel rooms, he books the buses, he handles the players' ticket requests, and he dispenses the daily $106 meal money allowance that each player receives at the start of each trip.
It is often a thankless job. Any time any of the above goes awry, the players invariably blame the bearded Brownie.
In the wake of their weekend wipeout that wasn't supposed to happen, the Tigers now own a wretched 16-29 record on the road. Only the Orioles and Mariners in the American League, and the Nationals, Pirates and Diamondbacks in the NL have won fewer games away from home this year. Not surprisingly, all five of those teams reside in last place, a combined 99 games removed from first place
However, thanks to their AL-best 32-13 record at Comerica Park going into Monday night's homestand opener against the Rangers, the Tigers remain very much in contention in the AL Central, tied with the Twins for second place, just 1 1/2 games behind the resurgent White Sox.
The contrast between the Tigers' performance at home and on the road is striking -- and inexplicable.
Of course, the Tigers' road woes are nothing new. They won 35 and lost 47 away from Comerica last season -- and still missed the post season by just one game. Imagine if they had won just one more game on the road during the regular season. Then that sudden-death eliminator in Minnesota would never have happened.
Since 1993, the Tigers have won more often than they lost on the road just twice -- in 2007, and in the pennant-winning summer of '06.
If the Tigers hope to extend their season significantly into October, they are going to have to continue their home magic and at the same time find a way to win more often on the road.
Their next 31 games will all be against teams that are currently playing winning baseball. No more "soft-touch" Cleveland Indians, not for quite a while.
Twenty-four of those next 31 games between now and Aug. 20 will be against the Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees, and White Sox -- presently the five best teams in the AL.
The next five weeks will define this season.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

All-Star Game, once the greatest show on earth, has become a three-ring circus

    Excuse me for being old, but when I think of the All-Star Game, I think of outfields composed of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Al Kaline, or Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson.
    Sorry, but Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford and Ichiro Suzuki, or Andre Ethier, Ryan Braun and Jason Heyward just don't do it for me.
    Even the presence of Miguel Cabrera in the American League's starting lineup -- but by default, not because he actually deserves it and garnered the necessary votes -- doesn't pique my interest.
    The All-Star Game, which began as a sideshow to Chicago's 1933 World's Fair is now a full-blown three-ring circus, complete with a Home Run Derby (a novel idea that has been blown way out of proportion), a red carpet (6,000 yards of it according to one report), and a softball game pitting former big leaguers against celebrity musicians and actors. Hollywood hogwash.
    As a kid, I used to think the All-Star Game was the greatest show on earth -- next to the the World Series which was also contested during the afternoon and actually meant something, of course.
    I much confess that, as a kid, I always rooted for the National League. Back in the day, they were the guys who won all the time.
    My favorite teams, when I was growing up, were the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Milwaukee Braves, and then the San Francisco Giants, mainly because of Mays.
    You know a guy is old when two of the teams he used to root for are extinct.
    Meanwhile, all of baseball, starting with Bud Selig, should be embarrassed that Brennan Boesch is not on this year's All-Star team.
    Nick Swisher? Give me a break. As far as I'm concerned, his ballot-stuffing selection is just one more reason to hate New York.
    Back in the 1950s I wouldn't think of missing the All-Star Game. Now I won't waste my time watching it.
    How about you?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rumors of possible trade involving Porcello send livid Leyland on the warpath

    An internet report that the Tigers might be showcasing Rick Porcello at Toledo for the purpose of trading him, had Jim Leyland on the war path over the weekend.
    "That's totally irresponsible (bleeping) journalism," the seething Tigers' manager declared.
    "That (a trade involving Porcello) is not close to even being discussed."
    Leyland called the rumor, which first surfaced on on FOXsports.com and then took on a life of its own, "a blatant lie.
    "People don't realize, rumors like that hurt people," Leyland continued. "Now Porcello is sitting there wondering what's going on."
    In fact, Leyland revealed, Porcello will be recalled immediately after the All-Star break and will start against the Indians in their day-night doubleheader in Cleveland on July 17.
    The Tigers are not looking to trade the struggling Porcello, whom they still see as a prominent member of the starting rotation for many years to come.
    Which, Leyland readily admitted, is not to say the 21-year-old right hander wouldn't be available if another team knocked on the Tigers' door with the right offer.
    "Does that mean Porcello is untouchable? He's not," Leyland said. "If the Cardinals called offering Albert Pujols for him, we'd listen."   
    That also doesn't mean the Tigers wouldn't like to make a deal or two before the July 31 trade deadline.
    The Tigers would like to add another relief pitcher, preferably a veteran with some big league experience, to bolster their bullpen.
    "But at this point, to my knowledge, we have absolutely nothing going," Leyland said.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Galarraga has to wonder: What's a guy have to do to earn a little respect?

    Fame is fleeting. Armando Galarraga found that out, first-hand, this week, much to his dismay.
    Five weeks ago, Galarraga was a pitcher on the bubble. The Tigers had to make room on their roster and in their starting rotation for Max Scherzer, who was returning from a tuneup at Toledo, and I had a hunch Galarraga would be the one to go.
    But the Tigers opted to unload Dontrelle Willis instead. And three days later, Galarraga become the toast of the country when he tossed a game that was marred only by the glaring blunder of umpire Jim Joyce.
    At the time, Jim Leyland was seriously considering skipping Galarraga the next time through the rotation in order to keep the other starters, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Jeremy Bonderman and Scherzer, on schedule.
    Of course, after Galarraga's purloined perfecto, Leyland didn't dare do that.
    However, since his infamously asterisked perfect game, Galarraga is 1-1 with four no-decisions.
    Not bad -- but not what people had come to expect after that magic night.
    On Tuesday, Galarraga -- still the low man on the Tigers' starting totem pole --  was shipped back to Toledo, albeit temporarily.
    It was a demotion that, a month ago, would have been utterly unthinkable.
    The way the brass explained it, the move allowed the Tigers to bolster their recently-battered bullpen by calling up rookie sinker-baller Robbie Weinhardt, and will also give Galarraga -- who wasn't scheduled to pitch again until after the All-Star break --  a chance to stay sharp with a start in Triple A.
    That makes perfect sense. But trying telling that to the Tigers' right-hander who obviously was blind-sided by the decision.
    Bottom line, because the Minnesota Twins' lineup is loaded with left handed hitters, Leyland preferred to pitch rookie lefty Andy Oliver rather than Galarraga against them this weekend. And he rearranged his rotation accordingly.
    Galarraga, who will remain with the Tigers the rest of this week, will start for the Mud Hens next Thursday. He will rejoin the Tigers in time to pitch against the Texas Rangers on July 20.
    The Tigers will play a day-night doubleheader in Cleveland on July 17. But rather than start Galarraga in one of those games, they will either call somebody else up from Toledo or elevate somebody, possibly Brad Thomas or Enrique Gonzalez, out of the bullpen
    Then, when he returns, Galarraga will have to prove himself all over again.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Inexcusable All-Star snub first thing that has gone wrong for rookie Boesch all year

    I was not surprised that Brennan Boesch was not named to the All-Star team. That was an unfortunate oversight. But I was shocked he didn't at least make the five-man ballot for wild card consolation prize. That was just wrong.
    I mean, if Boesch had enough plate appearances to qualify for the official list of league leaders, going into Monday's matinee against the Orioles, he would been leading in the American League in hitting with a .345 average, ahead of All-Stars Justin Morneau, Robinson Cano and the others, and he would have ranked fourth in slugging percentage at .605, trailing only Miguel Cabrera (.630), Josh Hamilton (.617) and  Morneau (.615).
    Boesch is having the kind of year everyone expected Atlanta rookie Jason Heyward to have.
    Except that Hayward is batting a mere .251 with a .455 slugging percentage.
    Nevertheless, while  Boesch was inexcusably ignored, Heyward was elected to the NL starting lineup strictly because of his preseason hype, even though he has an injured thumband probably will not play.
    I ask you: Where is the sanity or justice in that?
    How could he not at least be included in the five-player internet runoff? Remember how much fun that election was last year when Brandon Inge won? And, even though he slipped into the game through the back door, so to speak, no player ever enjoyed being an All-Star more than Inge did. "That was probably the most gratifying experience I've had in my life," Inge admitted.
    The All-Star snub was the first thing that's gone wrong for the kid this year. And the disappointment clearly showed on his face. "It's been a dream of mine since I was a little kid," he confessed, now all grown up at 25.
    Next week's All-Star Game in Anaheim would have been a homecoming for Boesch, who is Southern California born and bred.
    Boesch would have been able to buy as many tickets as he could afford for his family and friends. "We've never had a player who made the All-Star team and couldn't get all the tickets he wanted," said Bill Brown, the Tigers' long-time traveling secretary who is in charge of such things. 
    It would have been a three-day party, whether Boesch actually got into the game or not.
    Boesch is a victim of the socialistic, and I think silly, rule that says every team must have an All-Star -- whether that team has a deserving player or not.
    And, for me as well as for a lot of baseball fans, the July 13 All-Star Game will be further diminished by Boesch's absence.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Back in the day, Gibson attacked his manager; now he is one

    The first thing that crossed my mind when I heard Waterford's Kirk Gibson had been named the interim manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks was the day in 1983 when Gibby chased Sparky Anderson -- who was twice his age and half his size -- around the manager's office after Sparky informed the high-strung outfielder he would no longer be starting every game.
    "You've been acting like an idiot!" Sparky told him.
    "I swear, I was going to bust him," Gibby later admitted.
    Luckily, Anderson was able to elude Gibson's grasp and escape out the door.
    That was the way Gibson played. That was Gibby then.
    However, he and Sparky have long since buried the hatchet.
    "Half of Gibby's game plan was to intimidate the opposition," Anderson explained.
    "Sparky," Gibson later declared, "taught me how to play."
    "Another Mickey Mantle," then-manager Les Moss called him, when he got his first look at the former Michigan State football star in spring training 1979.
    "One day soon he will be the most dominating player in the game," Anderson predicted after he replaced Moss later that season.
    That never happened. But Gibson did belt two of the most dramatic home runs in World Series history -- his classic arms-in-the-air Game Five blast that locked up the Tigers' October triumph in 1984, and his limping, fist-pumping Game One pinch hit HR on behalf of the Dodgers in '88.
    But can Gibson, a madman when he played, always opinionated, often abrasive, turn around the last-place Diamondbacks, a team that has a ton of problems, including what may just be the worst bullpen in baseball history?
    For several years, Gibson has made it clear he wanted to manage in the worst way. He may have just gotten his wish.
    As a bench coach with the Tigers under his buddy, Alan Trammell, Gibson had his favorites on the team. And the other players knew it.
    Some resented him. Some ridiculed him -- behind his back, of course. Several did not respect him.
    To this day, there are those who will tell you Gibson was a big part of the reason Trammell got fired.
    Gibson, a perfectionist with no managerial experience on any level, has never been known for his patience -- on or off the field.
    Now he's going to need a lot of it.
    At 53, Gibson is a changed man. He has calmed down. He has matured.
    He is anxious for the challenge. He believes he is equal to the task.
    For his sake, I hope so. Because, while others may disagree, I have always considered him a good guy.
    Of course, he merely screamed obscenities at me. He never chased me around a room.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bullpen has been key to Tigers' success. But how long will magic last?

    Four months ago, despite the exit of Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon, the Tigers' bullpen appeared all but set. The biggest questionmark was whether new closer Jose Valverde could thrive in the American League.
    Then, one by one, the relievers began to fall.
    Bobby Seay, the most dependable left hander in the bullpen, was the first to go -- shut down indefinitely and possibly permanently, with shoulder woes.
    Then Zach Miner, whose value as a reliever and emergency spot starter has long been under-appreciated, was slowed by pain in his elbow which eventually led to Tommy John surgery. His future, also, is in doubt.
    When the season began, Jim Leyland was talking about Ryan Perry as a possible future closer. Then Perry developed tendinitis and was dispatched to Toledo to try to rediscover his rookie form.
    Then this week, star-crossed Joel Zumaya, another future closer candidate for whom baseball had finally become fun again, suddenly fractured his elbow, ending his happiness and his season on the spot.
    Finally, Fu-Te Ni, such a pleasant surprise a year ago, was demoted to Triple-A after allowing 13 runs in his last six outings.
    Nevertheless, in spite of the free agent exodus of their two top relievers of a year ago as well as all of the injuries, the Tigers' bullpen owns the fourth-best ERA (3.36) in the league and trails only the Texas Rangers in relief wins, 19-16.
    It has been the key to the Tigers' success during the first three months of the season.
    Phil Coke, Brad Thomas and Eddie Bonine are a combined 12-0. That's more wins than 11 of the entire bullpens of 11 of the 14 teams in the AL can claim. And if Seay and Miner had been healthy, Thomas and Bonine probably wouldn't have made the team. Enrique Gonzalez, who wasn't even in picture this spring, has a 1.74 ERA after six outings since he was summoned from Toledo.
    And, of course, Valverde has 18 saves (in 19 opportunities) and an amazing 0.53 ERA.
    But how much longer can that magic last?