Urbina should improve Tigers

The Tigers took another step out of oblivion by inking closer Ugueth Urbina to a one-year contract.

Updated: March 26, 2004, 9:19 AM ET
By Jim Baker | MLB Insider
There appears to be an upside to losing 119 games and it is this: it's such a horrifying total that it forces a club to correct itself in a hurry. Having already upgraded at shortstop with Jose Guillen, catcher with Pudge Rodriguez and leftfield with Rondell White, the Tigers took another step out of oblivion yesterday by inking closer Ugueth Urbina to a one-year contract.

While teams like the Brewers and Pirates hang out in the 60- to 80-win ghetto for a decade without ever really improving much, the Tigers have been striving to get better ever since their disastrous 2003 campaign came to an end. Perhaps Pittsburgh and Milwaukee both need to hit rock bottom like the Tigers did to jump to. Of course, it's all relative. It's a lot harder to improve from 75 wins to 90 than it is from 43 to 58, isn't it? (Well, maybe not. Of the very few teams who managed to sink as low at the Tigers did last year, most managed to rebound fairly well the following season.)

Among the many crises that confronted the Tigers in 2003, closing games was not especially high on the list. Since saving games requires a team to have a lead in the first place, it was not an issue for the Tigers. Early in the season, for instance, they opened at 1-17 and rarely had a lead of any duration for anyone to hold on to, let alone a closer in the ninth inning. Actually, the Tigers had saves in a higher percentage of their games than any other team in the American League last year, which is not necessarily a good thing. What Urbina brings to the table is stability to the position. What follows is a list of the American League teams who got save efforts from the most pitchers last year.

Jim Baker is an author at Baseball Prospectus and a frequent contributor to Page 2. You can e-mail Jim at bottlebat@gmail.com.