Take a deep breath Tigers Fans:
2006 Bullpen (Opening Day):
Jason Grilli, Fernando Rodney, Joel Zumaya, Bobby Seay, Jamie Walker, Chris Spurling, Jordan Tata.
On the DL at the time: Troy Percival, Todd Jones. Jones would come back to take over the closers role and perform admirably from 2006-2008
2009 Bullpen (Opening Day):
Fernando Rodney, Bobby Seay, Brandon Lyon, Juan Rincon, Nate Robertson, Ryan Perry, Eddie Bonine
On the DL: Joel Zumaya
(With this much new blood, my card selection is drastically weakened. Apologies.)
Let's take a look at the common factors:
2006 had shut-down lefty specialist Jamie Walker, Seay has tried to take over that role, with Robertson filling in as the other lefty. Obvious downgrade. (However, I do think that Robertson could be an outstanding reliever, I guess we'll see how that plays out)
Bonine=Spurling aka, an unknown and unremarkable relief pitcher.
Perry=Zumaya aka, a highly touted flamethrowing rookie able to dominate opposing hitters. There is little chance that Perry dominates in 2009 the way that Zumaya did in 2006, but if he does, ooh boy!
Rincon is seeking to resurrect his major league career and had a tremendous spring. Lyon was acquired as a free agent but appears to be on his way out. In this sense, Lyon is a less good version of Todd Jones (yikes), and Rincon doesn't have a direct comparison.
The 2006 Bullpen was exception for three reasons: Zumaya, Rodney, Jones. An argument could be made that Walker was a fourth reason. 2009 is missing a piece of that puzzle, there is no closer on this team. Rodney has flashes of brilliance, but he doesn't have the closer mentality that he needs. Perry, Rodney, Zumaya would be excellent, but for Zumaya's injury history and chance that he will never return to form. If Lyon could resurrect himself it could be a different story, but that's a big If.
For all the question marks in the starting rotation, the bullpen is even worse. On paper, there were question marks in 2006 too, (Who's this Zumaya fella, can Jones remain effective) and youth, and the team outperformed expectations. For that to happen, Seay needs to become Jamie Walker, Somebody needs to become Todd Jones, and Perry must become Zumaya. If that happens, Robertson, Rincon and Bonine are essentially equivalents of the no-name middle relievers on the roster in 2006. In fact, Rincon has a track record as an exceptional set-up man, for what its worth, and Lyon has been an effective closer.
I don't really know what to make out of it, but the bullpen is neither a strength or a weakness. With major turnover from the dismal 2008 bullpen (Goodbye: Dolsi, Farnsworth, Fossum, Grilli, Glover, Rapada, Beltran, Bazardo, Bautista, Cruceta all of whom were terrible at one point or another during the year), there is little reason to expect as bad a year as they had in 2008. At the same time, it is unreasonable to expect anything that resembles 2006. Put me at a league average bullpen and that's ok by me.