Until recently, setup men rarely received accolades. Aurelio Lopez had the best year for a Tiger setup man in 1984. Lopez set the standard for Detroit with a 10-1 season with 14 saves. A decade later, Doug Brocail pitched well in that role for the Tigers in his four year tenure. His best overall season with Detroit came in 1999. That season, Brocail enjoyed his strongest season out the pen in his major league career.
The San Diego Padres drafted the right hander out of high school in 1986. Injuries delayed his big league career until 1992. He started his first 27 major league games until being moved to the bullpen. San Diego shipped the pitcher to Houston in 1994. Brocail pitched poorly in two seasons in Houston’s bandbox park and was traded to the Tigers.
Tiger Stadium was not an easy place to pitch, but Brocail put it all together with Detroit. He posted respectable numbers in 1997 and broke out in 1998. He went 5-2 with 2 saves and a 2.73 ERA for a bad club. Most impressively, Brocail posted a 1.037 WHIP which bested his previous career best by nearly .400.
In 1999, Brocail improved upon his 1998 campaign. Once again, he posted a 1.037 WHIP. More importantly, he tossed a career high 82 innings as a reliever, saved 2, and appeared in a career high 70 games. Brocail’s ERA dropped to the lowest of his career (2.52). His efforts made closer Todd Jones’ job much easier.
The reliever struggled in 2000 and saw his ERA balloon to 4.09. Injuries wiped out his next three campaigns. He did not throw another big league inning until 2004 for the Rangers. Brocail pitched until 2009 when he reached 42 years of age. Since then, he has worked with the Houston Astros.