Friday, March 31, 2006

Wild card contenders, or the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked? Part 2

In part 1 of "Wild card contenders, or the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked," I gave my thoughts on the Tigers starting position players. In part 2, lets discuss the rotation.

Remember, I'm staying away from saber style stats. It's mostly greek (save for WHIP) to me, so I'll stay with the basics.

Kenny Rogers: Is he an ace? No, he's here to buy time for, and take some pressure off of, Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander. But if (You'll hear that often about the Tigers chances, lots of "If's") age doesn't creep up on the Gambler, you should be able to plug him in for approximately 15 wins, a 4.00 ERA, and 200 innings. Not the stats you'd expect from an ace, but more of a middle of the roation innings eater. An 8 million dollar a year innings eater with camera issues. Rogers would be a great #3 starter, but he's an iffy #1, at best. Still, I'd rather have the Gambler at the front of the rotation this season than...

Jeremy Bonderman: How many of you were expecting Bonderman to break out last year and drafted him in your fantasy league? (raises hand) Bonderman lived up to the considerable hype before the All-Star break, winning 11 games and nearly making the All-Star roster. Before the break, he pitched like the ace the Tigers have been desperately seeking since Jack Morris left. After the break, he pitched like a bad Jose Lima, without the hot wife. Bonderman's ERA jumped nearly 2 points, and won only 3 games while pitching half the innings he did in before the break. Still, he's only 23, and the Tigers are not expecting him to be the stopper, that's why the Gambler was signed. So here's the question. How many of you expect Bonderman to pitch as he did in before the 2005 break over the full 2006 season, and drafted him in your fantasy league? (raises hand) Bonderman has the stuff for 18-20 wins, but still might be a year away from putting it all together. When he does, the Tigers will have their next Jack Morris.

Mike Maroth: Look up "End of the rotation crafty left handed soft tossing innings eater" in the encyclopedia and you'll see Mike Maroth's picture. Maroth = 200 innings, 12-14 wins with just as many losses, and a mid-high 4 ERA, you can book it. In a perfect world, you'd slot Maroth in the rotation's #5 spot, and be damn happy about it. But the Tigers don't have a better option for the middle of the rotation. Yet.

Nate Robertson: From looking at past history, you'd just plug in the same stats for Nate as you would Maroth. But...Nate is much more likely to break out of the .500 rut than Maroth, just due to his K ratios. He is definitely a better pitcher than the one that went 7-16 in 2005. Nate could put up Gambler-like stats in 2006. Honestly, I'd be happy with Nate's 2004 season, 12-10 with 155 K's, but with a lower ERA. He has the tools, just needs some consistency and a little luck. He was lacking both in 2005.

Justin Verlander: Along with Joel Zumaya, Verlander is the poster boy for the revamped Tigers farm system. Again, along with Zumaya, Verlander is the Tigers best pitching prospect since John Smoltz, which is saying almost too much. There has been some ROY the year talk, which seems kind of heady for a rookie #5 starter. In the big scheme of things, how many pitchers break out in their rookie year? For every Dontrelle Willis and Fernando Valenzuela, you have 10 rookie pitchers that are just happy to survive the season. But 150 innings, 10-12 wins, and a 4.50 ERA would keep me plenty happy, and set Verlander up for much bigger things. A one-two punch of Bonderman and Verlander, if they meet their vast potential, would match up with the best of MLB rotations. TheTigers haven't had a true top of the rotation duo since the heyday of Morris and Dan Petry.

When looking at the Tiger starting pitching, it looks potentially...OK. Not at a White Sox level of good, not one with a Cy Young winner, as have the Twins, or as solidly experienced as the Indians. (Even if the Indians have Tiger reject Jason Johnson at the bottom of their rotation) But overall, the Tigers starters should be league average. Not bad, when you only go back 3 years and see the likes of Gary Knotts, Nate Cornejo, Adam Bernero, and Matt Roney starting games. In a couple of more years, we may be raving about the rotation, but they aren't there quite yet.

I'm more worried about the bullpen than the starting rotation. There are tons of question marks, starting with a closer that deservedly earned the nickname, "Rollercoaster." And that's what we'll cover in part 3 of "Wild card contenders, or the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked?"

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