Thursday, July 12, 2007

Detroit Tigers midseason grades: Pitching

Jeremy Bonderman: Finally having the breakout season that everyone had been predicting, including TWFE, for the past 3 years. Bonderman just missed making the All-Star team for the 2nd consecutive season, and leads AL starting pitchers in winning percentage with a 9-1 record. Bondy still has 1st inning issues, as he has for his entire career, spotting the opposition 1-2 runs. He dominates from the 2nd inning on, so I can live with the early jitters. I'm bumping his grade up a notch for finally growing a decent head of hair, as the buzzed look was not at all flattering, but he gives it back in thanks to those 1st inning runs. A-

Tim Byrdak: Has been the most effective LOOGY on the roster, as left handers are hitting only .208 against him. He's less effective against right handers, but has held his own. Byrdak has been a most pleasant surprise. He's one of the few bullpen inhabitants that fans are happy with, myself included. B

José Capellán: Just like Macay McBride, Capellán is a reliever acquired by trade whose biggest plus are his remaining minor league options. He's shown flashes of potential, but is far from being reliable. A candidate to be sent down when Rodney and/or Zumaya are healthy. C-

Chad Durbin: Much like Zach Miner stepped in, and pitched well, for Mike Maroth in 2006, Durbin filled in capably for Kenny Rogers in 2007. After his 1st 2 starts, fans were ready to lynch Durbin, but then settled down and won 6 games, the 3rd most on the roster. As a middle reliever, he's pitched well, even managing to get a rarely seen 3 inning save. Considering no one expected anything at all from Durbin, he has proved to be a valuable contributer. Lynn Henning must be proud... B

Jason Grilli: The fan's favorite bullpen punching bag, Grilli is the Jekyll and Hyde of the Tigers' staff. He has a 1.86 road ERA, but a 9.90 (!) home ERA. Either way, he just has not been nearly effective enough in his middle relief role. Grilli is a candidate for an outright release if the Tigers pick up a warm body for the pen. Actually, he could be released even if they don't trade for a reliever. D-

Todd Jones: What can you say about "The Rollercoaster?" Jones has taken a year or 2 off of every Tigers fan's life expectancy, thanks to his high wire, death defying, and outright scary way of getting the save. He is what he is, a 1 inning only, strike throwing closer, who doesn't strike out a soul, and pitches to contact. It's a very risky way to close out games, yet he has done so 22 times, 5th in the AL. Despite the fans having conniption fits every time Jones enters the game, he gets the job done. As much as he gets ragged upon by the MSM and fans, he does deserve a passing grade. B-, because I now have more gray hair, thanks to The Rollercoaster.

Macay McBride: Picked up from Atlanta for (The never living up to his potential) Wil Ledezma a few weeks ago, he has shown flashes of ability, but has struggled recently. If he can't get left handers out, he won't be in the bigs much longer. McBride's biggest plus, other than his potential as a LOOGY, is that he has minor league options remaining. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. If a trade for bullpen help is made, or one of the injured relievers are activated, McBride will most likely be sent down. D+

Andrew Miller: This season's Tiger pitching phenom, it's hard to believe that he was pitching in college a little over a year ago. Miller is coming off his best performance yet, dominating against the Red Sox just before the break. So far, Miller has lived up to his considerable hype. He's in the bigs to stay, much to the relief of the Tigers fanbase, who had been screaming for Miller to be brought up. Much like Justin Veralnder in 2006, the Tigers will pay great heed to his pitch counts and total innings. B+

Zach Miner: Miner's value has risen, thanks to his flexibility. Has morphed from number 5 starter in 2006, to a late inning set up man in 2007. Jim Leyland has been using Miner more and more in the 7th and 8th innings, and for the most part, he's been up to the task. B

Nate Robertson: He's been a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Robertson was dominant in April and May, but pitched like the long gone and not missed, Jose Mesa, in June. After his stay on the DL for the catch all "Tired arm," Nate did pitch better than he did in May, but was far from being the Robertson we saw throughout 2006, and early 2007. If the Tigers make the playoffs, as things stand now, Robertson will be the starter who moves to the bullpen. A for April and May, F for June, C overall.

Kenny Rogers: The Gambler stepped back into the rotation in June, and didn't miss a beat. Since coming off the DL, Rogers is 3-0, has a minuscule 1.04 ERA, with an excellent 0.96 WHIP. Ace-like numbers, to say the very least. The blood clot issues may have been a blessing in disguise, as Rogers will be fresh for the 2nd half. I'm going on the record right now, and saying that the Tigers need to sign The Gambler to a contract extension. Kenny Rogers has taken to Detroit like Neifi Perez to greenies, and the fans have responded in kind. Rogers looks as if he never been happier, the fans love him, the young pitchers look up to him, and most importantly, he's as effective as ever. A

Bobby Seay: The other LOOGY in the pen, Seay has been just fine. Not great, not awful, but he's done his job. Which is, first and foremost, to get left handers out. As long as he's used sparingly against righties, Seay will be just fine. B-

Justin Verlander: A no hitter, an All-Star berth, a 10-3 record, what more can Verlander do? He stepped into the void left after Rogers' injury, and has become a stopper. If there was one concern in Verlander's game, it was the lack of strikeouts. It was as if Verlander heard the criticism, and turned on the K switch. In his past 6 starts, Verlander has 47 K's in his last 47 innings. Worried about the increase in innings over the past 2 seasons? Throwing 102 MPH in the 9th inning of his no hitter put that concern to rest. When it comes right down to it, you can't praise Verlander enough. A+

Fernando Rodney & Joel Zumaya: Both are on the DL, but neither had pitched all that well before their respective injuries. Zumaya appeared to be on the verge of getting straighted out when he blew out a finger tendon the 1st week of May. On the other hand, Rodney never looked like the dominant set-up man he was in 2006. His fastball had lost a few MPH, let alone there was the fact that he couldn't get get it over the plate anyway. Without the fastball, hitters were able to sit on his change up. It really looks as if he was pitching hurt all season long. The health of these 2 is the biggest question mark of the 2nd half. Will the Tigers get anything out of Zumaya in this year? It's safe to say that the Tigers themselves don't know the answer. Hopefully Rodney's issues can be sorted out, otherwise Dave Dombrowski will to have to get a set up man at the trade deadline. Rodney: F / Zumaya: Inc

Overall: The starting rotation has been excellent, without question. Robertson has struggled as of late, but the 1 through 4 of Rogers, Verlander, Bonderman, and Miller have been, for the most part, lights out. The starters are the backbone of the team. As for the bullpen, words can't describe, but I'll try. Ugly. Inconsistent. Scary. Bad. Just look up awful in a thesaurus, and use any applicable word you find listed. Jim Leyland doesn't know from day to day what the bullpen is going to give him. It has gotten a little better with the 2 converted starters, Miner and Durbin, picking up their share of slack, but the late innings have been an adventure. Not in a good way like "Raiders of the Lost Ark," but in a bad way, like "Rush Hour III" Rotation: A / Bullpen: D


  1. Andrew Miller went to UNC not NC State.

  2. I appreciate the correction, that's what I get for not looking it up...