Monday, July 14, 2008

TWFE's Detroit Tigers mid-season grades: Starting pitching

With the Tigers at the All-Star break, we all know what that means: Mid-term grades.The Freep's Jon Paul Morosi has posted his grades, which has most fans shaking their heads, saying, "Huh?" They seem quite high for a team that has struggled for much of the season.

Not one to ignore a gift post(s) in the mouth, it seemed like a good time to give my own grades to the best .500 team money can buy. I'll start with the starting pitching.

Justin Verlander: B- 
It's been a season of contrasts for the Tigers' young ace. He was awful for the first 6 weeks of the season, while getting next to no run support to boot. But he's recovered nicely, and been damn near unhittable since. Verlander gets a D for the first 6 weeks, an A for his recovery. Overall, I'll say that averages out to a B-.

For the Tigers to have any chance of making noise in the 2nd half, Verlander has to keep pitching at that "A" level. When you are designated the number 1 starter, you have to pitch like one, youth be damned.

Kenny Rogers: B -
The Gambler's season has been much like Verlander's, awful, then excellent. During the Tigers' early season swoon, re-signing Rogers looked to be a major mistake, and there was talk Kenny was finally roasted. Now? The 1 year deal looks like a bargain, as Rogers has pitched like the top of the rotation starter he's always been.

Just like Verlander, Rogers more than earned a D early on, and conversely, an A for his performance since. The question now is, can the 40+ Gambler continue on as he has, avoiding a 2nd half slump? The Tigers' playoff chances, weak as they are, depend upon it.

Armando Galarraga: B+
The unheralded Galarraga saved the Tigers' collective asses early on, stepping in after Dontrelle Willis imploded. There was a stretch in late April-early May when Galarraga was the only effective starter on the roster. He has by far the best record of the starters, 7-3, with an excellent 3.27 ERA.

Stats to the contrary, I still have to wonder if Galarraga can continue to pitch this well, as he never, ever been this good in the past. You want to believe he's not a mirage, a half season wonder, yet there's the nagging feeling the bottom could drop out at anytime. Still, he continues to pitch well over his previously established head. Overall, Galarraga has been an extremely pleasant surprise, and has the chance to cement himself into the Tigers' long-term plans with a solid 2nd half.

Nate Robertson: C-
Nate was given a wheelbarrel full of greenbacks amd a long-term contract before the season. A move I was OK with at the time, as I figured the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. Robertson is what he is, a 4th-5th starter who will eat innings, and more often than not, keep the Tigers in the game. Though when he does pitch well, it's often in tough luck.

Early on, just like the rest of the staff, Robertson was worse than awful. (A recurring theme, if you haven't noticed) To his credit, Robertson may have the Tigers best pitched game of the 1st half, his 9 inning, 4 hit, 1 run, no decision appearance againt Seattle. Unfortunately, that performance has been the exception, rather than the rule, for Robertson.

Eddie Bonine: D+
Bonine is currently down in Erie so he can stay on sharp during the break, and will likely be called back up next week, when the Tigers will need a 5th starter. Brought up in mid June once Jeremy Bonderman was declared out for the season, Bonine got off to a surprisingly solid start, winning 2 of his first 3 appearances (Though he did give up 6 runs in one of the wins). But he's been throwing batting practice in his last 2 starts, unable to get out of the 4th inning, allowing 5 earned runs in each appearance. 

Bonine is not the long-term solution as the 5th starter. He's not the short-term solution either.

Jeremy Bonderman: C
Before being sidelined by a blood clot in his shoulder, prematurely ending his season, Bonderman continued to be, as he has for most of his career, maddingly inconsistent. He still had his early innings bug-a-boo, often leaving the Tigers in an early hole before he settled down. Though Bonderman's overall stats weren't horrible (3-4, 4.29), he always left you feeling he could have been/should have been better.

Despite the inconsistency, the Tigers are a much better team with Bonderman, than without him. His injury has left a massive hole in the rotation, a hole that has yet to be properly filled. 

Dontrelle Willis: F
Ah yes, the derailed D-Train, who can't throw a strike to save his life. Ugly doesn't begin to describe how bad he was in his 3 starts. His injured knee just exascerbated things, though it did allow the Tigers an excuse to remove the very highly paid Willis from the rotation. He's currently on the DL, back in Lakeland trying to sort "things" out.

Speculation runs rampant as to why Willis has seemingly lost it. He's too heavy and out of shape, his mechanics are so out of whack he needs to rebuild his delivery from scratch, the Marlins abused his pitching arm, he's suffering from "Steve Blass Disease," or some combination thereof.  Considering how messed up the D-Train is both mentally and physically at this point, it's probably best he doesn't pitch for the Tigers again this season. I say that with one caveat, as we could see Willis, problems sorted out or not, in September. If the Tigers don't make a move in the standings soon, they may be preparing for 2009 when rosters expand.

1 comment:

  1. I know you hate the Twins, but whose idea was it to leave Nate Robertson in in the seventh on Saturday? That's the kind of decision that has had me flummoxed all year. Zumaya should have been ready. Dolsi, too. Why let Nate throw that tater?