Not too long ago, I talked about the Tigers starting pitching. The winter meetings have come and gone and the Tigers didn’t make a move in that department so it looks like the Phil Coke experiment begins. Coke was a starter in the Yankees farm system but since he’s been in the major leagues, he’s pitched out of the pen with the exception of his lone start in game 162 for the Tigers in 2010. Now with Jeremy Bonderman’s departure (i.e. being pushed out), the Tigers are an arm short and it looks like the Tigers are relying on Coke to fill that hole.
Jim Leyland thinks the transition is going to be easy but aren’t things rarely that? Still, Coke started 77 games in the minors but he’s never had a season where he “just” started. With Dan Schereth coming up, the Tigers have some wiggle room and what I like best about this move is, Coke isn’t much of a lefty specialist. In 2010, he had practically no platoon split and as a lefty specialist, your job is to get lefties out. His career platoon splits are a little better but still, this is a guy who can get righties out too.
Endurance could be a problem and August is Coke’s worst month so far (7.08 ERA in 20 1/3 innings). The flip side to that is September is one of his better months (3.09 ERA in 32 innings). Since we’re having fun with splits, Coke is lights out in June. In 20 2/3 innings, he has a 0.44 ERA and a 0.823 WHIP. Overall, he’s a little bit worse in the second half then in the first so it’ll be interesting to see how things play out when he’s pitching 150 innings. Of course he’ll be forced to pace himself better and that could be the big wild card. If he can accomplish that, we could see a successful transition.
These are interesting times for Tigers fans. If Coke can pitch well as the team’s fifth starter, that would go a long way towards helping the Tigers make the playoffs. The bad thing is, at least the moment, there’s no good option if the experiment fails. Andrew Oliver would probably be next in line but I question whether he’s ready. Should be a fun spring.