It seems like everytime someone brings up the Tigers, the conversation steers to the bullpen. Joel Zumaya and now Fernando Rodney are both out and Todd Jones, love him or hate him, is still the closer. The Tigers have some guys who could step in to those vacant key roles, but for now, you have a lot of untested pen warriors.
I have a different concern though, and that’s the rotation. In 2006, when the Tigers had arguably the best pitching staff in baseball, their starters threw 976 1/3 innings while their relievers threw 471 2/3. That’s almost a two to one ratio. Last year, despite a bullpen that didn’t perform as well as in 2006, the pen threw 515 innings compared to 932 innings for the starters so that ratio narrowed. A less effective rotation means some back end relievers see more time then is neccesary. Combine that with the injuries to the Tigers pen last year and it makes for a tough combo.
Anyway, if you’re a glass half empty kind of guy, here’s what the Tigers rotation looks like heading into 2008…..
1) Two pitchers who had an ERA in 2007 north of 5.00 (Bonderman and Willis)
2) One pitcher who logged all of 63 innings because of two stints on the disabled list (Rogers)
3) One pitcher who’s had just one winning record in four seasons as a starter and has never had a WHIP lower then 1.300 (Robertson)
4) Justin Verlander, who has had two solid seasons but has also thrown more then 200 innings in the past two years (counting the 2006 playoffs). Verlander’s career first half ERA is 3.16 and is second half is 4.50. If he ever gets off to a tough start to the season and shows the wear of a young pitcher in the second half, it could make for a rough season.
Not to get too negative, I just think way too many people are taking the rotation as a forgone conclusion. Throw in the fact that we don’t have an established sixth starter to fill in if someone goes down and what should be a less effective defense then in 2007 and it makes for a brutal combination.
Will the Tigers a lot of games with that lineup? I bet they will but what will determine whether they make the playoffs will not be the pen or the lineup, it’ll be those five guys throwing on a regular basis.