So far, the Tigers have shored up their offense and their bullpen. These are both admirable tasks but back in 2006, when the Tigers made it all the way to the World Series, they did it predominately with pitching and defense. So far, the Tigers haven’t even touched their rotation unless you count the apparent subtraction of Jeremy Bonderman and there hasn’t been a peep out of the rumor mill that the Tigers might go after a starting pitcher. Not that the current crop (short of Cliff Lee) is top notch or anything. Still, let’s take a look at what the Tigers have then touch on how they might fill in the hole(s).
Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer I think are two locks. Verlander is the ace and Scherzer is the ace in waiting. If we can get a second half Scherzer for all of 2011 and the same out of Verlander that we’ve gotten the past two years, we definitely have a nice base. Of course after that, it gets pretty spotty.
I like Rick Porcello but since he made his debut in 2009, he’s lived (2009) and died (2010) by the Tigers infield defense. At some point, if he’s going to make the turn to stardom, he’s going to have to get more strikeouts. Especially in 2011 because if Scott Sizemore sees the bulk of the time at second, the Tigers defense is going to be spotty. Still, Porcello had a much better second half so hopefully he’ll be able to carry that into 2011.
Armando Galarraga is also a safe bet for a rotation spot but he’s been even more inconsistent then Scherzer and Porcello. While Galarraga’s numbers look “okay” they’re also a little deceptive because he had just a .262 batting average on balls in play. If this goes up to a more average .300, we could see a repeat of 2009.
For now, the fifth starter appears to be Phil Coke. In 125 minor league games, Coke had 77 starts. Still, this move worries me a little. Coke’s 2010 platoon splits don’t bear much mentioning, but if you look at his career, there’s an .080 point OPS difference and he’s going to be facing a lot more right handed hitters when the opposition can stack their lineup. On top of that, he’s started just one game since he was brought up by the Yankees in 2008.
Of course one of the reasons Coke is being pushed into the rotation is there’s not a lot in the immediate pipeline. Andrew Oliver might get a look, but in his five starts he’s probably shown he needs another year of work. And after all of the guys we’ve mentioned (and Dontrelle Willis), no other Tiger had more then two starts in 2010. And there weren’t any lights out performances in Toledo and Erie and Jacob Turner is probably at least a year away.
Anyway, the rotation, like the one heading into 2009, worries me a little. There was a lot of criticism about Jeremy Bonderman’s performance in 2010 but his 171 innings he threw could be harder to replace then many people think.