Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tigers 2007 Preview - Part 4 (Pitching)

Over the past week, I presented the first three parts of my 2007 Tigers preview:

Part 1 - Overview
Part 2 - Offense
Part 3 - Fielding

Today, in Part 4, I'll forecast the pitching and give my prediction for the team win total.

The Tigers led the Majors with a stunning 3.84 ERA in 2006. While I think they'll be among the Major League leaders again in 2007, I don't expect their ERA to be quite as good. There are three reasons for that and if you've read my blog over the winter you may be tired of hearing the first two. First, their ERA was better than their fielding independent stats (strikeouts, walks, home runs) would indicate. I believe part of that was good fielding and part of it was good luck. I don't think they will be quite as fortunate this year.

The second reason is that their young staff pitched a lot of stressful innings last year and there were some tired arms by post-season. Verlander, in particular, seemed to run out gas after pitching about 70 innings more in 2006 than 2005. I expect this to take somewhat of a toll in 2007.

The advancing ages of Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones are the third factor. Both pitched better than expected last year and they will be 42 and 39 respectively in 2007. They are bound to decline in performance this year simply because they can't last forever. And we all know that the roller coaster does not give himself much margin for error with his low strikeout and high hit totals.

This is not to say that I expect a collapse in 2007. I do think Bonderman will improve and that will offset some of the expected decline from other pitchers. Last year, they allowed 675 runs. This year, I'll guess that they will give up about 720. So that's 820 runs scored and 720 allowed which translates nto about 91 wins. They play in a tough division with three other legitimate contenders. However, I don't see any one team posting a big win total this year and I'm going to say that 91 wins gets them the Central Division title by a hair.

Now for the individual pitcher forecast:

Jeremy Bonderman

Like every year, Bonderman's fielding independent stats were better than his ERA. His strikeout and ground ball rates were excellent and his walk rate was better than league average. Another thing Bonderman does every year is improve his ERA and 2007 should be no exception. I think it will be well comfortably under 4.00 for the first time.

Year

IP

SO

BB

HR

ERA

2006

214

202

64

18

4.08

2007 Projected

210

200

61

20

3.66



Kenny Rogers

Rogers pitched about as well as anyone could have expected last year and capped it off with an amazing post-season. I think age will catch up to him a little bit this year but I certainly don't expect a collapse. He's a smart pitcher but it's difficult for a pitcher to consistently keep his ERA under 4.00 with such a low strikeout rate.

Year

IP

SO

BB

HR

ERA

2006

204

99

62

23

3.84

2007 Projected

192

92

56

22

4.32



Justin Verlander

Verlander probably pitched more innings than he would have if they were not a contender. This makes him a fairly high injury risk for this year and I would imagine that they'll be careful with him. He also did not pitch as well as his ERA last year. He had a surprisingly low strikeout rate and gave up a lot of fly balls but received a lot of support from his fielders. He might pitch as well as last year and still see his ERA go up a half of a run. One thing I think we'll see from him in 2007 is an increased strikeout rate.

Year

IP

SO

BB

HR

ERA

2006

186

124

60

21

3.63

2007 Projected

176

149

69

24

4.10



Nate Robertson

Robertson improved over his 2005 season but not as much as it appeared on the surface. His rate stats did not change much from 2005 but, like Rogers and Verlander, he received a lot of support from his defense. There is no reason he can't come close to his 2006 season in 2007.

Year

IP

SO

BB

HR

ERA

2006

209

137

67

29

3.84

2007 Projected

206

142

64

28

4.14



Mike Maroth

It seems that Maroth has recovered from last season's elbow injury but I'll remain skeptical until he can pitch without problems in the regular season. I expect a career average ERA from Maroth this year but he may no longer be the innings eater he was before the injury.

Year

IP

SO

BB

HR

ERA

2006

54

24

16

11

4.19

2007 Projected

152

68

42

27

4.73



Todd Jones

Jones keeps the ball in the park and walks almost nobody. He has used this formula to save 77 out of 88 games over the last two years. The closer role is a good role for him because he usually comes in with the bases empty and can afford to give up a couple of singles which he does frequently. He would not be good in a setup role where he had to come in with men on base or pitch more than one inning. The rollercoaster might not crash but I think he might blow more games this year and make a lot of fans impatient.


Year

IP

SO

BB

HR

ERA

2006

64

28

11

4

3.94

2007 Projected

62

27

15

5

4.39



Joel Zumaya

There is much talk around the country about his 103 MPH fastball and his wrist inury which may have been caused by playing Guitar Hero. There has been less talk outside of Detroit about how dominating he was last year and not just the strikeouts. He'll be a closer some day but I actually like him in the setup role where he can pitch more innings and come in with men on base.

Year

IP

SO

BB

HR

ERA

2006

83

97

42

6

2.66

2007 Projected

84

100

39

5

2.51



Fernando Rodney

Rodney will continue to be one of the setup men for Jones. He gets less attention than Zumaya but he's very effective and almost as valuable. I expect more of the same this year.

Year

IP

SO

BB

HR

ERA

2006

72

65

34

6

3.52

2007 Projected

75

70

29

6

3.39



Wil Ledezma

Ledezma will be the only lefty out of the pen but I don't think he'll be used quite like a lefty specialist. I think he'll pitch more innings and will probably get a few spot starts somewhere over the course of the season. I think he has the ability to be a very effective reliever.

Year

IP

SO

BB

HR

ERA

2006

60

39

23

5

3.58

2007 Projected

87

55

30

8

4.05



Jose Mesa

Mesa was a surprise pickup and will be used when Leyland does not want to overwork Zumaya and Rodney. Mesa is no longer an effective closer but is not as a bad of a pitcher as his reputation. I'm not expecting much but he should be Ok if he is not put into too many key spots.

Year

IP

SO

BB

HR

ERA

2006

72

39

36

9

3.86

2007 Projected

66

35

33

7

4.42



Steve Grilli

Grilli surprised a lot of people when he made the team out of spring training last year and stuck with them the whole season. Grilli was OK last year but his unimpressive k/BB ratio does not bode well for the future. I think his ERA will go up in 2007.

Year

IP

SO

BB

HR

ERA

2006

62

31

25

6

4.21

2007 Projected

53

27

21

5

4.67



Chad Durbin

Durbin has made a complete recovery from his 2002 elbow surgery and had a strong season for Toledo in 2006. He was rewarded with a roster spot for opening day 2007. He has a career ERA of 6.14 so I'm not expecting big things from him.

Year

IP

SO

BB

HR

ERA

2006 (Toledo)

185

149

46

17

3.11

2007 Projected

43

23

15

6

5.19

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