Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tigers starters doing their jobs

It's probably obvious to anybody who has been following the Tigers closely that the starting pitching has gotten better in recent weeks than it was during the first part of the season. How much better? On May 12th, the Tigers starters were dead last in the American League with a 5.44 ERA. In the last 5 weeks, the Tigers starters have combined for a 3.60 ERA in 34 games (3.28 if you throw out Dontrelle Willis' last start). So, they have been two runs better in the last 5 weeks than they were in the first six weeks. They also have 23 quality starts in those 34 games.

Most of the starting staff has contributed to the improvement:
  • Justin Verlander - 2.62 ERA and 6 quality starts in his last 7 games.
  • Armando Galarraga - 2.54 ERA and 4 quality starts in his last 6 starts.
  • Kenny Rogers - 1.00 ERA in his last 5 starts, all of them quality starts.
  • Jeremy Bonderman - 3.42 ERA in the last 4 games (all QS) before going on the disabled list.
  • Nate Robertson - 4.40 ERA in 7 starts (which is better than the 6.60 ERA he had in his first 7).
Can they keep it up? Justin Verlander should keep going strong. I was ready to bury Kenny Rogers a few weeks ago but he is a different pitcher now. Jim Leyland said that he limited Kenny's innings in spring training because he was recovering from an elbow injury suffered at the end of 2007 and hinted that the left-hander was not at full strength when the season started. He won't keep the 1.00 ERA up but he should be OK if he stays healthy (a significant if for a 43 year old pitcher). Nate Robertson should continue to maintain his performance of the last 7 weeks through the remainder of the season.

Galarraga has been a very pleasant surprise this season. His 3.03 ERA would be 5th in the league if he had enough innings to qualify. The problem is that he is not likely to maintain a .212 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) for the rest of the season. His walk rate of 3.66 batters per nine innings is also a concern. I don't expect him to blow up but he is not likely to have anything close to a 3.03 ERA the rest of the way.

The biggest issue for the staff is Bonderman's season ending surgery to correct a circulation problem. Replacing him may be the biggest challenge for the team the rest of the way. Willis is far from being ready to contribute and they have very little pitching depth at Toledo. Eddie Bonine, who makes his second start versus the Padres tomorrow night is the current hope. His first start was less than stellar but he does have excellent control which is something the Tigers have lacked this year. If he fails, Aquilino Lopez (recently optioned to Toledo to stretch out his innings), Casey Fossum or Virgil Vazquez may be next in line.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The starters have been excellent for over a month now and, with a relatively easy schedule ahead, they should be in good shape for a while.

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJune 20, 2008

    Its interesting to watch the charge of the Tigers, with the numerous problems, Leyland juggling just about everything every week and then unknowns like Armando popping up out of nowhere. I'm an Indians fan myself and while things haven't been pretty for either the Tigers or the Tribe, the White Sox will fade. Staying within six or seven games during losing streaks has given both of these teams a change to make a charge. Although the Tigers are looking pretty good right now, with the pitching that you've been outlining over the past couple of weeks and the awakening of the bats. It should be an interesting summer in the AL Central.



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