I’ve had this post on the backburner for quite some time, but the Tigers were in the midst of a seven game winning streak, so I held off on it until I felt it was right. Now that they have lost two in a row to the Houston Astros, I feel now is a pretty good time to voice my concerns with our Detroit Tigers.
There are a lot of holes on this first place Detroit Tigers team, whether people admit it or not. For starters, the No. 4 and 5 starters in the rotation can’t seem to put together starts that put the team in a good position to win. There were several games where the four and five starters failed to even get to the fifth inning, let alone through it. When you don’t have a quality four and five, the bullpen gets over worked and as a result, it starts cutting into their output when relieving starters 1-3.
The bullpen has had its own problems lately, too. Ryan Perry was sent down to AAA due to ineffectiveness, Zumaya is beginning to flash serious control problems with his 100+ MPH fastball, and Nate Robertson continues to give up situational hits and exist on the depth chart. Even Fernando Rodney, who has a perfect save percentage this season, is beginning to make his outings very stressful to watch.
The offense, despite a decent resurgance of late, still has its fair share of problems as it often pulls Houdini disappearing acts against poor-to-awful opposing pitchers (see Paulino game). There’s also drama with a right fielder who we’re discovering wasn’t getting out in untimely situations and hitting into double plays because of his long hair. Several Tigers fans feel another bat is the answer, or that releasing some of the dead weight on the team and bringing in a couple of the younger guys will suffice.
One thing that worries me about the Tigers is what most people are actually most confident in and think will remain pretty solid, if not improve, over the course of the season:
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My biggest concern with the Tigers isn’t with all that other jazz — although it does worry me. I think the biggest set up for disappointment lies with starters No. 1-3 in our rotation. That worries me most.
Now before you defecate in your pants, curse this blog, and vow to never read it again, hear me out. Don’t get me wrong, Verlander, Jackson, and Porcello have been everything but short of amazing so far this season. They have been so good that if we had the Galarraga from last year, this team would probably have the best record in the AL. Verlander has regained his 2006-2007 form, Porcello is making a strong bid for Rookie of the Year, and Jackson is making Dave Dombrowski look like Albert Einstein… on steroids. It seems right now we have pretty much an automatic quality start from our top three starters every time they take the bump.
I’m hesitant to jump so fast to say it’s going to remain solid throughout the year, though. First, EJ is not exactly a proven MLB pitcher. By that, I mean he has yet to put it together for an entire year. Other than his 22 IP first year in the bigs, he hasn’t had a full season with an ERA under 4.4, so the very little pessimist in me tells me not to be so gung ho on him until it continues to happen.
Even if EJ finishes the season similar to the way he has started this season, which I expect to happen more than not, the other two top three pieces worry me. Porcello hasn’t thrown over 125 innings in a season and the Tigers will most likely try to find a way to rest him some. That means he won’t be pitching as much, thus won’t be giving us the solid innings we’ve come to expect from his spot in the rotation. I don’t think there are any “inning fillers” who can give us what he has thus far. If he continues to pitch and the Tigers do not rest him, I imagine fatigue might be a huge factor and we could see some of the affects in his results.
Concerns with Justin Verlander might come off as the greatest shock to all of you. After all, he’s on pace to give Zack Greinke a run for his money for the Cy Young, right? Don’t be so sure. In 2006, his rookie season, he was on pace to win 20 games and have an ERA right around 3.00. However, he went 7-5 and had a 4.54 ERA in the second half of the season. In 2007, it was much of the same as he had 10 wins at the All-Star break and a 3.17 ERA. In the second half he won eight games, but he had a 4.27 ERA. In his short career, Verlander has a 4.96 ERA after the All-Star break. While Verlander’s wins haven’t dropped off significantly, his ERA is nearly two runs worse in the second half of the season. With the some of the hitting woes of this Tigers team and often failures to put up sufficient run support, Verlander and the Tigers could be in for some more L’s than we expect in the second half. I will say, the Verlander of late seems completely different than the one we saw in 2006 and 2007, but it’s tough to overlook the drop off after the break in his track record given his remarkable stats before the break.
What does this all mean?
Well, it’s just a concern and I could be completely wrong on all of this, but I think it honestly means that the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in the roation is a much bigger deal than we think. If we expect to rely on Verlander, Jackson, and Porcello for the entire season we could be (I hope we’re not) in for a major tanking in the standings during the second half of the season. If the Tigers can address the No. 4 and/or the No. 5 spot somehow, some way, then the pressure and expectations of these three would be less worrisome.
I think this could present a legitimate concern for our top three arms, and one that fans have been overlooking because of how dominant these there have been thus far. It’s easy to overlook the story behind things when they are going your way, just as it’s easy to call for a guy’s head when everything starts to go south. Sure, there’s no use sweating over it beforehand, but the Tigers could have a legitimate issue here they can help put to bed before it ever presents itself as a problem.
My advice to DD: Do not get complacent; go out and compensate for what could be diminishing results from Verlander, Jackson, and Porcello.