Examining The Tigers’ Rotation

When we looked last week at questions facing the AL Central heading into the season, a crucial one for the Tigers involved their starting pitching. With Justin Verlander heading up Detroit's rotation, they can match aces with any club. After Verlander though, there are a few question marks for a team that aims to contend.

Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer have a ton of talent, but had thrown less than 400 major league innings between them coming into 2010. At the back of the rotation, although Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman have enjoyed success in the past, both have struggled immensely over the past three years. Last season, Willis posted a 7.49 ERA in seven big league starts, while Bonderman had an 8.71 mark in eight appearances.

There are at least a couple names remaining on the free agent market that could interest the Tigers. Jarrod Washburn may not be one of them — his disastrous eight-game stint in 2009 in Detroit (7.33 ERA) is too fresh, and Scott Boras is still pushing for his client to earn more than clubs are willing to pay. Right-handers like Pedro Martinez and Braden Looper could be fits for the Tigers, however. Pedro has been effective enough in the National League to believe that he could succeed in the AL Central, and Looper has eaten up 190+ IP in each of the last two seasons.

For now, the Tigers appear content to exercise some patience. By trading away Nate Robertson, they exhibited confidence in their current group of arms, and so far they've been proven right. Willis and Bonderman both opened their campaigns with quality starts, and should young guns Porcello and Scherzer falter, it's more likely to happen later in the year, as they rack up a full season of innings. The success of the Tigers' rotation should be an important factor in the AL Central race in 2010. Whether or not they'll need to acquire another starter will be worth keeping an eye on as the year progresses.


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53 Comments on "Examining The Tigers’ Rotation"


DetroitTigers24
5 years 4 months ago

Scherzer and Bonderman were great in their first starts and Porcello and Willis were more than good enough to get the win. Behind Verlander, this rotation should be one of the best and should easily lead the Tigers to a division title.

bucs_lose_again
5 years 4 months ago

Not even close to the best rotation in their division.

mrfan3000
5 years 4 months ago

Please explain how they don’t have the best? I mean Verlander/Porcello/Scherzer… I am looking at other teams rotations in the central and none compare, the White Sox come close and that’s about it… I could see the Tigers have one of the best rotations in all of baseball in 2-4 years truth be told, they got some nice young pitching prospects down on the farm. If everything clicks yeah I think the Tigers will have a top rotation.

Jason_F
5 years 4 months ago

One of the best? Wishful thinking…

Jason_F
5 years 4 months ago

One of the best? Wishful thinking…

BentoBox
5 years 4 months ago

Minnesota’s rotation, even if they don’t have an ace like Verlander is more stable than the Tiger’s. White Sox’ rotation is better than Detroit’s as well.

angryredmenace
5 years 4 months ago

Minnesota’s rotation is stable? I think the word you were looking for is mediocre.I’ll take Verlander and a few triple A pitchers over the Minnesota Twins Rotation.The Twins rotation is going to get hammered all year.

BentoBox
5 years 4 months ago

Yeah, my fault there; mediocre is probably the best word the describe their rotation.

Twins Starting Rotation: (09 stats)
Scott Baker: 4.08 FIP/3.5 WAR
Francisco Liriano: 4.87 FIP/ 1.1 WAR
Carl Pavano: 4.00 FIP/3.7 WAR (Indians/Twins)
Nick Blackburn: 4.37 FIP/3.0 WAR
Kevin Slowey: 4.26 FIP/1.4 WAR (only 90.2 IP)
3.91 FIP/3.0 WAR (160.1 IP in 08)

Tigers Starting Rotation: (09 stats)
Jeremy Bonderman: 9.77 FIP/-0.3 WAR (only 10.1 IP in 09)
5.18 FIP/0.4 WAR (only 71.1 IP in 08)
Dontrelle Willis: 6.22 FIP/-0.1 WAR (only 33.2 IP in 09)
8.30 FIP/-0.6 WAR (only 24 IP in 08)
5.13 FIP/1 WAR (205.1 IP)
Rick Porcello: 4.77 FIP/1.9 WAR
Max Scherzer: 3.87 FIP/3.2 WAR
Justin Verlander: 2.80 FIP/8.2 WAR

angryredmenace
5 years 4 months ago

I’m assuming you believe I’m a Tigers fan? That’s the only reason I can think of why you would compare the tigers and twins rotation.Both teams play in a mediocre division with more mediocre hitting teams than average.So the Twins pitchers all pitch to low fours to high threes era, with the exception of Liriano and Pavano who season era’s were above five in a weak hitting division;Is that some sort of accomplishment in your eyes?

Great way to destroy my argument…

angryredmenace
5 years 4 months ago

Minnesota’s rotation is stable? I think the word you were looking for is mediocre.I’ll take Verlander and a few triple A pitchers over the Minnesota Twins Rotation.The Twins rotation is going to get hammered all year.

5 years 4 months ago

Seriously? LOL. Chicago has a better rotation, but Detroit’s is better than Minnesota. Verlander is better than any of the Twins pitcher, Porcello and Scherzer are good and extremely talented. Bonderman and Willis are question marks, but have the ability to be solid back-end starters. Detroit’s starters are better than Minny and it isn’t really close. People want to point out the Tiger homerism in this thread, but this is just as bad.

mrsjohnmiltonrocks
5 years 4 months ago

Minnesota historically loads up on starters that are just good enough. It’s just good enough to get them to the playoffs, and not good enough to advance beyond the playoffs. The same thing is going to happen to them this year.

mrfan3000
5 years 4 months ago

Yes because a rotation with no starter under 4.00 ERA is “stable” ok… LOL

BentoBox
5 years 4 months ago

Minnesota’s rotation, even if they don’t have an ace like Verlander is more stable than the Tiger’s. White Sox’ rotation is better than Detroit’s as well.

5 years 4 months ago

No, not one of the best in the division, one of the best in baseball – the best in the division, 1-5. Trash it all you want, we’ll see what you say come September.

angryredmenace
5 years 4 months ago

Obviously you are trolling or completely insane.The Yanks, Red Sox, White Sox, Braves, Rays, Angels, Giants, and a slew of other teams have far better rotation than the Tigers.

angryredmenace
5 years 4 months ago

Obviously you are trolling or completely insane.The Yanks, Red Sox, White Sox, Braves, Rays, Angels, Giants, and a slew of other teams have far better rotation than the Tigers.

5 years 4 months ago

No, not one of the best in the division, one of the best in baseball – the best in the division, 1-5. Trash it all you want, we’ll see what you say come September.

5 years 4 months ago

You do realize that just because Willis and Bonderman have had 1 good start apiece, that does not erase 2+ years of history of them being between awful and mediocre, right? I mean, let’s actually break these guys down:

1. Verlander – Coming off a career year and an IP high. Still likely to be the best pitcher in his division, however.
2. Scherzer – Complete wild card. The good: talented and young. The bad: changing to a harder league and very unlikely to pitch 200 innings this year.
3. Porcello – Should be solid, but very defense dependent.
4. Bonderman – The guy has been bad the last two years, and was only slightly above average in 2007. K’s down, BB up. Sounds more like a 5th starter than a 4rth starter to me.
5. Willis – Worse than awful the last THREE years. If he pitches as well as Brad Penny did for the Red Sox last year, I would be surprised.

So that’s what? 1 ace, two young guys who you can rely on for 170 solid innings maybe, and two guys who haven’t pitched a good season in a couple years? While the Tigers might have some of the best upside, they also have huge downside. If one of the sophomores has a slump and Bonderman + Willis pitch as they have for the last say… 3 years, this is going to be a horrible rotation. And if you have to bank on 2 rebound seasons and 2 young arms, that’s no “best rotation” in anyone’s book.

rottengazebo
5 years 4 months ago

I’m not concerned with Scherzer at all. He and Porcello have both had “full season of innings.” Scherzer had a ton of K’s and Porcello won 14 games. What in there leads you to believe you that they will falter? Verlander is fine, but I am worried about Willis and Bonderman. Willis is Willis, and Bondo hasn’t had a decent season in years. However, he looked great today. I’d like to see Pedro signed at some point in the season, but for now, the Tigers are fine. They need to be worried about their second base situation.

5 years 4 months ago

You’re not a Sizemore fan? I still think he’s going to win ROY.

Motor_City_Bombshell
5 years 4 months ago

I personally like A-Jax for ROY, but I guess they’re both Tigers so no complaints there. It’s too early to see how the rotation will shake out, but base it on the first time around along with the bullpen and it looks scary good, in retrospect, the Tigers should be 5-0 right now, but I’ll take 4-1 any day of the week too. If one or both of Willis and Bondo falters (which they way they’re pitching now, one of them is going to be productive all year), we’ll see them try Eddie Bonine or Zach Miner before signing any free agent or trade for any starter. Right now, they’re fine, and should be in the running all year long.

Luke Adams
5 years 4 months ago

Not saying either Scherzer or Porcello WILL falter, just that neither has topped 170 IP in a season. They could be great, but I’d be a little nervous if they each threw close to 200 innings and then were my 2-3 pitchers in a playoff series.

Yankees10
5 years 4 months ago

Yeah what is wrong with Sizemore? Its only 4 games into the season.

tigers22
5 years 4 months ago

Bondo had some absolutely filthy stuff today. I was genuinely impressed by what he brought to the table. The slider was sharp and if he keeps workin on the splitter I think he can use that as an out pitch as well. Dontrelle’s outing was encouraging as well. All I ask from these guys is eat some quality innings and keep us in ball games. These 2 guys can be the key for us this year if they can just pitch effectively and stay healthy. I know it’s very VERY earlier but it’s still great to see nonetheless and I really like how the pitching staff has shaped up so far.

Shoeless_Joe
5 years 4 months ago

‘If’ the Tiger rotation somehow is good enough to get them to the postseason. Which I don’t think it is, can you imagine starting either Bonderman or Willis in a playoff game? They will at some point in the season have to add some back end rotation depth if they are serious about contending. They’re 1-2-3 is fine.

Shoeless_Joe
5 years 4 months ago

‘If’ the Tiger rotation somehow is good enough to get them to the postseason. Which I don’t think it is, can you imagine starting either Bonderman or Willis in a playoff game? They will at some point in the season have to add some back end rotation depth if they are serious about contending. They’re 1-2-3 is fine.

5 years 4 months ago

I’d take Bonderman or Willis over Washburn, Looper or Grandpa Pedro, that’s for sure.

5 years 4 months ago

Shucks. You’d take them over 2 guys who have no stuff and were bad last year? I’d take Phil Hughes over all of them except Verlander and Scherzer. And he’s the Yankees’ 5th starter. When someone’s 5th guy is possibly better than your 3rd guy, that doesn’t shout “top rotation.”

5 years 4 months ago

Shucks. You’d take them over 2 guys who have no stuff and were bad last year? I’d take Phil Hughes over all of them except Verlander and Scherzer. And he’s the Yankees’ 5th starter. When someone’s 5th guy is possibly better than your 3rd guy, that doesn’t shout “top rotation.”

Shoeless_Joe
5 years 4 months ago

You shouldn’t be so “sure” about Pedro. He pitched well for the Phillies last season/post-season, and if you take off the rose-colored glasses you’d see Bonderman and Willis can’t hold his Metamucil.

Shoeless_Joe
5 years 4 months ago

You shouldn’t be so “sure” about Pedro. He pitched well for the Phillies last season/post-season, and if you take off the rose-colored glasses you’d see Bonderman and Willis can’t hold his Metamucil.

5 years 4 months ago

I’d take Bonderman or Willis over Washburn, Looper or Grandpa Pedro, that’s for sure.

bobbybaseball
5 years 4 months ago

Porcello is going to be a star. Even with pitching to contact last season, without striking guys out, he was terrific for a rookie. And he still has the ability to miss bats, so once he does he will be even better. I’d have no problem with him pitching in the playoffs for me after this season.

bobbybaseball
5 years 4 months ago

Porcello is going to be a star. Even with pitching to contact last season, without striking guys out, he was terrific for a rookie. And he still has the ability to miss bats, so once he does he will be even better. I’d have no problem with him pitching in the playoffs for me after this season.

stltiger69
5 years 4 months ago

The Tigers are FINE without Wasburn/Martinez/Looper. First, Willis and Bonderman (and Robertson was before he was traded) are all in there last contract year 2010, and the Tigers need to see what, if anything they have left in there arms and frankly both are in there put up or shut up mode. My gut tells me Bonderman is in the running for a contract for next year with the Tigers but Willis will really have to stand out before the Tigers give him any more money. I do not expect both of them to be pitching in the starting rotation at the end of the season. A relapse of ineffectiveness or a injury will likely claim least one of them. HOWEVER- Very quietly, the Tigers have amassed a small arsenal of talented young pitchers. Eddie Bonnie is a knuckle-ball pitcher that gets ground outs and he’s just about out of minor league options and he pitched reasonable well for a 4th, or 5th starter (Actually, think of having to hit against a knuckle ball pitcher in Bonnie at 82 mph one day and then Verlander’s 101 mph the next day…) There is a love affair with Zack Minor that I don’t fully understand but he too could fill in the starting rotation of need be and don’t forget about Phil Coke either and Armando Galarraga waiting at AAA to redeem himself. On the Minors front, the Tigers have no less than three seriously good prospects that might be in the rotation as early as 2011 & 2012 in Jacob Turner, Andrew Oliver and Casey Crosby. Turner is 20 years old and if you could make a clone of Porcello and put him in a Tigers uniform, you would have Jacob Turner. Joe Mauer was asked who has the best stuff of any pitcher he saw in spring training and he said Jacob Turner… The Tigers don’t need old, expensive pitchers when very talented-new, young and cheap starters are waiting in the wings…..

j6takish
5 years 4 months ago

I like Miner too, and I want him to do well…but he reminds me a lot of Chan Ho Park. A decent long relief guy, but he just doesn’t quite have the stuff to go six innings. Miner has shown he can be lights out for 3-4 innings, but I start to get real nervous after that.

j6takish
5 years 4 months ago

I like Miner too, and I want him to do well…but he reminds me a lot of Chan Ho Park. A decent long relief guy, but he just doesn’t quite have the stuff to go six innings. Miner has shown he can be lights out for 3-4 innings, but I start to get real nervous after that.

5 years 4 months ago

Turner is only 18.

stltiger69
5 years 4 months ago

Correct! Porcello turned 21 on December 27th, 2009 and Turner will turn 19 on May 21st, 2010- good catch, my bad!

5 years 4 months ago

No problem. Great post though. Very in-depth and I agree completely with your post.

5 years 4 months ago

No problem. Great post though. Very in-depth and I agree completely with your post.

stltiger69
5 years 4 months ago

The Tigers are FINE without Wasburn/Martinez/Looper. First, Willis and Bonderman (and Robertson was before he was traded) are all in there last contract year 2010, and the Tigers need to see what, if anything they have left in there arms and frankly both are in there put up or shut up mode. My gut tells me Bonderman is in the running for a contract for next year with the Tigers but Willis will really have to stand out before the Tigers give him any more money. I do not expect both of them to be pitching in the starting rotation at the end of the season. A relapse of ineffectiveness or a injury will likely claim least one of them. HOWEVER- Very quietly, the Tigers have amassed a small arsenal of talented young pitchers. Eddie Bonnie is a knuckle-ball pitcher that gets ground outs and he’s just about out of minor league options and he pitched reasonable well for a 4th, or 5th starter (Actually, think of having to hit against a knuckle ball pitcher in Bonnie at 82 mph one day and then Verlander’s 101 mph the next day…) There is a love affair with Zack Minor that I don’t fully understand but he too could fill in the starting rotation of need be and don’t forget about Phil Coke either and Armando Galarraga waiting at AAA to redeem himself. On the Minors front, the Tigers have no less than three seriously good prospects that might be in the rotation as early as 2011 & 2012 in Jacob Turner, Andrew Oliver and Casey Crosby. Turner is 20 years old and if you could make a clone of Porcello and put him in a Tigers uniform, you would have Jacob Turner. Joe Mauer was asked who has the best stuff of any pitcher he saw in spring training and he said Jacob Turner… The Tigers don’t need old, expensive pitchers when very talented-new, young and cheap starters are waiting in the wings…..

j6takish
5 years 4 months ago

Verlander, Scherzer, and Porcello are a pretty formidable 1-2-3, and you could do a lot worse than Bonderman as your #5….but I think D-Train is just a trainwreck (pun intended) waiting to happen. I’m still clueless to why guys like Figaro kept getting the nod over Bonine, but I think this year will finally be his year.

j6takish
5 years 4 months ago

Verlander, Scherzer, and Porcello are a pretty formidable 1-2-3, and you could do a lot worse than Bonderman as your #5….but I think D-Train is just a trainwreck (pun intended) waiting to happen. I’m still clueless to why guys like Figaro kept getting the nod over Bonine, but I think this year will finally be his year.

Guest
5 years 4 months ago

First off, stop overlooking the control MESS that is Justin Verlander. Yes, he stirkes alot of people out and pitches loads of innings, but his whip is too high to be considered ACE.

I like Scherzer and Porcello. I hope Bonderman can build off of Saturday’s start and return to his 2006 form. I would like to see the Tigers get another veteran pitcher to surely solidify this pitching staff, because i don’t think Dontrelle Willis is the one.

Overall, not as good as the Twins, and maybe not as good as the White Sox.

RestoreTheRoar
5 years 4 months ago

what on earth are you talking about….?

His career whip is 1.29, just a hair over Felix’s or Greinke’s 1.27 , lower than Cliff Lee’s 1.30. Does that mean they aren’t ace caliber either? 😉

Secondly..how can they be better than the Twins but MAYBE not better than the Sox? The sox rotation is way better than Minnesota.

Guest
5 years 4 months ago

I really worry about Verlander’s stamina. He does give up alot of homeruns (high- velocity pitcher) and he doesn’t do great when he has runners on base. Like today for example, the first 3 batters got on base before he got an out. He ended up having a 5 run inning.

Maybe I don’t see him enough, but I don’t think he’s on the same plateau as Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain or Roy Halladay. Hernandez was just unhittable down the stretch last season, I feel Verlander contributed to the Tigers’ collapse.

Forgive me, I like Chicago’s rotation, I just think their pitchers allow alot of homeruns and extra base hits. Maybe they’ll be better now they have Peavy a full season. I’ll stop underestimating them.

RestoreTheRoar
5 years 4 months ago

He is known as the AL work “horse”..he throws a lot of pitches/innings, but he also throws 100mph in the 9th after hitting over a hundred in his pitch count. name another starter that does that on a consistent basis.

This last game was an anomaly. If you’re trying to infer he’s loaded the bases so early in a game on a regular basis, you’re way out of line.

Guest
5 years 4 months ago

I meant to say I don’t think they’re consistent enough to overtake the Twins. Honestly, I think the Twins have the most consistent rotation in that division.

The same goes for Verlander. I like to have him on the mound, but he’s not always consistent.

RestoreTheRoar
5 years 4 months ago

That reeks of ignorance. Before his subpar season of 2008, he won more games in his first few years than any other pitcher since Doc Gooden…and that was the same year his defense was rated one of the worst in the AL.

If you compare JV’s seasons year by year to Felix’s, they are practically identical in most categories. He’s had more than 15 wins/season in all but one of his (FT) years a pro…Id say that pretty consistent.

And you think he’s to blame for the collapse at the end of last year? Out of Sept/Oct, he practically won more games than the rest of the rotation combined. He walked away with 4 wins, 2 L’s, and a no decision in his last 7 starts. I dont care who you are, those are great numbers. Everyone was actually peev’ed Leyland started Porcello instead of Justin on short rest for game 163.

Do yourself a favor and do a little research before you reply…just sayin.

Guest
5 years 4 months ago

I was cranky because it was 11:00 at night and I was supposed to be studying for an accounting exam.

He is one of the best pitchers in the American League. I just hope that Leyland doesn’t overwork him so that he sputters out at the age of 29.

RestoreTheRoar
5 years 4 months ago

haha…I was a bit cranky last night as well :)

If you dont see a lot of a pitcher, its easy to get a skewed perspective of their numbers. I live in Seattle, and see Felix just as often as I do Verlander..they are very much the same pitcher..Felix is just younger (and fatter). Verlander is a lot cockier..Im guessing both of their numbers will be down this season after locking in large contracts…fear of the sandbaggers.

Now thats a fair bash on Leyland, he does like to turn young arms into hamburger meat.