The Tigers’ 2011 Rotation

Justin Verlander knows exactly which past rotation he’d like the Tigers to model themselves after.

"Braves," Verlander said, without hesitation. "Obviously that’s three Hall of Fame pitchers – you can’t really ask for that – but that’s the rotation I grew up watching. I grew up watching the Braves, I grew up watching Smoltzie [John Smoltz] and [Greg] Maddux and [Tom] Glavine just go after it and [perform] in the postseason. Those three guys – nobody wanted to face them."

As Verlander says, no rotation can be expected to match the Braves of the 1990s and early 2000s. But after some poor early season performances, Tigers starters have rebounded and appear poised to enter 2011 with a relatively stable rotation. Rick Porcello and Armando Galarraga have had ups and downs in 2010, but no pitcher has turned his season around as completely as Max Scherzer.

"Max has been probably one of the best pitchers in baseball in the second half," Verlander said.

In 17 starts since returning from a stint in minor leagues, Scherzer has posted a 2.20 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. Scherzer says his recent success – and the rotation’s – should continue into next season.

"Right now we’re pitching well," Scherzer said. "Verlander, myself, Galarraga, Porcello and Bondo [Jeremy Bonderman]. We’re putting a lot of quality starts up there and it’s good because we’re kind of feeding off of each other."

Scherzer, Verlander, Porcello and Galarraga can expect to keep feeding off each other next season, since all four are under team control for 2011. Bonderman is a free agent this offseason and though he has hinted at retirement, he could fit into the team’s plans for next season.

Instead, the Tigers may determine that Alfredo Figaro or Andy Oliver is ready to join the rotation. Figaro has pitched well at Triple A, though the 26-year-old has struggled in the major leagues. Big leaguers have also hit Oliver, but the 22-year-old has impressive numbers in the minor leagues over the course of his first pro season (3.50 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 3.2 BB/9).

Figaro and Oliver are closest to the majors, but the Tigers system continues to produce intriguing arms. Drew Smyly and Jacob Turner are not on the brink of contributing at the major league level, but the two top picks have the potential to start in the major leagues eventually.

Smyly, Turner and Oliver seem like youngsters, but Rick Porcello (who is actually a year younger than Oliver) is still just 21. Porcello also spent time in Toledo this summer, but he has pitched better since returning from Triple A. He doesn’t have the eye-popping strikeout numbers Scherzer does, but Porcello has posted a 4.44 ERA with twice as many strikeouts as walks since returning to the majors in mid-July.

Verlander says Porcello makes the baseball dance whenever they’re playing catch. Porcello's stuff has not translated into big league success this year, but it seems unlikely that he has reached his ceiling.

"I really don’t think Ricky has yet," Verlander said. "I still think even at his age, he can still pitch better than he is right now, and I know he’s been throwing well lately, but I think he’s better than what he’s shown."

That’s why Verlander likes this group for 2011 and beyond.

"We’re all under contract for a while, so I think the team envisions building around that and seeing what happens," Verlander said. "But if we can all pitch  the way that we’re capable of, the sky’s the limit."

Galarraga, who pushed the limits of pitching perfection in June, likes the idea of pitching with Verlander, Porcello and Scherzer for a while.

"Porcello and Max, they’re really young, younger than me and have a lot of talent, so hopefully we’re going to have for a couple of years the same rotation."

The Tigers have money coming off the books this winter, so they could spend on a starter if they don’t want to rely on Figaro or Oliver to round out the rotation. They could choose to look into free agents, since Porcello is no sure thing and teams almost always call on more than five starters over the course of a season.

Verlander, Scherzer, Galarraga and Porcello have promise, but don’t provide the same certainty as, say, the Phillies’ or Giants’ starters. All the same, Verlander is cautiously optimistic about what this group can do in 2011.

"You can never really forecast," Verlander said. "But if you say we’re all going to be pitching really well, I think our chances to win the division are outstanding."

It won't be Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, but it should be enough.


33 Responses to The Tigers’ 2011 Rotation Leave a Reply

  1. Ferrariman 5 years ago

    i expect big years from porcello and Scherzer in 2011. both are primed for breakout seasons. they will probably add a free agent as well.

    • hartvig 5 years ago

      Porcello has got to find a strikeout pitch. Bill James looked into this in his last Baseball Abstract & the last starting pitcher to have more than a couple of decent seasons with a strikeout rate of below 4.5 per 9 innings was Lew Burdette. Porcello was at 4.76/9 in 09 and 4.53/9 this season. He has got to turn that trend around or he’ll be out of baseball in a few more years.

      • baseballdude 5 years ago

        look what porcello is doing today against the blue jays so far 7ip 2 hits 0 walks 5 strikeouts . there is no chance porcello will be out of the legue until he retires

    • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

      Max Scherzer: 2011 AL CY Young Award Winnner. I just called it.

      I would like to see Charles Furbush get a chance as well.

      • jwredsox 5 years ago

        Francisco Liriano. You heard it here

        • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

          Better chance than anybody not named Max Scherzer.

          • baseballdude 5 years ago

            sherzer is going to win the cy young. in 14 starts from going to toledo he has an era of 2.20

          • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

            some of the best stuff in Baseball, 98 mph wih movement, good slider.
            Changes speeds, knows how to use it.

          • baseballdude 5 years ago

            1 of the best if not the best changeup

        • Always liked Liriano. Could be another Santana if he caught a few (health) breaks.

      • Charlie should have gotten a mention in this article. He’s had a fine season and is moving up the ladder. He should be added to the 40 man roster, if not called up in September (which isn’t likely, IMO). Oliver has the better stuff, and will be in the rotation once he can command his off speed pitches, but Furbush has to be on the radar as well, for depth if nothing else. BTW- Luke Putkonen and Casey Crosby are another pair from the 07 draft that have to be somewhere on the list.

        • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

          Don’t forget Brayan Villareal. Great stuff and over 9.0 k/9.

  2. baseballdude 5 years ago

    the tigers r probably goin after a free agent instead of figaro or oliver

  3. The Tigers need to bring in at least one top end starting pitcher for the 2011 season. With $ 34 million coming off the payroll due to the expiring contracts of Bonderman, Robertson, and Willis, the money is there if they can find a match. Easier said than done, of course. Cliff Lee would be the obvious choice, but he’s probably headed to New York or staying in Texas. After that there is a considerable drop off in the free agent class. Maybe a trade for a Garza or Nolasco can be worked out. Maybe Arroyo will be available on the free agent market. Maybe steal Pavano from the Twins.

    Bonderman is inadequate and always hurt. Oliver showed that he is unable to locate his off speed stuff yet, but he will be a good one when he’s ready. Figaro isn’t an option. Galarraga is a fine No. 4 or 5, but what’s needed is a No. 2 to slot after Verlander, and let Scherzer and Porcello develop.

    • baseballdude 5 years ago

      id like to see them get garza or pavano

      • Swing a trade for Garza and Bartlett!

        • baseballdude 5 years ago

          who do u think we would have to give up??

          • That’s hard to say. Some very good prospects, I’m sure, and the Rays are pretty deep in prospects. They’ll need a 1B when Pena probably leaves, but I don’t think Strieby would do much for them. Maybe a Brennan Boesch would interest them. Of course, any club would be interested in Oliver or Turner. Garza is the expensive one, with Bartlett being a non tender candidate if they can’t move him. Bartlett is pretty sure to be dealt, IMO, because they have Brignac and Sean Rodriguez who are ready to take over.

        • gamaize 5 years ago

          Not a bad idea.

          Moving next to Bartlett is: Inge or Peralta? I lean towards Peralta only for the fact it is a one year commitment and I am not sure I want to give Inge more than one year. While I love his glove, I am not sure his body will keep going, he seems to spend more time on the DL each year. I am not a huge Peralta fan but I think he would do ok at third provide a little more consistancy with the bat (than Inge) and would be playing for his next contract.

          This trade would take care of two problem areas throw in Peralta at third and we can focus on C, OF/DH, and the pen.

          • baseballdude 5 years ago

            yeah ten we can make a run at crawford . if victor martinez is going to be a fa we can try to get him. then sign like a vladimir guerrero or someone like that.

          • j6takish 5 years ago

            Vlad is staying in Texas, no two ways about it. Besides, we have Guillen under contract…he will be DHing no way he is allowed to play the field ever again

          • Not that I’d do it, but I’d bet heavily that Leyland will have los Carlos back at 2B next season, backed up by some combination of Sizemore, Santiago, and Rymes. The DH will be used for Guillen somewhat, but also maybe Ordonez if he’s back, and a Dunn or Hawpe type of bat in the 5 slot to protect Cabrera.

          • I really can’t stand Jhonny’s defense, either at third or SS. There are limited options on the FA market at 3B. Beltre is about it, and he wanted no part of Detroit when he signed with Seattle (who did at that time?). If Figgins is available, I’d be all over him. Overpaid, yes, but better than Peralta, or Inge. Worst case, bring Inge back, but no more than a year or two. Castellanos can’t be ready soon enough!

          • baseballdude 5 years ago

            yeah id love to have figgins in detroit :)

          • gamaize 5 years ago

            I’m not a huge Peralta fan either, however, Inge’s injuritis concerns me. I am content with either Inge or Peralta at third for next season. I lean towards Peralta, although I like Inge better, as it would be a one year deal. We would give some D away but we would also gain some O.

            Tigers have deferred to Defense for the last few years and I want some offense.

            Or resign Inge and go after Dunn and Martinez for offense.

            I am only looking at Peralta for third, not SS.

  4. verlander 5 years ago

    //Justin Verlander knows exactly which past rotation he’d like the Tigers to model themselves after.

    “Braves,” Verlander said, without hesitation. “Obviously that’s three Hall of Fame pitchers – you can’t really ask for that – but that’s the rotation I grew up watching. I grew up watching the Braves, I grew up watching Smoltzie [John Smoltz] and [Greg] Maddux and [Tom] Glavine just go after it and [perform] in the postseason. Those three guys – nobody wanted to face them.”//

    //”Max has been probably one of the best pitchers in baseball in the second half,” Verlander said.//

    I agree!

    • baseballdude 5 years ago

      yeah i agree to cant think of anyone better can you

  5. Tigerstalk_fan 5 years ago

    Swing a trade for Greinke. He seems to want out of KC and the Royals shopped him at the trade deadline. John Buck is a free agent, sign him. He would fill the hole at catcher. Also the Tigers might be able to pry Bautista away from the Blue Jays. He can be a free agent after 2011. Bautista is a formidable third baseman and can also play the outfield.

    • baseballdude 5 years ago

      peoples saying he is not going to have a good season next year but i think he can have a 40+ homerun season again next year

  6. Pawsdeep 5 years ago

    Dombrowski has made it no secret that he wants greinke and/or lee
    With a total of 75 million and 5 incredible propects I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets both this offseason.

    • baseballdude 5 years ago

      im a tigers fan who is r 5 incredible prospects?? turner,oliver,strieby and who else??

  7. Pawsdeep 5 years ago

    Crosby and furbush—te way jay sborz has been throwing you could say that he has 6

  8. hartvig 5 years ago

    You guys are making my point for me. 7 IP/ 5 K’s = 6.4 K’s per 9 IP’s. Look at Maddux’s B-R page. His career K/9 is 6.1. In virtually every great season he was above that, in virtually every season he was below he was around league average or below. There are no successful pitchers since the 1950’s who have been able to sustain a career with a strikeout rate below 4.5.

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