February 1st, 2007

On the rotation

Caught some feedback from fans over yesterday’s story on the Tigers rotation, especially the idea that the Tigers don’t have anyone on the level of Johan Santana or Mark Buehrle. It wasn’t a remark on talent, but on track records, something I probably didn’t make clear enough. Both Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman went pitch-for-pitch against Santana last year, but Santana also has two Cy Young awards and a pitching triple crown to his credit. Bonderman or Verlander might put up those kinds of accomplishments in the coming years, but they haven’t yet. Obviously, they haven’t been around long enough.

As for Buehrle, well, he probably doesn’t get the respect he should — certainly not lately. Last season’s struggles and Kenny Williams’ recent controversy aside, he has four years with at least 16 wins out of six full big-league seasons, and he has <i>averaged</i> just under 230 innings a season in that time. He’s also 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA lifetime against Detroit, even after two losses to the Tigers down the stretch last year.

Also have received questions about Maroth as a potential reliever, but the final rotation spot is his to lose. There was a line in the Sporting News preview player evaluations (unfortunately packaged alongside a story that I wrote) that said he had no impact on the rotation last year, but I strongly dispute that. If you believe the notion that the Tigers made the playoffs in large part thanks to their strong start, then you have to credit what he did before he went on the DL. He went four out of his first seven starts with at least six innings and either one run or no runs allowed. The Tigers won all four of those games, three of them ending up one-run victories despite scoring three runs or less. Surgery is surgery, but usually when it involves bone chips, the recovery is not very drastic.

That’s what I was trying to point out in my story: If you can plug somebody like that into the bottom of your rotation, compared to most big-league rotations, that’s a huge advantage.