I went to the stats to answer that question. And boy, it didn’t take long to find an answer.
Detroit pitching now has the 11th best ERA in the American League. Another way of saying that is fourth worst. Just a month ago, I think the Tigers were in the middle of the pack and moving up. And now, Texas, Chicago and Tampa Bay are the only teams with worse ERA this year.
Did that sink in? Kansas City has a better ERA. Kansas. City. A better ERA than a team with Jeremy Bomber-man and Justin “I had a no hitter! really!” Verlander. Bonderman is at best, well, average. Verlander does fine, so he is hereby excluded from this conversation. And what of the rest of the staff? Nate Robertson stinks this year. And the other two roles have been filled by a guy in his second year of pro ball, and a parade of folks making their first starts in the majors, and Chad Durbin. So I guess it shouldn’t really be a surprise. The team has 54 quality starts, also 11th in the AL.
So the starters are the problem right? Well, have you seen the bullpen? No new information there. Not good. Followed by probably worse. At least Fernando Rodney bridges the gap to Todd Jones, making a lead after seven innings infinitely safer than a few weeks ago. Remember when the “experts” thought Jones was the weak link of the bullpen? Oh for that to be the case!
Honestly, I don’t know how the Tigers are in the hunt for the division title (or wildcard, a bit out of that hunt though).
So that’s in the past. What we care about now, with Cleveland coming to town, is the future.
I’d like to say with Joel Zumaya back, and possibly Kenny Rogers and Andrew Miller by the end of the week, things will go better. On the other hand, I’d like to say even with the awful pitching we’ve seen, don’t expect it to get much better. But I’ve got to be honest with you.
I haven’t a clue what’s going to happen.
This team is unpredictable. It’s still in the pennant race despite all the reasons you can come up with saying it shouldn’t be. I know its’ easy to get down on the Tigers, and the past 2 or 3 weeks, it’s gotten even easier. And yet, there’s absolutely no reason they should be where they are, right?
It they keep losing, I wouldn’t be surprised. If they start winning, I wouldn’t be that surprised either.
Some of the actions taken by management and Jim Leyland sort of sound of desperation — It is Cameron Maybin’s second year in pro ball and they start him in left field in Yankee Stadium, playing Ryan Raburn at third base because Brandon Inge is stumbling; and all this talk about trading for Jack Wilson! – but at least they are sometimes proactive.
And yet, they need to take another look at replacing Yorman Bazardo in the bullpen, or maybe replacing Jason Grilli with, well, anything. Tough thought in a pennant race, but something has to be done when the experienced pitcher keeps failing.
If Jair Jurrjens shows his debut against the Indians last week was not a fluke, if Zumaya pitches well enough so that the setup role is secure and the rest of the pitchers are bumped into their proper role, if Bonderman looks more like what we’ve come to expect during his career, not just the last month of it, Detroit may be well on its way toward being fine. But if nothing changes soon, the Tigers will be watching October from the sidelines and hoping for a healthier 2008. I just don’t know yet.
Me, I would say expect not to make the playoffs, but don’t be surprised if the Tigers do. They are frustratingly close to going either direction, and they keep walking the tight rope.