Earlier, we handed out first-half grades for all the position players of your Detroit Tigers. Some have overachieved, some have severely underachieved, and some are just about right where we expected them to be.
Now it is time to look at the pitching staff. On the surface, it is going to seem like a very poor group of hurlers, 427 runs allowed is tied for 3rd most in the American League and tied for the 7th most in all of Major League Baseball. There’s also these head-scratching numbers:
Counting the 5 runs today, the #Tigers have allowed 184 two-out runs this season, 2nd-most in baseball.
— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) July 10, 2016
— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) July 10, 2016
Those were stats relating to their 6-1 loss this past Sunday in Toronto.
Simply put, they are collectively flirting with fire way more often than the should and struggling to put hitters away in the most pivotal moments of a game. But there are some members of the pitching staff that have done their part and helped keep the team afloat at 46-43. So let’s hand out some more grades.
A 4.07 ERA and 1.13 WHIP for a 33-year-old former Cy Young and MVP winner that has been virtually forced to evolve into a ‘pitcher’ is pretty good if you ask me. That is our very own Justin Verlander.
And if you exclude three outings where he allowed 7 ER or more, Verlander has posted a 2.70 ERA in the other 15 starts this season. He’s still very good, but obviously still prone to the occasional clunker. That said, you’d still give him the ball in a must-win game.
For the first month of the season, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann seemed like the best off-season acquisition in baseball after posting a 0.55 ERA in April. However, he has since them come back down to Earth with a 5.74 ERA in May and June.
Zimm still has a very modest 3.95 season ERA but his neck strain that put him on the shelf prior to the All-Star break, albeit not major, concerned some. He may have to miss one start but hopefully when he returns, it’s more like the April form versus the May/June form.
Oh, what has happened to you, Anibal Sanchez? Nobody has a good answer, including Sanchez himself and everyone can read it on his face and body language.
No matter how you slice and dice it, the numbers for Sanchez are not good at all, a 6.75 ERA in 22 games (14 starts). Opposing hitters are hitting .348 off him with runners in scoring position. Opponents are slugging .767 the third time they face him. If you want to find the good in things, Sanchez does have a 2.84 ERA in 12.2 innings of relief.
But all in all, Anibal has been just flat-out awful and he’s hurting the team’s chances with each start. What adds insult to injury is that the Tigers are financially and loyally obligated to continue using him.
The signing of Mike Pelfrey was not the most popular from Tiger Town, probably because of the dollar amount attached to a pitcher who had a 4.52 career ERA coming into this season. Well, he’s doing just that, compiling a 4.58 ERA in 18 games (17 starts).
It has not been the smoothest path to said ERA however for Pelfrey. He’s been flirting with danger a lot, leading the majors in hits allowed (130) and posting the highest WHIP among qualified starters (1.70). However, the ground-ball-inducing machine that Pelfrey has been known for has been bailed out by 21 ground ball double plays, the most in baseball.
Pelfrey did finish the first half on a strong note, allowing just two ER over his last two starts (12.1 IP). A few more of those and he’ll have a more respectable ERA for the prototypical No. 5 starter
The Tigers got a bit of a scare early in the season when pitcher Shane Greene was put on the DL with a blister issue for the second time in as many seasons. But since he came back and was put in the bullpen, Greene more often than not has been contributing positively.
Shane, in three starts this season, has a 6.75 ERA, versus a 3.57 ERA in 18 relief appearances. When he returned, Greene was put in the pen because there was simply no room for him in the rotation, but he has more than accepted the role as a reliever and has done a good job. Also, right-handed hitters are hitting under .200 against him this season.
The success of veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez is making the move to acquire him one of the best, if not the best moves, by team GM Al Avila. Frankie has quietly been one of the better closers in the American League this season.
With 24 saves, a sub-3.00 ERA and a WHIP of barely 1.00, Rodriguez is not only getting it done on the field, but he’s probably a big reason why the bullpen mentally and psychologically has been much better than in recent years. Having one of the best relievers of his generation leading the way is what any team craves to have.
LAW FIRM OF WILSON & WILSON
The new Detroit law firm of Justin Wilson (left) & Alex Wilson (right) have by and large been effective and have been getting the job done.
Another one of Avila’s smart off-season moves, acquiring a multi-year controllable player in Justin Wilson was a good move for the bullpen. Justin’s K/9 IP is well over 11.00 and he leads Tigers relievers among holds with 16. His ERA has fluctuated each month but outside of that, he’s been pretty reliable
(J. Wilson: B+)
On the other side, you have Alex Wilson, who is coming off his best season as a regular when he posted a 2.19 ERA in 59 games in 2015. He hasn’t quite repeated that with an ERA of 3.58, but that is ballooned because of a May ERA of 8.10. He’s been on a roll since the calendar flipped to June (1.50 ERA since June 1). Hopefully that trend continues in the second half. The only thing knocking down Alex a bit is nearly half of his inherited runners (11 of 23) coming around to score.
(A. Wilson: B-)
Here is another pitcher that has completely fallen off the map and in a heartbeat, probably more so than Anibal Sanchez.
The struggles of Mark Lowe are well-documented. 33 appearances in 2016 and the ERA is north of 10.00. How? How?? He had a 2.79 ERA after a May 1 game and it seemed like it was going to be another smart investment made by Al Avila. Since that day, the ERA is an absolutely putrid 13.74 and has allowed a ML-high 10 big flies… good grief.
As with starting Sanchez, manager Brad Ausmus is borderline terrified to bring Lowe into close games right now. If there’s a guy who needed the All-Star break, it is Lowe. Whether it will pay off come Friday when the second half starts remains to be seen.
Southpaw Kyle Ryan is one pitcher on the Tigers that does not get talked about a whole lot, probably because he is not as heralded as some of the other youngsters. Let’s not forget he turns just 25 years old in late September.
Detroit would still prefer him to use him in a starting role and I think Ryan would like to be as well, but he is simply not ready yet. However, he’s done solid work out of the bullpen. The ERA sits at 3.52, but that is inflated from 2.43 after two rocky performances in the Tigers recent series in Toronto.
He’s a ground ball specialist and a pitcher that limits the damage when pressed into duty with runners on base. A ‘work in progress’ still being effective in the pen? We’ll take it.
There are a lot of pitchers that have appeared in games this season for the Tigers that we simple cannot access properly due to the fact their body of work is too small to dissect.
The biggest name on this board is lefty Daniel Norris, who has only appeared in four games for the Tigers and is also on the DL. When he is activated he will be slotted right back into the rotation. In his small sample size, he does post a K/9 of 11.08 in 13.0 IP.
Other notable pitchers:
- Matt Boyd: 7 games (6 starts) – 5.77 ERA (back in Triple-A Toledo)
- Warwick Saupold: 5 games – 8 ER in 6.2 IP (currently on 15-day DL)
- Drew VerHagen: 19 games – 7.11 ERA (currently on 60-day DL)
- Bobby Parnell: 6 games – 4 ER in 5.1 IP
- Blaine Hardy: 13 games – 8 ER in 12.1 IP
- Buck Farmer: 10 games – 7 ER in 16 IP
- Bruce Rondon: 8 games – 4 ER (3 HR) in 9.1 IP
- Logan Kensing: 3 games – ER in 4.2 IP
- Dustin Molleken: 2 games – ER in 4.2 IP