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Inside the Article:
It's baseball season, baby! Full squad workouts have begun down in Lakeland, Florida for the Detroit Tigers and Opening Day is right around the corner. One of the biggest question marks is the starting rotation for the Tigers, one that was bandaged and taped together like a patchwork quilt in 2022.
Why it matters:
The Tigers had a woeful 2022, plagued by the injury bug and unusual circumstances, A.J. Hinch did the best he could with a broken roster to put a passable product on the field. Oftentimes, however, that test failed. The Tigers ended the season 66-96, firing President of Baseball Operations Al Avila in the process and moving on to the much younger, analytically-driven Scott Harris.
- The Detroit Tigers used 17 different starting pitchers in 2022 due to injury and personal absences.
- Prior to the 2022 season, the Tigers signed Eduardo Rodriguez to a five-year, $77 million deal to anchor the rotation; he made 17 starts and pitched 91 innings, while taking a lengthy absence in the middle of the season.
- The Tigers' rotation was the third-worst in baseball in 2022, with a combined ERA of 4.51 and a combined FIP of 4.62.
Note: You cannot write an article about the starting rotation without mentioning two things: 1) The young pitchers who would've been on this list, but will starting the season on the IL–Casey Mize (Tommy John Surgery and back surgery) and Tarik Skubal (Flexor Tendon Surgery). And, 2) The New York Yankees will potentially be without Frankie Montas for the season due to injury and the Tigers could be a very attractive trade partner with names like Spencer Turnbull and Eduardo Rodriguez.
Predicting the Detroit Tigers Opening Day starting rotation:
One of the things working in the Tigers' favor is the number of arms they do have. Guys like Joey Wentz, Beau Brieske, and Alex Faedo all could factor into this projection. Not to mention the signings of Matthew Boyd and Micheal Lorenzen this past offseason. Here's a projection of the starting rotation:
Eduardo Rodriguez – LHP – Opening Day Starter
2022 MLB Stats: 91 IP, 7.12 K/9, 3.36 BB/9, 4.05 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 4.43 FIP
Rodriguez was the Opening Day starter in 2022 and was uninspiring. Not to mention the lengthy absence he took in the middle of the season on the restricted list. Add to all of that, he has an opt-out after this season and you're looking at a primed candidate to be offered to the Yankees. However, should that not happen, he will be starting Opening Day and looking to set the tone for the 2023 season. He'll look to do better than the four innings he pitched, giving up three earned runs on Opening Day 2022.
Upon his return to the team last season, Rodriguez fared well, going at least five innings in eight of his nine starts, tossing a 3.81 ERA, and a 4.34 FIP. If Rodriguez plans to utilize his opt-out clause, he'll need a strong season on the mound in order to earn more than the $77 million he is due over the five-year contract.
Matt Manning – RHP
2022 MLB Stats: 63 IP, 6.86 K/9, 2.71 BB/9, 3.43 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 3.78 FIP
Manning is an interesting case for the Tigers in 2023. Still only 25 years old, the righty has the stuff to play in the Majors, the issue for him is staying healthy. In 2022, he only logged 63 innings and was mildly effective in his outings. The once highly-touted prospect doesn't necessarily fit the “make-it-or-break-it” category, yet, but 2023 is a massive year for him to assert himself in the Tigers' long-term future.
Manning's five-pitch mix should play well, getting a 35.8% whiff rate on his slider and a 34.3% whiff rate on his change up. He's found a way to miss many barrels and is above average in his allowed hard-hit percentage. An uptick in velocity would help his secondary pitches play more effectively, and with a healthy season that could happen.
Matthew Boyd – LHP
2022 MLB Stats: 13.1 IP, 8.78 K/9, 5.40 BB/9, 1.35 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 3.19 FIP
Old friend alert! After undergoing flexor tendon surgery (the same surgery as Tarik Skubal), Matthew Boyd pitched in 2022 for the surging Seattle Mariners. Boyd is no stranger to Detroit, pitching here for seven years after being part of the package that sent David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays. He was non-tendered in 2021 while dealing with his injury.
In very limited innings last season, only 13.1 IP, Boyd struggled with his walks, but limited damage. His change up is his best pitch, using it in put-away situations effectively 58% of the time last season and 29.9% of the time in 2021. He should solidify himself as a solid innings-eater and effective lefty matchup that could eventually see time in the bullpen, should the need arise.
Michael Lorenzen – RHP
2022 MLB Stats: 97.2 IP, 7.83 K/9, 4.05 BB/9, 4.24 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 4.31 FIP
Lorenzen signed with the Tigers this offseason after one season with the Los Angeles Angels. Potentially just a stop-gap option until Skubal and Mize come off the Injured List, he should be able to serviceably eat innings at the beginning of the season as needed. There shouldn't be many expectations for a guy with a career 4.10 ERA and 4.24 FIP.
He should be slotted in toward the back end of the rotation, allowing for more time and innings for Matt Manning and eventually Spencer Turnbull. It was a nice, low-risk signing by Scott Harris that could eventually be either a bullpen piece or organizational depth.
Spencer Turnbull – RHP
2021 MLB Stats: 50.0 IP, 7.92 K/9, 2.16 BB/9, 2.88 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 2.95 FIP
Spencer Turnbull found himself on top of the mountain in 2021 when he pitched a no-hitter against the Mariners, only to undergo Tommy John Surgery shortly after and missing all of 2022. He is back in camp and seems healthy according to reports, and just like Manning needs a strong 2023 to solidify a place in the Old English D beyond this season.
Turnbull has the potential to throw six different pitches, but coming off his surgery, that may be limited. He relies heavily on a four-seam/slider mix of pitches (62.6%) and throws his curveball 33%. Should he lean more toward a two-pitch pitcher he could find himself as an effective bullpen arm, especially with his power sinker–should it develop more usage (7%)–that he throws an average of 94.9 mph.
The bottom line:
The Detroit Tigers will look to turn things around in 2023 after a disastrous 2022 campaign. The five guys projected here to be their starting rotation will be the key cogs that will set the tone for 2023. Some of the faces will not be around with Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize return from injury, and could pitch well enough to be valuable trade assets at the deadline. As long as the Tigers don't have to use 18 different pitchers this season, that will be a reason to celebrate in and of itself.