Tigers Preview, Part 1

With Opening Day slowly coming upon us, it is time to go through the Tigers lineup and try to predict where the Tigers end up this season. My thoughts on the pitching staff are followed by the baseballprojection.com predictions.

Justin Verlander: Should bounce back from a below-average season last year. He fights with his consistency, and it seems like innings affect him more than other pitchers. After he threw the no-hitter two years ago, at almost 130 pitches, he never recovered to have a strong season. He is dominant the first two times through the lineup, but fades after that. Leyland and new pitching coach Rick Knapp will hopefully see this and adjust. I can see him as a 16 game winner, with an ERA around 3.50. (12-8, 3.94)

Jeremy Bonderman: Bondo fought injuries all of last season, but don't expect a repeat of 2006 JB. He is a solid starter, and will win more than he loses, but he is not a 20 game winner. Bondo will return with a 12 win performance. (8-6, 3.99)

Armando Galarraga: Armando jumped on the scene last season as a rookie, surprising everyone when he was called up to fill in spots in the MASH unit that was the Tigers rotation. Any high hopes for this season are tempered by the sophomore jinx that always seem to come with these guys, although he pitched well in the World Baseball Classic. I see him around 10 wins, with an ERA hovering around 4.50. (8-7, 4.27)

Nate Robertson: We will be surprised if Nate lasts until the All-Star break in the rotation. He is built as a bull pen guy, dominant in spurts, and a BP pitcher in others. If he stays in the rotation, he will be around a 7 or 8 win guy and an ERA just under 5.00. (10-9, 4.53)

Edwin Jackson: The newest starter, picked up from the AL Champion Red Sox Yankees Devil Rays (they will always be the Devil Rays), is a young version of Zach Miner. An innings eater, with a little upside. He is not dominant, but he will go out every fifth day and give you solid innings and a chance to win. We can see him going 10-8 with an ERA around 4.25-4.50. (8-8, 4.78)

Dontrelle Willis: Who. F'ing. Knows. (7-8, 5.09)

Overall, this rotation is not going to scare anybody. Verlander will go out every fifth day when his arm doesn't hurt, and put the fear of zero in the opponents. But after that, nobody will have managers going out of their way in fear putting a lineup together. But, they won't have to. If the Tigers can get 6 or 7 strong innings, and hand it over to the bullpen, the offense is strong enough to get some wins.

Zach Miner (5-3, 3.72)
Bobby Seay (3-2, 3.78)
Fernando Rodney (4-2, 3.67)
Joel Zumaya (3-2, 3.64)
Acquilino Lopez (4-3, 4.11)
Brandon Lyon (5-3, 3.84)

Zumaya is a question mark, but dominant when he's healthy. Fernando Rodney can be dominant when he's hitting the strike zone. Brandon Lyon was brought in to be a closer. Zach Miner is an innings eater. And then there's Bobby Seay. Bobby Seay has been the best, most reliable relief pitcher in the Tigers bullpen for two years, and is the most ill-used releiver in baseball. Leyland loves him some lefty-lefty matchups, at the expense of getting good pitchers in the game, and keeps Seay as his LOOGY (lefty one out guy). Leyland needs to drop the "closer" from the bullpen, and put in the pitcher who is hottest in at the most critical time, which might, believe it or not, be the 7th, not the 9th inning. This bullpen is fine, if used properly. But proper use will be about as often as Comerica Park seeing perfect games this season.

Overall, this is not a pitching staff that will win the Tigers a lot of 2-1 or 1-0 games. They will need a lot of help if the offense starts slowly like it did a year ago. Overall, the staff gets a C-, and would lead the Tigers to about 75 wins with an average offense. We'll come back with the offensive preview later.

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