Tigers Baseball Outsider

a thinking fan's perspective

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tigers Starting Rotation Success Ends With Scherzer, Bonderman, and Somebody else

At the fifty thousand feet view – baseball is a simple game.

You throw the ball, you catch the ball, and you hit the ball.

If you're Justin Verlander – he has already cemented his status as the Tigers ace and first spot in the rotation holder.

Or Rick Porcello – who sure smells like the next Verlander – as he seems to be the easy second spot holder and ready to assume the title of ace should Verlander … falter.

Same for Max Scherzer – the new acquirement from Arizona – who threw great yesterday.

But once you drop down a little lower in the stratosphere – the game gets a bit more complicated.

At least that's how it must seem to a large contingent of pitchers vying for the Tigers remaining three starting rotation spots.

It's damned complicated if you're Dontrelle Willis – who seems to battle himself harder than the guy at the plate.

It's damned frustrating if you're Jeremy Bonderman – the man who was heralded as the Tiger's ace before Justin Verlander broke out with a no-hitter in early 2007, then succumbed to injury and the recovery to former form since.

It's a distant memory if you're Nate Robertson – who just seemed to fall off the cliff of great pitching hopefuls to rise through the Tigers bullpen back to the starting rotation.

It's a goal just out of reach of Zack Minor – who has only proved to date to be a marginal fifth spotter in the rotation.

Armando Galarraga was such a bright spot in a dismal 2008. The rookie who became our rotation rock of Gibraltar – but stumbled back down to mediocrity last season.

And Jarrod Washburn – who since arriving with the Tigers in mid-season last year – did little so far to endear fans to him.

So far, there is some encouragement glimmering from Jeremy Bonderman. A good outing yesterday should the hard throwing righty to have some real nasty making his slider snap at the plate.

That would be so great to have the Bonderman of past days back in the Tigers rotation. A great thing in deed.

And Dontrelle Willis also had a really good outing yesterday – seemingly in spite of how he says he felt out there on the mound. Stating even though he didn't feel good, and he couldn't find his rhythm – he still got the job done very well.

But what does that really mean? It sounds good at first for Dontrelle – but his problem is really a lack of confidence – and that didn't sound very confident yesterday.

So to me, with three weeks left to go – so far the starting rotation to me looks likes like this:

2. Porcello
3. Scherzer
4. Bonderman
5. Willis

Of course a lot can change over the next three weeks. And Willis is in there despite his own self.

So my list may very well change.

As for the bullpen, the old springtime distraction is back. Joel Zumaya is back and throwing nearly a hundred miles and hour again.

And this distraction is taking the spot light off of the other bullpen pitchers.

In my personal opinion, a Zumaya who is throwing fastballs a hundred miles an hour is a Joel Zumaya who isn't throwing anything else but fastballs. And if you're a hitter – a big league professional – and you know you're gonna get a hundred mile an hour fastball flying at you as the next pitch – I'll bet you're gonna hit that ball – and probably hit it hard.

So I don't want to waste a lot of time on Joel Zumaya this year – unless he is seriously looking to add some new dimensions to his pitching artillery.

The one pitcher I haven't had a chance to see yet that I am really anxious to see – is Jose Valverde – the closer we picked up this winter. He has pitched four innings – given up four hits four walks and four strike outs – and not yet given up a run.

So I think we have upgraded considerably our closing spot from Fernando Rodney to Jose Valverde.

Great pitching beats great hitting. It's a law of baseball physics that even the baseball gods can do little about.

And so far our starting rotation looks pretty darn good.

Especially if Bonderman comes back to his old form.

Watch out American League Central.

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