WELL … FOR STARTERS?

By:  Kurt Snyder

One by the one, things are beginning to align for the Tigers starting pitching rotation.  JV has been JV. JZ, outside of a couple rough outings, more importantly, has not been bothered by the pinched nerve, showing good velocity. Michael Fulmer? Nothing to worry about here. And to round out the group, Norris and Boyd are 2 Tiger starters on the rise. That’s the good news.

Now for the bad news. No one has threatened their positions. Competition is a good thing, in all sports. But there has been none of that.  Battles for roster spots are healthy and end up showing who wants it more. The cream ultimately rises to the top.

The problem? There are 2 pitchers we all hoped and prayed would thrust themselves into consideration – Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey. One (Sanchez) seems lost and desperate and the other (Pelfrey) may still find a role in long relief if he is a hair better than fair. But nothing more than that.

That’s not exactly what you would call a high ceiling is it? Upside? No, not a word that belongs here. Pelfrey’s candidacy for a position in long relief won’t necessarily be earned, but salvaged.

Sanchez? Where is he at? Well, you know, searching for mechanics that can get people out, which he hasn’t found – still. He is experimenting with different arm slots, searching for more velocity any way he can.  If he doesn’t find it, he can’t stay here.

With little differentiation between the velocity of his fastball and his breaking pitches, he’s just plain dead in the water. No pitcher can survive within that framework. It’s a shame, it really is. But Sanchez is looking like a very expensive cut at the end of spring training.

Really the last time we saw Anibal pitch with any kind of dominance was in the AL Division series against Baltimore a couple of years ago. He has been fighting himself ever since. Fighting mechanics. Fighting injuries. Fighting command. Fighting lack of confidence. But the Tigers may not be able to fight the temptation any longer. They may be forced to say good-bye to him at a time when it’s going to hit the pocket book pretty hard.

As for Pelfrey?  He pitches well here and there but that’s all. This season represents the season that shouldn’t have been for him as a Tiger. All of baseball not only questioned his signing a year ago, but they really shook their heads in disbelief upon hearing it was a 2- year deal.

So here we sit in year 2, with a pitcher who looks to be a candidate for a roster spot as an 8 million dollar long reliever. Yeah, I just said that. Gulp! How many teams can say they have a long reliever they pay $8M? Well, it’s too nauseating of a topic to even research.

Pelfrey has been a failure. But a few more solid innings will be enough for him to make the team. After all, the Tigers won’t keep throwing money in the street. Money will drive a decision here and there, and I’ve felt that at least one of these guys would make the roster based on money, not production. Pelfrey looks to be the one who will fill a role, albeit a small one.

Drew Verhagen, Buck Farmer? These guys are both candidates to start the season in Triple A. Verhagen has been stretched out this season to become a starting option, but has not set the world on fire in the spring and will not be considered for a rotation spot.

So there lies the good, the bad and ultimately, the problem. The good? Verlander, Zimmermann, Fulmer, Norris and Boyd. Definitely a group we can rally around. The bad?  Sanchez, Pelfrey, Verhagen and Farmer will all fight for spots on the depth chart. The problem?  They will offer competition for no one, but each other. They are backups unlikely to bust down any doors.

For starters, the Tigers staff will head into the season in a position of strength – to a point. But any whiff of an injury will sabotage that strength. That starting five has the potential to be very good. But the next group? Well, for starters; they are not for the faint of heart.


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If you haven’t checked out our site (@totallytigersbb) yet, here’s what you missed this week:

      Who was behind the team bonding day?  It’s not who you think.

      Scouts are talking and they indicate the Tigers are looking to add an outside CFer and also another backup catcher.

      Through age 33, there are only a handful of players with more hits than Miggy.

      Why sabermetrics don’t matter when Miggy is at the plate.

      Now that the automatic intentional walk is official, managers are getting creative in how they signal it.

      Stats show great promise for Matt Boyd evolving into a top of the rotation pitcher.

9 thoughts on “WELL … FOR STARTERS?

  1. Farmer has always been nothing more than a AAA pitcher at best with a bit of mop up relief his ceiling at the ML level. VerHagen proved that he can be a strong reliever but doesn’t have the stuff to be a starter. Why are things that have been obvious for the past 3 years so tough for the Tiger “brain trust” to grasp?

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  2. For Sanchy – I think it’s all in the head. The moment our crack manager removed him in Baltimore “something” went hay-wire. Confidence ? Security (job and mentally) ? Self-doubt … “can I be counted on in the future”? I think a week or two with Dr. Shrink is in order.

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  3. So we have stud starters who can get the team out of the gate. If I’m the opposing team, try to raise the starter’s pitch count and just bide your time until the middle bullpen comes in.

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  4. “How many teams can say they have a long reliever they pay $8M?” Especially when they couldn’t afford $9M for the only property they had that bore the slightest resemblance to a major league center fielder!

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  5. A quick reminder to readers…. Please make sure to read the rules for posting under the header at the top of the page. Only comments that address the day’s topic will be posted. We encourage readers to embrace the topic and to create discussion with each other in this forum..

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  6. My greatest frustration is seeing Sanchez released with millions stuffed in his luggage without the team’s ability to send him down to Toledo so that he could try to work out his issues. While I understand Sanchez can contractually refuse to do so, I do believe it says something about his character, but he’s not going the “extra mile” to earn it.

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