I was always of the belief that the Tigers would hang onto their latest pair of problem-children pitchers, Anibal Sanchez and Francisco Rodriguez. Afterall, they had just recently jettisoned Mike Pelfrey and Mark Lowe, who are now pitching for other teams on the Tigers’ dime.
In agreement with analysis by Jim Palmer and John Smoltz, I thought it was highly unlikely that a single team would dump 4 pitchers to the tune of almost $40 million dollars. One fourth of your entire pitching staff and 1/3rd to 1/4th of most teams’ entire payrolls. Not only does it seriously deplete your available pitching staff but it also makes your entire organization look very bad – and bordering on inept.
But it appears that payroll and roster spots are not the only reasons. There is increasing evidence that the Tigers had another important reason to keep the two.
Despite the horrific performances we witnessed, both Sanchez and KRod possess what pitchers in the minor league system don’t have. Experience in the bigs. Say what you will about their abilities, but the young pitchers in the minors have significant growing pains once they reach the bigs. Stats don’t tell the whole story.
But the trickle of indicators is growing rapidly now. A trickle that tells us that the roster of viable pitchers in the minors is really slim. Desperately slim. And the key indicators are:
– Even with their poor performances, Sanchez and KRod were still being used and recently pitched in some higher leverage situations less than a week ago.
– Even with his 5-year rights, Anibal Sanchez is making the uncharacteristic move back to Toledo to work on his skills in the hope of making a return.
– Brad Ausmus is being quoted regularly that it is the team’s goal to have these two pitchers back and significantly contributing.
– Warwick Saupold is being converted from a starter into a reliever as he appears to be the best fit to replace Sanchez.
– Anthony Gose has recently switched from CFer into a pitcher with every pitch, and MPH, being reported by the Tigers.
– And despite multiple issues with behavior, work ethic, pitch location and significant weight gain, Bruce Rondon is still with the team. In fact, Al Avila recently traveled to Toledo to meet with him in an attempt to light a fire. If you have other options, players with multiple strikes against them would usually be gone at this point.
The real message to be gleaned here is the pattern of going beyond the normal effort in an attempt to resurrect and patch the overlying concern. When 2 pitchers who have lost it for longer than a reasonable amount of time keep being inserted into games, when you start converting players or changing their long-term purpose and when you hang onto “problem children”, it points to scarcity.
A concern that the Tigers are uncomfortably short of viable pitchers and have to try to re-create something from what they already own.
Now add in the concerns about Jordan Zimmerman and the new struggles of Matt Boyd. Could the Tigers also have some questions about them? If last year is any indicator – in which 12 different starting pitchers were used – then they may need as many warm bodies as they can get.
And if some of these experiments fail and they come up short in the pitching department, then Al Avila may have to resort to trading some human capital in order to solve the problem.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Like many of you, I’ve become rather fond of our rightfielder, shortstop and second baseman.