By:  Holly Horning

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.


  1. Holly – My opinion is that the Tigers are close to a “Fire sale” situation. I see Ausmus gone before the all star break and GM Avila gone as well after the season. Watch for JV to be gone as well.


    • Yes sir, I agree. A good ol’ house cleaning is in order. Don’t be shocked to see any combo of MC and/or VM gone either. Ausmus’ firing is loooong-overdue, and AA is in WAY over his head. I don’t even enjoy watching anymore, they’re terrible since Leyland retired.


  2. Tigers should have gone into rebuild mode the winter after DD canning. The “win one for the Gipper” idea (sold as The Reboot) was a Hollywood fantasy. Delaying the inevitable will cost them some years in terms of becoming legitimate contenders again.


  3. Let’s face the obvious reality: the Tigers are a mess. They have perhaps 4 pitchers they can count on, no really dependable hitters, only 2 capable defenders (SS/2nd) and no savvy base runners. If they hit, they don’t pitch and vice versa. Plus the unpardonable sin–they are BORING to watch!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “going beyond the normal effort in an attempt to resurrect and patch…” How about a just plain “normal effort”, updated to the 21st century? A good start would be acquiring psychiatric professionals and competent trainers skilled in developing core strength and flexibility. When Rondon is the issue, a nutritionist wouldn’t hurt.

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  5. There are only three current players that I would hate to se go: JV for his guts on working his way back to his prior dominance; Kinsler for the fire in his belly and apparent joy at playing the game; Fullmer for his intensity. The rest can go if that is what it takes to re-build this team. The manager can drive the bus out of town and his coaching staff can act as his navigators.


    • Iglesias because he and Kinsler are an amazing duo. Underappreciated for some reason, but they are among the best in baseball.


  6. The team is beyond boring. If I were the young Mr. I., I’d have identified replacements for the manager and hitting coach. Brad’s slow-mo saunter when pulling pitchers mimics the lack of fire between the lines. Would Leyland consider stepping in while management finds a permanent replacement? Who had confidence in Al Avila who lured Zimmermann, Pelfrey, Lowe, KRod, with inflated contracts?


  7. Surely we have some “prospects” too? Your 3 faves Holly unfortunately are really the only “candy” Avila will have as trade bait. All the others are either too much $$$ and/or washed up. What will Chris do? As the song goes “Waiting Is The Hardest Part.”


  8. The lack of semi-quality pitching options in the minors is a glaring indictment of a front office that almost every year drafts with an emphasis on pitchers. If there is a house cleaning to be done, it should start with those in charge of the draft.


  9. If Ausmus and his coaches are going to drive the bus out of town, What are the odds that the bus gets completely lost and ends up in Canada.


  10. Yes to all especially the drafts. Thier are several teams,Red Sox-Cardinals to name two that draft as low or later than the tigers. Yet they constantly draft and DEVELOP all around players in the rounds after the first. As for signing free agent pitchers….Well ah….

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  11. They are going through the motions and that is why they appear so boring. No passion, excitement or hope. They are playing for the big paychecks they were given in more competitive times. Harder for us than the players who have not been exclusive tiger fans for decades. They just play for the team, its manager and ownership. That makes it easier doesn’t it?


  12. Since we aren’t getting get rid of the owner, the best action to begin reconstructing this team, is to replace GM Avilla, and Mgr. Ausmus with experienced major league people, and then let them sort it out. Both of these management selections were in way over their heads.

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  13. Holly, while I am hard on our Tigers but I do that out of love…Fortunately for them, they are in a real weak division and the only thing that galls me and the others is their highly paid yet underperforming team has shown little life including their manager, GM as well as their new owner, Chris. I do hope that they will make one IMPORTANT change (ousting Brad for starters) now.


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