Offseason Additions - Pitchers

Last season, the Tigers pitching staff had two basic themes; youth and inconsistency. While the Tiger front office hopes that the youth will develop, they felt that this alone wouldn't significantly improve the pitching staff. And so they went out and made two key additions to the group.

The Tigers had 10 different pitchers start a game last season, and not a single one stepped up as a top-of-the-rotation starter. LHP Mike Maroth was the Tigers' Opening Day starter, but was inconsistent throughout the season, and tailed off very badly, going from a 4.89 ERA pre-All Star game to a 6.89 ERA post-All Star game. He also hit the dreaded 20-losses for the season, an achievement no pitcher is ever proud of. RHP Nate Cornejo was the Tigers most consistent starter, the only one to hold a rotation spot all year and keep his ERA below 5. However, his high batting percentage allowed (.307) and his poor K/9 IN ratio (2.13) don't allow him to project as much more than a 4th or 5th starter.

What the Tigers needed was a consistent starter, someone to take the ball every fifth day and give the ball club a chance to win. And that is exactly what they got when they signed RHP Jason Johnson from the Baltimore Orioles. While the price tag was a bit steep (2 years, $7 million), the Tigers had no choice but to overspend. While on a good club Johnson is no more than a third starter, he should help stabilize the top of the Tigers rotation, and also alleviate some pressure on someone like Jeremy Bonderman, who while immensely talented, is still extremely raw and needs time to develop before he can be looked upon as a top-of-the-rotation starter. Johnson has a solid curveball and a four-seam fastball. His biggest issue is his varying release point that makes it hard for him to be consistent with the fastball. Overall, while Johnson will probably never be a world beater, he should provide the one thing the Tigers need to improve on; consistency.

The bullpen also carried a similar theme as the rotation last year. Last year the Tigers carried three Rule-5 draft picks (RHP's Matt Roney and Chris Spurling and LHP Wil Ledezma), so half of their bullpen was taken up by rookies. Expected Closers Franklyn German and Matt Anderson couldn't stick in the position (German because of inconsistency, Anderson because of injuries and a loss of velocity on his fastball), and so the role was filled by a rotating door, with 7 different players recording 3 saves or more. While these young arms should be able to develop, the Tigers, again still lacked a consistent guy. Someone who can consistently enter the game in the 7th or 8th inning and hold a lead for the Closer (who this season while not yet set in stone, is expected to be young flame-thrower Fernando Rodney).

And so, the Tigers went out and signed RHP Al Levine away from the Kansas City Royals. Levine mainly works with a fastball, but his best pitch is his slider that runs in on lefties (and in turn they only hit .218 against him last year). Levine will hold the role of "setup man" this season, providing the stabilizing force in the middle relief area along with recently resigned LHP Jamie Walker and recovering RHP Danny Patterson.

Neither of these additions are high profile signings. Levine more than likely won't net 30+ saves, and Johnson probably won't win 15 games with a sub-4 ERA. But they provide what the Tigers needed; consistent major league ballplayers that will help stabilize their particular part of the pitching staff.


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