Rotation Not Championship Caliber

While it's just a little over a month into the season, it's becoming painfully obvious to the Tigers' faithful that no matter how well the offense is playing, the rotation as it currently stands simply isn't going to be able to get this team to the next step.

Now, for starters, take Jeremy Bonderman out of this equation, because at just 23 years of age Bonderman has already displayed the dominance and poise only a select few have, and he's showed it so far with five victories and proving to be the ‘stopper', giving the team a chance to win and halt losing streaks every time he takes the mound.

Unfortunately, it's the other four that will likely keep the team down.

Jason Johnson and Mike Maroth have given the Tigers exactly what one would expect out of them so far; unfortunately the Tigers' number two and three starters aren't two and three starters in any good big league rotation.

Johnson is the same inconsistent pitcher he was last year – some days he has it, and some he doesn't. One day he'll pitch six-plus shutout innings, and the next he won't be able to make it out of the first inning. Inconsistent, yes, but consistently inconsistent. The Tigers know what they're going to get out of him.

The same goes for Maroth. He doesn't have the stuff to dominate hitters, he just works through the lineup, hits his spots and gets batters out. He'll give his team a chance to win most games, and for the most part let's the defense do the dirty work. Him and Johnson combine to make the perfect back of the rotation combo.

But they're not at the back, they're the number two and three guys. And the four and five guys, Wilfredo Ledezma and Nate Robertson, have showed few signs of life.

Robertson, besides a two-three MPH decrease in velocity, seems to be having some mental issues on the mound, and they could possibly be caused by pitching coach Bob Cluck. Cluck has always been an advocate of letting the defense do the work, and it was something he preached loudly to Robertson (both publicly and privately).

The goal was that Robertson would let the defense do more work, and Robertson wouldn't tire in the later innings. Unfortunately, Robertson has simply lost all ability to get hitters out and is struggling with his control. Last year Robertson struck out 2.35 batters for each batter he walked, but in '05, Robertson is actually walking more than he's striking out, with 18 walks and just 12 strikeouts.

Ledezma is quite a confusing story, as he appears to be a pitcher that needs confidence to pitch well, and currently he just doesn't have much of it. Ledezma is needing more than 100 pitches just to get through five innings, and is also getting hit in the process. These two combined have resulted in an ERA well above six, and murmurs that he might need to return to the minors to work out some struggles.

Unfortunately, replacements aren't plentiful. It's always a seller's market when it comes to trading for a solid starting pitcher; there's always ten teams looking for pitching help, with one or two having a surplus (or simply a bad enough record) that makes them willing to trade.

Kenny Baugh and Sean Douglass are making noise down in Toledo, but Baugh isn't the prospect he once was expected to be, and Douglass has already been dismissed by a pair of organizations after having not been able to pitch effectively at the big league level.

All this comes to result in a rotation that isn't going to be able to keep the team in games on a regular basis, and likely unable (again, with the exception of Bonderman) to carry the offense when they're in a funk.

Tiger fans were hoping for a playoff race come September, but unless the rotation gets an upgrade, or grows by leaps and bounds, it will likely be a battle with .500, not with the Minnesota Twins.


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