Paul Wezner, Senior Editor
Mike Maroth is the perfect prototypical back-end starter, as he gives the team 200 innings, an ERA below five, and a chance to win on most days. Maroth has 25 wins the last two years for teams that were a combined 38 games under .500. In his three full seasons, he's averaged more than 200 innings each year. Maroth may be a "soft-tossing" lefty that needs a good defense to be effective, but any respectable ballclub will have to have a good defense to compete anyway. Nate Robertson has pitched well at times, but he's also proven incapable of pitching well late into the season. In 2005, Robertson had a first half ERA of 3.35, and a second half ERA of 5.70. In 2004, his first half ERA was 4.11, his second half was 5.79. Between Robertson's seemingly continued struggles as his arm wears down over the course of the year, combined with his bulldog attitude on the mound, he'd be a perfect candidate to move into late inning relief for the Tigers, where he could help join with Fernando Rodney, Chris Spurling, Franklyn German, and possibly Wilfredo Ledezma to form one of the top bullpens in the AL.
Mark Anderson, Minor League Editor
Considering Nate Robertson has yet to prove he can remain strong deep into a Major League season, it's hard to justify him as a legitimate starter long term. Robertson, when not pitching to contact, has the raw stuff to be a very successful lefty. Unfortunately, he's started to tire around mid-season and lost some of the zip on his fastball in each of his first two full seasons; leaving open the possibility that he may be better suited for the bullpen. Maroth on the other hand, has proven to be a durable starter who is capable of pitching deep into games and deep into seasons. Marother may not have the raw ability of Robertson, but he garners points for his durability and consistency. At nearly the same age as each other, 28, both Robertson and Maroth have about the same probability for significant improvement. Considering the affinity many general managers have for hard throwing lefties (Dombrowski included), Robertson may very well garner more in trade than Maroth; and the Tigers may be better for it in the end. Keeping Maroth around to offset the numerous hard-throwers already slated to join the Detroit rotation could prove to be invaluable to the long term development of the team.
Jason Avery, Amateur Baseball Editor
This is a tough one, but I think Maroth is better in the long run. He certainly won't overpower anyone with his stuff, but you know what you're going to get with him on the mound. Maroth has been over 200 innings in each of the last two years, so he has shown solid durability and fits in nicely at the back of the rotation. Robertson has a higher ceiling long term, but he has had injury issues dating back to his days at Wichita State, as well as with the Marlins. Nate also had a sharp decline in strikeouts last year. He fanned 155 batters in 2004, but that number fell to 122 in the same number of innings (197 2/3 in both years) in 2005, so you have to wonder if Robertson is totally healthy. If Robertson is healthy, there is the possibility of him going to the bullpen in the future, because his arsenal will allow him to make that transition easier.
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