Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
At the end of the day, the Tigers '08 struggles come down to the pitching's staff inability to stay healthy and get the job done, and the Tigers' front office poor contingency planning. The Tigers' rotation came into the season with a 43-year old, two lefties fresh off contract extensions despite poor 2007 seasons, and a pair of youngsters that combined had put up 1300 innings of pro ball both before hitting 25 years of age. The Tigers certainly were a bit more unlucky than anyone could have expected, but to expect that rotation to hold up for the length of a season, and pitch well, is quite frankly, naive. And the same can be said about the bullpen, where the Tigers relied heavily on the returns of Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya to solidify the group while relying on a 40+ pitcher to hold the closer's role. Again, lots of risk with no solid contingency plan. This isn't a situation where the team needs to be blown up, but the Tigers are going to be in serious need of some help on the mound going into '09.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
This season's stumble for the Tigers was the product of a perfect storm of incidents. From Jeremy Bonderman coming up lame, to Kenny Rogers needing an extended period to get back into the flow. From Justin Verlander struggling to duplicate his prior success, to Nate Robertson being very unlucky on balls in play. From bullpen arms imploding, to injured pitchers not getting healthy as the front office may have expected. From Miguel Cabrera starting slowly, to an injury to the sparkplug Curtis Granderson. From a complete and unforseeable collapse by Jacque Jones, to a significant regression from both Carlos Guillen and Edgar Renteria. All of that, combined with the stigma of a historically bad start, and the Tigers appear to have been doomed since Opening Day. If only a few of these things occur this year, this team is probably in the thick of the AL Central race. If none of these things happens, this team is probably blowing the Sox and Twins out of the water. Instead, it all happened this year, and the results were disasterous. This team still has an immense amount of talent, and should not be torn to shreds in the offseason. Make some tweaks, get better secondary plans, and shore up the bullpen, and this team will be poised to fulfill expectations in 2009.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I think the biggest reason for the Tigers' lack of success this season has been the performance of the pitching staff. When only two pitchers have enjoyed solid seasons, it's going to make for a long year. Outside of Armando Galarraga's stellar year, none of the starters have pitched even remotely well (excluding Zach Miner, whose made only five starts). When your starters are constantly getting battered, the bullpen is going to be used early and often. Unfortunately, the bullpen has been just as bad, particularly in holding leads (think of the crushing losses to the White Sox in the last two series, or Fernando Rodney's meltdown in Tampa Bay). Bobby Seay has pitched well, but good performances from the other relievers have been too few and far between. If the Tigers are to bounce back and contend for the postseason next year, they will need to take a very hard look at figuring out how to retool the pitching staff, both in the rotation and in the bullpen.
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