TigsTown Roundtable: Starters Struggling

Ready to talk Tigers? Want to hear the opinion of the TigsTown staff? Welcome to the TigsTown Roundtable! This week's question: Why has the Tigers' starting pitching been so poor through the first month of the season?

Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
While the rotation struggles have been very generalized, in reality, it's much easier to pinpoint the struggles. For whatever reason, Justin Verlander in his career has not gotten his season off to great starts - for his career, his March and April ERA is over five. Based on his recent starts, as well as his track record, Verlander should be about to hit his stride. Meanwhile, Dontrelle Willis is the team's number five starter and has an ERA under four - no problems there. Jeremy Bonderman will likely continue to have some ups-and-downs, something typical of a pitcher used to throwing 95 MPH that now sits around 90. But with an FIP at 3.49, it's reasonable to expect some additional progress from him. Rick Porcello is likely suffering from similar issues as Bonderman, albeit different reasons. Often times pitchers get by early on in their careers with certain strategies, but after a bit, those strategies get figured out, hitters adjust, and the pitchers get hit. Combine that with Porcello's completely unsustainable .396 BABIP, and improvement from the youngster seems inevitable. The issue then focuses on Max Scherzer, who has been a huge disappointment so far since coming over, and has struggled through almost all of his starts. However, the numbers aren't THAT bad, as if you remove his one shellacking against Minnesota (in which he was left out to dry on a day he clearly didn't have 'it') his ERA is actually a respectable 4.96. His recent battle with his control is a problem, potentially the result of adjustments to try and counter-act the earlier relatively minor struggles. This appears to be a classic case of a talented pitcher doing too much to his mechanics, and not just pitching. If pitching coach Rick Knapp and team can get Scherzer's issues ironed out, the pitching staff should be in line for huge improvements in the coming weeks.

Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
It has really been one of the season's early mysteries for the Tigers. Entering the season, the pitching was supposed to be the strength of this team, while the offense was a serious question. It has somehow been just the opposite. The struggles of Justin Verlander are almost expected early in the season at this point, or at least they should be, and I think his last start is an indication that we really shouldn't worry about him over the course of the rest of the season. Rick Porcello's performance and struggles have been pretty well documented, and given what some of his peripherals indicate at this time, I'm going to hang my hat on him improving dramatically over the coming weeks. I think we'll see a solid season from him in the end. The back and of Bonderman and Willis has provided more than I think most were expecting, so I'm not sure we should be terribly concerned there at this time. The most vexing of the pitcher to date has been the newest as well; right-hander Max Scherzer. While some expected a slight regression with him coming to the generally more difficult American League, many were also willing to offset that by considering additional growth from a very talented young man. The stuff seems off just a touch right now and he seems more concerned with being particularly fine with his pitches than rearing back and trusting his filthy raw stuff. If this is the doing of Rick Knapp, I can only hope they'll just tell him to do his thing soon, so the Tigers can benefit from his natural ability. By and large, I'm not sure we should be terribly concerned going forward, but the longer these struggles continue, the more the potential alarm should escalate.

Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
There are several things you can point at for the Tigers' rotation struggles. In Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello's cases, the number of hits they've allowed is alarming considering how good their stuff is, and the number of strikeouts for Scherzer is down, so it may be just a matter of getting better location on their pitches. With Justin Verlander, it's been pitch efficiency. Verlander needed a whopping 125 pitches just to get through five innings in a start against the Angels, and he already has four starts of better than 115 pitches, so that needs to improve greatly. So far, the Tigers have posted a winning record despite the struggles of the rotation, but if things don't change, it could be a long summer.

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