Detroit Tigers 2016 Pitching Staff: Locks, Uncertainties and Likely Departures

Detroit Tigers 2016: Pitching Staff Locks, Maybes and Likely Departures

After Monday’s bullpen implosion, the Detroit Tigers pitching issues were once again brought to light. Al Alburquerque, Tom Gorzelanny, Neftali Feliz and Guido Knudson’s collective time on the mound saw a Tigers win turn into a blowout loss.

Sadly, this is nothing new. Maybe not allowing 10 runs in an inning, but certainly allowing enough runs to lose the game. Only three teams have allowed more runs than the Tigers, while Detroit is tied for the league in number of home runs allowed with 144.

This year’s staff has been predominantly ineffective. That means changes in the offseason—lots of changes. With that in mind, here’s a look at what pitchers are locks to stay, which pitchers are uncertainties  and which pitchers are likely departures.

Locks

Justin Verlander

Verlander isn’t going anywhere, not with his contract. This makes him the biggest lock (pitcher-wise) on the team. It doesn’t hurt that he’s regained his old form. The ace owns a 1.67 ERA and a 40/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 43 innings. He’s back ladies and gentleman—and barring a massive addition, will open 2016 as the Tigers’ ace.

Daniel Norris

Verlander may be the team’s ace of the present, but Norris looks like a candidate to be the staff’s leader in the future. The centerpiece of the David Price trade, Norris has the look of a future front-line starter. He could start realizing that potential sooner rather than later.

Michael Fulmer

While still in Double-A, Fulmer may make his debut this season as a September call up. If he does, look for him to stick in the rotation in 2016. Acquired from the New York Mets in the Yoenis Cespedes trade, Fulmer has been dominant in the minors. In 20 starts in the minors the pitcher has struck out 113 batters in 115.2 innings while only walking 28. He’s 9-3 with a 1.95 ERA as well as touting a mid-90s fastball, a nasty slider and an improving changeup.

Matt Boyd

Another pitcher acquired in the Price deal, Boyd looks the part of a dependable rotation arm moving forward. He’ll constantly live up in the zone, but that’s ok given he’ll start half of his ballgames in Comerica Park.

The Washington-native owned an ugly 14.85 ERA with the Toronto Blue Jays, but has posted a much better 4.88 ERA (4.37 FIP) with the Tigers.

Bruce Rondon

Bruce Rondon had a tough start to the season, which is much of the reason why his ERA is 5.66. However, recent form suggests a promising future. The flamethrower has struck out 19 batters over his last 13 innings while holding opponents to a .159 batting average. His ERA over that span is 2.77. Rondon’s FIP is a sparkling 2.98, suggesting that he’s been much better than advertised. Unless he implodes down the stretch (we’re talking volcanic implosion folks) and implodes again during Spring Training, Rondon will be on the Tigers Opening Day roster in 2016.

Alex Wilson

In a season devoid of too many positives, Alex Wilson may be the Tigers’ MVP—at least on the mound. Wilson has done just about everything imaginable for Detroit.

Save a game(s)—check.

Start a game—check.

Pitch situationally—check.

Pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen—check.

In case you need any more convincing on Wilson, here are his numbers: 60.1 innings pitched, 47 appearances, two saves, one game started, 1.79 ERA.

Where the Tigers would be without Wilson, no one is sure. Barring the unforeseen, he’s playing an integral part on the team next year.

Blaine Hardy

Blaine Hardy has officially proven that last season was no fluke. The former Royals farmhand is the proud owner of a 2.68 ERA (his FIP is only 2.73) over 53.2 innings. He’s struck out 47 batters over that span and is just about as much of a lock as Wilson is.

Al Alburquerque

For as much as the Tigers’ bullpen has struggled/been lambasted, Al Alburquerque has developed into some of an “old-reliable” type. The reliever has posted a career ERA of 2.99 and his FIP has never eclipsed four. He’ll be back.

Uncertainties 

Anibal Sanchez

Anibal Sanchez may be having a down year—or he may be regressing, it’s hard to tell. If anything, he’s certainly not the pitcher he was in 2013 when he led the American League in ERA, FIP and home runs allowed per nine innings (0.4 to be exact). Sanchez ERA this year is an unsightly 4.99 while he’s allowed a Majors-leading 29 home runs. His FIP? 4.72.

With a contract that calls for $48 million over the next three seasons, Detroit could trade him for another bad contract to fill a different need. The Tigers obviously are thin in the starting pitching department, but if Sanchez continues to allow home runs at the rate he’s at, the team may as well let someone like Fulmer loose than continue trot out Sanchez every fifth day.

Neftali Feliz

Former Rangers closer Neftali Feliz has a world of potential, but has been inexplicably awful for the Tigers. In 16 innings he’s allowed 19 earned runs while posting an ugly 11.93 ERA. Whether he makes the team next year will depend on how much bullpen help is added in the offseason and if the team thinks he can turn it around.

Buck Farmer and Kyle Ryan

If either of these pitchers are in the Tigers’ rotation in 2016 on a consistent basis, it will either be because the team isn’t contending, or because one of the two has turned a corner in their development.

Neither has shown the ability to be a consistent starter in the bigs, with Farmer the owner of a 7.80 ERA and Ryan sporting a 5.94 earned run average. Given the number of young arms near or at the major league level (Norris, Fulmer, Boyd and Luis Cessa), Detroit may be hard-pressed to find a role for either Farmer or Ryan. A year of seasoning in Triple-A wouldn’t hurt either.

Randy Wolf

Wolf will only be on the Tigers’ roster next season if he doesn’t retire after the season, can be effective down the stretch, and if Detroit wants him back. Given the team’s young arms and the likelihood that they’ll add a starter (or two) in the offseason, Wolf could find his way back to the team as a swingman.

Ian Krol

One-time Nationals pitcher Ian Krol is running out of opportunities to stick in Detroit. He’s only 24-years-old, but owns a 5.67 ERA in a Tigers’ uniform. His FIP isn’t much better at 5.30.

Things have only become worse for Krol, whose earned run average this year is 6.75. He’s also walked nearly as many batters as runs allowed. Not a pretty stat when your ERA is close to seven. Like Feliz, he’s not a goner purely based on potential and age.

Shane Greene

The Tigers seem to believe in Greene long-term, ergo his place in the “maybes” section. If anything, he may spend the year refining his craft at Triple-A.

His numbers have been all kinds of ugly this year—6.88 (!) ERA, 103 hits allowed in only 83.2 innings, 13 home runs allowed, 5.13 FIP… the list goes on. In fact, if you take out Greene’s phenomenal start, during which he put up an ERA of 0.39, his ERA jumps to 9.35 in 60.2 innings. Opponents hit .351 off him during those games.  Here’s hoping he can turn it around.

Kyle Lobstein

Lobstein’s injury absence may be one of the least talked about aspects of the Tigers season.

The man who Brad Ausmus once called “Lobber” had a respectable 4.34 ERA to go along with a 3-45 record in eight starts before hitting the disabled list. If Lobstein had absorbed some of Greene/Farmer/Ryan/Alfredo Simon’s rough starts, Detroit would be in a much better place right now. Lobstein may be relegated to a swing-man role next season. He’s in a good spot to make the team next season, but isn’t a lock given the fact that Al Avila will likely sign/trade for two new starters.

Guido Knudson and Drew VerHagen

If the above-mentioned duo make the team next year it will be because they showed well down the stretch and in Spring Training. The rest of the season is their audition.

Likely Departures

Alfredo Simon

Despite Simon’s stellar start against the Rangers, he’s struggled too much to be asked back next season. Racking up 11 wins is a positive, but not when your ERA is 5.85 since the start of June. His contract is up, and unless he wants to become a reliever again, he’ll be leaving Detroit.

Tom Gorzelanny

Another player on an expiring contract, Gorzelanny has also struggled in Motown.

Pick whatever synonym of ugly that you like and that word describes Gorzelanny’s run prevention on the mound this season. His ERA is an atrocious (you win a prize if that was your ugly synonym) 6.21 while he’s walked 19 batters and allowed 21 runs in just 29 innings. The former Pirate simply hasn’t had his best stuff this season.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers Lineup vs the Houston Astros 8/14/15

Miguel Cabrera is back. Rejoice! Here’s the lineup as the Detroit Tigers take on the Houston Astros and starter Dallas Keuchel.

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Detroit Tigers Lineup vs the Kansas City Royals 8/12/15

Here’s the Detroit Tigers’ lineup as Daniel Norris takes the mound in Kansas City against the Royals. 

(RELATED: Tigers must stop being patient with the bullpen).

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Detroit Tigers: Time for Dave Dombrowski to Pull His Usual Trade Deadline Magic

With the news that the Detroit Tigers are in fact not going to be sellers, its once again time for general manager Dave Dombrowski to pull is standard trade deadline magic.

The Tigers need the help, and thankfully, Dombrowski is adept at providing it.

Dombrowski has a long history of winning trades. He fleeced the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera, turned Edwin Jackson and Curtis Granderson into Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke as well as acquiring Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Wilson (plus a prospect) for Rick Porcello.

While those trades are wonderfully lopsided (at least in the Tigers’ favor), some of the Tigers GM’s best work has come at the trade deadline. He convinced the Mariners into parting with Doug Fister essentially for a singular reliever while acquiring Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante for what has amounted to a couple of A-ball pitchers.

However, the most impressive trade on Dombrowski’s resume may have been dealing for David Price. The Tigers dealt Austin Jackson, Drew Smyly and Willy Adames (a top shortstop prospect, but not one that was going to unseat Jose Iglesias as the team’s long-term starter) in order to acquire their current ace.

It’s time for Dombrowski to work that same magic.

There’s probably skepticism in the Tigers adding at the trade deadline. If you made a dollar for every time someone lambasted Detroit’s “lack of a farm system,” you’d have more cash than Bill Gates. Still, Dombrowski acquired Price without surrendering a hoard of top prospects, and did the same with both Fister and Sanchez.

It would not be surprising to see Dombrowski dip into the Tigers’ farm system and deal for talent. The reality is that Detroit’s system isn’t nearly as bad as people think. Two of the team’s top prospects last year (Detroit was again critiqued for having a bad farm system), now rank as two of Baseball America’s top 50 prospects in. Both were traded at the deadline, but it just goes to show that the prospects in the Tigers’ system may get a bad rap.

Additionally, the system has produced notable, young big leaguers such as Devon Travis, Smyly, Avisail Garcia, Eugenio Suarez, Nick Castellanos and James McCann.

Travis is hitting .302 in his rookie year in Toronto. Smyly has been injured a good deal since heading to Tampa Bay, but owns a stellar 1.96 ERA as a member of the Rays. Like Travis, Suarez has been a force at the plate for his new team, hitting .315 with five home runs and 18 RBI in only 35 games. Garcia is a cornerstone player for the White Sox, while Castellanos is finally showing signs of being the hitter the Tigers envisioned when they drafted him. McCann has quickly established himself as one of the premier young backstops in the league, making Alex Avila and his comparatively massive salary expandable.

If anything, the trade for Price, with Adames and Smyly going the other way, has proven that Detroit’s system is underrated. While it is unlikely that consensus top prospect Steven Moya is moved, the team has a glut of minor league catchers and relievers that may interest teams. The Tigers are set behind the plate with McCann and have Bryan Holaday in Triple-A. They could deal Avila, or top catching prospects Grayson Grenier, Shane Zeile or Arvicent Perez. Infield prospect Javier Betancourt (Adames’ former double-play partner) could also be dealt in the right trade given not only Iglesias and Ian Kinsler’s presences, but also the presence of two-way infield prospect Dixon Machado.

Regardless of who is traded, it’s time for Dombrowski to slightly rejig the team in an attempt to claim the World Series. The Tigers have the offense to succeed in October, and can look to their division-rival Royals as an example of a team that (last year) made a second-half run all the way to Game Seven.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers Remaining Schedule Without Miguel Cabrera

With Miguel Cabrera missing what will amount to six weeks, here’s a look at the Tigers upcoming schedule over those six weeks.

(RELATED: Miguel Cabrera Replacements).

After taking two of three against the Blue Jays, the Tigers travel to Seattle to face the Mariners. Here’s the rest of the schedule.

3 games at Seattle (the M’s are six games below .500 and nine games out of first place in the American League West).

3 games at Minnesota (Detroit is 7-2 versus their American League Central rivals this season).

4 home games against Baltimore (Entering Monday, the O’s are 44-39 and a game back of the Yankees for first in the American League East).

4 home games against Seattle.

3 games at Boston (Boston is last in the AL East and only one win better than the M’s).

3 games at Tampa Bay (the Rays are two games above .500, but also field one of the worst offenses in baseball).

4 games at Baltimore.

3 home games against Kansas City (Detroit is only 3-4 against the Royals this year, but given the rivalry between the two, you can expect the Tigers to come out swinging).

3 home games against Boston.

3 games at Kansas City.

3 games at Houston (the Tigers are 2-2 against Houston this season, and will look to claim the series against the young Astros).

Verdict: The Tigers certainly have a manageable schedule without Miggy. They’ve been afforded a few breaks with series against teams the Tigers excel against, teams with poor records, and teams with equally poor offenses.

It won’t be easy. This is, after all, Major League Baseball, but the Tigers have the chance to put up a winning record without their star player.

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3 Stats from the Seattle Mariners 4-1 Loss Versus the Kansas City Royals

  • Two

The number of hits by the Mariners. Austin Jackson and Robinson Cano were the only M’s with hits. This offensive output simply isn’t going to cut it, even against minor league opposition, much less Major League opposition.

  • Nine

The number of hits allowed by Seattle ace Felix Hernandez. King Felix threw 6.2 innings and allowed nine hits, four runs (all earned) and a walk. He struck out five.

  • 13

The number of strikeouts by Seattle hitters. Again, not going to cut it, especially when you only have one walk and two hits.

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5 Stats to Know from the Detroit #Tigers’ 6-5 Win versus the Kansas City #Royals

  • 13

The number of hits allowed by David Price in 6.1 innings pitched. Price exited with an apparent injury. The Detroit ace also allowed five runs (four earned) and struck out one. He didn’t walk any batters.

  • Seven

The number of combined hits by the top of the Tigers lineup. Leadoff hitter Anthony Gose went three-for-four with two runs scored and a walk while Kinsler went four-for-four with a walk and two RBI.

  • Two

The number of Tigers with more than one RBI. Kinsler had two as did shortstop Andrew Romine. In limited playing time, Romine is hitting .444 with three RBI and three steals in 18 at-bats over 21 games.

  • One

The number of runs scored by J.D. Martinez. The outfielder was hitless in two at-bats, but drew two walks. This is a good sign moving forward given the outfielder’s high strikeout totals.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by the Tigers bullpen after Price exited. Alex Wilson, Angel Nesbitt and Joakim Soria also allowed a cumulative one hit. Soria picked up the win in relief. The trio allowed zero walks as well.

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5 Stats to Know from the Detroit Tigers 6-4 Win vs the Kansas City Royals

  • 11

The number of hits collected by the Tigers as a team. They easily out-hit the Royals, who managed a comparatively paltry six hits.

  • 15

The number of pitches needed by Detroit closer, and former Royal, Joakim Soria to pitch a perfect ninth inning. It was his tenth save.

  • Three

The number of runs allowed by Anibal Sanchez in 7.1 innings pitched. He struck out four, allowed four hits and only surrendered one walk.

  • Two

The number of Tigers with RBI on the day. Miguel Cabrera continued his torrid start with three hits in only four at bats. He went yard and drove in two while scoring one run. Alex Avila drove in three runs on a day when he went two-for-four at the plate.

  • One

The difference between Avila’s RBI output in the win on Sunday and his RBI total entering the game. The catcher now has seven on the season. His three RBI in one game nearly equaled his total from the entire month of April (four).

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Seven Stats to Know from the Detroit Tigers’ 2-1 Win over the Kansas City Royals

Because I missed the last game, I decided to offer up more stats. Here’s the numbers to know from the Tigers’ 2-1 win over the Royals.

  • Three

The number of hits by leadoff hitter Anthony Gose. While Devon Travis (who Gose was traded for) continues to rake in Toronto, Gose is doing some hitting of his own in Motown. The centerfielder raised his average to .322 after the three-hit effort.

  • Two

The number of hits by Ian Kinsler and Yoenis Cespedes. The duo, along with Gose, were the only Tigers with hits.

  • Seven

The number of hits by the Tigers. Gose, Kinsler and Cespedes were the only Detroit batters with hits.

  • Zero

The number of hits by Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez. V-Mart isn’t 100% and as such is hitting .208 on the season.

  • Nine

The number of innings thrown by David Price. The Detroit ace continues to impress after a rough outing versus the Yankees. His ERA on the season is 2.93.

  • Five

The number of hits surrendered by Price. He only allowed one run and struck out three without walking a batter.

  • Four

The number of strikeouts by Tigers hitters. For as much as they failed to score runs, they still managed to put the ball in play a good deal. The team also drew a collective three walks. Rajai Davis, Miguel Cabrera and Nick Castellanos all had free passes.

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Fun Fact of the Day: Teammates Jason Vargas & Kendrys Morales Were Traded for Each Other

Fun fact, Jason Vargas and Kendrys Morales were once traded for each other. Morales went from Anaheim to Seattle with Vargas going the other direction.

Both are now members of the Kansas City Royals. Vargas is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA after one start while Morales is hitting .414 with two home runs, five RBI, three doubles and five walks. Entering the day, he is fifth in the American League in batting average