When profiling the Tigers pitching rotation, one name comes to mind: Justin Verlander. The Tigers pitching this season rides on his arm.
Considering his 11-17 record and 4.84 ERA, it's an understatement to say he had a down season in 2008. An overall record of 35-15 in his first two seasons supports that claim.
The AL Rookie of the Year in 2006, Verlander is still considered the ace based on the depth of the roster. Look out for him to win at least 20 games in 2009, leading all pitchers on the roster.
With Jeremy Bonderman recovering from a blood clot, most fans are left wondering why he hasn't developed into the ace the Tigers thought he would be. Bonderman should still be a viable No. 2 pitcher in the rotation, considering the lack of depth in rotation. Don't look for him to have mind blowing numbers this coming year.
Coming off a great rookie season, Armando Galarraga came away with 13 wins in 2008. Is he a star in the making? Look for him to either prove last year wasn't a fluke or slump in 2009.
Those are just the top three in the rotation. With some clubs adding a sixth starting pitcher, the Tigers are limited in that position. The last three or four pitchers are all a toss up as far as contributing to the team in 2009.
Edwin Jackson, Nate Robertson, Zach Miner, and Dontrelle Willis. That's what the team is left with. One of the only bright spots left here would have to be Zach Miner.
Zach Miner won eight games in 08', and only lost five. He came into the rotation during the season and was hot, then started to falter towards the end of the season. Look for him to battle it out with all three of the pitchers left in Spring Training.
So how will they fare in 2009? Justin Verlander will find his groove, but Dontrelle Willis will not make the cut. Possibly trade Willis for some prospects. It should be a toss up between Bonderman and Galarraga as far as the second position goes.
In short, the staff needs help. Verlander can't do it himself, so another disappointing season is on the horizon unless Leyland can do something.