Detroit Tigers' Pitching: No Longer a Question Mark

Austin DrakeSenior Analyst IJune 26, 2009

During the 2006 World Series run, the Detroit Tigers led the league in ERA with a 3.84 as a team. Since that season, the Tigers have placed 18th in 2007 (4.57) and 27th in 2008 (4.90).

The past two seasons have been a struggle for Tigers pitching.

Especially the starting rotation. Other then Justin Verlander's dominant 2007, with a 18-6 record, Detroit's pitching has been an area of concern.

Over the past two seasons the Tigers starting pitching has had an ERA of 5.15, easily one of the worst in that time span in the Majors.

Since the Tigers only had two complete games over the past two years, one in 2007 and one in 2008, both by Verlander, the Detroit bullpen took a hit as well.

In 2007, the Tigers were a horrible 44-for-65 in save opportunities and in 2008 they didn't get any better going 34-for-62.

So far in 2009, the Tigers have been singing a different tune. Their new play list contains quality starts, lots of strikeouts, power arms and solid relief pitching; and it's music to ears of all Detroit fans.

They have been called the "Three-Headed Monster," as well as the "Best Three Pitchers in the American League."

It's the Justin VerlanderEdwin JacksonRick Porcello trio that is striking terror into opponents thus far.

Those three alone post a 22-11 record to go along with 241 strikeouts in their 223 innings of combined work.

Not only has those starters shined, but in his Major League debut, Alfredo Figaro pitched five innings and allowed only two earned runs while he rung up seven Milwaukee hitters to earn the win.

The three complete games already tops the last two season's combined total, and has helped the bullpen which features some big time power arms; a trend lately in the Motor City.

Joel Zumaya reached 104 MPH in a game versus the Chicago Cubs and leads the Major Leagues in pitches 100+ MPH, by a margin over 30. His arm to go along with rookie, Ryan Perry, who can hit upper-90's on a regular basis, and Fernando Rodney, who can do the same, has baffled many hitters so far this season.

Not only can Rodney hit upper-90's with his heater, he also has one of the most devastating change pieces in the MLB, behind of course, Johan Santana. Along with his 3.90 ERA he is 15-for-15 in save opportunities.

Power arms are a normality in Detroit now and in the future.

With six players on the roster now who can hit 100 MPH, the Tigers may have the hardest throwing pitching staff in the big leagues.

Not only has pitching thrived in the majors this season, all through the Detroit Tigers organization the pitching has improved.

Here are a few of the prospects who are producing in the minors:

Toledo Mudhens (AAA): Casey Fien (2-1, 4.21 ERA, six saves)
                                   Lucas French (4-4, 3.01 ERA, 64:18 K:BB)
Erie Seawolves (AA): Alfredo Figaro (5-2, 4.10 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)
                                Cody Satterwhite (eight saves, 33 K, 29.1 IP)
                                Brooks Brown (5-0, 2.21 ERA, six starts)
Lakeland Tigers (A): L.J. Gagnier (5-5, 3.71 ERA, 77:20 K:BB)
                              Robbie Weinhardt (1-1, 0.61 ERA, four holds, 29.2 IP)
West Michigan Whitecaps (A): Casey Crosby (5-2, 3.68 ERA)
                                             Tyler Stohr (2-1, 1.91 ERA, 13 Saves, 27:5 K:BB)
                                             Matt Hoffman (5-0, 1.12 ERA, 0.79 WHIP)

As you can see, the dominant pitching isn't just in the big leagues with the Tigers. Dave Dombrowski has done a phenomenal job of stock-piling solid, power arms throughout the organization. Dombrowski went the same direction just recently by selecting 2009 first-round pick, 6'5" Jacob Turner, who throws mid-high 90's.

It's about time that Detroit got back to 2006 form. Many players have even said that this season felt like 2006 did. Let's just hope it turns out that our Tigers will be playing into October, except this time, we're winning that Fall Classic!

If it does indeed happen, it'll most certainly be because of the pitching once again.


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