Detroit Tigers: Pitching Remains Both the Key and the Question

Matt SCorrespondent IJune 29, 2009

CHICAGO - JUNE 08: Armando Galarraga #58 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Chicago White Sox on June 8, 2009 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Detroit Tigers entered the 2009 season with one question burning on everyone’s mind:

Is the pitching staff good enough to keep the Tigers in the hunt?

Most experts said no.

Justin Verlander was fresh off a career-low year, Edwin Jackson was thought to be no more than serviceable, Dontrelle Willis couldn’t throw strikes, Jeremy Bonderman couldn’t get his shoulder healthy, and Rick Porcello was just a kid without any big league experience.

The only rock was Armando Galarraga. Sure, he was relatively unproven with only one major league season under his belt, but this guy was good. He was the only one that could record outs last year.

Now, as the calendar flips to July, the question remains the same:

Is the pitching staff good enough to keep the Tigers in the hunt?

Early indications point to yes.

The question remains the same but the situation has veered off course.

Due to the success of the pitching staff, the Tigers find themselves atop the standings in the AL Central.

Rick Knapp has worked wonders on these kids. They pound the strike zone, they exude confidence, they get key outs.

Verlander, Jackson, and Porcello have adamantly answered all questions about their performance.

Verlander is a Cy Young candidate and leads the league in strikeouts. 

Jackson is second in ERA and in the top 10 in strikeouts.

Porcello is tied for sixth in wins and is in the top 15 in ERA.

Verlander will make the All-Star team and Jackson and Porcello should be considered.

Armando Galarraga has not been as fortunate as some of his counterparts.

Once the de facto ace of the rotation, Armando is now unable to record key outs. Maybe his slider isn’t biting quite as much as it was, or maybe hitters are just waiting for something better to hit. 

Either way, he’s not getting the job done.

The fifth starter spot has been a sore spot, producing only four wins in 14 starts.

Zach Miner began the year in the rotation but hasn’t had the opportunity to start since April.

Dontrelle Willis returned from his anxiety disorder with a bang but soon faded before returning to the disabled list.

Jeremy Bonderman made a start, but was quickly placed back on the disabled list.

Alfredo Figaro got a call-up from Double-A, but got hit around and was optioned back to the minor leagues.

The Tigers are starting to run out of options. Lucas French was called up from Triple-A Toledo to make a start in Minnesota.

The performance of Porcello, Verlander, and Jackson has put the Tigers in position to win the division. The performance of the other two spots in the rotation will either keep them there or send them spiraling down in the standings.

For the success of the 2009 Tigers, pitching is the key and pitching remains the question.