Zach Miner Should Rejoin Detroit Tigers' Rotation

George McGinnieCorrespondent IMay 30, 2009

LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 05:  Pitcher Zach Miner #31 of the Detroit Tigers throws during a spring training game against the Washington Nationals at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 5, 2009 in Lakeland, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

All the talk is what happens when Jeremy Bonderman is deemed ready to return to the starting rotation, which could come as early as next week, or as late as the middle of the month.

We speak about it as if it is a certainty he will return to the rotation, thus bumping either rookie Rick Porcello (doubtful), struggling lefty Dontrelle Willis (maybe) or struggling righty Armando Galarraga (possible) from the rotation. That’s a debate for another time. I have a different idea for you to bat around:

A return of Zach Miner to the starting rotation gives the Detroit Tigers the best chance to win now.

Had he not been pulled from the rotation in the first place, the Tigers would probably have a couple more wins than they do today. So why did manager Jim Leyland choose to make Miner a reliever?

He is what you’d typically consider a pretty decent swing man. He can start a game and give you a chance to win. He can relieve a game when the starter stumbles and stem the bleeding. The team considers him as more of a long-term reliever than starter anyway. Pretty valuable guy to have around, right?

So why start him? While Miner may not possess the stuff of the Tigers’ top three starters, he has certainly come through with more consistency than either Dontrelle Willis or Armando Galarraga has shown this year. 

In fact, the only game that Galarraga started this month that didn’t result in a Tigers loss was one in which Miner took over in the first inning. That begs the question. Why wasn’t he starting there in the first place?

Here’s just one way of tracking the effectiveness of a pitcher’s start, inexact as it is: ESPN’s game scores. ESPN describes it as such:

Start with 50 points. Add one point for each out recorded (one points per inning). Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth. Add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit allowed. Subtract four points for each earned run allowed. Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed. Subtract one point for each walk.

Though simple, it does a pretty good job sorting out the best pitched games, and, as you would expect, the best pitchers tend to have a high score frequently, more often than not a high score results in a win, and you don’t necessarily need a lot of strikeouts to qualify, though it helps.

Here’s some Tigers game scores:

30. 74. 48. 18.

55. 8. 56. 49.

73. 67. 58. 48.

30, 37, 37, 21.

If you follow the Tigers close enough, you don’t need me to supply names for those. You can sort most of it out.

Willis is the first. He started off poorly, pitched a great game, threw an average game, then pitched awful last night. The third is Edwin Jackson, who has been consistently above average. The fourth is Galarraga, who managed not to win a game in six starts this month.

Miner is the second. While the rest of the starters had their samples taken from May, I obviously had to go back to April for some of his.

As you can see, other than the start against Chicago in the cold and pouring rain (his opponent’s game score was 28), Miner was a consistent, effective starter. He did not sparkle like Willis’ one start. He is not consistently good like Jackson. But he’s consistently better than the alternatives. Go back to 2008 and the story is the same.

Of course, anyone who watched the Tigers play doesn’t need some stats from ESPN to tell them that. Miner works low in the strike zone. He doesn’t walk a lot. The defense will stay much more interested in the game than one where seemingly every batter goes to the three count, if a walk isn’t issued.

True, he doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, but neither do Willis or Galarraga. Miner limits the crooked innings too. Other than the White Sox game, he has not given up more than two runs in an inning. He doesn’t give up a lot of home runs, either.

Simply put, he’s going to consistently give Detroit a chance to win most times he’s on the mound.

Right now, that’s not a statement I think you can make about either Galarraga or Willis. And frankly, given the reports we’ve received on Bonderman so far, I’m not sure you can make that assertion about him yet, either.


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