Here's one job that's still up for grabs in Detroit. Well, actually, there are several. And all of them can be found in the Tiger's bullpen, (If you just Googled "Detroit Jobs," you can stop reading now, you are probably under-qualified). This is the one reason you will fail to see the Tigers in the playoffs this year. Here is a rundown of the 'pen, according to the Tiger's MLB.com depth chart. And I know ERA isn't a definitive measurement of much, but I think it gets the job done, in this case:
Bobby Seay, (4.47): Lefty 'specialist.' ESPN chimes in, "Another pitcher hanging onto his job thanks to the genetics that made him a left-hander, Seay needs to perform early, or he will likely be shown the door."
Juan Rincon, (5.86): Righty, signed to a minor league deal this offseason. Guess where he won't be this season?
Eddie Bonine, (5.40): Righty; 28-year-old knuckler with 27 career MLB IP. Purchased from the minors.
Ryan Perry, (None): Righty. 22 years old. No other information available. Encouraging. Last year? Minors.
Scott Williamson, (2007 -- 4.40): Righty. 33-year-old journeyman. Minor league contract? Hell yes.
Fernando Rodney, SU, (4.91): Righty. You never know what you're getting with Rodney. When he's on, he's on. He was last on in 2005.
Brandon Lyon, CL, (4.70, 26/31 Saves): Righty. Another game of roulette with this one; in 2007, he went 35/38 and had an ERA of 2.68, with a 1.24 WHIP. Could be a decent closer. Number of leads that this bullpen will deliver? Zero.
I have also heard Clay Rapada (LHP, 4.22) may end up in the bullpen. And, given that Jim Leyland is, "just about 99.9% sure," that Zach Miner won't be his fifth starter, we have to assume he will end up in the 'pen instead. Miner's the guy with the 4.79 K/9 and 1.35 K/BB ratios, you remember him.
I wouldn't trust any of these guys in my backyard in a game of catch. And in the 9th inning to hold down a one run lead? Not a chance. Is this an experiment to see how many games you can win in a season if your pitchers all go Whitey Ford style? Is this simply designed to lower the morale of the rotation? Eliminate decisions as a statistical category for the starters? What exactly is the angle here?
Now, I am the first guy to tell you that the bullpen is the least important part of the team. It just is. Your offense goes nine innings, your starters go (hopefully) six, and your 'pen grabs three. Furthermore, a reliever is a reliever, and in general, there typically is not a Grand Canyon-sized gap between mediocre and lights-out reliever stuff. But, on the other hand, you have to see how an inexperienced, right-handed, wild-pitching bullpen is going to get you into problems late. Especially with a rotation as up in the air as Detroit's. I wouldn't be as concerned if they were throwing a Sabathia, a Peavy, and a Webb out there. But they're not. Verlander is the opening day starter. Edwin Jackson and Armando Galarraga are the #2 and #3's. And, as of March 29th, GM Dave Dombrowski has no idea who will be filling in his #4 and #5 spots in the rotation. In fact, he doesn't even know when he will know. It is not exceptional for the #5 starter to be a mystery on opening day, as teams don't typically need him for a couple weeks. But no #4? One week out? Inexcusable.
Bonderman is out with a shoulder problem -- symptoms being his inability to pitch effectively; no structural damage (???). Willis is down with a generalized anxiety disorder for an indefinite amount of time -- I will be shocked to see him pitch this year. Nate Robertson has a sprained thumb. Miner, as mentioned earlier, is out. However, the Detroit News notes that Miner and Rick Porcello will likely be starting games #3 and #4. Porcello has, you guess it, no major league experience. He is also younger than I am. Miner, if he does start, will be doing so with the knowledge that his manager has absolutely no confidence in his ability, and is only allowing him on the mound because he has no better options.
Can you see how this is going to end up? Best case scenario, no injuries, we are looking at Verlander, Bonderman, Galarraga, Jackson, and Robertson. That is a crappy rotation. One of those guys goes down -- and they will -- and you are screwed. Zach Miner becomes your go-to. Two of those guys go down -- and believe me, they will -- Brandon Inge is then placed on the depth chart as spot starter. Seriously, who else is there? Porcello? Who?
The Yankees have tried to win games by beating the crap out of the ball with their sticks. It does not work. You cannot consistently win games by praying for a two-run bomb every inning. You cannot throw out guys who are a lock to give up five runs a game and expect to outscore your opponent 7 times out 10. What's the craziest part about this? Two years ago, Dombrowski was on top of the world. Best GM ever. Brought a Tigers team back to the top with smart drafting and solid management of young arms. Now? He's trading for Edwin Jackson and still in need of a fourth and fifth started. The bullpen is 70% walkons. How do you cope with that?
Tigers' 4th, 5th starters cryptic (Detroit Free Press) - March 29, 2009
Who's going to start the Tiger's first five games? (Detroit News) - March 30, 2009