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Detroit Tigers half time report: Starting pitching is below average, Grade D plus.

Tigers rotation has endured wave of injuries,

MLB: JUL 13 Tigers at Royals

Half way through the 2022 baseball season, the Detroit Tigers find themselves in 4th place, with 37 wins and 55 losses, on pace for a 97 loss season. The team is 12.5 games behind the division leading Minnesota Twins, and the same distance out of the third wild card playoff spot. This is not what fans had hoped for at the beginning of the season.

The Tigers have had an unfair share of injuries, to be sure. Four of their five starting pitchers, plus several replacement starters have spent time on the injured list, but their pitching staff as a whole has still managed to put up near average numbers.

STARTING ROTATION

The Tigers have used eleven pitchers who have logged at least 10 innings in a starting role, and none of them have posted an earned run average (ERA) below 4.11. Tarik Skubal has become the de facto ace of the rotation with that 4.11 ERA in 101 innings, with rookie Beau Brieske posting a 4.19 ERA in 81 innings of work. Skubal’s 2.5 fWAR is the only starter on the team that has more than 0.5 fWAR.

Overall, a collection of Beau Brieske, Alex Faedo, Rony Garcia, Drew Hutchison, and the aforementioned patchwork of a rotation that has combined for a 4.85 ERA which is 25th in the major leagues, with a 4.53 FIP that ranks 27th. Manager AJ Hinch doesn’t even really have a full rotation of pitchers to draw from on a given day.

Looking at other metrics, the Tigers’ rotation ranks:

  • 27th in MLB with a 6.93 strikeout /9 ratio
  • 14th in MLB with a respectable 2.85 BB/9 ratio
  • 27th in MLB with a 1.35 Home runs per 9 innings ratio
  • The starting rotation has just a 39 percent ground ball percentage, which is 28th in the major leagues.
  • They have allowed opposing hitters a batting average of .257, which is 25th in MLB
  • The Tigers’ starters have allowed 1.32 walks plus hits per inning (WHIP), 21st in the majors

Decimated by Injuries

So let’s get the excuses out of the way. The Tigers lost Matthew Boyd in June, 2021 and non tendered him after learning that he’d be out for most of the 2022 season. He was their All star and their ACE pitcher. Spencer Turnbull, the next ACE on the staff, suffered a right forearm strain which turned into Tommy John surgery in June, 2021.

One week into the season, Matt Manning went on the 60 day injured list with a shoulder strain, and a rehab assignment was aborted when he wasn’t getting better. Next, Casey Mize, the first overall draft choice in 2018, first went on the 10 day IL with a forearm strain, then his rehab assignment was halted and he went to the 60 day IL also needing TJ surgery. That’s the top two young prospects and the two veteran starters gone.

Michael Pineda arrived late after being signed as a free agent after the lockout, but pitched well for three weeks, from April 21 to May 15, and then went on the IL with a finger fracture. He has made nine starts with a 5.22 ERA thanks to an unacceptable 2.47 HR/ 9 IP ratio. He would not be allowed near the Tigers’ bullpen with those numbers. Thankfully, he has returned to action.

Eduardo Rodriguez, after being signed for $77 million to anchor the rotation, left town on personal business after eight starts and hasn’t been heard from, according to the Tigers. Prior to leaving, he pitched to a 4.38 ERA and 0.5 fWAR.

That’s four starters, plus Boyd, and three of their replacements who have been missing in action, leaving Tarik Skubal as the sole survivor in the rotation. He was humming along in great shape, until he wasn’t. After ten consecutive starts of at least five innings and three runs or fewer, he surrendered 23 runs over his next five starts. The lone bright spot in the rotation had dimmed. When he went south, so went the starting rotation.

The Replacements

Beau Brieske isn’t the young gun that the Tigers were expected to feature in their rotation this year, but he trails only Skubal in innings and ERA. He strikes out under six batters per nine innings and has allowed a Home run ratio of 1.54 homers per nine frames. He might be the brightest spot in the beleaguered rotation this season.

Alex Faedo, the Tigers number one draft pick in 2017, has finally been healthy enough to make it to the show, pitching 53 innings in twelve starts, which ranks third on the team (yeah, that’s desperate!), pitching to a 5.53 ERA. His peripherals are not bad, especially for a rookie, but not great. 1.17 HR/9 and 7.38 K/9 are good for this rotation, but he is walking over four batters per nine frames and that won’t work in the long term. Call this a tryout and stay tuned.

Rony Garcia was called up and started seven games with a 4.98 ERA but now he’s on the IL with right shoulder soreness. He has been more effective in the bullpen.

Drew Hutchison has made five starts, being designated for assignment twice and called up three times. His 4.38 ERA and 24 innings of work have been helpful, but his 3.67 K rate (yeah) means that he’ll use a lot of pitches to get through innings.

Tyler Alexander filled in as a starter, pitching to a 8.76 until he also went on the IL for six weeks. He has returned to his natural place in the bullpen where he has been very effective in long relief.

Grade: D plus

Unfortunately, games are won and lost on runs scored and runs allowed. A note from the doctor about how many players are on the injured list doesn’t count in the standings, so we are going to have to give the Tigers rotation a below average grade. We give them a D plus, with a chance to improve before the end of the season.

The Tigers will need at least some of their pitchers to get healthy, as young starters will be limited in how many innings they can pitch. The state of the starting rotation is not one of desperation under the circumstances. The pitching in the organzation should be much better when they get their true starters healthy and pitching.

In the meantime, the season has become one where they can continue tryouts for some of their young prospects as they patch their way through the season.

Overall, rotation and bullpen combined, the Tigers rank 21st in the league in ERA. We will report on the bullpen and the lineup separately.