2011 Tiger Staff Appears to Have More Questions Than Answers

I hate to keep bringing up Lynn Henning’s name lately, but as the most prominent Tiger columnist around, it’s inevitable. In what seams like every story he writes lately, he keeps saying how great the Tiger pitching staff appears to be heading into the 2011 campaign. And as much as I want to believe that and would be willing to strangle a litter of kittens for it to be true, the fact remains that most of this staff has more question marks than exclamation points, in Your Party Host’s opinion.

Take a journey with me through Rick Knapp’s cupboard and I hope you’ll see what I mean.


Justin Verlander is the only truly stable piece here. He’s Justin Abortion in April and Justin Credible the rest of the way. I’m not worried here as JV’s one of the best pitchers in baseball and we’re lucky to have him as our ace in the D.

Max Scherzer is someone I love, yet he still raises some eyebrows on forecasting what he’ll bring in 2011. I mean, he did have to be sent down to Toledo to work on his stuff last year. Granted, when he sorted things out, he was arguably our best pitcher the rest of the way. So, I’m 80% confident that Mad Max is going to more than pull his weight as the #2 starter on this team.

Rick Porcello was hyped to us as being an ace in the making. But in 2 seasons, 58 games, and 333.1 innings pitched, he’s been far from that, going 24-21 with a 4.43 ERA, 1.362 WHIP, 4.7 K/9, and an ERA+ of 99. So he’s had his moments, but the kid’s been below average overall. 2011 is a huge year for Kid Rick and he is definitely going to be a serious key to any success the Tigers have this year. The biggest worry I have about Rick is the suspect infield defense that’ll be in charge of reeling in all the ground balls he tends to induce. Inge can’t cover the entire infield, you know.

Phil Coke is the guy I noted would be the X-factor in my last post. He has one career start in the big leagues and has been knows as a quality relief guy. But out of nowhere, he was anointed the #4 guy on the staff in the offseason. If he has a transition like CJ Wilson of the Rangers did last year, we’re money. If not, we’re f-cked. Phil’s got a great attitude and seemingly has the confidence of the organization to make the change, but after 25+ years of being a Tiger fan, I have little to no faith in the opinions of the upper Tiger management.

Brad Penny is going to be boom or bust. When healthy, the guy is a solid #3 option. Trouble is, he’s healthy about as much as Carlos Guillen and Joel Zumaya. Dombrowski loves his old Marlin players and we need to hope that this one pays off more on the side of how Pudge and Cabrera did instead of the D-Train variety.

Charlie Furbush, Andy Oliver, and Jacob Turner are the three young options the team must fall back on if one of the starting five goes down. Trading Armando Galarraga to Arizona has left us with absolutely no depth if someone gets hurt or struggles. These kids no doubt have MLB futures ahead of them, but letting them get their feet wet in 2011 is not a good idea when we’re supposedly trying to win a championship. Oliver showed last year that he’s not MLB ready. Turner’s realistically not going to be ready for another two years. That leaves Charlie. And while the only way I’d be happier having a guy named “Furbush” on the team is if he was named “Richard Long”, I’m still not liking the idea of a lowly touted rookie being our fallback option if/when Penny or another starter’s arm explodes.

I would have liked to have seen the team sign someone with some MLB experience to a minor league deal. John Maine and Doug Davis might be the only guys left on the market right now if the team still planned on doing so. God help me, I’d take Jeremy Bonderman at this point if he’d be willing to play in Toledo. And I just threw up in my mouth…

So basically, out of our starting five, three of them have serious question marks next to their names. That is not a good start. And it doesn’t get much better in the pen.


Jose Valverde is the Alyssa Milano of the pen. He’s a sure thing. Right, Brad Penny? Zing. Anyhoo, Valverde’s going to be good for 30+ saves, one or two blowups, and some fun facial expressions and dancing exhibitions. Papa Grande is a superb anchor to have at the back of the bullpen.

Ryan Perry is a solid 7th inning option for us. He hasn’t developed into the “future closer” tag that was put on him when he came up, but keep in mind that the heavily tattooed kid is still only about to turn 24 years old. Though his strikeout rate dropped last year, Ryan’s stayed pretty consistent and I hope he begins to take the next step this season.

Joel Zumaya is where the pen starts to get scary. Joel is another boom or bust guy. He still shows flashes of why we all fell in love with him in ’06 when he hits 100 mph and makes Lynn Henning’s panties get wet. But sadly, the injuries keep mounting up and he’s probably one more pop away from his career being over with.

Joaquin Benoit was signed to a gigantic deal for a setup man this offseason for three years and $16.5 million. If he pitches like he did in Tampa last year, he’s going to be worth every penny. If he pitches like the dogsh-t he pitched like the other eight years he’s spent in the bigs, then Dave Dombrowski has really screwed the pooch on this one. I’m not a fan of this deal as I’d rather have seen the Tigers go after Jessie Crain or Grant Belfour, but of course, I’m going to be rooting for the guy to succeed.

Brad Thomas sucks koala dong. He’ll apparently be our long reliever.

Daniel Schlereth is the favorite to be the LOOGY out of the pen this year. Trouble is, the kid is as wild as his old man is annoying when talking about football on ESPN. If he can keep the ball down in the strike zone, he’s going to be a great success. Otherwise, we’re going to spend a lot of 2011 missing guys like Bobby Seay and Jamie Walker.

Robbie Weinhardt got knocked around quite a bit in his rookie season in 2010. He’ll probably start the season in Toledo, but will remain on the Tigers’ radar if/when someone gets hurt.

John Bale and Fu-Te Ni are non-roster invitees to spring training this year to try and make the pen as a LOOGY and compete with Schlereth. Bale probably is going to be minor league depth and Ni needs to show that his impressive 2009 season was the real Ni, not the disastrous 2010 one.

So, just like the starters, the bullpen has two guys we can probably feel confident in and a bunch of “I hope so” guys behind them. Why Henning and others seem so confident in this bunch right now, I can’t seem to figure out. I hope they’re right, but every time I look at this list, I keep hearing Han Solo’s voice in my head.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this.