2011 Detroit Tigers First Half Grades, Part Deux

Hey now, ladies and germs. Welcome to Part Two of DNR’s look at the first half of the 2011 season in Detroit. Tonight, we break down the pitching staff that was good enough to get Rick Knapp fired. This should be fun.

Grading the pitchers, to me, is harder to do than the hitters. With hitters, you can take a look at their stats and easily (well, to sane people) identify who is doing well and who isn’t. With the pitchers, especially out of the bullpen, one bad outing can skew the numbers substantially. Thus, Your Party Host will be examining the numbers a little closer than normal.

Granted, for me, that probably means looking at them for ten seconds, rather than five. I am no longer informative, it seems. Deal.

After ze jump…

Justin Verlander, Starting Pitcher
12-4, 2.15, 151 IP, 0.87 WHIP, 31 BB, 147 K, 176 ERA +
Grade: A+

Four complete games, two shutouts, a no-hitter, and a perfect 20 for 20 in outings of at least 6 innings pitched. Justin Verlander has been an “ace” in every sense of the word when it comes to baseball. The notoriously slow-starting JV was 2-3 with a 3.64 after April. And that was an improvement over what he normally does to start the year! Since then, he’s been lights out. His only loss since then was a 1-0 defeat to Dan Haren and the Angels. His only bad start all year was giving up 6 runs on 9 hits against Tampa on May 24th, yet he still got the win that day. The man is a machine, the best Tiger pitcher I’ve ever seen, and the early favorite to win the Cy Young award.

Max Scherzer, Starting Pitcher
10-4, 4.69, 111.1 IP, 1.44 WHIP, 38 BB, 96 K, 81 ERA+
Grade: C+

Last year, after the All-Star break, Max was just as good as Verlander was. We all went into this year hoping for more of the same. And though he has 10 wins, Max hasn’t been very impressive overall on the mound. His location is off and his performances have suffered for it going at least 6 innings 12 out of 19 times and going just 2 innings twice. After a rough opening day, Max was pretty good taking a 2.98 ERA into his May 26th start at Boston. In that game and in four of eight others since, he’s allowed at least 5 runs to get to his present ERA of 4.69. Max needs to get his shit together if we’re going to have a chance at this thing.

Brad Penny, Starting Pitcher
6-6, 4.50, 110 IP, 1.41 WHIP, 35 BB, 47 K, 84 ERA+
Grade: C+

Penny’s gone 6 innings or more 12 out of 18 times, which is better than I expected out of him at the start of the year, to be honest. Actually, his first start of the year against the Yankees has been his only really bad outing. They haven’t all been winners, but for a guy signed to be the #4 or #5 guy, I think Penny’s more than held up his end of the bargain. If he could speed up his game above a dead sloth’s pace, I might even start to like the guy a bit. I do, however, enjoy his taste in women.

Rick Porcello, Starting Pitcher
8-6, 4.78, 96 IP, 1.45 WHIP, 38 BB, 56 K, 79 ERA+
Grade: C-

It’s hard to believe that Kid Rick is still only 22 years old. We need to keep that in mind, especially in today’s world of the most impatient Tiger fanbase I’ve ever dealt with. People are acting like he’s supposed to be at Justin Verlander’s level already. Be realistic, folks. Rick is still learning how to pitch and hasn’t done a bad job. But he’s still not where the team needs him as a #3 starter. He’s gone at least 6 IP in only 9 out of 17 starts, with the highlight being an 8 inning, 1 hitter against the Pirates in May. Six times he’s allowed 5 runs or more. Jim is still pretty careful with the guy and crazy about his pitch counts. The signs are still there for something special. But I wouldn’t expect to see it for another year or two.

Phil Coke, Starter/Reliever
1-8, 4.88, 79.1 IP, 1.48 WHIP, 30 BB, 41 K, 78 ERA+
Grade: B-

Poor Phil Coke. The converted reliever that we all have questions about in moving to starting has lost his starting job. But did he deserve to? In my opinion, the guy’s just had some really bad luck to go with a couple crappy performances. In Coke’s 14 starts, he only gave up 5 or more runs 3 times. Three times, he didn’t give up ANY runs against Oakland, Boston, and Tampa…not bad. Five other starts saw him give up only a run or two. Yet this is the guy they gave up on already? Yeah, he got roughed up in interleague play. But I’m hoping that the Cokester gets another shot before the year is over. I definitely feel more comfortable with him starting than Charlie Furbush. And if the team trades for another starter, than Coke will hopefully be as solid as ever out of the pen, where he has 3 holds this year.

Jose Valverde, Closing Pitcher
2-3, 2.70, 24 SV, 40 IP, 1.38 WHIP, 23 BB, 39 K, 141 ERA+
Grade: A-

Papa Grande is a perfect 24 for 24 in save opportunities. He’s also a nightmare to watch in non-save situations. As of late, he has resembled Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney a bit too much for many fans’ tastes. But you can’t argue with success, and the man who made his second straight All-Star appearance as a Tiger has been successful. It’ll be interesting to see if he can start walking less batters in the second half as he’s transitioned from a four-seamer/forkball pitcher into a two-seamer guy.

Joaquin Benoit, Setup Relief Pitcher
2-3, 4.24, 2 SV, 34 IP, 1.35 WHIP, 9 BB, 31 K, 90 ERA+
Grade: B

The big off-season free agent signing for the bullpen hasn’t come close to the great numbers he put up in Tampa last year. But I don’t think anyone expected him to replicate that success again this year. Still, he only gave up one run in his first ten appearances, having a 0.93 ERA after April 22nd. From late April to mid-May, he gave up 12 runs in 5 innings. His numbers haven’t recovered, but his game has. Since the May 16th game against Toronto, Benoit’s only given up 3 runs in 23 appearances. He seems to have figured things out and personally, I’m not going to let one rough patch destroy his grade like it has his ERA.

Al Alburquerque, Relief Pitcher
5-1, 2.79, 29 IP, 1.28 WHIP, 22 BB, 47 K, 137 ERA+
Grade: A

Meet Zoom 2.0. I hope they didn’t kill him like they did Zoom 1.0. AlAl was signed as a Double-A free agent in the offseason and no one knew who he was. 26 games and an eye-popping 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings later, and Tiger fans are in love with the kid. Currently on the DL with elbow pain, Alburquerque could be one of the most important cogs in the Tigers second half machine if he can keep this up for the whole season.

Daniel Schlereth, Relief Pitcher
0-1, 4.91, 25.2 IP, 1.60 WHIP, 19 BB, 24 K, 78 ERA+
Grade: D-

I can’t stand Schlereth. Only 3 times has he come into a game in his 29 appearances and pitched a full clean inning. When he came in the Granderson trade, people talked of him as a future Billy Wagner type. Right now, I’d rather see Billy Madison pitch for the Tigers. Kid needs some work in the minors and that’s where he currently is.

Charlie Furbush, Sterter/Reliever
1-3, 4.03, 29.0 IP, 1.55 WHIP, 12 BB, 24 K, 95 ERA+
Grade: B-

In 12 relief appearances, the guy with the juvenile humor last name was impressive enough to be inserted into the starting rotation after the team felt Phil Coke wasn’t getting the job done. As a reliever, he had a 2.49 ERA and was doing a great job. In his two starts, he’s given up 12 runs, 7 earned, in 7 innings. I wish they’d have left things alone. But I’ve liked what I saw from Charlie before that and think he’s best suited as the team’s long relief guy for the rest of the year. The next couple weeks will tell us what will really happen.

Ryan Perry, Relief Pitcher
0-0, 7.17, 21.1 IP, 1.69 WHIP, 12 BB, 16 K, 54 ERA+
Grade: D

Perry kicks ass in Triple A, but can’t seem to solve major league hitters or his control problems in the show. In 11 innings since his most recent recall from Toledo, he’s only given up 3 earned runs. It’s an improvement, but he has a long way to go to live up to the Tigers making him such a high draft pick a couple years ago. He still gets an “A” for his sweet tattoos, though.

David Purcey, Relief Pitcher
1-1, 4.86, 16.2 IP, 1.80 WHIP, 12 BB, 11 K, 79 ERA+
Grade: C-

The man that Dave Dombrowski has long lusted after to join the Tigers bullpen started okay enough after being acquired from Oakland for Scott Sizemore, but has given up 8 earned runs in his last 5 innings pitched. Being that those 5 innings account for almost a third of his Tiger time, it hurts his overall grade with the team. Also, he needs to quit walking people ASAP if he’s going to be a late inning specialist. The Tigers are his third team this year and my Toronto-rooting-friend hated him, so hopefully he shows whatever it is that DD loves so much about the guy. Soon.

Brayan Villareal, Relief Pitcher
1-1, 6.75, 16 IP, 1.94 WHIP, 10 BB, 14 K, 57 ERA+
Grade: F

Villareal has appeared in 16 games for the Tigers. Only twice has he had a clean outing of no walks/hits, and each of those were only 1/3 of an inning appearances. He sucks.

Brad Thomas, Relief Pitcher
0-1, 9.00, 11IP, 2.09 WHIP, 6 BB, 7 K, 43 ERA+
Grade: F-

But no one sucks worse than Brad Thomas. The dingo rapist needs to go away. Far, far, away. Like Australia.

Enrique Gonzalez, Relief Pitcher
0-0, 10.00, 9.2 IP, 2.11 WHIP, 7 BB, 3 K, 39 ERA+
Grade: F

Another waste of a roster spot we’ve had to sit through this year.

Adam Wilk, Andy Oliver, Lester Oliveros, and Robbie Weinhardt all appeared in 5 games or less. I’m choosing to give them all an “incomplete” for this reason though Wilk and Oliveros did fine and Oliver and Weinhardt bombed in their opportunities.

Also, I refuse to grade Don Kelly with the pitchers. I feel bad enough giving that peckerhead a “C+” with the position players. If I give him an “A” here, I might have to slice my wrists.