Detroit Sports

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Final Rotation

Long time Tigers' starter Nate Robertson no longer occupies a spot on rotation and was traded to the Marlins for a minor league pitcher.

It seems as if many baseball analysts remain confused about this deal, wondering why the Tigers would trade Robertson but give Dontrelle Willis a starting position. All spring Robertson, Willis, and Jeremy Bonderman had battled for the final two starting spots on the Tigers' rotation. Robertson out pitched Willis this spring but was still the odd man out in the rotation battle. Here is what Rob Neyer of ESPN said about the deal:

"Bottom line? The Tigers were going to get bubkus in a trade for Dontrelle Willis so they moved the most marketable major-league pitcher they had. In that regard, this trade makes sense.

Of course, now the question is: Will the 2010 model of the D-Train be a local or an express?

I'm betting on local. What's a little odd is that Robertson's out-pitched Willis this spring, at least statistically. In 20 innings, Robertson's struck out 19 and walked seven. In 15 innings, Willis has struck out 10 and walked eight (both of them have plunked two hitters)."

The Tigers definitely took a gamble by releasing Robertson. Since acquiring Willis two years ago, he has won exactly one game with the Tigers. On the other hand, Robertson, although not phenomenal, has been a consistent pitcher for the Tigers over the past seven seasons. However, during the last two seasons Robertson only won 9 games and had an awful ERA. Both pitchers have struggled with injuries the last few years, but both appear to be completely healthy this spring.

I actually really liked this move for the Tigers. Although the risk appears high by trading Robertson, the Tigers potentially have a killer pitching lineup. Consider how good their starting rotation would be if each pitcher duplicated their best season statistically:

Justin Verlander: 19-9, 269 SO, 3.45 ERA
Rick Porcello: 14-9, 89 SO, 3.96 ERA
Max Scherzer: 11-14, 174 SO, 4.12 ERA
Dontrelle Willis: 22-10, 170 SO, 2.63 ERA
Jeremy Bonderman: 14-8, 202 SO, 4.08 ERA

If you number crunch that you get a combined record of 80-50 with 904 SO in 1030 innings pitched with an average ERA of 3.65 (can you say playoffs?). However, why even mention the numbers from their best seasons? Everyone knows Willis and Bonderman appear to have their best seasons behind them. Regardless, I believe this shows the potential of the Tigers' rotation. Consider that Willis and Bonderman are finally healthy and have been spectacular in the past. Additionally, I like Willis over Robertson, because Robertson has never really proven himself as a very good starting pitcher. He has been consistent (earlier in his career mostly), but is really about an average MLB pitcher, while Willis had Cy Young potential at one point. Robertson is also a couple years older than Bonderman or Willis. Finally, Verlander, Porcello, and Scherzer probably have their best years ahead of them and will further boost the rotation.

Furthermore, if Willis or Bonderman flop, the Tigers still will have
Eddie Bonine waiting in the wings to potentially start. Also, Armando Galarraga will be staying warm in the minor leagues as a backup plan.

Overall, this deal was definitely a little risky. However, Willis and Bonderman both have proven themselves in the past and both are finally completely healthy to start the season. It will be exciting to see the rotation develop throughout the season. Aside from Willis and Bonderman, the other three starters will most likely tear it up this season.

The closer the season gets, the more excited I get to see the Tigers play. They made some surprising moves this off season, but they still have a great chance to clinch their division.

Again, High Risk = High Reward, but will it pay the Tigers dividends in 2010? Time will only tell.


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