Saturday, April 14, 2007

Nine Full Innings -- But Who Replaces Durbin?

Wow. Now that was a Detroit Tigers game to remember. It all looked lost early on (thanks to Chad Durbin, but we'll get to him in a minute), then it looked like the Tigers were back in it. Then the Blue Jays took the lead it the bottom of the eighth, and it looked lost again. But these are the Detroit Tigers and for them, "Nine Full Innings" isn't just a slogan, it's a lifestyle. And as they are proving again this season, as they proved again Saturday afternoon with a 4-run ninth inning against one of the best closers in baseball, the Detroit Tigers never go quietly into the night. They are patient when they need to be, draw walks which has always been a problem, and get clutch hit after clutch hit. Today was a perfect example of why the Tigers are one of the best teams in baseball. And how about Brandon Inge today, who continued to break out of his slump with a home run, two RBI, and two steals as I predicted.

But, before the ninth inning heroics, there was the horrendous first inning and performance of starting pitcher Chad Durbin. Last week, after Durbin's unsuccessful first start for the Detroit Tigers, I speculated that it may not be long before the Tigers call up rookie phenom Andrew Miller from Class A Lakeland to replace Durbin in the starting rotation. After this afternoon's second consecutive poor performance from Durbin (where he looked even worse than he did in his first outing) calls for Durbin's replacement have gained even more volume. So, who are the potential replacements and what are the plusses and minuses of each candidate?

Andrew Miller: He would be my first choice. Yes he's only started two games at any level in professional baseball, and yes he struggled a bit in his last outing at Class A Lakeland, but for all the reasons I talked about last week, he's the top candidate. He would gain a tremendous amount of experience which would only benefit him when he joins the rotation for good in 2008 or 2009 and you never know, he could catch lightning in a bottle and be an instant success. Either way, it would be a great learning experience for him. Yes, there's a legitimate school of thought which says you don't call up a young pitcher like Miller until he's ready, but he has the talent and the ability to be successful at the Major League Level now.

Wil Ledezma: Ledezma is currently one of the Tigers long relievers, although he has started in the past, and has had some starting success. But, even though the Tigers do need a new fifth starter, Ledezma is likely of more value to the team in his current role out of the bullpen. Taking him out leaves them with only one left-handed reliever (Bobby Seay) and Seay is not a long-reliever like Ledezma. Having a guy in your bullpen that can give you three or four innings if you need him is very valuable, and the fact that he's a lefty is even better. Ledezma would be a solid choice, but you would have to weigh what you lose against what you gain. And even though he gave up the game winning home run today, that isn't the reason why he shouldn't be starting. His value to the team is in the bullpen right now.

Zach Miner: Zach Miner filled in for Mike Maroth last season when Maroth was injured and was great for most of the year. He certainly pitched better than anyone expected. But, by the end of the season, teams had figured him out, and he began to struggle. Miner is not a long term solution like Miller could be, and him duplicating his success from last season is likely asking too much. Plus, Miner has really struggled at Toledo to start the year, 0-1 in two starts with a 7.27 ERA and 8 walks in just over 8 innings.

Jair Jurrjens: Jurrjens is the Tigers second best pitching prospect behind Miller, but he has more experience in professional baseball making him perhaps a better choice than Miller to join the big league rotation. But, he has only one start this season (4 innings, 0 runs, 4 strikeouts and 2 walks) and may need another start or two in the minors before he would be ready to go. Plus, while Miller is younger and has less experience, he has more major league experience, having pitched for the Tigers at the end of last season.

Bottom line? The Tigers do have options, both with pitchers who have started at the major league level (Ledezma, Miner) and those that are younger (Miller, Jurrjens) but whomever they chose, they better do so fast, because Durbin can't keep costing them games, even if they are early in the season.

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Kurt said...

I don't think it's any of those guys. I'll have my guess in tomorrow's "bunt singles" ;)

Scott Warheit said...

Really? Interesting. I'll have to check that out tomorrow.

BTW, your comment made me look back through my post, and allowed me to see that a completely butchered poor Jair Jurrjens's last name (since corrected), which while likely not uncommon is pretty bad. I haven't misspelled a Tigers' pitcher's name that bad since I was calling Joel Zumaya Joel "Zuyama" three years ago.



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