Saturday, August 4, 2007

"We're in a bit of chaos right now" - Detroit Tigers Manager Jim Leyland

"We're in a bit of chaos right now." That's the lead from's Danny Knobler who reports this afternoon that Andrew Miller has been placed on the 15-day Disabled List with a bum hamstring, making him the third Detroit Tigers starter to hit the DL this year. The vaunted Fernando Rodney will return to a still-in-flux Tigers bullpen, even though the Tigers would have preferred he continue to fine-tune his delivery at AAA Toledo for just a bit longer.

At the start of the 2007 season, the big question surrounding the Tigers was whether they would become this season's version of the Chicago White Sox. In 2006, the White Sox, fresh off of a World Series win, were primed for a repeat (especially considering how weak the AL Central was -- remember, this was before the Tigers turnaround). The long 2005 season, though, came back to haunt the White Sox. Especially their pitching staff which led them to the World Series but never seemed to recover in time for a 2006 pennant run.

When the Detroit Tigers started off 2007 as hot as they played in 2006, the White Sox comparison seemed like nothing more than a foolish warning from the ultimate pessimist. Even midway through the season, the Tigers had so many pitchers they didn't know what to do with them all, and they eventually traded Mike Maroth and Wil Ledemza (both of whom have starting experience).

Today, though, mired in an almost month long slump, placing yet another starting pitcher on the DL, the 2006 White Sox comparison doesn't seem so far fetched. All of Detroit's starting pitchers, except for Justin Verlander, have at least missed multiple starts, and only Verlander has not spent time on the Disabled List (reading Kurt's similar thoughts over at Mack Avenue Tigers reminded me that even Jeremy Bondman was placed on the DL back in May with blister problems. I thought he had just missed a few starts). As has Zach Miner, who was a key member of the Tigers starting rotation last season. And the bullpen? Those woes have been well documented, with seemingly everyone, from Miner, to Fernando Rodney (two trips), Joel Zumaya, and Tim Byrdak missing time.

Now, the White Sox comparison isn't entirely accurate. Miller did not pitch significantly last year. Bonderman's problem was a blister, and Rogers blood clot likely had nothing to do with how many innings he threw in 2006. Same with Joel Zumaya's freak finger injury. But, the bottom line is, the injuries keep coming. And now, the Tigers batters (like Marcus Thames and Gary Sheffield) are out too.

This has been a rough stretch, obviously, for the Tigers. Chaos, as Jim Leyland described it, is a good word to use. But, you get the feeling that the light may be visible at the end of the tunnel. Fernando Rodney, shaky as he may be, is back, and is said to be 100%. Joel Zumaya should return before the end of the month. Marcus Thames as well. And Sheffield's injured shoulder is feeling better. So maybe, just maybe, two or three weeks from now, this stretch will be nothing more than a memory.

And there's always the possibility of a trade. Though, if the Tigers are serious about moving Carlos Guillen to first base next year (not the worst idea in the world), Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson is not the answer. But, a former shortstop (current third baseman) who hit a historic 500th home run today will be a free agent at the end of the year. But, that's a post for another day.

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