So Who Is Billy Buckner?

It’s pretty clear that the Tigers don’t have big plans for newly acquired Billy Buckner.

Yesterday Dave Dombrowski described the right hander’s role in the organization thusly:

“He gives us depth at Toledo.”

Didn’t they say the same thing about poor Mike Hessman?

Given Buckner’s numbers — a 6.56 ERA for the Diamondbacks in 29 games (16 starts) in parts of three seasons — and a 0-3, 11.08 ERA record this season, you can’t argue with the Tigers doing nothing more than simply plugging a roster opening at Toledo with Buckner. And, because tonight’s starter, Armando Galarraga, appears set to stay in Detroit for a while the Mud Hens needed a body.

So, play along as we noodle the idea of Buckner arriving in Detroit some time this summer. Is he as bad as his stats would indicate?

Continue reading “So Who Is Billy Buckner?”

2009 Player Profile: Nate Robertson

The results of our most recent poll indicate that loyal Daily Fungo readers would prefer Dontrelle Willis (43%), Zach Miner (38%) or perhaps even Felipe Lira as the Tigers’ fifth starter over Nate Robertson (19%).

Nevertheless, we want to continue our series of player profiles today with The Nater for two reasons — actually three, I just thought of a third: First, he made more starts last season than either Miner or Willis. Second, I already had the profile written. Last, we’ll do our friend and avowed Nater Hater, Ian Casselberry, a favor and get it out of the way.

Nate Robertson #29

  • Height: 6′ 2″ | Weight: 225
  • 2008 Stats: 7-11, 6.35 ERA

RobertsonHead.jpgThe Tigers had no shortage of pitching frustrations in 2008 and one could argue that the most perplexing of all was Robertson. Once considered a core member of the rotation, the lefthander’s performance in ’08 raised questions about whether he could physically and mentally take his game to a higher level. In fact, Robertson’s season was so off-kilter that he found himself in the bullpen after a 5-8, 5.26 ERA first half.

Things improved little after the All Star Break and the 31-year-old enters 2009 as a major question mark. However, if any Tigers pitcher is likely to adopt the mantra of new pitching coach Rick Knapp – throw first-pitch strikes – it’s Robertson, who had above-league-average success in this area in ’08. (Nearly 60 percent of his initial offerings were strikes.)

A reversal of fortune for the Tigers in 2009 will be tied closely to Robertson’s ability to rediscover his command – especially his slider – and log quality starts. The club hopes an off-season exercise regimen designed to improve his flexibility will help him in the short and long term. Barring a Spring Training meltdown, expect him to return to the rotation in 2009 and to stay out of the bullpen.

The Top 10 Tigers Stories of 2008: #2 – The Pitching. Oh, the Pitching.

Number2.jpgIf we had to narrow the Tigers’ dismal 2008 to one culprit it would be the pitching. While Detroit’s offense had many fits and starts throughout the season, the pitching was pretty much the same from March 31 to Sept. 28: awful.

Whether it was Dontrelle Willis‘ sudden inability to throw strikes or Justin Verlander‘s season of wild inconsistency or merely the bullpen’s tendency to do just about everything wrong, the pitching was Public Enemy No. 1 at Comerica Park and 13 other American League parks (not to mention parks across the N.L. West).

One final look at the Tigers pitching woes:

  • Team ERA: 4.91 — 12th in A.L.; 27th in MLB
  • Strikeouts: 991 — 11th / 25th
  • Walks: 644 — 13th / 27th
  • Blown Saves: 26

Oh, what the hay, let’s take a quick look at how the rotation fared:

  • Verlander: 11-17, 4.84 ERA, one (and the Tigers’ only) complete game
  • Armando Galarraga: 13-7, 3.73
  • Kenny Rogers: 9-13, 5.70
  • Nate Robertson: 7-11, 6.35
  • Jeremy Bonderman: 3-4, 4.29
  • Willis: 0-2, 9.38

Yep. Ugly.

But thankfully the 2008 season — and soon this list — is over and done with.

Joyce Goes Home, Tigers Fans Go “Huh?”

Meet your new number-three starter: Edwin Jackson. Or maybe he’s number two. Who knows? All we do know is that the Tigers made the most curious trade since…since…Dickie Noles-for-Dickie Noles?

While the Mets, Mariners and Indians were swingin’ a 12-player trade (with J.J. Putz as the centerpiece) the Tigers were not zeroing in on a closer, instead they were dealing for a starting pitcher.

The 25-year-old Jackson won a career-high 14 games in 2008 at the back end of the rotation during Tampa Bay’s breakout season. He posted a 4.42 ERA to go with his 14-11 record, pitching 183 1/3 innings, allowing 199 hits and 77 walks while striking out 108. Jackson’s arrival adds some more certainty to a rotation that faced major question marks at the back end. Justin Verlander and Armando Galarraga are the only certainties from last year, while Jeremy Bonderman is expected to be back to full strength after missing the second half of last season following shoulder surgery.

Ian offers some hefty analysis of the deal here.

Lynn Henning suggests that this deal could be a signal that the Tigers’ are concerned with Jeremy Bonderman‘s progress. That or the Tigers are hedging their bets against another poor season by Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis.

Or both. What do you make of this trade?

Remembering the (First?) Todd Jones Trade

Todd Jones is no longer the Tigers’ closer. The statement is as true today as it was on this date in 2001. That’s the day the Tigers sent Jones to the Twins for lefty Mark Redman.

In 2002, his only full season with Detroit, Redman went 8-15, 4.21 in 30 starts. The Tigers traded Redman to the Marlins after that season for Nate Robertson, Gary Knotts and Rob Henkel.

After winning the 2003 World Series with Florida, Redman went on the team-a-year plan:

  • 2004 – Oakland
  • 2005 – Pittsburgh
  • 2006 – Kansas City
  • 2007 – Atlanta/Colorado

He began this year with the Colorado organization and got some time with the big club:

Redman appeared in 10 games with the Rockies this year, nine of them as a starter, and was 2-5 with a 7.54 ERA. He began the season in the Rockies’ rotation before being sent to Triple-A Colorado Springs on May 11.

The Rockies designated him for assignment 10 days ago and his career might very well be over.

Same could be said for Todd Jones.