Detroit Tigers End-of-May Grades: Pitchers

Justin Verlander

SD Dirk, Flickr

With two months of the Detroit Tigers season in the books, it’s time to hand out some performance reviews.

Below are our grades for each member of the Tigers’ pitching staff. Our breakdown of Detroit’s position players can be found by clicking here.

Al Alburquerque — B: This kid came out of nowhere and has actually been really impressive in most of his outings. Alburquerque has 26 strikeouts in just 15 1/3 innings, but has struggled when coming in with runners already on. Look for him to hone his ability to control his off-speed pitch in the second half.

Joaquin Benoit — C-minus: It would be hard to call Benoit’s signing anything other than a disappointment. After Benoit agreed to a huge contract in the offseason, many expected Detroit to never give up any runs in the 8th and 9th innings. His low point of the first half has to be the walk-off grand slam he gave up in Cleveland. He is trying to get back on track now and reclaim the eighth-inning spot that has plagued the Tigers all year.

Charlie Furbush — A: It was tempting to give Furbush an incomplete grade since he has only appeared in two games, but he was able to replicate his first performance when he pitched against the Red Sox last week. In 8 2/3 innings of work, he has given up just four hits, three walks and has struck out nine. In total, the kid has not given up any runs against two solid offenses in Boston and Tampa Bay. Providing teams don’t figure out his pitches, Furbush could be a really nice addition to the rotation or as a long reliever.

Enrique Gonzalez — F-minus: Gonzalez has been as close to a total disaster as you can get. He has a 12.79 ERA in only 6 1/3 innings pitched. Guys are hitting over .400 against him and he just has not been effective. In fact, he has looked so bad that when he was designated for assignment, no team put a claim in on him and he was sent to Toledo. He is on the Tigers again now, but do not expect him to stick around.

Andrew Oliver — Inc.: Oliver has appeared in only one game this season, against the Boston Red Sox. His first inning looked like a total disaster, but the young prospect was able to settle down and actually turned in a nice outing. He pitched six innings, allowing just three runs and five total hits. It sounds as if Phil Coke will be returning to the rotation when he is healthy, so Oliver will most likely be headed back to Toledo by the end of the week.

Brad Penny — B-plus: Out of everyone on the pitching staff, I bet no one picked Penny to be one of the most consistent starters. He is 4-4 on the year and has a very respectable ERA. Perhaps more surprising than his performance on the field is the fact he has been able to stay there. If Penny can avoid hitting the disabled list, like he has a habit of doing, he will be a very solid No. 4 starter in the rotation.

Ryan Perry — D: Perry has been a confusing puzzle for Detroit. At times, he is absolutely dominant and can strikeout anyone; at other times, he looks lost on the mound. The young closer of the future is currently spending some time in Toledo. Unless there is a major injury to the big club’s pen, do not expect him to be back until everything is worked out.

Rick Porcello — C: It is hard to give Porcello such a middle-of-the-road grade since he has a winning record and does have an ERA below four, but he has been average. The secret to Porcello’s success this year has been his sinker. When that pitch is working, he is nearly unhittable. Unfortunately, as we saw against the Red Sox, when the pitch does not fall out of the zone, he is very hittable. The key to rest of his season is continuing to perfect that pitch.

David Purcey — Inc.: He looked good against the Red Sox? I’ve got nothing. Purcey has had a track record of mediocre play, but since he went to Oakland, he has looked solid. Detroit needs bullpen help and he provides some of it. For the price the Tigers paid for him (Scott Sizemore), he has to deliver.

Max Scherzer — A-minus: Think back to the Max Scherzer we all saw last year, the one with the funky delivery who couldn’t throw strikes. Did you ever think he would start 6-0 this year? While he has scuffled in his last two starts, Scherzer has been stellar at home and on the road. He has 61 strikeouts in just over 65 innings, and only 26 walks. Many considered the Tigers to have a solid 1-2 punch in the rotation — if Scherzer continues on the same pace he currently is, then Detroit may have the best.

Daniel Schlereth — B-plus: Manager Jim Leyland has used Schlereth sparingly, but when he has been called upon he has delivered. Do not let the 0-1 record fool you — in 17 1/3 innings, he has given up just five earned runs and has 11 strikeouts. His walks are a little concerning, nine on the year, but that is something that can be remedied. He could be the new Bobby Seay to Detroit and may be able to fill a key spot in the bullpen.

Brad Thomas — F: The Australian pitcher could not replicate what made him so effective last year. In 11 innings he has given up 11 earned runs, 17 hits and walked six. Maybe he could come back from the DL and be effective, but I doubt it.

Jose Valverde — A-minus: No pitcher is ever going to be perfect, but Valverde has been pretty darn close to it. He is 11 for 11 in save opportunities and has been one of the best closers in the league. Papa Grande still struggles when he is in a non-save situation, but so do many closers. His ERA is not as pretty as last year’s, but he has been just as effective.

Justin Verlander — A: The guy threw a no-hitter and was very close to a perfect game, he fixed his early-season pitching woes and looks like a true ace. He only has a 5-3 record on the year, but that is not for a lack of good pitching. He had one bad start against Boston, but it is nothing to be too concerned with. Expect much of the same from here on out. Leyland said he could win 20 games and he is pitching like it.

Brayan Villarreal — C-minus: Another pitcher that is no longer on the team but has a promising future. While he just couldn’t always get it done on the mound in key situations, he has shown several signs that he may be able to in the future. He did have 14 punch outs in 15 innings and only walked seven. He may not be back in Detroit this year, but will find his way back to the Major Leagues soon.

Adam Wilk — Inc.: He only appeared in one game before getting sent down but looks like he could really develop into something. Keep an eye on him in Toledo, as he could be a top-three pitcher in the making.

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