Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Jacob Turner and the Detroit Tigers starting pitching

Most of my recollection of the late Jim Campbell, who was the Tigers' team president when I started as a sports writer,  is of a crusty, old guy who yelled at me a lot about the things I wrote.
I learned a lot more about the actual game from his general manager, Bill Lajoie, that's for sure.
But the one thing Campbell said that has proven very true was about starting pitching.
He said for every 10 starting pitching prospects in the minor leagues, who look like they have a real shot of making it, you might you get one who becomes a long-term fixture in the major leagues as an actual starter.
I don't know if the 10-percent theory holds true to the exact number or not, but the point is a good one. Look at all the starting pitching prospects the Tigers have had down through the years. How many have actually made it as long-range starting pitchers?
Even when the Tigers developed Jack Morris and Dan Petry to lead their rotation for the 1984 World Series-winning team, they went through pitchers like Mike Chris, Bruce Robbins, Pat Underwood, Steve Baker, Dave Rucker, Howard Bailey - the list just goes on.
The Tigers do have some young starters now, but Justin Verlander was the second overall pick in the draft, Max Scherzer was the 11th overall pick (although traded for) and Rick Porcello would have likely been in the Top 5 of his draft class were it not for potential signability issues.
Sometimes none of the potential starters make it. Remember Mike Drumright, Willis Roberts, Seth Gresinger and Matt Drews were supposed to comprise a dream rotation for the Tigers some day? What a nightmare that turned out to be. For every John Smoltz or Jair Jurrjens, there seem to be nine versions of Andrew Miller.
So the odds are probably against Jacob Turner, even as the 9th overall pick in the draft, making it big. But I don't believe his career ended, or it necessarily means he won't be a solid major league starter, just because he was pounded by the Angels Tuesday night.
There is a classic knee-jerk reaction to an outing like that. I don't believe it will hurt his trade value as much as people think. If his velocity were down, that would be different. Most teams looking to deal right now are thinking future. Scouts won't be dismissing Turner because of that outing. It's mostly about his health, which had been in question. He did pitch reasonably well in his other major league start this season, and had been pitching very in the minors. It's not a case of the Tigers rushing him. He should have been ready for that start. He just didn't get it done. There is an adjustment he clearly must make, and that is the willingness to pitch inside. Everything was on the outer half or over the middle of the plate. The Angels were just diving after those pitches. He doesn't have to hit or flip hitters, but jam them. That is something that can be learned from that outing.
Turner's outing also points out the need for the Tigers to get a starting pitcher. Doug Fister has pitched well lately, but tonight is a big test to see if he is able to maintain his consistency after injury issues. Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer have had good moments, but too many bad ones. Both have ERAs and WHIPs that are higher than the American League average. Given their talent and experience level, it's disconcerting.
The Tigers do have starting pitching prospects other Turner. Drew Smyly has done well at times. Casey Crosby has a chance. There are scouts who are going to give positive reports about Andrew Oliver because of his arm strength for a left-hander. But if the Tigers want to win now, expecting starting pitching help from their minor league system isn't the way to go. Rather, it would dealing that young pitching for proven veterans.
It's not without risk. There is no guarantee the veteran will seal the postseason bid or help when there (could be another Fister or it could be another Jarrod Washburn). You can get burned down that road if the 10 percent ball turns up, and chunk of gold emerges as a major league starter.
But for the Tigers, it'd be well worth the risk.


Anonymous Michael C said...

As the saying goes, there is no such thing as a pitching prospect.

7:01 PM 
Blogger Barry said...

Pat, I agree and I expect Turner to be traded mainly because they really have nobody else to trade.

10:59 PM 

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