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The Carriage Of Figaro Pulls Into Detroit

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A double dose of bad news Thursday afternoon — the benching of blogger heartthrob Magglio Ordoñez and the re-disabling of Dontrelle Willis — was slightly diffused with Rick Porcello's win over the St. Louis Cardinals, halting a four-game yuck streak. Right in the middle of interleague action, another new face to Detroit will try and pitch some good news to Tigertown.

His name's Alfredo Figaro. He's Fernando Rodney's cousin, but don't hate him for that association. He might actually turn out okay.

His numbers last year in Single-A were unreal. In 123 innings, he struck out 98 and allowed 99 hits — nary a one being a home run. That 2.56 ERA will probably be as good as it gets for him, because his Double-A numbers this year have been a little shakier. He's struck out more batters, but the dingers have been flowing from his fingertips quite rapidly (eight in 68 innings). But his walk numbers are solid, which'll be quite a test when he starts Saturday against a very patient Milwaukee Brewers team.

The last pitcher Detroit called up directly from Double-A to make his major league start was Jair Jurrjens in 2007, who is now spoiling the Braves' rotation with his efficient starts. (But, hey, it was worth giving him away. I mean, Edgar Renteria was fun for a year, am I right? [smashes head against desk]) Another guy who walked the same path, driving right through Toledo without stopping (as many road trippers are prone to do), was Justin Verlander. So he's in good company, although Figaro is probably more similar to Jurrjens than Verlander.

With Willis and Jeremy Bonderman both on their second tour of duty on the DL this year, Armando Galarraga's woes, and Jim Leyland's refusal to plug Zach Miner or Nate Robertson back into the rotation (although who can blame him for the latter?), there's no other guy in Toledo that really can start tomorrow. Eddie Bonine? Chris Lambert? They tried them last year and it didn't quite work out. Why not roll the dice on an unknown commodity?

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  • Tony

    I seriously can’t believe they benched Mags. If its not about the contract options than Leyland and Dombrowski have lost their minds. Sure Magglio hitting .270 with a few dingers isn’t great but they aren’t going to get much else out of Ryan Rayburn or Clete Thomas, and Magglio is two years removed from a batting title.

    As far as Figaro goes, he may be ok for a spot start here and there but the Tigs need to make a deal for a pitcher immeadiately. Jackson and Verlander can only do so much and Porcello is to young to be consistent. Even with those three pitching well there are two massive holes at the end of the rotation and no one that even belongs at the major league level to fill them. I really can’t believe what Galaraga has turned into.

  • They probably do need another pitcher, perhaps a solid No. 4, but why not see if Figaro can do it first? He costs nothing. Better yet, why not see if you can up his trade value by parading him as someone who’s big league ready?

    With Galarraga, I keep thinking back to the time Leyland used him as a relief pitcher in the final game of the season … you know, the one they made up with the White Sox because Chicago still had to play all its games to force a tie with Minnesota. Galarraga faced one batter, which he walked, and threw two wild pitches. He was charged with the blown save.

    I’ll never understood why Galarraga was put into that game — Leyland wanted to win it so bad, it was their World Series — and Murphy’s Law was enforced heavily in that sixth inning. Could that outing affected his psyche, and carried over to this year?

  • Tony

    I’m all for seeing what Figaro can do but this is a first place team we are talking about. You absolutely cannot put a regular load of innings on two pitchers in their early 20s (Porcello and Figaro) and expect to have post season success. It may happen, but when it does its an anomaly. Even if Figaro is solid, they still need a another starter. If they’re going to just bench Mags they might as well package him up with a few prospects and get a starter. After Sheffield’s success following his Detroit exile I’m sure there are plenty of teams looking for a good DH that would take Maggs off of their hands.

    They relief appearance with Galaraga was odd but I have a hard time believe its merely a damaged psyche that is cause his problems this season. Last season he gave up only 152 hits in 178 innings. He’s given up 88 in only 73 2/3 this season. Also, his k/9 is down almost a full point and he’s walking over a batter more. He’s all of a sudden turned into a totally hittable pitcher with no control. If his psyche has that much affect on his pitching he needs to join the D-Train on the DL with another one of those anxiety disorders.

  • “You absolutely cannot put a regular load of innings on two pitchers in their early 20s (Porcello and Figaro) and expect to have post season success. It may happen, but when it does its an anomaly. “

    2003 Marlins:
    Dontrelle Willis (21): 160 2/3 IP
    Josh Beckett (23): 142 IP and WS MVP

    2006 Tigers:
    Jeremy Bonderman (23): 214 IP
    Justin Verlander (23): 186 IP

    2008 Phillies:
    Cole Hamels (24): 227 1/3 IP
    Kyle Kendrick (23): 155 2/3 IP

    2008 Rays:
    Matt Garza (24): 184 2/3 IP
    Edwin Jackson (24): 183 1/3 IP
    Scott Kazmir (24): 152 1/3 IP

    Now, Porcello is 20 years old and Figaro is 24. I know what you mean in that young pitchers doesn’t equal playoff team, but playoff teams, at least lately, have been reinforced with youth. And I’ll even concede that Figaro probably isn’t the answer. But you have to try him first, because it costs nothing, and if he does turn out gravy, then ride his success as far as it can go. If not, like you said, look elsewhere.

  • Tony

    2 out of those 4 teams lost the WS and Bonderman and Verlander were both weak in the second half. I knew you would bring up the 2003 Marlins — which is correct — but those innings helped turn Willis into the burnt out shell he is today.

    Scott Kazmir is also having more injuring problems after 2008. I didn’t mean it wasn’t physically possible to do it and win. I just meant the majority of the time this doesn’t work, but there are exceptions. Young pitchers are just inconsistent and not use to the work load. Many times their either wear out in the second half or end up with injury problems because their arms weren’t condition for the added innings. Also, and I’d have to research this, but I’m pretty sure none of those combos feature two rookies. And didn’t they pull Willis out of the rotation for the playoffs that season?

  • Tony

    If you really wanted to go old school you should have gone with the 1964 Yankees.

    Jim Bouton (25) 271.1
    Al Downing (23) 244.0
    Mel Stottlemyre (22) 96.0 and a WS victory

    1964 was also the last World Series they saw until 1976. But if you you look at the stats of those three that 64 season you would think they were poised for another dynasty.

  • Figaro today: 5 IP, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, and the win. Not bad.

    Willis pitched in the LDS and LCS but was a reliever for the 2003 World Series. To relate that back to the Tigers situation this year, they need two more guys: a No. 4 and a No. 5. They’ll both be workhorses for July, August, and September, but No. 4 will have to pitch in the playoffs. Whether it’s a combination of Figaro, Galarraga, Bonderman, Willis, Miner, someone else in the farm system, or someone they trade, they just need two of them to pan out.

    “2 out of those 4 teams lost the WS”

    But four pitching staffs out of the last 12 WS teams had two guys that young pitch a ton of innings.

  • Tony

    That’s the problem. I don’t think there are two guys on the list you just gave that will pan out. Figaro looked good but has a lot to prove. Galarraga is just getting battered and showing no signs of improving. Willis’ career is done. And Minor is just bad. Simply bad.

    I’m not arguing that they need to make some magnanamous move, but at least go out and get Washburn or someone.

    Another odd note, the Tigers are listed as the 21st most valuable team in baseball, behind the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks (by Forbes in their “business of baseball feature.” Illitch is clueless when it comes to expanding his brand. I know this is unrelated, but I was shocked.

  • Annie

    The Tigers have the 3rd ranked (by ERA) pitching staff in the AL. Pitching ain’t the problem. The problem is their hitting is mediocre. Give them a top-five BA in the AL, and they are on their way back to the WS. So, get a better DH. Who? I dunno. When is the trade deadline? Who would be willing to trade who for who? Again, I don’t know. But that’s the answer. Get an RBI machine, with a great slugging percentage, and you then increase the BB for the team, increase the number of runs scored, and win the division handily. In the postseason, you have a great 1-2 punch in the starting rotation and home field against everyone except the Red Sox.

    Does any of this make sense? Or am I just a n00b?

  • The answer to the offense might’ve been getting Marcus Thames back from injury, with five HRs in 22 games, and giving Miguel Cabrera some protection.

    The ERA is good, but most of it is thanks to the 1-2-3 guys in the rotation. You can’t go through a season with three good guys, because that’ll kill your bullpen come August. Starting pitching is more of a priority than another bat.