Last year, the Tigers had high hopes for their team, but those expectations were sabotaged by some brutal performances from their starting pitchers. In 2009, they’ve rebuilt their rotation, adding Edwin Jackson via trade, Zach Miner moving from the bullpen, and Rick Porcello from the farm system.
Jackson and Porcello hae gotten most of the ink, as a hard throwing pair of new guys that a lot of Detroit fans hadn’t seen pitch. However, Zach Miner is quietly going about his business, and there’s reasons to think he might be the best of the three this year.
His fastball averages just over 90 MPH, but he gets good sink on the pitch – his career GB% is 48.4%, and 61% of his balls in play in his first start of the year were hit on the ground. His fastball won’t light up radar guns, but he has enough movement on it to get a decent amount of worm burners. Being a groundball pitcher can help make up for a lack of velocity.
Miner’s second pitch is a change-up that he threw 26.5% of the time in his first start – he definitely has a lot of faith in it, and having a quality change is one of the keys to holding opposite handed hitters in check. In Miner’s case, he has a fairly normal platoon split (LH batters have a 100 point OPS bonus versus RH batters), but the change gives him a weapon to keep LH hitters off balance.
He has both a slider and a curve, though he generally uses one or the other. In his first start of ’09, he went the curve rather than the slider, a flip from his ’08 repertoire. Neither is a knockout pitch, but they’re both useful pitches and give him a legitimate third pitch.
Miner was a decent pitcher last year, splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation. As a full-time starter, he’s not going to rack up the strikeouts like Porcello or throw 95 like Jackson, but his combination of a sinking fastball, a change-up he believes in, and a useful breaking ball might make him the best of the three in 2009.
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