Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
It is obvious to everyone out there that the Tigers need strong performances from both Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman if they hope to improve on their disappointing 2008 campaign? With Justin Verlander, the concern is just him trying to figure out where things went south this past season - and with the assistance of new pitching coach Greg Knapp, I'm confident that Verlander will return to being a reliable ace that will keep his ERA well under four, and give the team at least 15 wins. Bonderman on the other hand is a much bigger question mark - not only because of the injury and how he'll respond, but also due to his past performance. While many hoped Bonderman would develop into an ace, after years of waiting, it might be time to accept that Bonderman just never will be quite that pitcher. That doesn't mean he can't get back to being a 12-14 game winner, with an ERA around four. If he can do that, the Tigers will be well on their way back to respectability.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
It is certainly no secret that pitching will be the key to the 2009 Detroit Tiger's season. From the bullpen to the rotation, there are huge question marks that must be solved in order to have a successful season. Two enigmatic pitchers that will be huge pieces to the puzzle will be Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman. There is little doubting the world of talent possessed by Verlander, but the results in 2008 were quite perplexing. Verlander's hit and walk rates grew slightly, while his strikeout rate fell a bit; all the while he was allowing runs by the handful. After a slight dip early in the year, the velocity appeared to be back, but the command and consistency of his secondary offerings never seemed to be there. Without that, Verlander was not the same pitcher. If he enters 2009 healthy and aggressive ont he mound, he should be poised to get back on track as a potential young ace in the American League; and I think that is a reasonable expectation for a pitcher of his high talent level. As for Bonderman, coming back off the rib removal to improve circulation in his shoulder, there may be even larger question marks surrounding him. Enough with the development of a change-up; I'm sick of hearing about it. Focus on what he has going for him; a blazing fastball and an absolutely filthy slider. Those two pitches should be enough for him to pitch 200+ innings of league average ball or better, without much trouble. I'm not sure we can expect that number of innings from him in 2009, but we should be able to expect a healthier pitcher capable of taking the ball and keeping his team in the ball game; somethign that was sorely lacking in 2008.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
If the Tigers are going to be contenders in the AL Central, they must get excellent seasons from Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman. When the Tigers went to the playoffs in 2006, they combined for 31 wins and posted ERAs of 3.63 and 4.08 respectively. Bonderman was also second in the league in strikeouts with 202.
Obviously, health will be a major factor for Bonderman, so he is certainly a wild card, but I think Verlander has the opportunity to bounce back and have a good year.
One other thing I want to mention is that back in 2006, the top four starters won 61 games, and the Tigers will need that type of consistency from their rotation and their bullpen if they want to have a chance at contending.
Can they get that from Verlander and Bonderman? I'm confident in the former, but with Bonderman, everything will depend on his recovery.
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