2013 ALDS: Starting Pitching Key for Detroit Tigers Against Oakland Athletics

Bruce Rondon Detroit Tigers

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers may have a star-studded lineup at the plate, but the biggest advantage they will have in the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics will be their starting pitching.

The Tigers lead the league in innings pitched by their starters, set a strikeout record as a pitching staff and allowed the fourth-lowest home run total in MLB. But a couple of recent injuries to some key bullpen members means they’ll need to continue to get a lot of innings out of their starters.

Bruce Rondon and Phil Coke were both left off the roster for the ALDS due to sore arms. Coke hasn’t provided the Tigers with much this season, but losing Rondon hurts. He tossed his most impressive inning all season just over a week ago against the Minnesota Twins, and appeared to be on top of his game. He struck out all three batters he faced on 10 pitches and forced numerous ugly swings. His fastball was consistently over 100 mph, which made his slider devastating.

The Tigers will have to rely on their starters to do most of the work, because their options out of the bullpen still aren’t great.

At the beginning of the season, the Tigers’ bullpen was in shambles and no one knew what their role was going to be. A lot of the uncertainty stemmed from the collapse of Jose Valverde. The Tigers tried to give him another chance, but that simply didn’t pan out. Tigers fans are certainly going to be reminded of Valverde’s abysmal October in 2012, but at least they won’t have to put up with him again.

After a trade deadline acquisition of Jose Veras, the Tigers’ bullpen started to look a little more in order. They began to figure things out by the midpoint of the season, but with the injuries they’ve suffered, they can’t rely on the other bullpen members like the other teams in the postseason can.

The good news is the Tigers will be able to use Rick Porcello out of the bullpen as they will go with four starters instead of five, but Rondon is the big factor here. He was turning into an exceptional setup man, and the Tigers will certainly miss him in the ALDS.

David Fouty is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @davefouty, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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