Detroit Tigers: Starters or Relievers, Which is Needed More?

May 22, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (7) takes the ball from relief pitcher Drew VerHagen (54) during the seventh inning of the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports
May 22, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (7) takes the ball from relief pitcher Drew VerHagen (54) during the seventh inning of the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Detroit Tigers are starting to get back on track. The offense is booming but the pitching has struggled at times. Both the Starting and relief pitching is lacking for Detroit, but which area needs more help?

The Detroit Tigers are not meeting expectations on the mound. While some pitchers such as Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Verlander and Francisco Rodriguez are finding success, the same cannot be said for the entire pitching staff.

If the Tigers continue winning at their current clip they will quickly find themselves back in contention. If the Tigers want to make a push  for the playoffs they will need to be buyers come July. Here is the ultimatum, if the Detroit Tigers can only add to one area of the pitching staff should it be the starting rotation or the bullpen?

The bullpen is an interesting case because they were so stellar for the month of April and other than lately they have stunk it up in May.

For the first year in seemingly forever the ninth inning seems to be locked down. The issue is not the closer but it is getting to the ninth without giving up the lead that seems to trouble the Tigers.

Apr 14, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Mark Lowe (21) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the eighth inning in an inter-league game at PNC Park. The Tigers won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 14, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Mark Lowe (21) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the eighth inning in an inter-league game at PNC Park. The Tigers won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

When you look at the numbers the bullpen is not really pitching terribly. The group’s ERA is 4.02, which is not great but is lower than the rotations.

The relievers also walk less and strike out around the same percentage of hitters while their batting average on balls in play against is a full eight points lower than the rotation’s number.

After a strong April and a promising last week fans seem to be feeling more confident in the bullpens abilities.

The Detroit Tigers 2016 starting rotation has been Jekyll and Hyde. The top half of the rotation, including Verlander, Zimmermann and even Michael Fulmer, has been dominant at times.

The back end of the rotation however, looks bleak to say the least. Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey have not only pitched poorly, but also cannot get past the sixth inning on a consistent basis.

The Tigers could decide to add from within and promote some of their minor league depth to the major league rotation, but there are no guaranteed aces coming out of Toledo.

Daniel Norris is starting to pitch better in Triple-A after coming back from injury and Matt Boyd and Shane Greene have had at least one decent outing in Detroit this season. Still neither of these three are the guaranteed X-factor that will propel Detroit to postseason glory. 

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The starting rotation’s ERA is currently 4.75. Despite Pelfrey and Sanchez inability to make it past the sixth inning the rotation as a whole is logging quite a few innings.

Unfortunately, in those 252 innings logged the Tigers have given up a .313 batting average on balls in play. What would really give Detroit a boost is an innings eating starter who could limit base runners, but then again what team would not benefit from one of those.

Still, it is the rotation that could use the addition more than the bullpen. Slotting another arm into the rotation would give the Tigers the ability to move an arm like Pelfrey to the bullpen.

Having an experienced arm that can throw multiple innings in your bullpen is both valuable and would be like an addition without really adding anything. Fulmer may not be able to continue his recent tear and it is unclear just how many innings the Tigers want him to throw. Fulmer is also a candidate to move to the bullpen should Detroit add a starter.

Next: Detroit Tigers: Honors and Updates

Even with the depth of arms the Tigers thought they had to begin the season adding quality arms for any spot would benefit the team. Still, in order to use the bullpen less, obtaining starters that can pitch into the seventh inning and beyond will benefit Detroit.