Detroit Tigers: Does Francisco Liriano belong in the rotation?

mgilpatrick
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Francisco Liriano #46 of the Houston Astros reacts after a two-run home run by Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox in the third inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 8, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Francisco Liriano #46 of the Houston Astros reacts after a two-run home run by Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox in the third inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 8, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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The Detroit Tigers have announced that Francisco Liriano will start the year in the rotation. While having a veteran amongst young players can be a good idea, it takes from the future of the team.

Everyone knows the Detroit Tigers are in the midst of a rebuild.  They’re not going after the big-name free-agents anymore. Rather, the Tigers are attempting to cultivate their own talent in-house.

Despite this, the Tigers signed pitcher Francisco Liriano. And manager Ron Gardenhire announced Liriano has earned a spot in the rotation. Gardenhire claimed the Tigers need veteran experience in the rotation.

But while Liriano has 11+ years experience, giving him a spot in the rotation isn’t the right move.

For starters, Liriano has been streaky at best. He hasn’t been a good pitcher for a whole season since 2015. Liriano has regressed each year since. His WHIP went from 1.205 in 2015, to 1.485 in ’16, and 1.629 in ’17. 1.629 is not good. For comparison, Joe Nathan’s WHIP was 1.534 in his dismal 2014. Liriano’s ERA  also jumped from 3.38 to 4.69 to 5.66. His walks are up, hits are up, strikeouts are down.

And the fact he’s 35 doesn’t paint a pretty picture. In short, Liriano’s washed up. He’s just like the Brad Penny experiment in 2011.

But the Tigers have him starting games; taking away from the young pitchers of the future.

Currently, Michael Fulmer, Mike Fiers, and Jordan Zimmerman are locks to start. Fulmer’s young, but Fiers and Zimmerman have a combined 12 years of experience. Both can be considered veteran pitchers.

The last two spots, before Liriano came into the picture, were projected to belong to Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris. They both have major-league experience. It appeared both would improve from last season, and may soon hit their breakout season. The two are crucial parts of the future Tigers.

Now, only one will make the Opening Day roster. The other will remain in Toledo for most of the season, or until someone goes on the DL (cough, cough, Jordan Zimmerman).

Why Liriano?

A few years ago, Liriano would have been a marvelous pickup. He’s been an ace, when he was in his prime. But signing him now made no sense. His arm has a lot of mileage. He won’t be able to handle a ton of innings.

Liriano won’t be the lights-out pitcher he was in the past. In fact, this writer isn’t expecting him to win more than nine games, and have an ERA below five.

What the Tigers should have done, is keep Boyd and Norris both in the rotation, and allow them to season more to major-league talent. They’ve both been in the minors for a while, and the two leagues are different beasts.

If Boyd and Norris didn’t perform well for a few months, call up Beau Burrows, Matt Manning, Kyle Funkhouser or Alex Faedo. Allow them to figure out the big leagues, and get a feel for major-league hitters.

Younger pitchers making mistakes are always easier to watch than old arms throwing batting practice.

Next: Q&A with Tigers broadcaster Mario Impemba

Instead, the Tigers have an 11-year veteran giving experience to an experienced rotation. Meanwhile, many pitchers are waiting in the minors for their chance at the show; in the midst of a rebuild.

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