One of the more impressive aspects of the Tigers leading the AL Central and being a half game off an MLB leading pace is that they have had to battle injuries. However, the Tigers may have actually been lucky in this regard, sort of.
Taking a look at the Tigers team stats one will see that the team has used 36 different players already this year. But if you look at the split of position players and pitchers, the split is quite remarkable. The Tigers have used only 14 different position players this year, and one of those is Ryan Raburn who was just called up to take Neifi Perez’s spot after the suspension. So the Tigers have stuck with the same 13 non-pitchers all season.
Now it’s not quite as clean as that though. Vance Wilson was slated to be the back-up catcher, but hasn’t spent a day on the active roster. Plus the Tigers have sustained nagging injuries to both Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge (and it looks like Placido Polanco now as well). Neither required a DL stint but kept them both out of the lineup for a week.
So with only 1 position player sub, that means there have been 10 supplements to the 12 man pitching staff. Of the 12 pitchers on the opening day roster, 7 of them have spent time on the DL. And of the 7 that stayed healthy, 2 of them were traded (Maroth and Ledezma). And a 3rd one, Bobby Seay, was an injury replacement to begin with. So Justin Verlander, Chad Durbin, Todd Jones, Bobby Seay and Jason Grilli are the only members of the opening day pitching staff who have been on the active roster the whole season.
As a point of reference, the Tigers used 19 pitchers all of last year.
Meanwhile, Fernando Rodney has had 2 stints and even injury replacements Zach Miner and Tim Byrdak have found themselves DL’d.
All told the Tigers have amassed 364 days on the disabled list – so far. This doesn’t include another 4 to 6 weeks for Joel Zumaya or the rest of the season for Vance Wilson. It also doesn’t include the season long injuries to Tony Giarratano or Edward Campusano. While they are both DL’d, that is more a matter of roster management than having to find replacements. The wages paid out to those on the DL is approximately $5.5 million so far. The bulk of that is the $3.6 million portion of Kenny Rogers salary that kind of went to waste.
But injuries to the pitchers are only part of the problem. The other part has been overwhelming ineffectiveness over the first 3 months of the season. Jose Mesa was jettisoned after being really bad consistently. Now the Tigers are paying him to pitch for the Phillies, which is still better than paying him to pitch for the Tigers.
Aquilino Lopez, Eulogio De La Cruz, and Yorman Bazardo have all been given a shot. Acquisitions Jose Capellan and Macay McBride are trying to establish roots in what has been a very transient population thus far.
So the Tigers have had to get creative. They’ve looked to trades as well as the minors to try and help the bullpen. But the lucky part is that pitching is the area that the Tigers had the depth to be able to sustain some issues. The fact that the position players have remained intact is the bigger part of the team’s success so far. And that the one that needed to be replaced was truly the 25th man on the roster seems particularly fortuitous.