Friday, September 12, 2008

Rookie Galarraga Somehow Flies Under The Radar In His Own Town

Has any Tigers rookie had a more successfully quiet season than Armando Galarraga?

Galarraga, the right-hander from nowhere, is 12-6 with a fine ERA of 3.58. His strikeouts-to-walks ratio is exactly 2:1. He's giving up an average of only about eight hits per nine innings pitched. His only real vice has been the longball: he surrenders a home run about every seven innings -- but even that's not so awful. Besides, some of the greatest pitchers in modern history gave up a lot of home runs. It's often when you give them up that matters, and how many men are on base at the time. To show you, Bert Blyleven, for the 1986 and '87 Twins, won 32 games while giving up 96 home runs in the process (50 in '86 and 46 in '87). But Blyleven was a control pitcher, and those types are going to be susceptible to homers because they're always -- ALWAYS -- throwing strikes.

But back to Galarraga.

Armando Galarraga: the best rookie pitcher in Detroit that you've barely heard of

He was acquired from the Rangers in an oh-by-the-way manner back in February, traded for someone named Michael Hernandez. There didn't appear to be any reason to learn who Galarraga was, with a supposedly "set" rotation of Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson, and Dontrelle Willis.

But then Willis lost it early on, Bonderman got hurt, and now here Galarraga is, having made 26 starts and pitching in 163 innings. He's 26, and would seem to be a lock for a rotation spot for the Tigers in 2009.

Ahh, that's if the Tigers decide not to trade him for, say, an outfielder or a catcher. Galarraga could be the Jair Jurrjens of this off-season. But let's not go there.

The funny thing about Galarraga's season is that it's not getting all that much play -- and I'm talking about in Detroit, let alone nationally. All I know is, when the Tigers have needed a "stopper" in their rotation -- someone to stop a losing streak or someone to simply register a quality start -- Galarraga has been, more often than not, that guy. Several times this season I tuned in to a Tigers game, not knowing who was pitching, and noticed a well-pitched game in progress. Most of the time, it was because Galarraga was on the mound.

Yet hardly anyone touts him around town.

For a 70-76, hugely disappointing team, you'd think there'd be folks tripping all over themselves looking for a silver lining -- something to hang their hats on for 2009. To me, it's nice to know that the Tigers have apparently secured another spot in their rotation for next season -- a rotation that's likely not to include Rogers, who will probably retire, and still has some question marks due to the health of Willis, the debate whether Robertson can bounce back, and whether Freddy Garcia has anything left in the tank. That, plus the curious step backward taken by Verlander, and the recovery of Bonderman from surgery, casts all sorts of doubt over the starting pitching in Detroit in '09.

But with Galarraga -- barring some sort of sophomore jinx -- you feel like there's one spot you don't have to worry about.

Not that anyone in Detroit is talking about it or anything.


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