Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 7:00 AM
It’s been a very interesting season for the Detroit Tigers. If you’ve been following the pennant races casually, or closely, you probably know that the team is once again in the thick of the championship picture. And, you’re probably familiar with these storylines:
*The offense has been great
*The bullpen has been atrocious until recently
*Max Scherzer is 16-1 (and has one blue eye and one brown eye)
*Justin Verlander has been off his usual Cy Young form
Anything that happens in the first month of a baseball season tends to loom large over coverage the whole way through. Those storylines started early…and generally stood pat until the team finally changed closers. Not coincidentally, the Tigers have been red hot lately!
What’s been less publicized is how well the starting rotation as a whole has been performing. The Tigers are getting anywhere from great to acceptable production out of all five spots. And, that’s happening even though Verlander has been well below his usual level.
DETROIT WHIP’S (Walks Plus Hits Allowed Per Inning)
Note that all of Verlander’s stats in today’s article won’t include Tuesday’s performance in Cleveland because of publication deadlines. Anything below 1.20 is stellar, particularly in the American League with the designated hitter. The Tigers have THREE guys below that threshold. And, Porcello isn’t far behind.
DETROIT QUALITY START PERCENTAGE
Again, we’re in the American League…where it’s hard to avoid the occasional start where opponents score some early runs. If you allow more than 3 runs, or pitch less than 6 innings…you can’t get a quality start. The Tigers rotation keeps putting the team in position to win almost every single night. Stick THAT in front of an elite offense…and you’re going to be a handful for any opponent to deal with. There are teams that rarely get a quality start out of their fifth spot. The WORST mark on Detroit is 61%
Verlander 23 starts
Scherzer 22 starts
Fister 22 starts
Porcello 20 starts
Sanchez 19 starts
Jose Alvarez is the only other pitcher to start a game for the Tigers this year…and he started four to spell Sanchez during a relatively brief injury absence. While many other teams have had to deal with pitching injuries…or replacing back-end hurlers who just aren’t getting the job done, the Tigers have been able to throw the same five men game after game while compiling those very solid WHIP and quality start numbers.
If the team had any kind of bullpen at all, they’d be on pace to win 110 games.
Analytics has a variety of ways to evaluate pitching rotations. Some are less enthusiastic about the Tigers because two pitchers have low K-Rates (Porcello and Fister), and two pitchers have ERA’s higher than 3.80 (Verlander and Porcello). Some are even more enthusiastic, because the wins created by this year’s staff measures up with almost any in the history of baseball! It’s not that the Tigers have five Cy Young’s. But they are better than most teams at every slot in the rotation…meaning their top guy (Scherzer) is outpitching most other aces…as are the men in the back end spots.
As you handicap the rest of the season, pay close attention to what’s happening with the Tigers. Be ready to pounce if any of the starters begins to show signs of fatigue. If there’s an injury…fade the rusty newcomer who’s coming from that beleaguered bullpen or the minor leagues (and bet the Overs!). But, if these guys stay sharp…an easy schedule could allow the Tigers to storm home at a breathtaking pace. You’ve seen how hot they’ve been lately against some also-rans. A potent offense and a consistent, deep starting rotation is money in the bank in this sport.
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Our summer series of divisional previews resumes Thursday. Here’s this weekend’s schedule:
Thursday: AFC West to get you ready for Denver vs. San Francisco
Friday: AFC East to get you ready for New England vs. Philadelphia
Saturday: AFC North to get you ready for Pittsburgh vs. the NY Giants
Sunday: AFC South to get you ready for Indianapolis vs. Buffalo
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