The Detroit Tigers have it pretty good right now. They have the best hitter in the world and the man generally assumed to be the best pitcher in the world. Though Justin Verlander looks slightly more mortal here in 2013, he still ranks tenth among starts in fWAR, ahead of Human Flag Flying Forever James Shields and King of South Florida Jose Fernandez.
Even with a “lessened” Verlander, the Tigers haven’t missed a beat. Consider Max Scherzer leads baseball in fWAR and is the shoo-in AL Cy Young thanks to his gaudy win/loss record. And then there is Anibal Sanchez, who pitched masterfully for the Tigers last night. Sanchez went six strong innings, striking out 10 Mariners against just two walks and a single run allowed.
No, wait. That wasn’t Anibal Sanchez, that was fifth starter Rick Porcello. Sanchez struck out 10 when he last pitched on Wednesday. Or was it Doug Fister? Nope, he pitched into the 8th inning on Saturday. I can’t even keep these great Tigers pitching performances straight anymore!
As stated above, the Tigers have it pretty good right now. They have the best starting rotation in baseball by a considerable margin. Since the All Star break, their group of starters have thrown 365 innings of 3.08 ERA baseball. That’s good! That will win you a bunch of games, even without Miguel Cabrera at his best.
The Tigers improved infield defense is a boon to ground ballers like Porcello and Fister while Sanchez, Verlander, and Scherzer are content to just strike everybody out. One trait they all share this season is an ability to keep the ball in the park, a problem that dogged Porcello and Fister in the past.
As the Tigers set their sights on the postseason, Jim Leyeland has the best kind of problem: how does he set up his playoff rotation? Would he really consider using five starters in the playoffs? Excellent as Porcello has been, is he an ideal type of bullpen pitcher? His increased strikeout rate suggests he would be just fine.
Leyland refused to start Verlander on short rest in the past, so this incredible wealth of starting depth serves his needs incredibly well. The extra days off during the postseason allow most teams to get by with four starters, but most teams don’t have five starters this good.
How about the other luxury for Leyland: he can claim three pitchers good enough to either start a Game 1 or a Game 7, should the need arise. Sanchez, Scherzer, and of course Verlander are all more than capable of taking the ball and winning a crucial game (which is all of them in the playoffs, btw).
If Rick Porcello keeps pitching like this (though there are no Mariners in the playoffs), might he step in as the Tigers’ Tim Lincecum in 2013? HE SHOULD BE SO LUCKY! Again, Jim Leyland can only feel like he’s spoiled for choice.
And the rest
Great look at how a certain kind of low minors success translates at the big league level [Baseball Prospectus]
#Pirates jersey mix for playoffs will be white (home), gray (road) and black (alternate). The 1971-style white uni is not in the mix.
— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) September 16, 2013
Booo! The Pirates have good numbers in those glorious pajamas. Big mistake, messing with what works.
Nick Punto, best known for the trade which bears his name, has that hustle and that grit.
No throw, you say? That’s because he slide like this on a base hit to center field!!! I don’t even.
Why bunts aren’t a good idea, in plain English. [Buzzfeed]
Why did it take so long to cancel yesterday’s game at Nats Park? [WaPo]