Justin Verlander is by far the top pitcher on the team. He is the leading Cy Young candidate and with his stellar season, has even worked his way into the MVP discussion. He leads the league in wins, innings, strikeouts and whip and is second in ERA.
19 times this season he has pitched after a Tiger’s loss, he has only lost three of those games. That has greatly helped the Tigers from falling into any type of long losing streak. He has pitched in big games, including a Cy Young showdown with Jered Weaver in which he only gave up one run and even had a no hitter into the eighth inning.
In a recent in a battle with Cleveland, who is chasing Detroit in the standings, Verlander stopped a two game skid by pitching a three hit win against them. The win kept the Indians from getting to within one game to Tigers.
So what is the Leyland complaint with Verlander?
On Sunday, August 21st, the Indians and Tigers will be finishing up another three game series inDetroit. That game would fall on Verlander’s normally scheduled day to pitch however Leyland refuses to pitch him. The Tigers have a day off between Verlander’s two starts. This means that rotation wise another starter would need to be skipped in order to start Verlander.
This isn’t a situation where the Tigers are loaded with great starting pitching. After Verlander they are very much a roller coaster group. In place of Verlander Sunday, Leyland is opting to go with Rick Porcello as his 4.98 ERA, over 2.5 runs worse than Verlander.
In Porcello’s last two starts he has given up 12 runs while not making it past the sixth inning in either game. It would seem like a no brainer to pitch the league’s best pitcher in such an important game.
The Indians understand the importance of this game as they will send Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound. Jimenez also pitched on August 16th, the same as Verlander. Winning a game against Cleveland is a two game swing in the standings. The team needs Verlander to pitch that game.
Leyland wants to give Verlander a break and he already has his rotation set for the rest of the season. Currently Verlander would pitch against Cleveland in the final series of the year. Pitching him now would not change that. In fact it could help Verlander. Ideally you should want to put away a team as soon as possible. Now one game now will not win the division now. But if enough games are won early enough, then Verlander would not be needed in that final series and that is key.
That is where this decision is extra foolish. At this point you want to make sure you are set for a playoff run. If Verlander finishes the season against the Indians then he would not be available for the first game of the playoffs. For the Tigers to have any chance in a playoff series, Verlander must lead them off.
Leyland has already blown one season by bad pitching choices. In 2009 the Tigers had a seven game lead with a month to go. They even went into the final four games with a three game lead but ended up falling apart and losing the tiebreaker game to Minnesota. Part of that epic failure was his decision to play with the rotation, anybody remember Alfredo Figaro? Instead of going for the kill he played with fire and got burned….yet again. It was one of the worst late season collapses in baseball history.