Evaluating the Tigers Starting Rotation for 2013

Joe UnderhillCorrespondent IIIDecember 29, 2012

Evaluating the Tigers Starting Rotation for 2013

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    The Tigers rode their starting rotation to a Central Division title and an appearance in the World Series. The Tigers have insured they will have the same rotation (more or less) that pitched a great postseason for Detroit.

    They do have several questions facing them for the 2013 season, can they stay healthy, can Porcello or Smyly take a hold of the fifth job, and can recently re-signed Anibal Sanchez pitch as well as he did down the stretch and in the playoffs.

    Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer finished 2012 leading all of baseball in strikeouts. What can we expect from them and the other Tigers starters in 2013?

    Lets take a look and see.

Justin Verlander

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    Justin Verlander is the unquestioned ace and leader of the Tigers rotation. Outside of his only appearance in the the World Series this year Verlander shed is reputation as only being a regular season pitcher. 

    For the post season Verlander was 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA, 29 Ks, 6 BBs, .78 WHIP in 28.1 innings. Those are pretty solid numbers, and if you take away the World Series meltdown, his ERA is a paltry .74 and his WHIP a microscopic .62.

    During the regular season Verlander didn't have the win totals like he did last year, but he was every bit as dominant. His ERA of 2.64 ranked second in the American League as did his WHIP, while his strike outs led all of the majors. 

    2011: 24-5, ERA 2.40, 251 innings pitched, 250 Ks, 57 BBs, .92 WHIP

    2012: 17-8, ERA 2.64, 238.1 innings pitched, 239 Ks, 60 BBs, 1.05 WHIP

    The next step Verlander needs to take is finding a way to pitch better in the postseason (ie World Series). In 15 innings pitched in the World Series Verlander has given up 12 earned runs. Each season Verlander has improved an area of his game. I think next season if the Tigers are fortunate enough to make it to the World Series Verlander will take the next step. 

    2013 Stats Prediction

    20-6, ERA 2.60, 240 innings pitched, 245 Ks, 60 BBs, 1.05 WHIP

Max Scherzer

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    Mad Max had a break out year for the Tigers in 2012 striking out over 200 batters for the first time in his career. Team with Justin Verlander the Tigers boasted the top two strike out pitchers in all of baseball. At times, this year it seemed like Scherzer was the best pitcher in the Tigers rotation.

    Scherzer has an unorthodox delivery which can cause him to be erratic. When he is able to repeat his delivery, he gives the Tigers two aces at the top of their rotation. The ability to strike out batters is especially important when pitching for the Tigers, given their subpar defensive infield. 

    2011: 15-9, ERA 4.43, 195 innings pitched, 174 Ks, 56 BBs, 1.35 WHIP

    2012: 16-7, ERA 3.74, 187.2 innings pitched, 231 Ks, 60 BBs, 1.27 WHIP

    If Scherzer takes the next step he'll throw for over 200 innings and lower his WHIP.

    2013 Stats Prediction

    17-6, ERA 3.80, 200 innings pitched, 220 Ks, 60 BBs, 1.15 WHIP

Doug Fister

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    Doug Fister was the saving grace for the Tigers in 2011. In 2012 Fister struggled with injuries for most of the season, but still put up solid numbers. While on most teams he would the ace or a number two starter, for the Tigers, Fister's the third best.

    Fister up great numbers in the postseason, giving up only three earned runs over three starts. As long as he is healthy, the Tigers can expect Fister to pitch like the frontline starter he is.

    2011: 11-13, ERA 2.83, 216.1 innings pitched, 146 Ks, 37 BBs, 1.06 WHIP

    2012: 10-10, ERA 3.45, 161.2 innings pitched, 137 Ks, 37 BBs, 1.19 WHIP

    With the nagging injuries behind him, I would expect Fister to put up numbers similar to 2011.

    2013 Predicted Stats

    16-8, ERA 3.30, 200 innings pitched, 160 Ks, 40 BBs, 1.10 WHIP

Anibal Sanchez

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    It took Sanchez a little while to get on track after his midseason trade from the Miami Marlins, but once he got settled in, he pitched like one of the top starters in the league.

    Sanchez has a history of putting up solid numbers but not having the win-loss record to go with it. In the postseason, he was 1-2 with an ERA of 1.77. He has not topped the magical 200 innings pitched plateau yet, but has topped 195 innings three times.

    2011: 8-9, ERA 3.67, 196.1 innings pitched, 202 Ks, 64 BBs, 1.28 WHIP

    2012: 9-13, ERA 3.86, 195.2 innings pitched, 167 Ks, 48 BBs, 1.26 WHIP

    The Tigers are banking on Sanchez being the pitcher he was down the stretch run and in the postseason. The five-year, $80 million contract demands Sanchez continues to pitch at a high level, or it will be seen as a disappointment.

    2013 Predicted Stats

    15-8, ERA 3.90, 195 innings pitched, 185 Ks, 55 BBs, 1.28 WHIP

Drew Smyly

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    Smyly showed a lot of promise to start his career in Detroit as a rookie in 2012. After a strong start, he went through a rough patch (May 14-July 1) where he gave up three or more earned runs and saw his ERA jump from 2.31 to 4.54.

    Just when it looked like he was putting things back together after a 10-strike out performance (July 6), he was placed on the DL with a strained side muscle. It was Smyly's second injury (a blister in early June) that caused the Tigers to seek out the trade which brought Anibal Sanchez to Detroit.

    2012: 4-3, ERA 3.99, 99.1 innings pitched, 94 Ks, 33 BBs, 1.27 WHIP

    In 2013 Smyly needs to remain healthy and build on his impressive rookie year. He needs to cut down his walks as his 3/9 walk rate is too high for a successful starter. If the Tigers don't trade Rick Porcello, there will be an open competition in spring training for the fifth spot. However, I think it's Smyly's spot to lose.

    2013 Predicted Stats

    12-10 ERA, 4.10, 170 innings pitched, 150 Ks, 65 BBs, 1.30 WHIP

Rick Porcello

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    Rick Porcello has twice won 14 games in a season, but took a step back in 2012. Porcello doesn't walk a horrible number of batters, nor does he give up a lot of home runs.

    However, in 2012 he gave up an enormous number of hits.

    His WHIP of 1.53 was the third worse among starters in all of baseball. Part of his problem could be the overall lack of range and defensive acumen. If Porcello is going to take the next step he is going to need to discover a strikeout pitch.

    2011: 14-9, ERA 4.75, 182 innings pitched, 104 Ks, 46 BBs, 1.40 WHIP

    2012: 10-12, ERA 4.59, 176.1 innings pitched, 107 Ks, 44 BBs, 1.53 WHIP

    After the Tigers re-signed Sanchez, there have been a lot of rumors about Porcello being on the market, but the Tigers may decide to hold unto a pitcher who still shows plenty of upside and is only going to be 24 next season.

    I think Porcello will still be on the roster during spring training and how he performs then will determine how long his tenure with the Tigers will last. The Tigers don't have much in the way of ready-to-pitch arms at Triple-A, so there is a need for some starter insurance.

    2013 Predicted Stats

    12-10, ERA 4.50, 180 innings pitched, 115 Ks, 45 BBs, 1.40 WHIP


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