As the Chicago White Sox continue to falter down the stretch and give the Tigers opportunities, it’s only a matter of time before the Tigers take complete advantage. It helps that the Tigers aren’t exactly playing the juggernauts of baseball right now, but neither is Chicago until they run into the Tampa Rays. Let’s assume the Tigers get past the White Sox and into the post-season, we know that the Yankees and Rangers are going to be there. Or at least very very likely. The other two teams are going to come out of the trio of the Angels, Orioles and A’s.
I only mention this because as frustrating as things have been in 2012, the Tigers starting rotation is going to stack up favorably against those teams, and in most cases should give the Tigers a chance to win playoff series. The trio of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Doug Fister is not only one of the best in the American League, but all of baseball. If the Tigers get into the playoffs, they have the potential to be real tough on their opponents.
Checking out fWAR values for the top 3 starting pitchers on A.L playoff contenders, it’s easy to see why teams may not want the Tigers to get into the playoffs. A quick calculation shows the aforementioned Tigers starters with a combined WAR of 14.3. The only team that was remotely close that is in the playoff race was the Tampa Rays at 10.3. The Rays number was calculated from David Price, James Shields, and Matt Moore, who is more fWAR friendly then Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson is likely to get the 3rd starter nod in a playoff scenario, and despite his relatively moderate luck, he has proven to be a quality starter in the big leagues thus far.
The A’s have good pitching as well, while the Yanks, Orioles, and Rangers struggle beyond a starter or two. The other dangerous club when it comes to pitching? Yep, you guessed it, our friends from Los Angeles. The Angels boast a talented trio of Jared Weaver, Zack Greinke, and C.J. Wilson. Plus the Angels have the best 4th starter in Dan Haren. Wilson hasn’t exactly been great with the post-season lights on in his career, posting an ERA of 4.82. In Greinke’s one post-season effort last year, he was pretty terrible as well posting an ERA of 6.48 in three starts.
The Tigers have their own playoff demons to exercise as well. In fact, Tigers Cy Young candidate and all everything pitcher, Justin Verlander, hasn’t exactly been lights out in the post-season himself. His playoff ERA is a robust 5.57. Still, Verlander is one of the best pitchers on the planet, and one has to think that he can right his playoff ship in the right direction.
Max Scherzer has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball since May. Doug Fister after throwing a complete game shutout his last time out, seems to be rebounding into late 2011 form.
It’s not a done deal that the Tigers will get into the playoffs. If they do, their trio of starting pitchers gives them as good a chance as anyone. The frustrations of the season will be gone, and a new season will be born. And in that season, the Tigers will only have to put together eleven victories to get to the promised land.
With the Tigers starting pitching, I like their chances.