I know fans are nervous. John Parent just pointed it out on MCB. I hear it on the radio and read it on Twitter and Facebook. It’s that “Uh, oh…here we go again” mentality. That term is pretty much trademarked by the Lions, but it’s been highly applicable to the Tigers the last half decade. The collape usually seems to start as it has the last two days. Usually kick started by the Royals, it starts with a couple of blowout losses to teams well out of contention.
Let’s be honest, the Tigers are the best team in the AL Central. There is no Twins of 2009 waiting in the shadows to overrun the Tigers. The Indians are too injured and too young to make a serious run. The White Sox are too flawed to be more than a streaky team. If the Tigers succomb to either it will be a complete and total collapse much worse than what we saw in 2009.
The offense is good. Justin Verlander is running away with the Cy Young. Even the bullpen has been much improved. If there is a total collapse it will be solely because of the starting pitching rotation not named Justin Verlander. Every other starter has been up and down. One week Max Scherzer is lights out and Rick Porcello looks like a 55 MPH batting cage, the next week Porcello is befuddling batters and Scherzer is taking a shower by the third inning. Doug Fister and Brad Penny are not without blame either, as they’ve each been up and down more than the Dow the last two weeks.
If no one steps up in the rotation, the Tigers can and likely will still win the AL Central. Justin Verlander has 5 starts left. If they win 4 of those starts, and go 1 game under .500 in the rest of their games, they’ll finish with 88 wins. The Sox and Indians will have to go 21-11 and 22-11 respectively to catch the Tigers.
For our sanity, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and the Tigers can run away with the division. For that to happen one of the other starters needs to step up in September. Here’s the liklihood of each starter to be that guy.
Doug Fister (50% Chance) – Fister has been much better his last couple of starts. In fact, he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning his last start in Tampa Bay. Fister had really only one bad start for the Tigers (at Baltimore) and completely shut down the Indians in a pivotal game two weekends ago. He’s the rotation’s next most consistent starter and his numbers back it up.
Max Scherzer (30% Chance) – Scherzer is such a frustrating pitcher. He seems to have similar tools to Justin Verlander but has been completely unable to remain consistent this season. Several terrible outings have been masked by the Tiger’s potent offense. The best news for Tigers fans is that he struggles against even mediocre offenses (KC may be terrible, but they can hit) but shuts down bad offenses. His next three starts are against the White Sox, Twins and Athletics who are the 3rd, 2nd and 4th lowest scoring offenses in the AL this year, repectively.
Rick Porcello (10% Chance) – Despite his last start where he picked up the win against the Twins, Rick Porcello has been bad in August for the Tigers. He allowed 10 base runners in the start, but the putrid Twins offense was unable to cash in against Porcello. Teams have figured out that they simply need to stockpile the lineup with lefties, something Porcello will have to work on in the off-season. The Indians have owned Porcello his last two starts against them and he gets them twice more this season unless Jim Leyland works his rotation magic.
Brad Penny (5% Chance) – To expect anything other than 6 innings and 4 earned runs out of Brady Penny is ludicrous. He’s simply a #5 starter who gives the team a chance if the offense shows up. Penny is what he is, not a guy who is going to get hot.
Jacob Turner (5% Chance) – Turner has a spot start on Thursday and pitched well in his first start against the LA Angels in July. If Leyland works in a six man rotation, or at least gives pitchers occassional rests, Turner could possibly be the guy to step up, but don’t expect the Tigers to overwork the young righty.