August 23, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Doug Fister’s final ERA line from Thursday afternoon won’t raise eyebrows on its own, but he pitched much better than his (still very good) 7.2 IP, 3 ER line suggests. In the last six days, the Tigers have received a complete game shutout from Fister, a complete game shutout from Anibal Sanchez, an eight inning, two-run gem from Justin Verlander, and yesterday’s aforementioned ten strikeout performance from Fister. We’ve been treated to some incredible pitching performances of late.
But the starting pitching dominance extends much further back than six days. Over the whole of September – 25 games – Detroit’s rotation ERA stands at just 2.69. That’s not quite the best in the American League, the Los Angeles Angels have a rotation ERA of 2.65, but the Tigers have relied on their starters for more innings, and they’re to only team to also have a rotation FIP below 3.00 for the month.
I’m not a big believer in “peaking at the right time” – I would always rather have good players than hot players – but one has to feel more confident about postseason chances with a starting rotation that’s going this strong.
The big question mark for the Tigers right now is the health of Max Scherzer. He’s been scratched from tonight’s start, and it’s unclear whether or not he’ll be able to pitch his final scheduled start of the regular season on Wednesday. It’s also possible that he’s not ready to go when the playoffs begin.
That would be an unfortunate situation, Max has easily been the Tigers’ best pitcher over the last couple of months, but it might not be as devastating as it initially sounds. Excluding Scherzer’s numbers (primarily his 2.17 ERA) from the September totals, the rotation ERA jumps up to only 2.81. That number would still place them in second behind only the Angels.
Obviously the Tigers would like to not have to replace Scherzer in the playoff rotation with Rick Porcello, but the way Verlander, Fister, and Sanchez have been going, they might be able to afford a short and/or shaky start and still win a Division Series.
Hopefully the Tigers will have the division clinched before the last day of the season rolls around so they can focus on getting Scherzer healthy and ready to pitch game two of the ALDS. If he is ready to go in the postseason, and he’s anywhere near his recent form, then the Tigers could very well have the best four-man rotation of any playoff team.