June 18, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcherJustin Verlander
(35) pitches in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Verlander has been known as the ace of the Detroit Tigers’ staff the last half-decade plus, and for good reason. Verlander has been absolutely dominant over his career so far, and has been the definition of an ace: he wins a lot of games, pitches well and deep into games, and has a knack for getting a win when the team needs one the most. This season, however, has been another story as far as Verlander being the ace of the staff. It can actually be argued he has been the fifth best starting pitcher for the Tigers, at least excluding April.
It has been clear so far in 2013 that Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez have pitched better than Justin Verlander – this is almost inarguable. Doug Fister also has a better ERA, but a touch less WAR according to Fangraph’s version of the statistic. The dark horse here is Rick Porcello. If we look at all of the five pitchers most recent starts, meaning we exclude April, Justin Verlander has a 5.13 ERA. Anibal Sanchez has a 3.67 ERA, Max Scherzer has a 2.63 ERA, Doug Fister has a 3.68 ERA, and the dark horse, Rick Porcello, has a 2.66 ERA. Now, it’s not exactly fair to leave out April, as Verlander was masterful in the season’s first month, and his worse start of the season was left into these statistics, while Porcello’s was left out. Still, and take it as you may, Justin Verlander has clearly been the Tiger’s fifth best starter for nearly two months now.
This is not a put-down to Justin Verlander, or a reason to freak out; to me, it’s actually more of a good sign. The Tigers have been winning lately – they are 10-6 so far in June – even without their best pitcher, and arguably still the best pitcher in baseball, pitching well. The other four starters have come up huge this year, especially Sanchez and Scherzer. If Scherzer continues to dominate the way he has the last two months (the last month especially), he may very well get the nod to be the all-star starter. Sanchez is on pace to have a career year, as is Porcello, and Fister is minding his own business with a very solid 3.28 ERA for the season. If these four can keep up their pace while Verlander gets back on track, the Tigers could very well be going to the World Series for a second straight year.