Grading the Detroit Tigers at the Break: Starting Pitchers


July 13, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (37) pitches in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Max Scherzer (129.2 IP, 3.19 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 4.0 fWAR) – A

There’s nothing I can say about Max Scherzer except that he’s turned flashes of brilliance into consistent dominance. We’ve known Scherzer to be a high strikeout guy since he joined the club four years ago, but he hadn’t been able to put the complete package together until now.

Scherzer has refined his command while maintaining his freakishly high strikeout rate and drastically reducing the frequency with which balls leave the yard against him.

Max hasn’t been a guy to pitch deep into games – he’s sort of famously known for never having completed a game – but he’s leading the club in innings this season. That is, in part, because Verlander hasn’t been the automatic eight inning guy that he seemed to be in the past, but Scherzer is currently pitching a full inning deeper into games (6.8 IP/GS) than he’s averaged for his career (5.8 IP/GS).

Anibal Sanchez (92 IP, 2.93 ERA, 2.30 FIP, 3.3 fWAR) – A

I considered handing Anibal Sanchez an “A-” due to his time missed with shoulder soreness, but he’s been so good when he’s pitched that he’s made up for lost time. He’s not going to reach 200 innings or anything this year, but he’s already been worth more than three wins and should easily eclipse four by the end of the year.

His health could derail him in the second half if the shoulder causes him continued continued ineffectiveness (or more time on the DL), but this grade is for what he’s already accomplished to-date. Sanchez’s numbers put him right up there with the best in baseball.

Justin Verlander (126 IP, 3.50 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 3.0 fWAR) – B

We’ve come to expect Justin Verlander to be an “A+” pitcher every time he steps onto the mound – so in that regard this season has been a disappointment – but even with his relative struggles, he’s been a very good pitcher this season. His fastball isn’t the same, and his command isn’t the same, but he’s showing that he can still fall somewhere between above average and elite without having 98 mph in his back pocket.

Will Verlander ever be the pitcher he was previously? Probably not. At age 30+ it’s unlikely that returns to hitting triple digits with any regularity, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t in the process of reinventing himeself into a different pitcher who could be nearly as successful.

Doug Fister (121 IP, 4.02 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 2.6 fWAR) – B

Doug Fister is still the spot-on command guy that we’ve become accustomed to (well, you know, minus the hit by pitches), but he hasn’t had his results match up with his peripherals this season quite like he has in years past. His strikeout totals are somewhat down (though still above his career average) and, besides a high BABIP, there’s nothing to point to that would explain a 4+ ERA. Detroit’s defense will continue to cause higher than normal BABIPs, but that’s not so much the fault of the pitcher.

Fister hasn’t found the game-to-game consistency that he enjoyed over the past year and a half, but he’s still been quite good in the way he’s pitched overall.

Rick Porcello (99.1 IP, 4.80 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 1.8 fWAR) – C+

It’s the same story, different year for Rick Porcello. He’s taken a step forward with his secondary numbers and yet it hasn’t translated into a better ERA. He currently owns the second worst ERA of his career, but it would be hard to argue that he’s not having his best year. He’s now punching out hitters at a better-than-league-average rate while walking the fewest of his career. If it wasn’t for two horrible outings against the Los Angeles Angels, we could be talking about how Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello finished the first half with identical ERAs. Who could have seen that coming?

In the end, though, no t many are going to care until his ERA matches his DIPS numbers and we stop talking about “if you remove the LAA games”.