The case for Anibal Sanchez to be the Detroit Tigers number 1 playoff starter


It’s finally time, guys and gals.

The playoffs have finally arrived, after what seems like an eternity (actual: one month) of worries and speculation about injuries, bad decisions, and suspensions. Now we just sit back and watch as the Tigers square off against one of the hottest teams in either league, the Oakland Athletics.

Thankfully, the Tigers have a serious strength when it comes to these playoffs, a strength that lines up properly with that old baseball adage: pitching wins in the postseason. Sure, it’s clichéd, but as we can surmise judging by recent World Series winners, it’s true.

Detroit’s opening round series against the A’s is going to be a rough one, and one has to imagine that Jim Leyland has one of the best problems to have for any manager, and that’s deciding who to start in Game 1 from the Tigers’ ridiculous stable of award-caliber starting pitchers. In this article, I’d like to throw in my two cents and recommend that the playoff ace this year should be Anibal Sanchez.

Sep 28, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) kisses the baseball during the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

First, we have to remember his killer postseason stretch last year. Despite his 1-2 record, Sanchez sported a 1.77 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, not to mention an 18-6 K/BB ratio. He went nearly seven innings every star t (6.1 in a loss to the A’s in round 1), and arguably was the Tigers’ best pitcher in 2012. That’s what Dombrowski acquired him to be, afterall.

In terms of his success against Oakland, he handled them pretty well this season, going 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP over 12 innings, and that looks even better when just his start at Coliseum is inspected: 7 innings, 1.29 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 8 K’s and 4 BB’s.

What about Scherzer against the A’s? Well, he no decisions over two starts, with a 4.91 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and a 16-2 K/BB ratio, which is thankfully fantastic. Also fantastic was his start at Oakland, where he went six innings, struck out 11 and walked one, and had a 1.50 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.

Essentially, both Scherzer and Sanchez were fantastic in September, but Sanchez is coming off a stronger start: against the Marlins on Saturday he struck out 8 over five innings and allowed no walks or runs. Scherzer allowed no runs against the Twins on Wednesday, but he had a 10/6 K/BB ratio, and gave up two hits over seven innings.

And like I said previously, I’d rather have to choose between these two because this just doesn’t seem to be Justin Verlander’s season, and he always seems to leave us fans wanting more in the playoffs. Maybe a turn out of the brightest spotlight, where everything he does gets scrutinized, will do him some good and he can relax and get back into a dominating rhythm.

Again, this is a magnificent problem for a major league club to have: you can bet that any team in the league, and any team in the playoffs for either league, wishes they had a problem like this.

Still, I’m all about Anibal this time around.