Detroit Tigers Struggles Start with Starting Pitching


May 25, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a week makes. This time last week, the Tigers had won 6 straight games over the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox and were on an 11 game road winning streak. The Tigers were then swept by the Cleveland Indians and lost three of four games against the Texas Rangers.

Welcome back to reality. The Tigers had a .692 winning percentage and were on pace to win 112 games. The Tigers were due for a correction and this past week was that correction. Was this correction a rough one? Yes it was, and the key was starting pitching.

Entering the Cleveland series, the Tigers’ starters led the American League with a 2.46 ERA. After Sunday’s game against the Rangers, the starters’ ERA is 3.50. 7 games have raised the team ERA by 1.04. This ERA jump is due to a bad turn through the starting rotation. Here are the starts from the starters this week:

  • Monday 5/19: Drew Smyly 5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 6 K
  • Tuesday 5/20: Justin Verlander 6 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
  • Wednesday 5/21: Max Scherzer 7 IP, 12H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
  • Thursday 5/22: Robbie Ray 3.1 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 1 K
  • Friday 5/23: Anibal Sanchez 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
  • Saturday 5/24: Rick Porcello 5.1 IP, 12 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
  • Sunday 5/25: Justin Verlander 5.1 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 1 K
  • Total: 39 IP, 67 H, 41 R, 38 ER, 19 BB, 25 K, 8.76 ERA, 4.38 BB/9, 5.77 K/9

Besides the obvious hits and runs being up, another indicator of the starting staff’s struggles are the elevated walks and lower strikeout totals.

Not all of the blame for the recent struggles fall on the starting pitching, but they are the leaders for this team. The offense has not been good over this stretch outside of Wednesday’s 11-10 loss and 7-2 win producing only 14 runs in 5 games. Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and Miguel Cabrera are all having nice years, but the rest of the lineup has struggled over this stretch too.

This week was an overall disaster for the Tigers, and it all starts and ends with starting pitching. So far, it has only been one bad turn through the rotation plus Verlander’s second start Sunday and excluding Sanchez’s good start on Friday. If you want even worse news, the Tigers now have to travel to the West Coast to play the Oakland A’s for 4 games and the Seattle Mariners for 3 games.

The good news is that the Tigers are still in first place in the AL Central by 5.5 games over the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins, 6 games over the Chicago White Sox, and 6.5 games over the Indians. The world is not ending; I still believe the Tigers will win this division. They are the best team in the AL Central and even the best teams have rough stretches. Once the starting pitching straightens itself out, the Tigers will get back on track and dominate the Central.