Detroit Tigers: It Starts with the Starting Pitching


The Detroit Tigers have the lineup to make the postseason, even without Miguel Cabrera for six weeks. They have only scored two runs or fewer twice in the past month and were productive without Cabrera in the lineup against the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend. They left runs out there, but they can still be productive. For the Tigers to succeed, the starting pitching needs to step up its game.

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Over the past month, the Tigers have had two stellar starting pitchers, two bad starting pitchers, and one average pitcher. When all of that is put together, the Tigers rank 12th in the American League in starting pitching over the past month with a 4.322 ERA.

David Price and Anibal Sanchez are a combined 7-0 in their 10 starts with the Tigers winning 9 of those games. Over that stretch, Price has an opposing slash line of .274/.285/.427 against, only allowing 2 walks, a 2.14 ERA, a 1.069 WHIP, and a 2.29 FIP in that stretch. Sanchez has a .178/.229/.311 split in his stretch a 2.61 ERA, a 0.868 WHIP, and a 3.88 FIP. The biggest thing for Sanchez is that the home runs have started to decline.

On the other end of the spectrum, Alfredo Simon has plummeted back to earth after his sterling start. Over the past month, Simon has a 6.18 ERA against a 2.93 BB/9 rate, a WHIP of 1.66, and a FIP of 4.53. He pitched above his FIP to start the season, but has adjusted over the past month. His stuff has not looked good as hit splitter isn’t even close to splitting. If Simon does not turn his performance around soon, he could find himself in the bullpen.

Justin Verlander has been worse by the numbers, but at least his stuff is a bit encouraging. He has a 6.75 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP over his first four starts. In Sunday’s game, his stuff looked better than it did all of 2014, but he was stubborn in the 5th inning, trying to overpower batters with 95 mph and it ended in at 6 run inning in route to a 7 run outing in 5 innings. If Verlander trusts his breaking stuff and takes a little off of his fastball for movement and location, he could be a productive middle of the rotation starter for the Tigers. The Tigers absolutely need Verlander to produce if they hope to contend in 2015 and it starts with his pitch selection and location.

Kyle Ryan has been solid in his time up with the Tigers with a 4.74 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. It may not sound pretty, but Ryan is the Tigers’ 7th starting pitcher behind Kyle Lobstein and Shane Greene.

Speaking of Greene, he hasn’t exactly lit it up at Toledo since being demoted. His last start of 6 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K wasn’t bad, but he has a 3.47 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP in Toledo in 4 starts. What is alarming is his strikeout rate and the way lefties have hit off of him. He only has a 4.63 K/9 rate in his four starts and left handed batters are hitting .341 against him. Greene still has to develop an out pitch, both to retire lefties and to get swings and misses. If he does, he could be a key piece for the Tigers in the second half, but the returns are not incredibly promising at the moment.

If the Tigers were to buy at the trade deadline to try to sure up the rotation, possible options include Jeff Samardzija, Cole Hamels, Ian Kennedy, Clay Buchholz, Scott Kazmir, and Johnny Cueto. It would take a fair package to get most of those pitchers, but the Tigers have always been buyers if they believe they have a chance.

Adding a starting pitcher would also allow the Tigers to strengthen their bullpen by sending a combination of Ryan, Simon, and Lobstein (when healthy) to the bullpen, and possibly all three if Greene can develop his out pitch.

Next: Sellers, David Price's possible return, loss of Miggy