Detroit Tigers: The 2013 Tigers starting rotation was the last of its kind

Inspired by a tweet, I went back to the archives and started looking back at the Detroit Tigers starting pitching rotations. The 2013 rotation is in rare air.

Twitter sometimes can be an endless scroll to kill time. But for myself, I can get inspired for topics about the Detroit Tigers. In this case, Brandon Day of Bless You Boys.com shared an insight link from Fangraphs, courtesy of an interview done by David Laurila. Laurila spoke to Tom House, the “Father of Modern Pitching Mechanics”.

The reason why I am sharing this information that for the next few months during the off-season, I will be doing some deep dives on the Detroit Tigers starting pitching rotations. Some dives may lead you off a cliff of disappointment (1996) and some you remember as the beginning of a great run (1979). Starting pitching has evolved through the history of baseball so our dives may go back even further.

I start with the 2013 Detroit Tigers. The production from that rotation that we saw, could be a rare sight going forward.

WAR Machine

Led by Cy Young award Max Scherzer, who put up one of the best seasons ever by a Detroit Tigers pitcher, Detroit’s starting rotation put up a starting pitching rotation Fangraphs WAR of 23.1, the second-best fWAR of the 2010’s next to the Phillies who in 2011, had an fWAR of 27.0.

The rest of the rotation:

Team Pitching
RkPosNameAgeWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFERA+FIPWHIPH9HR9BB9SO9SO/W
1SPJustin Verlander301312.5203.4634340000218.12129484197512174139251203.281.3158.70.83.18.92.89
2SPMax Scherzer28213.8752.9032320000214.11527369185602404168361442.740.9706.40.82.410.14.29
3SPDoug Fister29149.6093.6733320100208.222991851444215916078811133.261.3089.90.61.96.93.61
4SPAnibal Sanchez29148.6362.5729290110182.0156565295412022077461622.391.1547.70.42.710.03.74
5SPRick Porcello24138.6194.3232291100177.0185878518424142316736963.531.2829.40.92.17.23.38
Team Totals28.19369.5743.6116216215931391462.213696245871284622914284276361191163.271.2528.40.82.88.83.09
Rank in 15 AL teams3133115114623141
RkPosNameAgeWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFERA+FIPWHIPH9HR9BB9SO9SO/W
They lead the league in innings pitched, K per 9, xFIP, and fourth in starter ERA with 3.44. So how does this tie into the article in regards to the conservation with Tom House? Well, he doesn’t believe going to see the days in which starters will throw 250-275 innings again based on how pitch counts are developed. None of the starters you see here did that but let’s put this in how rare what we see here among the starting rotations for the Detroit Tigers since 1990.
The stats you see above is three starters throwing over 200 innings. Sanchez and Porcello both threw over 150 innings.  In 2014, Porcello with Verlander and Scherzer pulled over 200 innings but the Tigers used six different starters and those three pulled over 30 starts.
In 2013, four starters started in over 30 games. The 2006 Tigers rotation of Bonderman, Robertson, Rogers, and Verlander all started in over 30 games with all except Verlander throwing over 200 innings. (Verlander had 186)

Into the early ’90s, the Tigers went with a four-man rotation so the data for the previous decades is completely different. Pitch counts were not put into play.  The only time Detroit had a feat of 200 innings and 30 starts in that decade was in 1991 with the trio of Bill Gullickson, Frank Tanana, and Walt Terrell pulled it off. It wasn’t until 2006 that did Detroit pulled it off again.  Why does it seem so rare for Detroit? Here’s why:

Results
RkYearLgTm#Matching
12006ALChicago White Sox4Mark Buehrle / Freddy Garcia / Jon Garland / Javier Vazquez
22005ALChicago White Sox4Mark Buehrle / José Contreras / Freddy Garcia / Jon Garland
32003ALNew York Yankees4Roger Clemens / Mike Mussina / Andy Pettitte / David Wells
42003ALSeattle Mariners4Ryan Franklin / Freddy Garcia / Jamie Moyer / Joel Pineiro
52018ALHouston Astros3Gerrit Cole / Dallas Keuchel / Justin Verlander
62015ALChicago White Sox3Jose Quintana / Chris Sale / Jeff Samardzija
72014ALDetroit Tigers3Rick Porcello / Max Scherzer / Justin Verlander
82013ALDetroit Tigers3Doug Fister / Max Scherzer / Justin Verlander
92013ALKansas City Royals3Jeremy Guthrie / Ervin Santana / James Shields
102011ALLos Angeles Angels of Anaheim3Dan Haren / Ervin Santana / Jered Weaver
112010ALTampa Bay Rays3Matt Garza / David Price / James Shields
122008ALChicago White Sox3Mark Buehrle / Gavin Floyd / Javier Vazquez
132007ALChicago White Sox3Mark Buehrle / Jon Garland / Javier Vazquez
142006ALDetroit Tigers3Jeremy Bonderman / Nate Robertson / Kenny Rogers
152005ALLos Angeles Angels of Anaheim3Paul Byrd / Bartolo Colon / John Lackey
162005ALOakland Athletics3Joe Blanton / Dan Haren / Barry Zito
172004ALMinnesota Twins3Brad Radke / Johan Santana / Carlos Silva
182003ALChicago White Sox3Mark Buehrle / Bartolo Colon / Esteban Loaiza
192002ALOakland Athletics3Tim Hudson / Mark Mulder / Barry Zito
202001ALMinnesota Twins3Joe Mays / Eric Milton / Brad Radke
212001ALNew York Yankees3Roger Clemens / Mike Mussina / Andy Pettitte
222001ALOakland Athletics3Tim Hudson / Mark Mulder / Barry Zito
232001ALSeattle Mariners3Freddy Garcia / Jamie Moyer / Aaron Sele
241999ALBaltimore Orioles3Scott Erickson / Mike Mussina / Sidney Ponson
251999ALCleveland Indians3Dave Burba / Bartolo Colon / Charles Nagy
261998ALCleveland Indians3Dave Burba / Bartolo Colon / Charles Nagy
271998ALNew York Yankees3David Cone / Andy Pettitte / David Wells
281997ALBaltimore Orioles3Scott Erickson / Jimmy Key / Mike Mussina
291997ALKansas City Royals3Kevin Appier / Tim Belcher / Jose Rosado
301996ALBaltimore Orioles3Scott Erickson / Mike Mussina / David Wells
That 2013 rotation threw over 1000 innings and went 76-44. Even as the Detroit Tigers during their rebuild use the draft to build out their starting rotation, it is interesting to note that Justin Verlander’s season in 2016 was the last time a Tigers starter threw over 200 innings.

Matt Boyd threw 185 in 2019 but at the current state of the Tigers development of their pitchers and the 2020 shortened season, what we saw above may be a rare site of not only talent but having multiple pitchers who can throw 200 innings.

Casey Mize heading into this season had only 123 innings under his belt and Skubal had 145. The article Fangraphs mainly discussed pitch counts and with the arms of the future, that is important. So fans should continue to see the game evolve and get used to the sight of starters not going deep into games.

Matthew Boyd accounted for the only complete game of the 2020 season.

Adjust your eyes and be patient. As you do, think about this collection of talent the Tigers had for several seasons that was like a shooting star.