Deep Thought: Justin Verlander: playoff relief ace

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The Tigers rotation at the moment, along with current ERAs, looks like this:

Max Scherzer: 3.27
David Price: 3.11
Rick Porcello: 3.24
Anibal Sanchez: 3.57
Justin Verlander: 4.79

Obviously there are other, better stats than ERA, but I’m pretty sure none of them which truly matter say that, this season, Justin Verlander is ahead of any of the others. He’s clearly the fifth best guy going at the moment.

Verlander’s problems have tended to pop up by around the fourth or fifth inning too. He’s got a 3.14 ERA in innings 1-3 (and that’s inflated by a couple of awful first innings) and an ERA of 5.91 in innings 4-6. He just seems to hit a wall. Or at least they’re figuring him out the second and third time through the lineup.

So, if you are the fifth best starter in an age when teams use four-man rotations in the playoffs and you tend to do way better early in your outings than later, doesn’t it make sense for your manager to turn you into a relief pitcher come playoff time?

Not a one-inning closer — the Tigers have one of those — but a Goose Gossage-style relief ace. A guy who can come in and get you out of a jam with a strikeout, but hang around for a couple of innings too. A Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling in 2001 type of deal. Or a Tim Lincecum in 2012 type of deal.

No, it’s not perfect. Verlander’s strikeout rate is way down this year, so maybe he’s NOT the guy to come in and get a K in a key situation. And he’s making about eleventy-gabillion dollars to be a starting pitcher these days, so it could cause some discomfort among some.

But the Tigers pen is a perpetual work in progress and the idea is to win a World Series, right?

UPDATE: Since posting this I have learned that many people had this idea yesterday on Twitter, including Wendy Thurm and David Schoenfield. I didn’t see that as I was literally unable to keep up with Twitter as the trade deadline was hitting yesterday, but a belated shout-out to those guys and others who have similar thoughts.

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: