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.