By: Ashley Dunkak
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – It is hard to imagine how the Detroit Tigers starting pitching could get much better. In addition to amassing impressive statistics, the group has recorded quality starts in 12 of the last 13 games.
“We’ve all pushed the bar so high, all of us,” Tigers righty Max Scherzer said. “Each one of us keeps going out there and pitching to excellence and really executing pitches in all types of situations. That’s the thing that we try to emulate is how each one of us executes the pitch. Everybody tries to infer that we’re competitive with it, but that’s not really the case at all. It’s more that we’re all going out there and really trying to find ways to execute pitches the way everybody else is.”
Detroit’s pitchers may be on an even plane with each other, but few other pitchers, much less multiple pitchers on a team, can claim to be on the same level.
The Tigers rank first in the league in strikeouts with 573; Boston is closest behind with 542. Detroit’s K/9, or strikeouts per nine innings, is 9.72. Boston is also second in that category with a K/9 of 9.07. Individually, Sanchez, Scherzer and Verlander rank second, third and fourth in strikeouts per nine innings. Only Texas’ Yu Darvish mows batters down at a faster clip. No other team has more than multiple pitchers in the top 10 of the K/9 list. The Tigers have three pitchers there.
The rotation’s WHIP – walks plus hits per innings pitched – is 1.19, third in the league. Those numbers help explain why Detroit is second in the league with 39 quality starts, which account for two-thirds of all games so far. Extrapolating those numbers across the 162 games of the regular season shows that the Tigers pitchers, if they continue at this rate, will give Detroit quality starts in 108 games this season.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland knows how fortunate the team is to have such a staff.
“Any time you can send five guys out there like that, that’s a pretty good feeling,” Leyland said. “I’m certainly happy with all of them.”
Though the rotation as a whole has been remarkably successful, Scherzer said the differences between the individual pitchers are what make the rotation as a whole so effective.
“Really all of us are now pitching with four pitches,” Scherzer said. “Fister, with his ability to command the strike zone and how he sinks it, cuts it. Porcello’s such a ground-ball guy. Sanchez, I mean he’s pitching the best, probably, out of all of us, with all of his pitches. He’s got four and a half pitches, almost five the way he can do different things with his change-up.
“Ver, we all know what Ver can do,” Scherzer added with a laugh. “He’s already got all the accolades, so we are all familiar with him, and then for me, adding the curveball this year for me has really helped. It’s really helped me combat the left-handers. For me, I feel like that’s a big reason why I’m having success this year.”
The success of Scherzer and his fellow hurlers translates directly to how well the Tigers have done. The pitchers have allowed more than three runs in only 19 of 58 games this season, meaning that in 39 of 58 games the offense has needed to score just three runs to get a win. The team squandered some of those great performances recently, as Detroit got shut out three times in eight days, but Leyland would not want to trade the dependable pitching for a more consistent offense.
“We send a really good pitcher out there every five days, and you know what, at the end of the day, that’s going to be everybody’s bread and butter,” Leyland said. “There may be a year now or then when somebody slugs it ‘til the cows come home, but for the most part, if you don’t pitch, you won’t win, and that’s one thing that we really have.”