Sadly, Justin Verlander can’t pitch every day. Until modern science/medicine allows him to do so, the rest of the Tigers rotation has to be better if they hope to be playing baseball in October. The types of performances they’ve had the past two weeks WILL NOT get things done.
Let’s start with Rick Porcello. He was spectacular in July. He had a perfect 5-0 record, and he lowered his ERA a full half run. After a no-decision in his first game of the month, he’s already brought his ERA back up that half run. He’s lost his last two decisions, but the more telling stat may be the 20 hits and 12 earned runs he’s given up in 9 and 2/3 innings.
Remember when Max Scherzer was 6-0 and had an ERA under 3 (2.81)? Neither do I. Since, Scherzer is 6-7 and his ERA has risen to 4.37. I will give him credit for his gutsy performance Saturday night in Baltimore. He was shelled in the first two innings, as the Tigers trailed 5-0. He persevered though and came back to absolutely shut down the Orioles and earn the win. At times, you can learn more about a pitcher from a performance like this than an 8 inning two hit gem. Plus, his fist pumping when leaving the mound shows how into the game he was. Maybe it will serve as a second half turning point. For the most part, his stats don’t look terrible, but he does have a few games where he didn’t get out of the second inning! Can’t have those types of games down the stretch in a pennant race.
Our deadline acquisition has been less than stellar thus far as well. Doug Fister started out well enough with a 8 inning, 2 earned run effort against the Rangers. Since though, he’s 0-1, giving up 16 hits and 8 earned runs in 7 and 2/3 of an inning. Why are images of Jerrod Washburn running through my head? I know anyone can have a bad start, but back to backs against Cleveland and Baltimore won’t cut it. What hurts even more is that Charlie Furbush just pitched 7 innings of one run ball against Boston in a victory over the weekend. I swear at times the Tigers can’t catch a break. Bottom line, I’m not going to give up on him, but they’ll need Fister to be better down the stretch.
Finally, we come to Brad Penny. He’s 8-9 with an ERA right at 5. Honestly, I don’t think I can complain about him. Yes, he’s had much MUCH better seasons in his career. Having said that, how many teams would love a 8-9 record from their forth or fifth starter. He has spent time at both spots. You figured he had to be ahead of Phil Coke when Coke was starting, but with Fister aboard, Penny has to be the number 5 guy. He’s run the “good, bad, and ugly” spectrum this season better than most, but at the end of the day, do you really expect your fifth starter to be 18-7 at the season’s end? If he finishes the year at .500, I’ll say the experiment was a success.
Of course, Verlander is still Verlander. He nearly had another no-no a few weeks back against the Angels during a game who’s last three innings could definitely be classified as odd. He’s 13-2 in his last 15 starts and his ERA has fallen from 3.42 into the range of 2.3-2.35. He has won 17 already and is on the hill as we speak (no runs through 3), which means this is a game that the Tigers must win. But, he’s put in that situation so much because the rest of the rotation has been so sporadic. I’d be less inclined to worry about a JV loss if the rest of the starters are rolling. As it stands now, it’s a luxury we can’t afford. If there is a bright spot, the pitching staff is like Michigan weather…give it a week, it’s bound to look different.