Grades: Rotation


Fister was a big part of Detroit’s rotational success in 2012.

This week, its time to enter the rotation’s grades in the gradebook. Detroit’s rotation was its strength throughout the season and the main reason why the Tigers took the American League Pennant. But how exactly each pitcher did individually is a totally different question. Without further ado…



Verlander’s 2012 campaign was only bested by Tampa Bay’s David Price, the Cy Young winner. As much as his win loss record paled in comparison with his 2011 campaign, he still had an extremely successful season.

2011: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 250 Ks, 0.92 WHIP

2012: 17-8, 2.64 ERA, 239 Ks, 1.06 WHIP

Price had the gaudy numbers but there’s no question who the best pitcher in baseball is. 4 votes from the BBWAA in the closest vote in history is all that separated Verlander from repeating.



If it weren’t for Fister’s injury early in the season, he would’ve been up there statistically with the game’s best. Fister has evolved into a true strikeout pitcher and is the best at holding runners on as well. His starts were paramount to the Tigers’ success down the stretch and it appears that he’s embraced the city as well, as he’s appeared in a few commercials where he’s speaking positively about Detroit. Taking a line drive to the head in the World Series and still having a quality start only speaks to how great his potential is.



In 2011, Scherzer was a solid, middle-of-the-rotation guy who could eat innings and give you a chance to win. In 2012, however, Scherzer elevated his pitching performances to a whole new level. Scherzer was a strikeout machine and competed with Verlander for the strikeout crown. Verlander and Scherzer would both finish with over 200 strikeouts and be the first Tigers duo in 40 years to accomplish that feat. But Scherzer was more than strikeouts. He would finish with 16 wins, the most in his career as well as stabilize the middle of the rotation. His contributions on the mound will definitely help the chase for another division crown.



In his age 23 season, Rick Porcello definitely took a step back. His 10-12 record and 4.59 ERA didn’t help his case in the competition for a rotation spot next spring. However, the reason for his struggles might not even be his fault. His groundball rate is very high for a poor defensive team. Third baseman Miguel Cabrera and shortstop Jhonny Peralta don’t have the best range so those groundballs turn into basehits. But tinkering with his style is going to be necessary if he’s going to be in the rotation next year. Next year is crucial as the Tigers have a young arm in Drew Smyly that could easily slide into the rotation.



While he didn’t start a game for the Tigers during the postseason, his contributions during the season were huge. Smyly won the fifth spot in the rotation out of Spring Training and pitched well for a rookie. He even got his first career win at Yankee Stadium. With guys like Verlander, Fister, and Scherzer on the team, Smyly didn’t have to be a big game pitcher but he still gave the Tigers a chance to win when he did pitch. He definitely could be in the rotation next season.



The addition of Sanchez to the team was much like Fister in 2011. Even though he struggled in his first few starts, he turned around his tenure with Detroit, topped off with a shutout against Kansas City during the division run. Even during the postseason, Sanchez turned in great performances against Oakland, New York, and San Francisco, culminating in a 1.77 postseason ERA. If the Tigers sign him, Detroit will have the best rotation in the American League.



As stated before, the rotation was the key to the Tigers’ success. Verlander had yet another dominant year and was backed up by the efforts of Fister and Scherzer. Rick Porcello struggled in a make or break season and now has serious trade rumors surfacing about him. Drew Smyly’s emergence was a great surprise and his future looks bright, especially considering that he throws from the left side. Anibal Sanchez was a great addition to the team down the stretch but is going to need a lot of money to sign. This season was an impressive one for the rotation and next year looks to be more of the same.


While it doesn’t appear that the Tigers would sign two free agent starters, it never hurts to look at other options, especially considering that Anibal Sanchez might not sign with Detroit. Here are a few names that might help the rotation, if Dombrowski goes all in.


Greinke is the class of the starters’ market. The Tigers would have the best rotation in baseball if Greinke were to join but it would appear that Dombrowski is going to focus his efforts on signing Sanchez, a cheaper (not by much) option that is already familiar with Jim Leyland, Jeff Jones and the rest of the Tigers.


Its probably true that Jackson isn’t on may fans’ lists for a free agent pickup. But keep in mind that with his down year in 2012, his value has gone down. However, there’s a good bet that his stuff would resurface by being back in the American League Central and with former teammates from 2009. If Sanchez doesn’t resign, Jackson could be an interesting pickup for Detroit.


Back in July, the Tigers were in talks with the Cubs for Dempster who would fit in nicely at Comerica Park and their rotation. A veteran presence, he could have helped young guns like Porcello and Smyly but the Rangers came from out of nowhere to pick him up. He struggled in the American League, proving that a career National Leaguer’s stuff doesn’t always transfer well. He’d still probably fit in well considering Comerica is a far cry from the hitters’ haven that is The Ballpark in Arlington.


Saunders is another veteran on the market who isn’t going to command top dollar but could still be an extremely effective weapon down the stretch. Throwing from the left side, he bolstered Baltimore’s rotation and won the inaugural American League Wild Card Game, in Arlington. He’s a solid pitcher and would also put the Tigers in the conversation for the best rotation in baseball.


Of course, Sanchez is the first option Detroit’s going to pursue. However, it really is a bit much to demand $90 million over 6 years, based on a couple months and a successful postseason. Essentially, the only reason his stock has climbed is because of the postseason he had and the fact that Zach Greinke is the only starter on the market who has better stuff at a reasonable age. Dombrowski likes Sanchez but isn’t going to put the team, which might be cash strapped now, over a financial cliff for him. There are other options that are cheaper that could still help Detroit repeat as American League Champions.

Apparently, there’s less than twenty weeks left in the offseason. We’ll break down the hitters next week and. discuss the impact that the newest Tiger, Torii Hunter, will have on the lineup and in the field.


About Joe Barroso

Joe Barroso is the creator and editor of the Sporting Mitten blog as well as a contributor for the Farm Club blog. He began to pursue a career in journalism in 2010 while in high school. He created, produced, and wrote for "Irish Pride Sports Show" a weekly, sports feature show for Father Gabriel Richard High School in Ann Arbor, MI. He grew up in southeastern Michigan playing a variety of sports but was drawn to the game of baseball. Even with his short-lived playing career in high school gone, he still decided to pursue a career reporting happenings in baseball. You can reach him at
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