Do the Tigers have the best starting rotation in the playoffs?

Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Detroit Tigers appear to have the strongest starting pitching rotation among the American League's playoff teams.


With the American League’s central division crown and a playoff spot sewn up, discussion surrounding the Detroit Tigers now turns to what the playoff roster will look like. This much is known. As long as Max Scherzer is healthy, he will join Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Anibal Sanchez in a four man rotation for the playoffs.

That means that Rick Porcello would join lefty Drew Smyly in the bullpen, in part to serve as insurance for Scherzer, who has been battling shoulder tightness for the past two weeks.

The thought of having all four of those starting pitchers healthy should be a cause for concern for any team that has to face the Tigers in the playoffs. The Tigers currently boast the league’s best rotation ERA among any of the five teams that qualify for post season play. Detroit’s 3.76 edges out the Oakland A’s 3.78 rotation ERA.

To further isolate the starting pitching, the Tigers Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) leads the league at 3.56, well ahead of Oakland’s 3.98 according to fangraphs. Of course, teams don’t have a choice but to take their defense with them into the post season, just as they have to bring some run support with them if they intend to advance. But the numbers illustrate a good reason for Tiger fans to be optimistic heading into October.

Ranking American League Rotations, 2012

FIP Rank Team FIP ERA
1 Detroit 3.56 3.76
3 Oakland 3.98 3.78
4 Texas 4.02 4.26
6 New York 4.16 4.07
8 Baltimore 4.51 4.44



Looking at the individual pitchers on playoff teams, Justin Verlander stands head and shoulders above the rest of the starters in the American League. David Price is gone. Jered Weaver has been eliminated, as have Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez, Jake Peavy, and James Shields.

Ranking the starting pitchers on playoff rosters highlights the strength of the Tiger rotation. Verlander and Scherzer rank one- two in the league in FIP. Following is a list of the starting pitchers on playoff teams in the American League.

American League Starting Pitchers, Playoff Rosters *

(Min 140 innings, thru October 1st)

Rank Pitcher FIP ERA
1 Verlander (DET) 2.95 2.64
2 Scherzer (DET) 3.28 3.82
3 Yu Darvish (TEX) 3.30 3.90
4 Fister (DET) 3.32 3.38
5 Sabathia (NYY) 3.34 3.38
6 Parker (OAK) 3.44 3.47
7 Colon (OAK) 3.83 3.43
8 Kuroda (NYY) 3.90 3.34
9 Porcello (DET) 3.92 4.59
10 Milone (OAK) 3.93 3.74
11 Wi Yin Chen (BAL) 4.43 4.02
12 Harrison (TEX) 3.26 4.04
13 Hughes (NYY) 4.57 4.23
14 Nova (NYY) 4.61 5.02


Note: Derek Holland of Texas posted an FIP of 4.76, ERA 4.72

Anibal Sanchez, had an FIP of 3.54, and an ERA of 3.86 between Detroit and Miami, and would rank 7th in FIP, giving Detroit four of the top seven.

Other starting pitchers have fewer than 140 innings pitched. None had an FIP below 3.75 for the season.


It is often said that pitching wins championships. Or pitching and defense wins championships. Either way, the Tigers have been carried into the post season by their starting pitching, and if they are going to advance in the playoffs, it is their rotation that will carry them further still.

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