Grading the Tigers: Starting Pitchers edition

Can't wait to get a full season of this in Detroit.

Somewhere back in, oh, October and November I guess, I started the yearly Grading The Tigers series. Sometime about two or three weeks later, I got tired of writing the series and never returned to it. (Whoops).

With pitchers and catchers reporting in nine days, I guess I have to get those grades finished up soon, huh? So I'm going to do it in accelerated form rather than the up close and personal look I used before.

Today we'll do the starting pitchers: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and (re-hashing) Brad Penny. Incompletes are issues to Phil Coke, Andy Oliver, Jacob Turner, Duane Below, Doug Fister and Charlie Furbush.

Justin Verlander: A+

I could go into all the stats and this and that and the other. But If you don't give the pitching triple crown winner, AL Cy Young and AL MVP the best possible grade, what is the point in grading?

Max Scherzer: B-

Scherzer was sent to the minors to fix a mechanical issue in 2010 and came back gangbusters. In 2011, he was never quite as bad as he was the prior year but was never as good either. He was second on the team in ERA and strikeouts, but you still came away feeling a bit disappointed. If 2011 proves to be just a hiccup and Scherzer rebounds, Detroit's rotation is going to look pretty solid in the upcoming year.

Rick Porcello: B-

I know a lot of people look at Porcello and they shake their heads about how he has failed to live up to the hype or whatever big dreams people pinned on him after a hot start in 2009. Or they see an ERA of 4.75 and they are definitely not happy. But if you look closer at the year's numbers and what you probably should expect, you might be surprised. For Tigers pitchers who were in Detroit the full season, he trailed just Verlander in quality start percentage. By game score, his best game was as good as Scherzer's, his average score and worst score just about the same. His peripherals mostly looked solid too. There's room for improvement. He has to find a way to go deeper into games, and hopefully find a consistent strikeout pitch. But he's not awful by any measure and could take a nice step forward in 2012.

Brad Penny: C-

Some people thought I gave him too high of a grade when I did this the initial time. And I guess there's some level of grading on a curve going on. But let's face it. It's not easy to find a starter who's going to give you nearly 200 innings of work. Penny was good enough to stick with the club all year and actually had some terrific games on occasion. He's far from good, but he was good enough to stick around. Most fifth starter-types can't say that.

Doug Fister: Inc

He's awesome. Had he started enough games in Detroit, he's obviously be an A. Great ERA, pitched with poise, everything we're looking for really. I wouldn't expect him to have a 1.79 ERA in 2012, but I mean, who actually expects that? No one, right? I also don't expect him to regress to the 4.40 figure that's been floated by some systems. He seems fine to me.

Phil Coke: Inc

Coke gets a bum rap, I think. And I've said it many times. He was actually a solid fifth starter at the time of his injury in late May, though there were already rumblings about moving him back to the bullpen. But during the month of May, he has his best strikeout to walk ratio and a 2.89 ERA.

Andy Oliver: Inc

He has the tools but he can't seem to keep his head straight when he's in the big leagues. Ultimately I still think he's a reliever if he ever does calm down and figure it out.

Jacob Turner: Inc

Those two starts were fun, right? Other than that whole "everyone gets to steal for free" thing. There's still work to be done, but it will be interesting to see how he looks in Spring Training and whether the Tigers decide to send him for one last year in the minors.

Duane Below: Inc

He's local.

Charlie Furbush: Inc

He's with Seattle

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