We know the Tigers have an absolute monster on the mound in Justin Verlander. Not only did he win the Cy Young and MVP awards in 2011, he completed his fifth consecutive season of throwing more than 200 innings. He also had his third consecutive season with more than 200 strikeouts.
It's quite possible Verlander could be joined at that 200-inning mark by at least two teammates this season, and possibly three. In just his second year in the majors, Doug Fister combined for 216 1/3 innings between Seattle and Detroit in 2011. Max Scherzer is coming off back-to-back 195+ inning seasons. Rick Porcello threw 182, which was nearly 20 innings more than the prior year.
Having four innings-eating starters has to be a good thing, right?
(Not) coincidentally, that is exactly the question answered by SB Nation sister site Beyond the Box Score on Sunday, complete with infographic (of course!).
The answer, as you might expect, is that having innings eating pitchers helps your team in the standings. The strange thing, is that it may not matter much in the postseason.
Jacob Peterson writes:
In short, having more inning-eating starters seems to increase a team's chances of winning more games and reaching the post-season. This is especially true at the extremes: teams that didn't have a 200-IP horse almost never made the postseason (just 8% of the time), but teams that had 3 or more such pitchers made the playoffs more than two-thirds of the time (67%).
*Peterson's stats come from the wild card era.
The number of average team wins rises along with the number of 200+ IP starters, too. Teams with no starters who hit the mark win 72 on average and only seven teams made the playoffs. One starter throwing 200 innings has resulted in an average number of 80 wins. Teams with two starters won on an average of 84, and teams with three jump to 92 wins on average.
Interestingly, teams with one or two innings eaters won the most World Series titles. Just two of 35 playoff teams with three or more 200-IP starters won the World Series, Peterson notes. He interprets:
I'm guessing that this is an effect of the drastically different style of postseason baseball. With more off days and much more at stake in a given game, the quality of a pitcher's innings matters far more than the quantity of those innings. Another possible factor is fatigue, which would perhaps disproportionately affect pitchers who had thrown more innings in the regular season.
Of course, as Peterson writes, you could also chalk it up to random variation since the sample is relatively small.
How many Tigers starters do you think will hit 200 innings pitched this year? And do you think it gives Detroit an advantage?