The Tigers might have three of the best hitters in baseball, but the best player on their team is possibly Justin Verlander. He’s the reason teams are afraid to face the Tigers in a short series, but he actually has some pitching behind him too.
Let’s take a look at the Tigers’ pitching staff as they head into the ALCS.
Justin Verlander, Game 3 starter: He’s not starting Game 1, but any conversation about Tigers pitching has to begin with him. He had another tremendous season this year with a 160 ERA+, a 9.0 K/9, and a 2.3 BB/9. He’s just as good as ever and will be trouble in games three and probably seven.
Doug Fister, Game 1 starter: The Tigers didn’t make a huge splash when they acquired Fister at last year’s trade deadline, but he’s been huge for them since coming over. He had a 3.45 ERA in 161.2 innings this year and posted an impressive 7.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. The Yankees have given Fister trouble though. In four games against them he has a 5.18 ERA. He was so-so against them in a Yankees victory back in August.
Anibal Sanchez, Game 2 starter: Sanchez was a pitcher whom I expected to struggle coming over to the American Leauge from Florida this year, but he did well. In 12 starts he had a 3.74 ERA, a 6.9 K/9, and a 1.8 BB/9. His one really bad start in the AL came against the Yankees though when they lit him up for seven runs over three innings. As a righty, it’s possible that the short porch could come into play in Game 2.
Max Scherzer, Game 4 starter: Scherzer has had a good season this year with a 3.74 ERA, a 11.1 K/9 and a 2.9 BB/9 and has been solid of late, he has a 1.52 ERA over his last 11 starts including the playoffs. The thing that could stop him though is injuries. He’s had some trouble with his back of late which could come into play. If not though, the Tigers have a very formidable No. 4 starter. He’ll be going up against CC Sabathia though so he has his work cut out for him. He has a 5.79 ERA against the Yankees this year.
Jose Valverde, CP: Valverde was really amazing in 2011, but came back down to earth a bit in 2012, posting a 3.78 ERA with a not outstanding 6.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. He was still very good overall, but it was probably his worst season since 2006 when he was with the Diamondbacks. He’s coming off a tough loss to Oakland as well. In 17 games against the Yankees in the regular and postseason since 2009, he has a 5.82 ERA. So it will be hard for Tigers fans to get comfortable with him on the mound in a close game.
Joaquin Benoit, SU: Benoit is another guy who is coming back down to Earth a bit after a tremendous 2010 and a very good 2011. The difference between him and Valverde is that his peripherals are still just as good as ever as he posted a 10.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 that would suggest he hasn’t lost a whole lot. He did give up a big hit to the A’s in the ALDS and has allowed runs to the Yankees in three of the last five times he’s faced them including last October.
Octavio Dotel, RP: This former Yankees is playing with the 12th team of his career. He had a solid year this season with a 3.57 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. He struggled against the Yankees back in June this season when he allowed three earned runs over two games. It’s hard to say what to expect from him, but it’s safe to say the Yankees would rather face him than either Benoit or Valverde.
Phil Coke, RP: Another former Yankee, Coke had a 4.00 ERA, a 8.5 K/9, and a 3.0 BB/9 in 54 innings this year. He’s solid against lefties, but gets lit up against righties. If he comes up in a big spot against a righty in this series that means the Tigers are in trouble.
Al Alburquerque, RP: Alburquerque came back this September after being on the DL all season and has been great. His velocity is not what it was, but it doesn’t seem to matter as he’s posted a 0.61 ERA, a 11.7 K/9, and 4.9 BB/9 in 14.2 innings including the playoffs this year. He’s their bullpen’s wild card at this point.