Detroit Tigers: The 2013 Tigers starting rotation was the last of its kind

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Inspired by a tweet, I went back to the archives and started looking back at the Detroit Tigers starting pitching rotations. The 2013 rotation is in rare air.

Twitter sometimes can be an endless scroll to kill time. But for myself, I can get inspired for topics about the Detroit Tigers. In this case, Brandon Day of Bless You Boys.com shared an insight link from Fangraphs, courtesy of an interview done by David Laurila. Laurila spoke to Tom House, the “Father of Modern Pitching Mechanics”.

The reason why I am sharing this information that for the next few months during the off-season, I will be doing some deep dives on the Detroit Tigers starting pitching rotations. Some dives may lead you off a cliff of disappointment (1996) and some you remember as the beginning of a great run (1979). Starting pitching has evolved through the history of baseball so our dives may go back even further.

I start with the 2013 Detroit Tigers. The production from that rotation that we saw, could be a rare sight going forward.

WAR Machine

Led by Cy Young award Max Scherzer, who put up one of the best seasons ever by a Detroit Tigers pitcher, Detroit’s starting rotation put up a starting pitching rotation Fangraphs WAR of 23.1, the second-best fWAR of the 2010’s next to the Phillies who in 2011, had an fWAR of 27.0.

The rest of the rotation:

Team Pitching
Rk Pos Name Age W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
1 SP Justin Verlander 30 13 12 .520 3.46 34 34 0 0 0 0 218.1 212 94 84 19 75 1 217 4 1 3 925 120 3.28 1.315 8.7 0.8 3.1 8.9 2.89
2 SP Max Scherzer 28 21 3 .875 2.90 32 32 0 0 0 0 214.1 152 73 69 18 56 0 240 4 1 6 836 144 2.74 0.970 6.4 0.8 2.4 10.1 4.29
3 SP Doug Fister 29 14 9 .609 3.67 33 32 0 1 0 0 208.2 229 91 85 14 44 2 159 16 0 7 881 113 3.26 1.308 9.9 0.6 1.9 6.9 3.61
4 SP Anibal Sanchez 29 14 8 .636 2.57 29 29 0 1 1 0 182.0 156 56 52 9 54 1 202 2 0 7 746 162 2.39 1.154 7.7 0.4 2.7 10.0 3.74
5 SP Rick Porcello 24 13 8 .619 4.32 32 29 1 1 0 0 177.0 185 87 85 18 42 4 142 3 1 6 736 96 3.53 1.282 9.4 0.9 2.1 7.2 3.38
Team Totals 28.1 93 69 .574 3.61 162 162 159 3 1 39 1462.2 1369 624 587 128 462 29 1428 42 7 63 6119 116 3.27 1.252 8.4 0.8 2.8 8.8 3.09
Rank in 15 AL teams 3 13 3 11 5 11 4 6 2 3 1 4 1
Rk Pos Name Age W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W

They lead the league in innings pitched, K per 9, xFIP, and fourth in starter ERA with 3.44. So how does this tie into the article in regards to the conservation with Tom House? Well, he doesn’t believe going to see the days in which starters will throw 250-275 innings again based on how pitch counts are developed. None of the starters you see here did that but let’s put this in how rare what we see here among the starting rotations for the Detroit Tigers since 1990.

The stats you see above is three starters throwing over 200 innings. Sanchez and Porcello both threw over 150 innings.  In 2014, Porcello with Verlander and Scherzer pulled over 200 innings but the Tigers used six different starters and those three pulled over 30 starts.

In 2013, four starters started in over 30 games. The 2006 Tigers rotation of Bonderman, Robertson, Rogers, and Verlander all started in over 30 games with all except Verlander throwing over 200 innings. (Verlander had 186)

Into the early ’90s, the Tigers went with a four-man rotation so the data for the previous decades is completely different. Pitch counts were not put into play.  The only time Detroit had a feat of 200 innings and 30 starts in that decade was in 1991 with the trio of Bill Gullickson, Frank Tanana, and Walt Terrell pulled it off. It wasn’t until 2006 that did Detroit pulled it off again.  Why does it seem so rare for Detroit? Here’s why:

That 2013 rotation threw over 1000 innings and went 76-44. Even as the Detroit Tigers during their rebuild use the draft to build out their starting rotation, it is interesting to note that Justin Verlander’s season in 2016 was the last time a Tigers starter threw over 200 innings.

Matt Boyd threw 185 in 2019 but at the current state of the Tigers development of their pitchers and the 2020 shortened season, what we saw above may be a rare site of not only talent but having multiple pitchers who can throw 200 innings.

Casey Mize heading into this season had only 123 innings under his belt and Skubal had 145. The article Fangraphs mainly discussed pitch counts and with the arms of the future, that is important. So fans should continue to see the game evolve and get used to the sight of starters not going deep into games.

Matthew Boyd accounted for the only complete game of the 2020 season.

Adjust your eyes and be patient. As you do, think about this collection of talent the Tigers had for several seasons that was like a shooting star.

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