The other day, I mentioned that I like the Tigers’ pitching rotation. Obviously there are very few things to dislike about Justin Verlander – the dude even has his own cereal, and Doug Fister has proven that he’ll be a tough #2 pitcher and following those two will be Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. The fifth spot for the rotation remains open and it appears that Brad Penny won’t fill the spot and that a younger pitcher will. As of now, it seems like Jacob Turner has the best shot.
However, I also mentioned that I like the Tribe’s rotation. No, there’s no Verlander and no, our pitchers don’t always know their name or age. But there are little things about the Tribe rotation that speak volumes. Which is what leads me to this comparison of the two rotations to prove to you that they’re really not all that different.
Verlander vs. Ubaldo: If I had my pick, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t take Verlander. That being said, Ubaldo isn’t too many steps behind – and this is coming from the girl who threw a fit when the Indians acquired Ubaldo. Take a look at their basic career stats:
Verlander has more starts so these stats aren’t completely paralleled, but in retrospect, the two pitchers are quite similar. Note Verlander’s 14 complete games to Ubaldo’s 8. Ubaldo’s walks are a bit high in comparison and one of most notable differences is the win percentage. Verlander’s equates to roughly 53.77% in comparison to Ubaldo’s 40.54%, but Verlander has also started 50 more games. Also take note of the pitchers’ ERAs, which are close, as well as the similar WHIPs.
While Verlander’s career started one year before Ubaldo’s, both pitchers have two seasons of postseason experience. Verlander has started in eight postseason games while Jimenez has started five with the Rockies. Verlander posts a 5.57 postseason ERA while Ubaldo’s is 3.54.
Also bear in mind the line-ups behind each pitcher during their postseason runs. Jimenez had Todd Helton, who hit .320 in 2007, behind him, in addition to a .291-hitting Troy Tulowitzki and a .340-hitting Matt Holliday. In 2009, Jimenez had Tulowitzki behind him again. Tulowitzki hit .297 that year with 32 homers while Helton hit .325.
Now look at Verlander’s support in his postseason bids: In 2006, Verlander was still pitching to Pudge Rodriguez behind the dish, who hit .300 that year. Brandon Inge hit 27 longballs that season while Carlos Guillen hit for a .320 average. In 2011, Verlander was backed by a couple of .300+ hitters in Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, while Jhonny Peralta had a break-out year with a .299 average.
Verlander is only one year older than Jimenez and both pitchers have made their bids to be considered among the game’s elites. While Verlander has the edge with a Cy Young and a couple of no-hitters, Ubaldo isn’t far behind.
After that long-winded plethora of stats, let’s also take a look at Fister and Masterson. Masterson could actually be Cleveland’s ace and may be given the ball on Opening Day. Fister was a great acquisition for Detroit last year as he pitched 8-1 with a glimmering 1.79 ERA for the Tigers. Masterson went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA for Cleveland, though run support wasn’t always present in his starts. These two will be formidable arms in the #2 slots of their rotations, and both of their teams will be relying heavily on them to win 15+ games.
Then there’s Scherzer, who the Tigers are hoping will lower his ERA and induce more groundball outs. Scherzer won 15 for the Tigers last year, going 1-1 in the postseason. Scherzer is reportedly working on a two-seem fastball to add to his repertoire. Filling in the third spot for Cleveland will likely be Josh Tomlin, who rightfully earned himself a spot in the rotation last year. Tomlin had a 4.25 ERA, which was lower than Scherzer’s, though Scherzer threw more innings. Tomlin went 12-7 and proved to be a reliable arm, though it’d be nice to see his strikeout numbers go up. Tomlin and Scherzer will have similar roles in their rotations, being that their teams will want their fifth-day consistency.
One difference in the two rotations lies in Derek Lowe. Lowe provides a veteran presence to the Cleveland rotation and as I mentioned the other day, age is only a number – remember Paul Byrd. Lowe will likely take the 4th slot in the Tribe rotation. This continues the contrast between the two as Detroit’s four-slot will probably be taken by Rick Porcello, who is only 23. Porcello has had his share of good and bad days with Detroit, but he did win 14 games last season and kept his opponent homerun numbers low.
Both teams will be looking for their fifth starter this spring. While Detroit’s leading candidate is Turner, Cleveland will be looking at David Huff, Jeanmar Gomez and the recently acquired Kevin Slowey. While I personally am on the Slowey campaign, Huff may be given a second chance. Turner is only 20 and is considered to be Detroit’s #1 prospect. He made three starts for the team last year and learned life in the big leagues the hard way as he posted an 8.53 ERA.
All of this being said, the Detroit Tigers appear to have the better rotation on paper. But Ubaldo Jiminez will be coming out of spring with a lot to prove as many fans, myself included, are still looking for justification behind his trade. Justin Masterson also knows his pivotal role. The team needs him to excel from his successful 2011 season with more wins and more depth while Derek Lowe will also need to put together some scoreless innings.
The Tigers may have Prince Fielder, but their starting rotation does not differ greatly from Cleveland’s. Verlander is only one man and it isn’t probable that he’ll replicate his performance from last season.
Keep your eye on the starters for both of these teams and get yourself some series tickets when they play each other. It’ll be well worth it.