Fantasy Baseball: Tigers Rotation Roaring
The Detroit Tigers are the defending AL champions and are loaded on offense with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder forming a devastating combination in the heart of the order. Detroit has the best team batting average in baseball and ranks second in runs and OBP.
However, despite their offensive prowess, the Tigers have spent much of the season treading water at fewer than ten games above .500. On July 20, they were just 52-44 for the year, but since that time Detroit has won 14 out of 15 games, including the last ten straight.
While the offense has been its usual excellent self over that stretch, the Tigers’ long hot streak can be mostly attributed to dominant pitching, especially in their starting rotation. In that 15-game span, Detroit has allowed just 1.7 runs per game and all five starting hurlers have pitched remarkably well.
Max Scherzer has led the charge for Detroit’s pitching, as he has all season. Scherzer is 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA in his last three starts, including an active 13.2 inning scoreless streak. Quite simply, he is pitching as well as anyone in baseball right now.
Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez have followed Scherzer’s lead and posted their own strings of scintillating starts. Fister has allowed just three earned runs in his last 22 IP and has finished eight innings in his last two starts, taking just 88 pitches to do so in his last outing. Sanchez has started four times since the All-Star break and all four starts have been strong. Overall, he boasts a 2-0 record and 1.35 ERA over that span. Both hurlers have seen their fantasy value skyrocket in the last three weeks.
Justin Verlander, who until recently had been struggling compared to his previous dominant campaigns, has appeared to right the ship recently as well. He has looked like the Verlander of old in his last two starts, giving up just two runs in 14 innings of work while striking out 13. His last start featured his highest average fastball velocity of the season at 96.2, so watch for him to continue his resurgence in the coming weeks.
Fifth starter Rick Porcello has been the most interesting pitcher, fantasy-wise, over the course of the Tigers’ hot streak. He has posted a 1.87 ERA over his last five starts, compared to 4.80 the rest of the season. He is still only 24 years old and it is possible that he might finally be flashing the stuff that made him one of baseball’s top prospects several years ago. The right-hander is still owned in less than 20 percent of ESPN leagues so pick him up while he’s hot.
The Tigers’ entire staff is intriguing for another reason beyond their recent run of unhittable outings. Each starter has an ERA much higher than their FIP figure, meaning the porous defense behind them has hurt their run totals and they’ve actually been pitching better than traditional statistics would suggest.
That defense got an upgrade recently when fielding wizard Jose Iglesias replaced the suspended Jhonny Peralta at shortstop. This switch could lead to even lower runs allowed totals for the Tigers in the future. It certainly increases the fantasy value of all of Detroit’s pitchers, although they haven’t really needed much help lately.
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