Credit: John Durr of Getty Images
By Dylan Wittenberg
The Detroit Tigers were close last year. Very close. Like 2.5 games behind close. Besides injuries and inconsistencies in the middle of the lineup, the main reason for the team’s shortcoming was its pitching rotation. This, year, though, young guns and talented veterans show very bright outlooks for the club.
Last year’s Tigers team was plagued by the pitching of Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey. The aging veterans were the 2016 Tigers’ fourth and fifth pitchers, respectively, and each had most likely the worst years of their entire careers. Sanchez finished with a 7-13 record and a 5.87 ERA, while Pelfrey finished at 4-10 with a 5.07 ERA.
Although the Tigers look like they are going to retain both Sanchez and Pelfrey, the rotation should look a lot different. 23 year old Daniel Norris, 26 year old Matt Boyd, and 23 year old AL Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer will most likely hold down the rotation with 2016 CY Young runner up Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmerman. Sanchez and Pelfrey, on the other hand, may assume roles in the Tigers’ bullpen.
Verlander and Fulmer should be the two pitchers that will hold down the most wins and the best stats for the team’s rotation. That said, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd both finished the 2016 season very well and on hot streaks. Both pitchers are set up for big breakout years in 2017. The biggest question in the Tigers’ rotation is Zimmerman, who finished an injury laden 2016 with a 9-7 record and a 4.87 ERA.
Although Zimmerman struggled for the most of last season, he has a 3.45 ERA for his entire career and has been a part of division championships and playoff appearances with the Washington Nationals. If he is able to stay healthy in 2017, he can certainly return to his usually exceptional form and be a big help for the Tigers.
The Tigers are a team that has the bats and the fielding to win a lot of games. Put good pitching with them and you get a team that can compete for the American League Central and possibly beyond. Behind the arms of Verlander, Fulmer, Zimmerman, Norris, and Boyd, this very well might be possible.