Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ten Predictions for the Tigers Pitching Staff

With the regular season just one week away, it's time for my annual forecasts for the Tigers.  I'll start with ten predictions for the pitching staff:
  • It doesn't take a complex projection system to figure out that Justin Verlander will have a difficult time repeating his Cy Young/ MVP performance of 2011.  He'll still be a dominant ace though with 250 strikeouts and a 2.75 ERA in 250 innings.  Since I know people will ask about wins, I'll go out on a sturdy limb and say he won't win 24 again this year.  Backed by a strong offense, he will reach an even 20 wins.
  • Max Scherzer will continue to have periods when his mechanics are out of whack, but should be on his game more often in 2012.  I'll give him a 3.90 ERA with 175 strikeouts in 200 innings.
  • Doug Fister will not be quite as good as his 1.79 ERA and 57/5 K/BB ratio down the stretch for the Tigers last year.  He won't even be as strong as his 2.89 ERA for the season.  He will however overcome a suspect infield defense to post a 3.50 ERA.  His 1.5 walks per nine innings will place him in the top three in the American League.
  • It's easy to forget that Rick Porcello is just 23 year old with time to improve.  He will up his strikeout rate from 5.1 to 5.7 while maintaining very good ground ball and walk rates.  He will pitch deeper into games and reach 200 innings for the first time.  The ground ball pitcher will find the Tigers infield to be a challenge though and his ERA will be still be a little high at 4.25.
  • The weak link of the Tigers rotation will be the fifth starter.  They will use several pitchers in that role beginning with Drew Smyly, but Jacob Turner will ultimately secure the role by the second half.  Turner will have his good moments, but will end up with a 4.50 ERA in 90 innings.
  • Jose Valverde will not be perfect in save situations again this year, but he will be better in non-save situations.  He will finish with a 2.90 ERA and 45 saves in 50 opportunities.
  • Joaquin Benoit will be the best Tigers reliever statistically in 2012 with a 70/20 K/BB ratio and 2.65 ERA.
  • Octavio Dotel will do a nice job getting the game to Benoit and Valverde posting a 3.60 ERA in 60 innings.
  • The rest of the bullpen will be shaky.  Al Alburquerque will battle to recover from elbow surgery, but won't be able to regain his 2011 magic.  Phil Coke will be the best southpaw in the pen but will be erratic with an ERA north of 4.00.
  • The entire staff will allow 680 runs which will be a distant third best in the AL to the Angels and Rays. 

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