Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
While the Tigers pitching staff has by no means been perfect, the two glaring issues have been the two rotation slots that have been routinely held by Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey has a 5.55 ERA over his nine starts, his FIP is even worse at 5.90, and he has turned in just one quality start, which was nothing to write home about as he rode the "effectively wild" moniker to one run allowed over six innings, while walking six. Sanchez meanwhile has arguably been worse with a 6.04 ERA, a 5.58 FIP and a HR/FB rate of 15.3%, basically on par with last year's 16%. Like Pelfrey, Sanchez also only has one quality start, and it was similarly shaky, as it was his most recent outing where he yielded six runs, but only three were earned. Among 105 qualified pitchers, Pelfrey ranks 97th in MLB in ERA, and Sanchez is an even 100.
So what can the Tigers do about it? Unfortunately, options aren't plentiful. While Michael Fulmer continues to pitch well and likely isn't going to be chased from the rotation anytime soon, the other options are a pair of young left-handers in Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd, and Shane Greene, who has shown flashes but hasn't been healthy much in his 1.5 years with the Tigers. Could the Tigers realistically look to two of those three to step up, hold down rotation spots, and improve upon what the Tigers are getting from Pelfrey and Sanchez? It's possible, but probably not realistic.
In my view, the best path forward is to pull Pelfrey out of the rotation now first and foremost, at least once Jordan Zimmermann and Shane Greene are healthy. He can hold down the Tigers long relief role, and perhaps spend time trying to re-invent himself as a reliever. Sanchez meanwhile has some potential, the Tigers just have to better use him. Sanchez has always struggled going deep into games, and that is even more pronounced this season. The first time through the rotation, opponents are posting a .720 OPS against him. The second time, it's still an acceptable .747. But the third time through the order, his OPS against balloons to 1.185. If you cut his performance by pitch count, something similar happens, with his OPS against in the .700-.800 up to 75 pitches, and then again jumping to 1.135 once he's over 75 pitches. The former is a serviceable starting pitcher, that also has a track record of success, and could be used as such. The latter is not. The Tigers can still get use out of him, just need manager Brad Ausmus to use him intelligently.
Chris Brown, Staff Writer