Spring time brings March winds, April showers and some major baseball. No matter who your favorite team is, every MLB fan anticipates the spring season, in order to get some insight on who will stand out in the fall. With regards to pitching, I’ve always wondered what makes the best guys on the mound standout. Much like other sports, specific stats determine who is higher up in the lineup, and who will pitch in more games. Comprehending the reasoning behind why coaches decide to assign one pitcher over another can help fans better understand the team’s strategy and the players involved. Therefore, I decided to make some predictions myself by looking into one of my favorite teams, the Detroit Tigers.
Michael Fulmer is obviously at the forefront. He will most definitely be the starting pitcher for the Tigers and will be consistently strong throughout the season. With the loss of the Tigers’ legendary Justin Verlander in the 2015-2016 season waiver deadline, Fulmer became undoubtedly the best pitcher on staff. Fulmer won rookie of the year in 2016 and came close to being crowned the AL Cy Young in 2016. Fulmer has an earned run average (ERA) of 3.45, which is one of the lowest on the team. ERA gives people insight about how a pitcher throws on the mound, and ultimately what kind of a chance his team has to win a game if he’s playing. Fulmer’s adjusted ERA is 128 which isn’t as low as some other pitchers on the team, but it is still significantly low. Fulmer’s FIP (fielding independent pitching), which measures a pitcher’s effectiveness, is 3.71. A player’s FIP is arguably one of the most important stats to look at when determining who is a better performing pitcher. The reason being is because it considers the pitcher’s HR (home runs), BB (balls on base) and HBP (hits by pitch).
The second starter for the Tigers will be Daniel Norris. Norris is a twenty-four-year-old left-handed pitcher with a W-L record of 9-10. Norris emerged as a somewhat reliable starter last year, going deep into games and a few outings. However, Norris still has upside with some work. Norris’s ERA is 4.53 which is lower than the MLB average. His adjusted ERA is lower than Fulmer’s and sits at about 98. His FIP is 4.20, which is still a significantly low stat.
Comparatively, Matt Boyd will most likely be the third pitcher in the lineup. It must be taken into consideration that practically everyone behind Fulmer is a weak spot in the rotation, but Boyd shows upside. Boyd has the potential to become a great pitcher if he lowers his ERA. He also needs to work on commanding the strike zone with his lively fastball. It will set up off-speed pitches to get batters out. However, Boyd has a W-L record of 12-16 which needs to be improved.
Mike Fiers, being 32 years old, still has a few years left. Fiers did throw a no-hitter against a good Dodgers Lineup in 2015. Although, he is not what most teams would call a “reliable” starter. His WAR (wins above replacement) dipped into the negatives in 2017. His ERA dropped from 5.22 to 4.48 between 2016 and 2017. If this continues, younger players might be taking his place. In my opinion, Mike Fiers has the potential to be the fourth pitcher in the line-up.
With a W-L of 17-20, an ERA above 6.00 and a FIP of 4.88, Jordan Zimmerman is coming off a poor season in 2017.
Zimmerman suffered a neck injury that was sustained last season, which is a factor that should be highly considered. Zimmerman was a dominant pitcher for the Nationals between 2011 and 2014, but I think his age may be catching up with him because his stats are declining over the years. For the Tigers, he will be the fifth starter.
Shane Greene will be a closer for Detroit. Before Michael Fulmer joined the Tigers, Shane Greene was the starting pitcher for a couple of seasons. He has a 5.4 ERA as a starter and a 4.00 ERA as a reliever/closer. Greene allows an OPS (on-base plug slugging) below .700 in the first 50 pitches of an outing. He also allows an OPS over .850 reaching 50 pitches in an outing. Greene pitches more consistently when he has less workload per game. With Fulmer in the picture and the loss of Justin Wilson to the Cubs last season, Greene stepped into the “closer role” and has fit nicely.
After all, I grew up in central Florida and thoroughly enjoyed watching the Tigers spring train in Lakeland. The stadium was always packed, the weather was warm, and it was evident that all the players really enjoyed Florida’s atmosphere. As an avid fan, I think the line-up is deep and steadfast. I am looking forward to seeing how each player performs and look forward to seeing what they will bring to the plate. The Tigers’ lineup may change, or it may stay the same this season. Keep a look out for who will take over the mound in Florida.