Point/Counterpoint: Who should start Game 1 for the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS?
The Tigers have a tough pitching decision to make
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 22:10
Spencer Oakes: The Detroit Tigers are faced with a very tough decision. The emergence of Max Scherzer this season makes picking their Game 1 starter for the ALDS difficult, considering that Justin Verlander has been Detroit’s ace for a few years now, and quite possibly the best pitcher in the league over that span. But Verlander has been in this position before and he knows how to get it done. It has been proven across all sports that experience is one of the most lethal things a team can have, so why wouldn’t the Tigers let Verlander go out there and use that experience in the first game of the series.
Matt Zampini: This season, Max Scherzer has been MLB’s best pitcher. His record of 21-3 is the best in baseball and, along with a 2.90 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP, he has been almost unhittable this season. He was second in the league in strikeouts and only gave up 152 hits. There is no reason why the Detroit Tigers should not throw Scherzer in to pitch Game 1 of the ALDS. He has been the best pitcher all year, so why would you go away from the hot hand? Tiger’s manager Jim Leyland would be smart to match up his No. 1 pitcher against the opponents No. 1 pitcher.
Oakes: It is hard to argue about Scherzer being the best pitcher in the MLB this season. That being said, Verlander by far has the better track record. Very few pitchers, if any, can throw a 100-mile per hour fastball and not have it be known as their best pitch. The arsenal of pitches Verlander displays, led by his curveball, make him nearly unhittable at times. He just seems to have that “it” factor, especially when it comes to pitching big games. The Tigers would be crazy to leave him on the bench for Game 1.
Zampini: Verlander may have the better track record, but I don’t think it matters what happened in the past. The Tigers are focused on winning now, and I think Scherzer will give them the best shot to win Game 1. Verlander can throw the ball 100 miles per hour every pitch, but the question is, can he get batters out with it? And this season, I think he has struggled.
Verlander is 13-12 this year, which is a major down year for him. Verlander has had some great years but this year it has been different. Scherzer may not have much playoff experience but like I said before, I think you have to ride the hot hand in Game 1.
Oakes: Although Verlander did not have a record up to his normal standards, he still had a solid season. A starting pitcher’s record tends to overshadow his actual performance. Verlander finished the season with a 3.46 ERA, which is just over his career ERA of 3.41. He also topped 200 strikeouts once again this season, a feat not many pitchers reach on a regular basis.
So even if he was just 13-12 this season, he still was effective compared to his normal stat lines. This being said, the Tigers will know what to expect when they send Verlander out there, which is why he is the safe bet for Game 1.
Zampini: Verlander’s ERA was trumped by Scherzer’s 2.90 ERA. Verlander’s 217 strikeouts were trumped by Scherzer’s 240. If anything, Scherzer earned the right to start over Verlander by beating him in every statistical category. I’ll go back to what I said before about starting the hot hand. He is 2-0 in his last three starts and has struck out 25 batters in those three starts. He has pitched well the entire season and I don’t see him showing any signs of slowing down.
Oakes: I will agree with you that Scherzer has the hot hand, but in the end I just think it is too hard for them to ignore the veteran presence that Verlander gives them on the mound. Last year in the postseason, Verlander went 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA including a complete game shut out. He has also made 12 starts in the postseason compared to Scherzer’s seven. Verlander is definitely the leader of the staff, whether on an “off” year or not, which is why the Tigers must ignore the hot hand for one game and allow Verlander to start Game 1 and let Scherzer take on Game 2.
Zampini: You can argue Verlander’s numbers in last years postseason, but I can also argue Scherzer’s numbers too. In one less start, Scherzer recorded a 1-0 record with an ERA of 0.92, only giving up one home run. It is not like Scherzer doesn’t have any postseason experience. He has seven starts in the playoffs, like you said, so he has been there before. It is not like he is a rookie and the Tigers are throwing him for his first postseason start. I think Scherzer will be just as good in the playoffs as he was in the regular season.