Feature

Justin Verlander is the Tigers' second-best pitcher, and that's downright insane

Pitching is a premium in the playoffs, and boy do the Tigers have plenty of it

The Detroit Tigers advanced to a second-straight American League Championship Series Thursday night with a shutout win over the Oakland Athletics.

Justin Verlander dominated the A's, holding them to two hits over eight innings, and taking a no-hitter into the seventh. Just how good was Verlander's performance?

So yeah, sorry, A's. Not much you could do about that.

Incredibly, though, Verlander wasn't even the best pitcher on the Tigers staff this year. Max Scherzer, who won 21 games with the best WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) in the American League, rightfully got the nod in Game One of the American League Division Series.

And the Tigers' third and fourth starters, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister, were also among the best in the American League this year, giving the team, essentially, four options who could all comfortably hold one of the top spots on almost any rotation in baseball.

In the playoffs, where rotation strength is crucially important for making a World Series run, the Tigers staff is unparalleled.

The Tigers' playoff rotation has, in order, this year's probable Cy Young winner, followed by the 2011 Cy Young and MVP winner who has thrown two career no-hitters, followed by the AL's ERA leader who has thrown one no-hitter, followed by the AL's seventh-best pitcher by FIP (fielding independent pitching).

Sticking with FIP — a nice statistic that strips pitchers' performance from the variables introduced by the fielders behind them — the Tigers have the best pitcher in the American League in that stat, plus the third-, and seventh-, and ninth-best. The best pitcher per that stat on the Red Sox — whom the Tigers will face in the ALCS — is Jon Lester, who ranks 18th.

Need more proof of the Tigers' dominance?

Tigers starters have the best strikeout rate in baseball, at 8.63 Ks per nine innings. They tied an MLB record by having three pitchers — Scherzer, Verlander, and Sanchez — each record at least 200 strikeouts on the year. No team had done that since the 1969 Houston Astros. And the pitching staff as a whole, counting relievers, set a new MLB record with 1,428 strikeouts on the year.

Tigers pitchers punched out 57 A's in five games during the ALDS, including 16 in Game 1. For the entire series, that meant roughly 43 percent of the A's outs came via strikeout.

The Tigers pitchers aren't just good: They're videogame good. The Red Sox may have some impressive beards, but they'll need a big offensive breakthrough if they're going to push past the Tigers and into the World Series.

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