With Anibal Sanchez Out, Verlander Must be Verlander

With today’s news that Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez re-aggravated his pectoral muscle during a bullpen session, the Tigers playoff hopes become an even steeper uphill battle. Sanchez has been out since August 9th after sustaining an injury to his right pectoral muscle, and the Tigers have relied on minor-league call ups Robbie Ray and Buck Farmer.

To provide a bit of perspective on the Tigers’ pitching depth, Farmer was called up from the club’s AA affiliate.

What this means for the Tigers is that they’ll be relying even more on Ray and Farmer, and they may even be tempted to look for help outside the organization, something GM David Dombrowski has stated he would not be doing. One option for the club, albeit a longshot, is Bartolo Colon, who has recently cleared waivers.

If Sanchez is indeed out for the rest of the regular season, the spotlight shifts to the weakest link in the Tigers rotation: Justin Verlander. After winning the AL Cy Young in 2011, and putting up a 17-8 record with a 2.64 ERA in 2012, Verlander has struggled to retain his velocity and command. He finished 2013 with an ERA of 3.46 but his consistency throughout the season was not the same as in years past.

2014 has been a different story. In his 26 starts, the former ace is 11-11 with an ERA of 4.82. Flashes of brilliance aside, he has been unable to string together consecutive solid starts and much of the burden of catching up to Kansas City has been placed on Scherzer, Porcello, Sanchez and the recently acquired Price.

The Tigers rotation as of today: Scherzer, Price, Porcello, Verlander, (TBD).

While still boasting a strong starting three, Verlander remains the weak link. With the departure and unlikely return of Sanchez for the rest of the season, the Tigers will be hard pressed to play at a better clip than the Royals, who’ve only lost eight of their last 32 games. While the Royals have gone 24-8, the Tigers have gone 15-18. With 33 games left, and a 1.5 game deficit heading into Tuesday night’s match up with the Yankees, the Tigers will have to find a way to plug the gaping hole in the rotation, especially since the 2014 version of Justin Verlander doesn’t virtually guarantee a quality start as it did in the past.

Sanchez, before the injury went 8-5 with a 3.46 ERA.


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