Grading the Tigers pitchers for the 2012 season

Rookie Drew Smyly won four games in the regular season and another one out of the bullpen in the AL Championship Series.

A few days ago I gave a grade to each of the Tigers batters for their 2012 seasons. Now it’s time to turn my attention to the Detroit pitching staff, which had a lot to do with the success of the team this year.

Justin Verlander A
Don’t be fooled by the fewer wins, Verlander had essentially the same year he had in 2011. He wasn’t quite as consistent, but that’s the only difference, other than he got a run less support (which is why he won 17 games instead of 24). He’s still the best in the game, and his first three starts in the post-season were dominating. He only misses an A+ because of his subpar start in the World Series.

Max Scherzer A
After struggling through his first few starts, Scherzer became one of baseball’s best pitchers from May through the end of the regular season. He finally seems to have figured out how to be a pitcher start after start. This bodes well for the Tigers in the future.

Doug Fister B+
Only two trips to the disabled list stopped Fister from having a season like he did in 2011. He still has the magical stuff, as he proved when he set an AL record with nine straight K’s in a September game.

Rick Porcello D
Slick Rick was very inconsistent once again, and even though he’s still very young, it’s about time for him to learn how to pitch more effectively on a regular basis. There were just way too many times when he put the Tigers in a hole early.

Anibal Sanchez B-
The strong right-hander has great stuff, and after a few starts to get acclimated to his new league, he was very good. He carried that into the playoffs and as  result he’ll get a fat contract on the free agent market.

Drew Smyly B-
The rookie did fine for himself, first as the #5 starter out of spring training and then as a long man out of the bullpen and emergency starter when needed. Leyland trusted the kid enough to use him in tight spots in both the ALCS and the World Series. He’ll be a part of the Tigers future.

Jose Valverde D
Beginning with blowing a save for Justin Verlander on opening day, 2012 was a terrible season for Papa Grande. He had a stretch in July and August where he was a decent closer, but even then he had an outing here and there where he made a three-run save a one-run nail-biter. He was a non-factor in the post-season, except in the bad way.

Joaquin Benoit D
Lost somewhat in the debacle that was Papa Grande’s season, was the bad year by Benoit. His problem was the gopher ball – he allowed 14 in just over 70 innings. That’s one less than Fister surrendered in more than twice as many innings. Benoit lacked confidence, walked way too many batters to lead off innings, and followed it up with a shoddy performance in the post-season.

Octacio Dotel B
Thankfully, Leyland had Octavio Dotel to lean on this season and the veteran right-hander was pretty good. At 38 he could still whip his fastball (more than one K per inning) and he allowed just three home runs. He also served as a team leader on a team that often needed someone to speak up.

Phil Coke C –
It was a strange year for Coke, who pitched well in April, bad in May, very good in June and July, and miserable in August and September. But then, under the bright lights of the post-season, the lefty stepped up and filled the closer role pretty well. He’s still an enigma, but if he can ever harness all that energy and talent he can be one of the better southpaws out of the bullpen in all of baseball.

Brayan Villarreal A-
After a great start to his first full season in the bullpen, Villarreal tired in September and was ineffective in his last few outings. As a result he was not included on the post-season rosters. But he did his job really well for 4/5ths of the season and he deserves credit for that.

Duane Below C
The other young lefty, along with Smyly, who got some starts in 2012, Below did a nice job. His best attribute was that he threw strikes  – only 8 walks in more than 46 innings.

Al Alburquerque C
If we were just rating strictly on “stuff”, AA would get an A, but he missed most of 2012 with elbow injuries. When he was healthy (8 games in the regular season and a few in the playoffs), he showed off his tremendous slider and fastball. The slider is one of the best in the game, but he still struggles a bit with command.

One reply on “Grading the Tigers pitchers for the 2012 season

  • Gary Steinke

    Nice job Dan and I think you hit the nail on the head on your grading. I really liked your comment on Benoit (and your grade). Its almost like he got a free pass from the fans because of Papa (Good Riddance) Grande’s poor playing over shadowed his poor playing. I offend wondered if he (Benoit) thought he was pitching to someone in the HR Derby. Both pitchers were nothing like they were in 2011, and I don’t think Valverde will ever have a season like 2011 again. 5 blown saves, 4 loses and a 3.78 ERA is just to much for a closer. Thanks for the good blog. PS I’ve heard Jeremy Bonderman is going to attempt a come back this spring. Heard anything about that?

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