The Detroit Tigers are among the best teams in baseball in spite of Justin Verlander. No one could have imagined that scenario for the Tigers or Verlander this season, but it is hard to deny right now. Further proof came on Aug. 27, as Verlander struggled to stop the Oakland Athletics and suffered a rain shortened 6-3 loss.
The struggling Athletics beat the Tigers for the second straight night in Detroit, as they got to Verlander with four runs in just five innings. Once Oakland stretched the lead to 6-3 in the sixth, the rain came down and didn’t let up for the rest of the night, forcing the game into an early ending.
Since the Tigers didn’t get a chance to let Verlander off the hook, the ace dropped to 12-10 for the year and 0-2 in his last four starts. Detroit has a rotation where one pitcher is 19-1 and another leads the AL with the league’s lowest ERA — and those pitchers are Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez instead of Verlander. This either speaks to the Tigers’ power this season or a big concern for the postseason.
To get back to the World Series and win it this time, the Tigers may not be able to do without the Verlander of old. Yet that Verlander hasn’t really showed up this year, although he isn’t the only high profile ace and normally reliable starter to drop off in 2013.
Here is a list of the big stars and top pitchers who have had a big drop off this season. Yet without a change, Verlander’s slide may make the most impact of all in September and October.
For most pitchers, a 12-10 record with a 3.73 ERA would be average, if not disappointing. For Verlander, it is incredibly out of character and becoming a major concern as the Tigers head for October.
Hamels was supposed to be No. 1 on the Philadelphia Phillies rotation again this season. Yet as the Phillies and their former super staff collapsed, Hamels took a big tumble himself and has a 5-13 record to show for it.
The New York Yankees are still trying to dig out of an early hole. Unless Sabathia digs himself out as well, it will be a hard task for New York. Yet the Yankees are staying in the race despite Sabathia’s uncharacteristic 11-11 record.
Cain was a big part of the San Francisco Giants’ run to the world championship last season. But as the Giants have gone downhill this season, Cain has tumbled with them, going 8-8 and having just gone onto the 15-day DL.
Dickey was one of the great success stories of 2012, winning the Cy Young with the New York Mets at age 37 with a knuckleball. A year later, Dickey is one of the great disappointments of 2013, as his 10-12 mark and 4.39 ERA makes him just one of the Toronto Blue Jays’ failed free agent gambles.
Despite the hype and coddling of Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez may have been the most valuable ace for the Washington Nationals last season. Yet after nearly winning the Cy Young in 2012, Gonzalez is only 7-6 in 2013 with an ERA at 3.72 — while Strasburg at least has an ERA at 3.00 despite a 6-9 mark.
Medlen was unbeatable for the Atlanta Braves as a starter last year, at least until the wild card game. After just one loss in 2012, Medlen has suffered 12 in 2013, although it hasn’t stopped the Braves from running away with the NL East and making another wild card game unnecessary.
Two years ago, Kennedy was a Cy Young contender with the NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Recently, he became expendable enough for the playoff contending Diamondbacks to trade away to the San Diego Padres. What’s more, Kennedy returned to Arizona on Aug. 27 and couldn’t make it past the fifth inning.
Hughes once seemed like the ace of the future for the Yankees, but the present has been pretty painful. The Yankees have had to keep Hughes in the back of the rotation, despite a 4-13 record and an ERA close to 5.00, which shows what few options they have.