As I documented here several times, the part of the Jim Leyland hire that made me most apprehensive was his handling of starters. A couple times earlier this season those fears were reinforced. There was the time he said didn’t believe in pitch counts, and he left it up to the opposing hitters to let him know when his starter had tired. And then there was the game in Oakland when he left Justin Verlander in for 121 pitches. However I’ve been happily wrong for the most part.
The Tigers rank 20th in terms of average pitcher abuse points, and this is one of those times you want your team in the bottom half. In 26 of the 35 games the starter threw 100 or fewer pitches, and we know it isn’t because they’ve been getting knocked out early.
They’ve only extended their starters out past 100 pitches 9 times. In those instances where the starter broke the century mark, only twice did they stick around past pitch 110. One of those of course was the controversial Verlander outing. The other was a 111 pitch outing by Kenny Rogers who is certainly equipped to handle the workload.
All of the starters are averaging between 86 and 96 pitches per start. Leyland is also keeping to a strict 5 man rotation, and not skipping guys when off days occur. He’s also contemplated bringing up a starter from Toledo for an occasional spot start to give his starters an extra day. He’s doing what he can to keep these arms, which may be subject to fatigue later in the season.
So I must commend Jim Leyland on his diligence in keeping the workloads of his starters within normal levels. It also seems that part of the credit should probably go to the bullpen. A stingy pen that not only has been effective, but has seen that success spread out amongst several arms, certainly makes it easier to turn the ball over to the next guy.