SERIOUS POTENTIAL IN THE ROTATION
Where would this team be without the three-headed ‘baby’ monster of Matt Boyd, Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris over the final two months of the regular season?
The future is bright for all three in their young careers, and Detroit better hang onto them and take care of them. This year, the three combined logged an impressive 3.39 ERA in 57 combined starts. Fulmer burst onto the scene in late May and went on a historic tear during the summer. While he fell three innings short of qualifying for the ERA title, he is very much in the American League Rookie of the Year conversation. Hell, he could be the team MVP.
Norris made three starts in late June and early July before giving the club another scare with an oblique injury. He returned in August and made ten starts down the stretch, giving his team a chance to win in every last one of them. In fact, he allowed three ER or less in all 13 of his starts. His bugaboo continues to be lack of going deeper into games. In only three of his outings did he pitch into the 7th inning. A lot of that falls on his command and being a bit of a strikeout guy early in his career. It’s flashy, but he may need to take a page out of the Fulmer book on ‘developing a change-up’ to help really throw pitchers off balance and induce some putouts.
Boyd took a big step forward in his professional career. He’s probably third fiddle to both Fulmer and Norris in terms of being heralded. But make no mistake about it, Boyd has a chance to be steady lefty in the rotation. He registered a 2.55 ERA in July and August and his ERA in September was severely inflated by two clunker outings against Minnesota and Kansas City. That said, we saw a lot of positives from Boyd and hopefully that trend continues into next spring.
I think the most impressive part about these three pitchers is the fact that it is the set-up that most Tiger fans wanted to see, Fulmer-Norris-Boyd behind ace Justin Verlander, along with Jordan Zimmermann. And they all entered the rotation at different points, all mainly due to injuries and/or struggles of Shane Greene, Mike Pelfrey and Aníbal Sánchez. They made it nearly impossible for the Tigers coaching staff to remove them and if not for them, there’s no chance Detroit is in the playoff hunt through the final Sunday of the regular season.