DETROIT -- Just about a month ago, Justin Verlander suggested the Oakland A's acquired All-Star starter Jeff Samardzija with the Tigers in mind. He meant the postseason and the World Series, he later claimed, noting they've stopped Oakland, but the point was made.
*lowers sunglasses* "They made that trade because of us" *raises sunglasses*- Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) July 31, 2014
The Tigers said it was about the postseason, not Oakland's stockpiling of front-line starters. Debate aside, the question remains: How would a Tigers four-man postseason rotation with Price line up? And where would Verlander fit in?
It wasn't a question for the Tigers to approach on Thursday. Yet, as Verlander tries to regain his better form, or at least the form that allowed him to be a shutdown pitcher last October, it could be one of the more interesting sagas of the stretch run.
"You don't want to look beyond," Verlander said when asked about the postseason. "We're not there yet, but we've got a good quality team. Just continue to play good baseball and hopefully you make it, then power pitching's always a good thing.
"I think it's pretty All-Star caliber lineup, especially with [Rick] Porcello blossoming into the pitcher he's become. In my opinion, he should have been an All-Star this year, but he had kind of tough luck with some of the other guys who made the final ballot. There's a lot of great rotations out there right now, especially with what Oakland did. But I love this rotation. I love our guys. It's going to be tough to beat."
If the criteria was regular-season performance this year alone, Verlander's stats would rank him the fifth-best starter in Detroit's rotation. His 9-9 record and 4.79 ERA look bizarre next to his name. Yet on Wins Above Replacement, his 1.8 WAR place him just slightly behind 12-game winner Porcello at 2.1, according to Fangraphs.
On postseason resumes, Verlander is unmatched among his teammates. He's 7-5 with a 3.28 ERA in 15 postseason starts, allowing 71 hits over 93 1/3 innings with 108 strikeouts. Even as he labored through most of last season, he churned out 23 innings with one run allowed.
Price and Max Scherzer would seemingly front a rotation. Anibal Sanchez has had an up-and-down season, including a bout of seventh-inning struggles, but seemingly fits in. Porcello's breakout season, including back-to-back shutouts in June, earned him All-Star consideration.
One of these five would have to work out of the bullpen in October.
"There's a lot of baseball before that decision has to be made," manager Brad Ausmus said.