If the Tigers are going to get over the postseason hump and bring a championship to the City of Detroit, their ace is going to have to lead them there.
Typically, the first name that would pop into your head would be Justin Verlander, but in the context of the 2013 season, he's not the Tigers' ace heading into October.
Instead, that title now belongs to Max Scherzer.
Despite accruing back-to-back losses on his personal ledger over the past week and a half, the 29-year-old right-handed star is a legitimate Cy Young candidate and ready to be the leader of Detroit's staff next month.
When assessing how he's achieved his success in 2013, along with his performance in the 2012 postseason, it's hard not to believe that Scherzer is ready for the bright lights of the playoffs.
Simply put, Max Scherzer has earned his reputation for dominance, gaudy win total and statistics over the course of this season.
With a 10.0 K/9, a 4.48 K/BB ratio and a WHIP of less than 1.00, Scherzer has achieved his 3.01 ERA based on three tenets that will make him very, very difficult to beat in October: strike out many, walk a considerably less amount of batters than those struck out and limit baserunners.
Also, considering the constant flux of Detroit's bullpen, Scherzer's ability to consistently pitch deep into games (at least five innings pitched in 28 of 29 starts this season), is an attribute that can't be underestimated. If Scherzer can give Jim Leyland six or seven innings per outing, he can manage his bullpen around potentially shorter starts from Detroit's other starters.
If the dominance of the 2013 season isn't enough to convince Scherzer doubters, consider this: From May 20, 2012 through the end of last season, Scherzer posted a 3.02 ERA and struck out 183 batters in just 146 innings. Essentially, his rise to dominance isn't a one-year phenomenon. After getting off to a poor start last season, he's been great since May 2012.
That includes the 2012 postseason.
In 17.1 October innings last fall, the new Tigers ace struck out 26 batters and posted an ERA of 2.08. While flying under the radar, he was an ace for Detroit a year before most realized.
Justin Verlander, the ace of Detroit's rotation for years, has suffered through a difficult season by his great standards. With his highest ERA and lowest K/9 rate since 2008, the 2011 MVP has been relegated to No. 2-starter status for the soon-to-be American League Central champs.
This October, Scherzer will likely take the mound as the ace in deciding games, having to navigate lineups like Boston and Oakland to help Detroit reach the World Series for a second consecutive season.
If he pitches like he has since May 2012, including the big stage of last year's postseason, the Tigers are going to be in excellent shape.
By pitching him in Game 1 of the division series, Detroit can attempt to give him as many starts as possible across three rounds of postseason play.
The more Scherzer starts, the better off Detroit will be on its path to the 2013 World Series.
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