COMMENTARY | The Detroit Tigers are known for being home to baseball's best pitcher, Justin Verlander. Verlander is the definition of an ace. He takes the mound in must-win situations and is always counted on for a stellar performance every fifth day.
Verlander will soon have to scoot over to make some room in the elusive ace club for one of his fellow starters, but who's going to join him there?
Max Scherzer? Not yet.
How about Doug Fister? Nope.
It's Anibal Sanchez, the right-hander who is venturing down the path of becoming an ace in his eighth season in the majors.
Honestly, would anyone have expected this statement to one day become legitimate when the Tigers acquired Sanchez before the trade deadline last July? He struggled with the Tigers down the stretch, allowing five or more earned runs four times in 12 starts.
His struggles made the trade look like a mistake made out of desperation, but Sanchez turned heads in the 2012 postseason. A 1-2 record, a 1.77 ERA, and 18 strikeouts in three postseason starts was the start of something new, as Sanchez began the transition from a really good starter to an ace in the making.
Sanchez has proved he's good enough for the ace label this season, consistently putting up great numbers. A red-hot start to the season has helped his case -- he's 3-2 with a 1.82 ERA and 50 strikeouts in six games started, with 17 of those strikeouts coming against the Atlanta Braves.
Sanchez's hot start has been dominant from a statistical standpoint. He ranks second in the American League in Wins Above Replacement (1.9) and strikeouts (50), and fourth in ERA (1.82) and strikeouts per nine innings pitched (11.345). He was also named the Tigers' pitcher of the month for April.
It's evident that this season is much different for Sanchez. He doesn't have to worry about his future as he did during his tenure with the Miami Marlins. The pressure to dominate that was present during the Tigers' stretch run in 2012 is no more. Sanchez can now go out every fifth day, take the mound and work on his craft with no worries of any uncertainty.
Sanchez has the ability and talent to become a bona-fide ace for the Tigers. It's only a matter of time before the 29-year-old makes the jump and does just that.Ricky Lindsay has followed the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball with a close eye from Metro Detroit for several years. He's a sportswriter for his college newspaper, The Michigan Journal, and broadcasts games for the Michigan Lightning, a semi-professional football team.
You can find him on Twitter @RLindz35.
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