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Motor City Madness - Can Detroit's Starters Keep Up Their Hot Start?


While the Mariners have gotten most of the attention as the "tanking team that is actually good", the Detroit Tigers have shown glimpses of being better than advertised this season as well.

Most of that has been in their pitching. Expected to be their weakest link heading into the season, the Tigers looked even more destined for disaster when star right-hander Michael Fulmer opted for Tommy John surgery, ending his 2019 campaign before it began.

However, instead of struggling, Detroit's ragtag group of past their prime veterans and unheralded rookies has surprised just about everyone. But is it sustainable? Or is it the product of facing primarily bad teams so far this season? And more importantly, should you be scrambling to pick any of these guys up off the waiver wire? Let's take a look:

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Matthew Boyd

(1-1, 2.96 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 40.3(!) K%)

At this point, you don't need me to tell you to go pick up Matt Boyd. He's been absolutely killing it this entire season, and our own Riley Mrack did a fantastic piece on him last week. Boyd is a must-start in all formats at this point, and while the magic may wear off eventually, for now he's a guy that needs to be owned across the board. Let's move on.

 

Jordan Zimmermann

(0-2, 4.29 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 17.9 K%)

Zimmermann is having his best statistical season as a Tiger, even though his numbers are still the worst among any of the pitchers in the rotation. Zimmermann's "hot" start is the product of an outstanding Opening Day start, where he threw nearly seven innings of no-hit ball against the Blue Jays.

He followed that up with a quality start against the Yankees in New York, but his last two starts have been both been clunkers, where he's combined for just 7 1/3 innings, surrendering nine earned runs and only striking out five. That's more like the Zimmermann Tigers fans are used to, and unfortunately more like the pitcher fantasy owners can expect going forward.

Zimmermann hasn't had a full season ERA below 4.50 since 2015, and he hasn't ever been a strikeout pitcher. I don't expect any of that to magically change this season, and wouldn't be rostering him outside of very deep formats. His WHIP is nice, and he'll have the occasional gem, but he's almost guaranteed to not be worth the headache.

 

Spencer Turnbull

(0-2, 4.80 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 28.4 K%)

Turnbull has the highest ERA and WHIP of any of the Tigers starters, but he might have the most fantasy relevance on this entire staff, outside of Boyd. That's thanks to his electric stuff, which has resulted in a near 30% strikeout rate on the season.

Turnbull flashed his real potential in an absolute gem against Kansas City, tossing six innings of two-run ball with two walks and 10 strikeouts. He was attacking up with fastballs and down an away with sliders, running his sinker up to 97 and flashing electric offspeed stuff - the makings of a future fantasy stud.

Outside of that one outing, however, Turnbull has surrendered six earned runs in nine innings, albeit with nine strikeouts and only three walks. His 4.80 ERA is not great, but he does boast a much more palatable 3.54 FIP and 3.69 SIERA.

I'm definitely keeping my eye on Turnbull, and have no problem rostering him in deeper formats. He's worth a look as a streamer in 12-teamers as well, particularly when he has bad offenses like Pittsburgh, his Wednesday opponent, on the docket.

 

Tyson Ross

(1-2, 3.50 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 20.6 K%)

Ross' strong numbers to kick off the 2019 campaign are held up by one gem, a 4/7 start against Kansas City where he tossed seven innings of one-run ball, giving up just five hits and one walk while striking out eight. While that start was fantastic, it was against a glorified AAA team in Kansas City.

His first start was a five-inning, two-run affair that included four walks and two round-trippers surrendered, and his latest was a six-inning stinker where he surrendered four runs and gave up more walks (4) than strikeouts (3).

Ross is a long ways away from being the fantasy darling he was from 2013-2015 with San Diego, although I do think there's some left in the tank here. However, his 4.42 FIP, 12.3 BB% and 24.5% LD rate don't paint an exceptionally pretty picture, even when his 20% HR/FB rate stabilizes.

I'm willing to look at Ross as a streamer in deeper formats, particularly after seeing him dismantle Kansas City earlier this year. But unless I'm playing AL-only or a similarly deep format, I'm leaving Ross on my watch list for now.

 

Daniel Norris and Matt Moore

(0-0, 4.32 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 10.5 K%)  / (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.40 WHIP, 27.3 K%)

I'll lump these two guys together, as Norris ended up taking Moore's spot after he went on the injured list with a meniscus tear in his right knee. Moore is hoping to only miss four-to-six weeks, but a full reconstruction surgery could keep him out for much longer. As such, his fantasy value is non-existent at this point.

If/when he returns, however, he could hold some value in deeper leagues after throwing 10 shutout innings with three hits, one walk and nine strikeouts to start the season. They were against Toronto and Kansas City though, and Moore hasn't exactly been good since about 2015. I wouldn't clamor to pick him off the wire when he returns from injury, even in the deepest of leagues, but he's at least worth keeping an eye on.

Norris is the beneficiary of Moore's absence, having taken back a rotation spot after losing out on the final spot to Turnbull in the preseason. He has yet to start a game, but has made three appearances out of the bullpen, tallying a 4.32 ERA, a 1.68 WHIP and an ugly 10.5 K%. Norris also sports a 7.94 FIP and a 7.9 BB%, which tells you just about all you need to know about his chances of succeeding as a starter.

The 25-year-old has failed to live up to expectations in the major leagues, and while there is still hope he finds his way, there's absolutely no reason he should be on your fantasy radar until he does.

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