ALDS Game 3 Preview: Athletics at Tigers

Thearon W. Henderson

Home, sweet home? The Tigers sure hope so. They beat the Athletics in two games at Comerica Park in last year's ALDS and will look to do the same in 2013.

Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers

Series: 1-1

Time/Place: 1:00 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Athletics Nation

Media: MLB Network, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Jarrod Parker (12-8, 3.97 ERA) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Parker 32 197.0 6.12 2.88 1.14 1.22 4.40 4.48 1.3
Sanchez 29 182.0 9.99 2.67 0.45 1.15 2.39 3.10 6.2

Jarrod Parker built upon a stellar rookie season in 2012 by lowering his walk rate, allowing a lower batting average, and pitching 15 2/3 more innings in 2013. Unfortunately for him, he allowed more than twice as many home runs and struck out fewer batters despite those 15 2/3 more innings, leading to a higher ERA. His FIP rose by nearly a full run, and he was worth two full wins less than in 2012 according to bWAR.

Parker was in good shape ERA-wise until he hit a September speed bump, allowing a 6.41 ERA in his final five starts. The majority of the damage came in two starts against AL West opponents in which he allowed a combined 15 runs (14 earned) in 8 2/3 innings. He allowed six home runs during the month, three of which came in the two bad starts mentioned above.

One of Parker's big issues in 2013 were his struggles against left-handed hitters. Lefties hit .256/.316/.408 off Parker this season with 15 of the 25 home runs he allowed. The charts below illustrate how often Parker pitched within certain areas of the strike zone. The difference between the two -- 2013 on the left, 2012 on the right -- is slight, but could explain why he was less effective in 2013.

Parker_pitch_chart_medium

via www.fangraphs.com

Sanchez provided the exact opposite in September for the Tigers, allowing a 2.05 ERA and 4.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his five starts. His entire second half wasn't too far off this pace, with a 2.20 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 90 innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio during that span was lower, but still very good at 3.37. Most importantly, the Tigers went 10-4 in his 14 outings and scored 5.43 runs per game.

Question of the day: Can Sanchez prove that the regular season was a fluke?

No, I'm not talking about the overall regular season, in which Sanchez had the lowest ERA in the league. I'm talking about his two starts against the A's. At first glance, his start in Oakland wasn't bad, as he allowed three runs (two earned) in seven innings. However, he allowed 16 hits and seven walks in 12 combined innings between the two outings against Oakland this season, a 1.92 WHIP. If it's any consolation, Sanchez allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings against the A's at Comerica Park in last year's ALDS.

Outlook

If you're looking for another reason to be optimistic about today's game, consider this: in his short career, Parker has struggled in games after long rests. His numbers take a dive with six or more days of rest, including OPS (.747), WHIP (1.41) and ERA (4.09). Of course, this sample constitutes just 11 of his 62 career starts, so don't read too far into it. It's possible, however, that the extra time off could mess with his rhythm.

Sanchez was a force at Comerica Park this season, though a couple of recent starts there spoiled some otherwise ridiculous numbers. He had a 2.08 FIP at home this year thanks to a 4.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio and just four home runs allowed in 93 1/3 innings. I'd imagine Jim Leyland planned to have Sanchez start at Comerica when he mapped out his playoff rotation. He will have to be at his best again today.

Prediction

The offense struggles again and the A's win in extras.

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