Game 81 Preview: Tigers at Blue Jays

RA Dickey, the knuckle balling NL Cy Young winner in 2012 - Name: fl-marlins-a

The Tigers mark the half way point of the 2013 season, visiting the red hot Toronto Blue Jays.

Detroit Tigers (43- 37) at Toronto Blue Jays (40-41)

Time/Place: 1:07 p.m., Rogers Centre

SB Nation blog: Bluebird Banter

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Jose Alvarez vs. RHP R.A. Dickey

Dickey was one of the heart warming stories of 2012. The veteran knuckle baller won the Cy Young award with the lowly New York Mets, with a 20- 6 record, an ERA of 2.73 and an FIP of 1.05. This season has been much different for last year's hero, after being traded to the Jays in the American League.

Here's a look at a chart with the vital statistics for today's starting pitchers.

Pitcher GS IP
ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
HR/9
FIP
WAR
Alvarez 3
16.2
3.78
1.14
7.02
2.16
2.16
5.70
-0.1
Dickey 17 108.2 4.72 1.31 6.46 3.40 1.41 4.90 0.6

Click these links for a description of Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), and Wins Above Replacement (WAR).

Dickey ranks 35th in the league in ERA among qualified starting pitchers, yet still leads the Jays' rotation. He has still proven to be durable, averaging nearly 6.5 innings per start. He has never been a big strikeout pitcher, but his walks are up and his home run percentage is way up. A knuckle ball pitcher stands to benefit from an impatient lineup, if hitters are not willing to wait and force him to throw strikes. The Tigers have such a lineup.

Alvarez has fared well in three spot starts filling in for the injured Anibal Sanchez. Alvarez is getting one more start while Sanchez is on the 15 day disabled list. Sanchez will throw a simulated game in Toledo. If all goes well, expect the Tigers to activate Sanchez for his next scheduled start, and Sanchez to return to Toledo.

While the traditional numbers show Alvarez pitching effectively, the peripherals suggest that he has received a healthy dose of good fortune. It's very likely that he will regress and, while he may still be an effective back end of the rotation starter, he probably won't be as effective as he has been in his previous three starts .

Outlook

The Tigers took two out of three games from the Jays at Comerica Park during the second week of April, racking up a total of 24 runs in the three game series. But these are not the same Toronto Blue Jays. After starting the season as the trendy pick to win the AL East division, the Jays stumbled badly out of the gate and sank to the bottom of the standings, falling ten games under .500 and over ten games out of first place barely a month into the season.

The Jays feature a revamped roster, having added starting pitchers Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. They've also added All Star shortstop Jose Reyes, Outfielder Melky Cabrera, and infielders Brett Lawrie, Maicer Izturis, and Emilio Bonifacio. Reyes suffered a badly sprained ankle and has just returned to action, while Cabrera and Lowrie have joined pitchers JA Happ and Brenden Morrow currently on the disabled list.

Just as their season was headed down the drain and they were being written off, the Jays caught fire, going 17- 9 for the month of June, and are just a game under .500 for the season. They still have an uphill climb as they're in last place, 8.5 games behind Boston, but this is no typical last place team.

Toronto's lineup features a pair of corner infielders who are producing among the best in OPS in Adam LInd and Edwin Encarnacion. Joey "Bats" Bautista has 19 homers and 49 RBI, a bit off his torrid pace in recent years, but is still formidable. They find themselves in the middle of the pack among the league leaders in both team runs scored and team ERA. Finally, they're starting to look like the team that most pundits thought they would be- legitimate contenders.

Prediction

Alvarez struggles with a resurgent Jays lineup, and the Jays get into the soft underbelly of the Tigers' middle relief corps. Dickey is not the Cy Young candidate that he was last year, but the Tigers will need all their bats booming to out slug the new and improved Blue Jays.

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