Game 13 Preview: Angels at Tigers

Bob Levey

Drew Smyly makes his first start since 2012 tonight as the Tigers and Angels start a three-game weekend series.

Los Angeles Angels (7-8) at Detroit Tigers (7-5)

Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Halos Heaven

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Jered Weaver (0-2, 5.79 ERA) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Weaver 3 18.2 8.20 3.38 2.41 1.13 5.99 3.96 -0.3
Smyly 0 6.0 9.00 1.50 0.00 0.50 1.54 2.08 0.2

Jered Weaver's early struggles in 2014 can easily be dismissed by a "small sample size" disclaimer, but the numbers are interesting. He has given up five home runs already -- four of which came against in one start -- but is allowing opposing batters to hit just .209. He has not demonstrated his usual pinpoint command either, walking seven hitters in 18 2/3 innings. Amazingly, none of those walks came in the four-homer game.

One of the reasons for Weaver's slow start could be his continuing decline in fastball velocity. He last averaged 90 miles per hour with his fastball in 2010, bottoming out at 86.6 miles per hour in 154 1/3 innings in 2013. It was not much of an issue last season, as he was still able to locate the fastball effectively.

Weaver_fastball_heat_map_medium

Weaver's arsenal is unique in that he essentially throws a completely different set of pitches against right and left-handed hitters. Righties see the four-seam fastball (with some possible cutting action), a slider, and the occasional changeup. Meanwhile, lefties get a two-seamer, curveball, and more of the changeup. This has resulted in nearly identical platoon splits in his career, though righties gave him more trouble in 2013.

We have an in-depth look at Drew Smyly coming up later this morning, but his first couple outings have gone about as well as most of them did in 2013. He piggybacked off of Anibal Sanchez's first two starts, holding opposing hitters to just two hits and a walk in six scoreless innings. His extremely efficient outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers -- he threw 34 strikes in 47 pitches, allowing just one hit -- helped maintain a one-run lead. One stat worth noting for tonight: Smyly allowed right-handed batters to hit .258/.321/.438 in 2012, well higher than the .671 OPS he gave up to lefties.

Hitter to fear: Erick Aybar (.333/.333/.667 in 3 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Mike Trout (.167/.167/.333 in 6 plate appearances)

We are going to see a lot of small samples against Smyly this year. Smyly has only faced eight players 10 times or more in his career, and the only one on the Angels' roster -- the left-handed Josh Hamilton -- is currently on the disabled list. This may be for the best, however, as Hamilton has three hits (including a home run) in 10 at-bats. No other Angel has homered against Smyly, but Trout, Aybar, Albert Pujols, Chris Iannetta, and Raul Ibanez have all doubled.

Outlook

The Los Angeles Angels are slightly more lefty-heavy than we saw in 2013 with Raul Ibanez replacing Mark Trumbo in the middle of the lineup. That said, this is still a very righty-dominant lineup. Left-handed outfielders Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun are both on the disabled list, and the entire infield bats righty. Albert Pujols does not seem to be the broken Albert Pujols of 2013, and Mike Trout is once again leaving scorched earth everywhere he goes in search of the MVP award WAR indicates he so desperately deserves. This isn't exactly an ideal spot for a left-handed pitcher to make his first start in over a year.

Prediction

Evan Reed and Luke Putkonen pitch tonight, proving once and for all that they are not the same person.

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