Game 60 Preview: Tigers at White Sox

Stephen Dunn

After taking two of three from the Boston Red Sox, the Tigers head to Chicago to face the White Sox. Rick Porcello and Hector Noesi are tonight's starters.

Detroit Tigers (33-26) at Chicago White Sox (31-33)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field

SB Nation blog: South Side Sox

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV (Free Game of the Day), Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Rick Porcello (8-3, 3.69 ERA) vs. RHP Hector Noesi (1-4, 5.29 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Porcello 11 70.2 5.73 2.04 1.02 1.20 4.00 4.07 1.0
Noesi 7 47.2 7.36 3.59 1.13 1.51 4.27 4.28 0.3

Hector Noesi's overall numbers may look ugly, but he has not been that bad as a member of the White Sox rotation. He has a 4.05 ERA in seven starts, including a 3.47 ERA since May 1st. Walks are still an issue, though. Noesi has walked 17 batters in just 40 innings as a starter, giving him a less-than-ideal 1.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has walked at least three batters in four of his seven starts. Being an extreme fly ball pitcher, he has had difficulty keeping the ball in the park as well, especially at home. He has allowed three homers in four home starts, including a short outing against the Tigers on April 30th. Noesi only lasted 3 2/3 innings in that game, allowing four runs on four hits and a walk in the fourth inning alone.

One thing that jumps out when looking at Noesi's numbers are his reverse platoon splits. Left-handed batters are hitting a comfortable .243/.308/.477 against him -- including all six home runs he has allowed this year -- but righties are teeing off to the tune of an .876 OPS. Part of this may be due to a .415 BABIP, but they are also hitting line drives at a 23.4% clip. Part of this may be a lack of differential between his fastball and changeup, which he throws roughly 20% of the time to right-handed hitters. There is only a 5-6 mile per hour difference between the two pitches, and the changeup tends to fade down and in to righties. While this can be effective if it is located well, a pitcher with Noesi's command issues will tend to leave it out over the plate. This leads to a heat map that looks like this.

Noesi_location_vs._rhb_medium
Image via Fangraphs

This is partially skewed by his slider, which will fade towards that deep red down-and-away quadrant, but he is still catching a lot of plate with just about everything he throws.

Many fans were left saying "same old Rick Porcello" after his last start, as Porcello allowed a pair of runs in the sixth inning to let the Toronto Blue Jays take a 3-2 lead that they would later expand into an 8-2 final margin. The process itself was frustrating -- after getting two quick outs, Porcello allowed a double and a walk before Adam Lind hit a two-run double -- but the results were not bad. Porcello allowed three runs in seven innings on six hits and a walk, a 1.00 WHIP for the day. He only logged three strikeouts and continued to follow his recent trend of allowing more fly balls than ground balls. His 43.6% ground ball rate this season is by far the lowest of his career. However, it is tough to argue with his 3.69 ERA, which is lower than his FIP for the first time since his rookie season.

Hitter to fear: Gordon Beckham (.414/.441/.655 in 34 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Alexei Ramirez (.170/.170/.234 in 48 plate appearances)

Porcello has pitched very well against the White Sox over the past couple years. Since the start of 2012, he is 7-1 with a 2.10 ERA and a 5.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 10 starts. His career numbers against the Sox and at The Cell aren't great, but he tossed his first career complete game there last year. Alexei Ramirez has faced Porcello the most of any White Sox hitter, but has not had any success whatsoever. He has only struck out twice, but has just 8 hits in 47 at-bats. Alejandro De Aza and Leury Garcia also sit under .200, while Tyler Flowers is 0-for-10 with four strikeouts. On the other side of the spectrum, Gordon Beckham, Conor Gillaspie, Adam Dunn, and Paul Konerko all have an OPS of .920 or better in at least 17 plate appearances.

Outlook

The Tigers were able to snap out of their recent offensive funk by scoring 17 runs in last weekend's series against the Boston Red Sox. They struggled last year at U.S. Cellular Field, however, hitting just .255/.307/.385 as a team. Noesi's splits against righties could be problematic against the Tigers' lineup, but he has been better lately, including a solid start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his last outing. Porcello's recent fly ball trend may prove costly against a homer-happy White Sox order, but their splits against fly ball and ground ball pitchers don't predict any changes from Porcello's dominance over the past couple seasons.

Prediction

Porcello continues to hold the White Sox in check and the Tigers get back in the win column.

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