Detroit Tigers (5-5) at Oakland Athletics (9-2)
Time/Place: 4:05 p.m., O.co Coliseum
SB Nation blog: Athletics Nation
Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (1-1, 2.19 ERA) vs. LHP Brett Anderson (1-1, 1.38 ERA)
Anderson is flying under the radar right now outside of Oakland, but make no mistake: he is an excellent pitcher. He spent most of the 2012 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but had no problems shaking off the rust when he came back. His regular season ended when he strained an oblique against the Tigers in mid-September, but he came back in the playoffs to deliver a stellar performance in Game 4 of the ALDS against these same Tigers. He has started off 2013 red hot, striking out 16 batters in just 13 innings. He has been uncharacteristically wild, however, walking six batters already (by comparison, he only walked seven guys in 2012). Both his strikeout and walk rates will regress, as will his 71% groundball rate.
Anderson generates a ton of groundballs thanks to a two-seam fastball averaging 91 miles per hour that he has thrown 35% of the time in 2013. He mixes in a four-seamer as well; at 91.4 miles per hour, it is a tick faster than the two-seamer. He also throws a slider nearly 30% of the time. The slider's velocity has dropped to averaging 81.5 miles per hour since his Tommy John surgery, but the slower velocity allows for a greater difference between that and his fastball. He also mixes in an occasional curveball, and will throw a changeup to right-handed hitters as well. If you're interested in how Anderson's pitching repertoire has evolved over time, check out this excellent analysis piece from our friends at Athletics Nation.
Either PitchFX is broken, or Verlander is abusing the living daylights out of his changeup this season. According to PitchFX, he has thrown his changeup 52% of the time, averaging 87 miles per hour (which is the key here), while his fastball is sitting at a 22.8% usage rate and average of 92.8 miles per hour. Given how Verlander likes to ramp up his velocity as the game goes on, my guess is that PitchFX needs to get its [stuff] together and recognize that 90 on the gun in the first inning from Verlander is the heater, not the off-speed stuff. As for the concerns about his velocity, let's see what happens when he is able to pitch into the later innings of a game. Last year, he was throwing gas against the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays because he had reached the eighth and ninth innings of his first two starts, respectively. This year, he hasn't worked as deep into games yet, which could be the reason he's not lighting up the radar gun as of yet.
Closest Taco Bell to O.co Coliseum: 0.9 miles (walking), 1.5 miles (driving), approximately 0.3 miles if you dodge traffic and walk across the parking lot
How serial are the A's about Anderson? Super serial.
Myers for Shields wasn't only straight-up deal Royals tried. KC offered Wil Myers to Oakland for Brett Anderson and were turned down, too.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 10, 2012
I don't think I'm mincing my words when I say that this is a matchup between two legitimate Cy Young contenders. We all know what Verlander is capable of, and Anderson is probably the best pitcher you haven't heard of in the American League. Runs will be at a premium today, even with how well both of these offenses have been hitting. Normally, I would say that this one will come down to the bullpens, but I'm not entirely sure that either team will need theirs today. An early run or two could be the difference.
Verlander and Anderson give us one of the best pitcher's duels of the 2013 season today.