Detroit Tigers (1-0) at Minnesota Twins (0-1)
Time/Place: 4:10 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation Blog: Twinkie Town
Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (9-13, 3.86 ERA in 2012) vs. RHP Kevin Correia (12-11, 4.21 ERA in 2012)
The Twins signed Correia to a 2 year/$10 million contract during the offseason, much to the surprise of pretty much everyone. Correia improved his ground ball rate and lowered his home run rate in 2012, resulting in a whopping 0.1 WAR increase over his 2011 total... of 0.1 WAR. However, it was still his best season since 2009, when he was with the San Diego Padres. He held left-handed hitters to a .248 average against, but walked them at a near-10% rate, resulting in fairly even righty-lefty splits (in terms of OPS). He was slightly better in two starts against the Tigers, allowing a 3.75 ERA in 12 innings.
Correia mixed his pitches very well in 2012, throwing a slider, curveball, and changeup in addition to his fastball. As you might imagine, his fastball tops out in the low 90s. His changeup isn't really much of a changeup, averaging 86 miles per hour last season, but it was his only above-average pitch in 2012 at +2.7 runs. His slider was his worst pitch according to this same measure, yet he threw it 24% of the time. I'm fine with this pattern continuing in 2013.
Sanchez is coming off of his third consecutive season with 190+ innings pitched and an ERA south of 4.00. His strikeout rate returned to earth in 2012 after he struck out over a batter per inning the season prior. His walk rate dropped to a minuscule 2.1 batters per nine innings, largely due to the fact that he only issued 15 walks in 12 starts with the Tigers. How did he do it? By throwing a healthy mix of sliders and changeups against both righties and lefties. His changeup, worth nearly eight runs above average last season according to PitchFX, was the main reason lefties hit just .243/.299/.347 off of Sanchez last season.
Sanchez's reverse splits against left-handed hitters are always a plus against the Twins, who sent out five lefties -- including Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau -- against Justin Verlander on Opening Day. Sanchez struggled in his first start at Target Field last season, but rebounded nicely against the Twins in a late September start. If he can command his changeup, the Twins will have trouble putting hits together. On the other side of the ball, the Tigers need to get to Correia early and often.
The Tigers win easily thanks to a bounce-back game from Miguel Cabrera, both at the plate and in the field.