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Game 113 Preview: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals

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The Tigers are in search of their third win in four Anibal Sanchez starts against the Royals this season.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers (54-58) at Kansas City Royals (67-44)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Kauffman Stadium

SB Nation blog: Royals Review

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB Network, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez vs. RHP Yordano Ventura (6-7, 5.29 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Sanchez 23 149.1 7.96 2.83 1.51 1.27 4.47 3.93 1.2
Ventura 17 95.1 7.08 2.83 1.04 1.34 4.13 3.96 0.9

The Tigers were able to rough up Yordano Ventura in their matchup five days ago, continuing what has been a rough second half for the electrifying 24-year-old. Ventura's 4.73 ERA in the first half of the season wasn't great, but a 7.04 ERA in his last four starts has inflated his ERA by over half a run. Opponents have jumped all over his fastball this season, and that trend continued in Detroit on August 6. Of the eight hits Ventura allowed, five came on the fastball, including one of the two home runs from Victor Martinez.

Ventura's fastball struggles help to illustrate just how good major league hitters are. With a legitimate 80-grade heater in his arsenal, Ventura has the stuff to get hitters out. He demonstrated that for 183 innings last season. However, he is missing the strike zone with his offspeed pitches more often this year, and while opponents are swinging at more pitches outside of the zone, they are whiffing less overall. Ventura should be fine eventually, but until he hones his secondary pitch command a bit more, he will continue to struggle.

After a solid stretch in late May and June, Anibal Sanchez has slowly started to regress towards the pitcher we saw in April and early May. He isn't giving up home runs at record pace anymore, but a 5.35 ERA and 32:15 strikeout-to-walk ratio are numbers we have not seen from Sanchez in previous seasons. The problem is, Sanchez's swinging strike rate and contact rates are nearly identical to those he put up in 2014. Opponents are whiffing on over nine percent of the pitches he throws, and making contact with just under two-thirds of the pitches he leaves out of the strike zone. Fastball location to righthanders has been one of Sanchez's glaring weaknesses this year, as they are batting .281 with a .584 slugging average off his four-seamer this year.

Anibal Sanchez fastball vs. RHB

Hitter to fear: Eric Hosmer (.290/.313/.387 in 32 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Jarrod Dyson (.125/.160/.167 in 25 plate appearances)

Sanchez previously had an ERA under 2.00 in his career against the Royals, but a rough go against the American League's best team in 2015 has ballooned his numbers somewhat. Sanchez has given up 13 runs (12 earned) in 19 1/3 innings, with just 12 strikeouts to eight walks. The Royals are batting .243/321/.378 against him this season, well above the .578 OPS he has allowed in his career. Eric Hosmer has done the most damage in 2015, with four hits (including two doubles) in nine at-bats.

Outlook

While Sanchez has struggled lately, the Tigers have still been able to pick up wins. They have come out on top in nine of his last 11 starts, scoring at least five runs in all nine wins. Sanchez has a respectable 3.96 ERA during this stretch, though his recent difficulties are documented above. The Tigers offense has fared well against Ventura in two matchups, scoring 10 runs in 11 innings with a .942 OPS. They may need a bit more power -- 13 of their 16 hits off him this year are singles -- if they want to win another Ventura start.

Prediction

Sanchez is effectively wild again, and the Tigers win a close game.

★★★

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