The next week will have heavily implications on the rest of the Detroit Tigers’ season, no matter what actions they choose to take (or not take) leading up to the trade deadline. The Tigers are currently looking up at Cleveland in the AL Central race and are a few games behind the second wild card spot, but a shiny new starting pitcher could help wipe those gaps away.
However, the rotation suddenly looks a bit brighter than it did not too long ago, and the front office may be content to stick with what they have. Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris are both close to returning from the disabled list and have the potential to provide a big boost for the Tigers. Matt Boyd has looked much better in his past three starts and Mike Pelfrey has been an acceptable No. 5 starter for most of the past two months as well.
But what the Tigers have in Anibal Sanchez is still to be determined. A horrendous season as a starter has begun to show glimpses of hope, including 13.81 strikeouts per nine innings over his past three starts and a solid six-inning, three-run performance during his last time out against the Minnesota Twins. Whether this is sustainable or not is still uncertain, but at least he is moving in the right direction.
Will Sanchez be able to make a second consecutive quality start?
Detroit Tigers (51-47) at Chicago White Sox (47-50)
Time/Place: 2:10 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (5-11, 6.60 ERA) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (8-8, 3.13 ERA)
Rumors came out in the past few days that the White Sox are willing to listen to trade offers for both Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, presumably causing every general manager to jump on the phone as soon as they heard. While Sale is primed to get most of the publicity, Quintana is much more than a consolation prize. He is quietly having yet another excellent season, and his start on Sunday could be his last in a White Sox uniform.
Quintana’s success should not be a surprise at this point, as he has been consistently productive over the past four seasons. Since joining the majors in 2012, Quintana’s 3.42 ERA and 3.46 FIP fall in the top 50 of major league starters, and he sits 14th with 17.9 fWAR. He has continued the trend this year, ranking in the top 10 of qualified AL starters in ERA and FIP and 10th overall in fWAR. Quintana has upped his career 13.6 percent K-BB% to 16.4 percent in 2016 and has featured a career-low 1.13 WHIP. A beacon of consistency on a very favorable contract, the White Sox could get quite the haul if they decide to trade away the 27-year-old.
Sunday will be Quintana’s 15th start against the Tigers, a team who has actually fared decently well against him. In 85 1/3 innings, Quintana owns a 4.32 ERA and 1.46 WHIP against Detroit with 6.96 strikeouts per nine, figures all below his career average. His 4 2/3 inning outing at Comerica Park on June 5 was his shortest start this season, and he took the loss after allowing five runs. Impressively, Ian Kinsler, Cameron Maybin, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Nick Castellanos, and Justin Upton are all hitting at least .333 against Quintana.
Hitter to fear: Jose Abreu (.545/.615/1.273 in 13 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Dioner Navarro (.200/.200/.200 in 10 plate appearances)
Sanchez has made eight starts against the White Sox since joining the Tigers and has a 5.40 ERA against them. He also made two relief appearances against Chicago in June, including an extra-inning affair that saw him pitch the 10th, 11th, and 12th before a White Sox walk-off victory. Naturally, the top of the order has fared better against Sanchez, especially Jose Abreu and Melky Cabrera, who are both hitting over .480.
As good as Quintana is, his last five starts have not been spectacular. Though his strikeouts have been up, his 4.60 ERA and 6.20 FIP over this stretch make him look hittable. Additionally, the Tigers have proven they can handle Quintana, just as they did during their only encounter with him earlier this season. That being said, it is still difficult to completely trust Sanchez. While the White Sox offense is not the most dominant force, it provides a greater challenge than Sanchez saw last time out against the Twins.
The Tigers are able to score some runs against Quintana, but the White Sox score more against Sanchez.