After spending a month on the disabled list and making a couple of rehab starts in Triple-A Toledo, Jordan Zimmermann has made his way back into the Detroit Tigers rotation. His arrival comes just as Mike Pelfrey is joining the DL, helping the pitching staff keep enough arms. Though Detroit did not make a move at the trade deadline, the team is viewing Zimmermann’s return as a pseudo-trade and upgrade to the current roster.
Zimmermann was electric to begin his tenure with the Tigers and looked dominant through his first nine starts. A 2.52 ERA and 1.14 WHIP were accompanied by a 3.64 FIP and just 1.63 walks per nine innings, and he averaged over 6 2/3 innings per outing. He then missed one start with a minor knock before making six starts in the month of June, where his numbers were less than stellar. However, his 6.43 ERA and 1.43 WHIP were worse than they looked, as he suffered from a .342 BABIP but had just a 3.42 FIP during this time frame.
It seemed like Zimmermann’s groin strain in late May negatively impacted some of his following starts, so hopefully his neck issues will not have the same effect this time around. The Tigers will likely take caution with him at first, which is the right approach as they enter the stretch run. Luckily, Zimmermann will get to face a White Sox offense has ranked near the bottom portion of all teams in average and wRC+ this season.
How will Zimmermann look in his first outing back?
Chicago White Sox (51-56) at Detroit Tigers (59-48)
Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Jose Quintana (8-8, 2.89 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (9-4, 3.95 ERA)
The White Sox decided to hold onto both of their prized lefties at the trade deadline, with both Chris Sale and Jose Quintana remaining under contract for multiple seasons. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they will see plenty of both pitchers going forward, and will probably endure at least one or two more starts before the end of 2016. Though Quintana does not boast incredible numbers against Detroit, he is not the type of pitcher that anyone wants to face with regularity.
Quintana has been great this season, and has been even better over his last five starts. During this span he has pitched at least six innings in each outing, owning a 1.95 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. One of these appearances was against the Tigers just 11 days ago, with Quintana throwing 6 2/3 scoreless innings and giving up just three hits. Interestingly, he owns a 4.19 FIP during this span, which is a result of five homers, four of which were solo shots. But overall he has down an excellent job of preventing home runs, and his 0.85 home runs allowed per nine innings ranks top 20 among all qualified starters.
During his last start against Detroit, Quintana allowed a 52.6 percent hard contact rate, which was his highest of the season. His current 33.6 percent mark is easily the highest of his career and it is possible that he has been a bit lucky. In 2016 he has recorded a .286 BABIP compared to a .304 career average, and during his start against the Tigers two weeks ago this figure was just .158. If the Tigers are able to repeat their performance at the plate, there is good reason to believe that the results could be quite different.
Hitter to fear: Jose Abreu (.400/.333/.600 in 6 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Todd Frazier (.200/.273/.300 in 11 plate appearances)
Zimmermann faced the White Sox twice in a 12-day span after returning from his missed start in early June. His first outing back lasted 5 2/3 innings and saw him give up two runs on five hits in a 10-3 Tigers’ victory. The next time he faced Chicago, Zimmermann gave up six runs (four earned) in seven innings pitched in another Tigers’ win. Manager Brad Ausmus should be cautious with Zimmermann on Thursday, being mindful of both his health and any rust.
Despite failing to score against Quintana during their last battle, it would be surprising to see the Tigers struggle again. Quintana has been hit hard – especially by Detroit – and his typically solid home run prevention numbers have shown some cracks in recent appearances. The bullpen will likely need to pitch a few innings, but the Tigers should be able to score enough runs against Quintana to give them a lead to protect.
Zimmermann looks shaky at times but avoids major damage as the Tigers win their ninth straight.