Nine pitches into Wednesday’s matchup with the Twins, the Detroit Tigers’ decision to use Buck Farmer as a spot starter looked like a disaster in the making. Farmer walked the first two batters he faced, and things appeared to be heading toward one of Farmer’s 2014 starts I mentioned in the game preview (hint: the bad one).
Farmer worked out of the jam, and Mother Nature bailed him out of a second one in the third inning. With both he and Twins starter Jose Berrios out of commission for Thursday’s games, the teams will turn to Option B (or, in the Tigers’ case, Option... E?) for the first half of their doubleheader.
If anything, the Tigers are a bit fortunate that they can turn to a starter like Anibal Sanchez. His numbers have not been great this season, but he has a much longer history of success than Twins lefty Pat Dean. Plus, Sanchez is stretched out to start, while Dean has not thrown more than 51 pitches in an outing since August 31 and hasn’t worked five innings in a start since June 12.
Can the Tigers take advantage in the first half of their doubleheader?
Detroit Tigers (80-70) at Minnesota Twins (55-96)
Time/Place: 2:10 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (7-13, 5.90 ERA) vs. LHP Pat Dean (1-6, 6.71 ERA)
There isn’t much about Pat Dean that doesn’t scream “generic replacement-level left-hander.” He has a 6.71 ERA in a handful of appearances this season, about half of them starts. His 5.42 FIP is slightly below replacement level, and is probably inflated by a strikeout rate that is higher than what he produced in the minor leagues. Mind you, we’re talking about a 15.8 percent strikeout rate, which is slightly better than what Kyle Ryan has produced this season.
Of course, Dean’s walk rate is also much higher than normal. He posted walk rates hovering around five percent in two full seasons at Double and Triple-A in 2014 and 2015, but that rate has shot up to 7.9 percent in major league action this year. Couple that with him allowing nearly two home runs per nine innings, and you see why has struggled at times. In particular, Dean has a 9.00 ERA in 20 innings since being recalled in early August.
It’s worth pointing out that Dean’s starts had a boom-or-bust quality to them early on. He held the Tigers to two runs in 5 1⁄3 innings in mid-May, then tossed back-to-back quality starts against the Blue Jays and Mariners to close out the month. It wasn’t until a June 17 start against the Yankees that Dean imploded, allowing seven runs on eight hits in 2 1⁄3 innings.
Hitter to fear: Kurt Suzuki (.462/.500/.692 in 15 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Joe Mauer (.250/.294/.250 in 34 plate appearances)
Anibal Sanchez held the Twins in check in his first two matchups against them this season, posting quality starts in each game. He struck out 10 on July 19, and worked seven innings in a win on August 23. Unfortunately, his last start was not so great. The Twins tagged him for six runs in four innings, including a pair of homers.
Overall, this lineup has still struggled to hit Sanchez. Their active roster is batting a collective .237/.296/.344 against Sanchez in 144 career plate appearances, though they have fared better (.851 OPS) in a handful of plate appearances this season. Most of that is thanks to Brian Dozier, who has already homered twice off Sanchez this year. Kurt Suzuki also has three hits in five at-bats, including a home run.
The Tigers struggled against left-handed pitching to open the year, but have since recovered. For the season, they are hitting .260/.327/.423 against southpaws, an OPS slightly lower than what they have produced against righties. Lefty starters have been slightly better against Detroit’s lineup, but it’s worth noting that Chris Sale and Jose Quintana comprise roughly 20 percent of that production. Pat Dean is not on that level.
The offense carries Sanchez to his eighth win of the year.
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