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Tigers vs. Padres Preview: Anibal Sanchez faces off against MLB’s worst offense

Someone will have to succeed at Petco Park on Saturday.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This narrative would work better if Anibal Sanchez were the worst pitcher in baseball. Luckily for the Detroit Tigers, he’s not. However, Sanchez is still among the worst pitchers in the game, one of 24 players “worth” -0.5 fWAR or worse. His 7.96 ERA is the eighth-worst mark among those with at least 20 innings pitched.

Opposing him in this game? The worst offense in baseball. The Padres rank last among MLB teams in a number of important statistical categories, including batting average, on-base percentage, runs scored, and wRC+. They do not have a single qualified batter hitting over .270, and just two players on the roster — Jose Pirela and pitcher Jhoulys Chacin — are over .300.

With that in mind, something will have to give on Saturday. The Padres have been slightly better offensive at home this season, with an 84 wRC+. They have played .500 ball at Petco Park, though they have been outscored by 51 runs in 36 games. Sanchez has been equally bad at home and on the road in terms of ERA, but has a much higher walk rate away from Comerica Park. He has struggled to limit nearly every other offense he has faced this season, but can he hold the lowly Padres bats in check?

Detroit Tigers (32-41) at San Diego Padres (30-44)

Time/Place: 10:10 p.m., Petco Park
SB Nation blog: Gaslamp Ball
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV (Free Game of the Day), Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (0-0, 7.96 ERA) vs. RHP Dinelson Lamet (2-2, 7.50 ERA)

Game 74 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Sanchez 26.0 20.9 9.3 7.56 -0.5
Lamet 24.0 34.6 8.4 5.76 -0.1

Dinelson Lamet had a relatively unusual path to the major leagues. Most amateur free agents are signed as teenagers, then spend a year or two playing in lower level leagues before working their way up the traditional minor league pipeline. The Padres signed Lamet at 21, after many Latin American prospects have been in the system for a half-decade already. Lamet essentially debuted at Single-A Fort Wayne in 2015, then shot through the Padres system the following season. He struck out 158 batters in 150 innings across three levels, setting the stage for a major league debut in 2017.

After eight more starts (and 50 more strikeouts) at Triple-A El Paso, Lamet got his chance. He debuted for San Diego on May 25, and struck out eight New York Mets hitters in five innings. Through five starts, he has an incredible 37 strikeouts, including a 12-punchout performance against the Milwaukee Brewers last weekend.

As you might expect, Lamet throws hard. His fastball has averaged 95.5 miles per hour in his 24 major league innings, and he throws it roughly 55 percent of the time. His main off-speed pitch is a mid-80s slider, which he throws over 30 percent of the time. It is his main out pitch against righthanders, who are hitting .177/.259/.282 against him at all levels this season. Lamet mixes in a changeup roughly 20 percent of the time against lefties, but the third pitch hasn’t helped him much; they have a .936 OPS in 134 plate appearances.

While Lamet has seemingly risen out of nowhere, he didn’t fly completely under the radar. Minor League Ball’s John Sickels rated him the No. 8 prospect in the Padres system heading into this season.

[I]mpressive 90-96 MPH fastball with good movement, also has a plus slider, racks up strikeouts; change-up erratic, some observers rate it as major league average, others say it is quite weak; opinion on the change-up determines if you see him as a starter or reliever; given proven ability to eat innings I’d give him a chance to start and see if the change can progress to decency. ETA 2017.

Key matchup: Brad Ausmus vs. National League baseball

The offense deserves the blame for Detroit’s loss against the Padres on Friday, but one wonders if the Tigers could have managed the game a little bit better. Specifically, San Diego’s lone run came on a two-out double from Austin Hedges, their No. 8 hitter. Behind him was starter Luis Perdomo, who has three hits in 22 plate appearances this season. With a runner already in scoring position and first base open, should the Tigers have intentionally walked Hedges to face the pitcher? I thought so at the time, and the run ultimately cost the Tigers the game.

Well, that and the nonexistent offense. You might want to fix that one first, Brad.


For all of San Diego’s faults as an offense, one thing they have done relatively well this season is hit home runs. They have 91 dingers on the season, one more than these Detroit Tigers. The Padres’ .384 slugging average is second-worst in Major League Baseball, but they are close to the middle of the pack when it comes to isolated power (ISO). Given Sanchez’s specific issues with the home run ball — which creeped up again during his last start, remember — this could be a sneaky good matchup for San Diego to notch their third win in a row.


Basically the same thing that happened in Sanchez’s last start.