Most Tigers fans went into 2018 with low expectations, to say the least. Some misguided souls thought this team would be worse than the 2003 club, while most others thought they were destined for at least 90 losses. Given the shape of the roster — and how dour their statistical projections were — it’s hard to blame them.
But turning to former prospect Jacob Turner as a starter in August? Nobody’s crystal ball saw that one coming. Turner will take Mike Fiers’ place on the Tigers roster following Monday’s trade, and will don a Tigers uniform for the first time in over six years on Tuesday.
As we all know, Turner was traded in July 2012 as part of the Anibal Sanchez deal. What most fans might not realize is just how well-traveled Turner has been since that date. He spent a couple of years with the Marlins, but results were mixed; he posted a 4.67 ERA in 244 2⁄3 innings with Miami, mostly in their rotation. Following a mid-season trade to Chicago in 2014, Turner has played for the Cubs, White Sox, Nationals, and Marlins again before signing a minor league deal with the Tigers in June.
While expectations probably couldn’t be lower for Turner’s return, there’s still a mild air of intrigue about this game. Can he actually put it together and become a viable major league starter? He’s still only 27, and maybe the organization that drafted him could unlock something in him that others have been unable to thus far.
Or maybe this start goes similar to a start against the Angels in July 2012, when he was tagged for seven runs in two innings. Either way, it will be interesting to watch.
Detroit Tigers (47-66) at Los Angeles Angels (56-58)
Time/Place: 10:07 p.m., Angels Stadium
SB Nation site: Halos Heaven
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jacob Turner (0-0, 15.88 ERA) vs. LHP Andrew Heaney (6-7, 3.75 ERA)
Game 114 Pitching Matchup
Let’s stick with Turner for a bit. As mentioned, the former first round pick — yup, he was taken 16 spots before Mike Trout* — is still only 27 years old. He averaged 94 miles per hour on his fastball in a handful of appearances out of the bullpen for the Marlins this season, and even touched 98 miles per hour at points in 2016 and 2017. The slider and changeup are both in the mid-80s, and his curveball is way down in the 70s. It’s a nice velocity band, and one he utilizes even when he eschewed the changeup as a reliever.
Unfortunately, that raw velocity hasn’t translated into results. Turner has a career 5.26 ERA in 368 innings. He has only tallied 235 strikeouts to 143 walks in that span, and has allowed 49 home runs. Oddly, he has been even worse as a reliever than as a starter in his career, with a higher ERA and slightly lower strikeout-to-walk ratio. This season’s results are marred by one bad outing, but he doesn’t exactly have a long career of strong results to fall back on.
Sadly, even Turner’s minor league results don’t offer much optimism. He has a paltry 17.1 percent strikeout rate in 416 1⁄3 career innings of Triple-A ball, and is right around that mark (16.7 percent) in 58 1⁄3 frames with the Toledo Mud Hens this year.
*Before you get upset about that, remember that Trout probably would have been traded before making it to the majors as well.
Key matchup: Andrew Heaney vs. the MLB shutout lead
Fun fact: Angels lefthander Andrew Heaney is tied for the MLB lead in shutouts this season.
Not-so-fun fact: Andrew Heaney has just one shutout.
We could turn this into an entire discussion about how starting pitchers are used these days — some of y’all undoubtedly will in the comments anyway — but instead, let’s focus on the positive (sorta). If Heaney has an efficient outing against the hapless Tigers offense, he might find himself all alone in first place in this particular stat... with two.
Turner cruises and the Tigers win because baseball.