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Tigers vs. Twins Preview: Daniel Norris still striving for consistency as season winds down

Alternate title: why Rick Anderson returning to Detroit in 2019 could be a good thing.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

In the second game of this week’s series against the Twins, Daniel Norris makes his fourth start since coming off the disabled list. While he still has a long way to go, he has made strides in each one despite not always getting the best results. In his last start against Houston he gave up five runs in 4 23 innings, but was back up to 93 miles per hour with his fastball, something that we haven’t seen all year.

For Norris, the most important thing he can do right now is simply stay on the mound. Of course we want to see him locate pitches, get his velocity back, and start generating consistent outs, but all of that is secondary to his health.

One of the frustrating aspects of Norris outside of his health is his inability to repeat his mechanics. His stuff has always been great, but when he loses control of his mechanics he has the tendency to go down a wild rabbit hole that he struggles to recover from.

If there’s one silver-lining to Rick Anderson returning to the coaching staff next season, it’s that Norris will have a consistent voice to listen to and not have another pitching coach that will try and get him to change. Again, his stuff is great, he just needs to figure out how to repeat his delivery consistently.

Minnesota Twins (69-81) at Detroit Tigers (61-89)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jake Odorizzi (6-10, 4.41) vs. LHP Daniel Norris (0-4, 6.14 ERA)

Game 151 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Odorizzi 155.0 22.9 9.6 4.25 2.3
Norris 29.1 26.5 9.1 4.86 0.1

Full disclosure: I forgot Jake Odorizzi was a Minnesota Twin. He hasn’t been bad by any means; if anything, it has been business as usual for the 28-year-old righthander, making his results otherwise forgettable, even for a division rival. His 22.9 percent strikeout rate is his highest since 2014, but is only a couple of percentage points ahead of what he has produced over the past few years. His home run rate has dropped significantly after last year’s spike, but his ERA is actually a few tenths of a run higher than 2017. He’s on pace for roughly 170 innings, something he has done in three of the past four years.

See, kind of boring and forgettable, right?

Things will get a lot more interesting next year, Odorizzi’s final season of club control. He has been a durable mid-rotation starter for the past five years — “boring and forgettable,” remember — but these types of players were the ones hurt most by last winter’s ice-cold market for free agents. The Twins don’t seem likely to offer Odorizzi an extension, especially after getting burned on recent deals for Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco, but Odorizzi doesn’t have the star power or flashy numbers to warrant a huge contract. Even a career-best year might not be too enticing for teams that realize he would be at the tail end of his prime as he hits the open market.

Key matchup: Odorizzi vs. the Tigers’ makeshift lineup

Even when the Tigers were a competitive team stacked with premium offensive talent, Jake Odorizzi had their number. He has a career 3.21 ERA with over 10 strikeouts per nine innings in six starts against them, and has limited Tigers batters to a .224/.300/.344 line in 140 plate appearances. The only two Tigers that have faced him at least 10 times, Nicholas Castellanos and Victor Martinez, are a combined 4-for-24. This, plus Detroit’s horrible numbers against right-handed pitching, don’t bode well for this game.

Prediction

Odorizzi throws eight scoreless innings and the Twins win again.

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