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Tigers vs. White Sox Preview: Focusing on the future

The 2020 season is not yet over, but the meaningful portion is quickly evaporating.

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Though the standings say that the playoffs are still within reach, the last two days have been a good reality check. Ostensibly, there is still time to grab a wild card spot, but a couple of heavy beatdowns are a good reminder that even though this team can eke out some exciting wins (like they did Thursday night), looking ahead to 2021 is not a terrible idea.

There is perhaps no better way to epitomize that concept than Friday’s starter. When the Detroit front office made the decision to bring up Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal to the majors, no one was truly expecting immediate results. Sure, it has been tough to watch the two get hit around a bunch, but if there ever was a season to work out some growing pains, this is certainly it.

With just a few starts remaining, it would be great to see Mize take some positive momentum into the offseason. His first four starts have shown glimpses of his potential, but ultimately each has ended with far more hits and baserunners than he would like. The strikeout numbers may never be gaudy for the future ace, but he should be able to rack up a few more whiffs than he has thus far.

Aside from strikeouts, it would be encouraging to see Mize get deeper into games. He hit 83 pitches last time out, which was his highest to date. The coaching staff is surely going to be careful with him — especially given that he was shut down at the end of last season — but if he can get a little more efficient he should be able to improve on his season-high of just 4 13 innings.

Detroit Tigers (20-23) at Chicago White Sox (27-16)

Time/Place: 8:10 pm, Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Probables: RHP Casey Mize (0-1, 6.75 ERA) vs. RHP Lucas Giolito (4-2, 3.29 ERA)

Game 44 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Mize 14.2 21.0 8.1 5.70 0.0
Giolito 54.2 34.9 8.4 2.72 1.9

Lucas Giolito is having a very strong 2020, headlined by his no-hitter against the Pirates last month. This came five days after throwing seven scoreless innings against the Tigers, with both games featuring 13 strikeouts. He enters the game 11th among qualified AL starters in ERA, fourth in FIP, and third in fWAR.

When talking about Mize and the future, Giolito can perhaps provide some hope. A former first-round pick, the 26-year-old struggled throughout his first full major league season in 2018, throwing 173 13 innings with a 6.13 ERA and just 6.49 K/9. However, he was much better last year, dropping his ERA to 3.29 and nearly doubling his strikeouts. Improved command and aggressive use of his excellent changeup were the keys, and Giolito’s numbers have been even better in 2020.

All that is to say is that Mize’s numbers right now really do not matter much. Adjusting to the majors is hard, particularly under far less than ideal circumstances this season, and Giolito is proving right now that his development was worth the wait. The Tigers have had rotation issues all season long, with both veterans and rookies struggling. However, letting Mize battle through it is still a positive for his development, and hey, there aren’t many other options.

Key matchup: Tigers vs. plate discipline

The Tigers continue to be aggressive at the plate, striking out at a higher rate than any team this season and walking the least amount in the majors. At this point it kind of is what it is, but it would be great if at least a couple players could show some patience, especially when facing a pitcher as tough as Giolito.

Jeimer Candelario has been great the past couple weeks, walking over 15 percent of the time while remaining red hot at the plate. Meanwhile, Jonathan Schoop and Willi Castro have tolerable strikeout rates in the low 20s. Aside from that, basically everyone else is at fault. Strikeouts and walks are not all there is to hitting, but plate discipline is definitely an area that can be improved.