Series Preview – Tigers vs. White Sox
This weekend is Opening Weekend in Chicago for the White Sox. Unfortunately for them, they have to face a Tigers team that has already shown it has both incredible pitching (See, series versus the Rays: 5-2 W; 2-4 L; 7-2 W), and major offensive capabilities (See, series versus the Red Sox: 3-2 W; 10-0 W; 13-12 W). It’s hard to know when the bats are really going to perk up, so the White Sox certainly stand a chance of competing throughout the series. But, at the same time, the Tigers scored five or more runs in four of the first six games, and have scored a lot of runs in the seventh inning or later. Which means the even if the starting pitching is stellar, the bullpen needs to keep it going as well.
Let’s take a look at the pitching matchups for this weekend, and make some picks about how things will turn out by Sunday afternoon.
Friday – 4/13/12
Max Scherzer vs. Jake Peavy
Of all the matchups this weekend, this could be the biggest question mark. Max was pretty awful in his first start of the season last Sunday against the Red Sox, giving up seven earned runs in only 2 2/3 innings. It was a dreadful sight, even though the Tigers did bat their way back to a win. Peavy likewise struggled a little bit early on in his first start against the Rangers last weekend. Granted, he was able to last a bit longer in his game than Scherzer did, but he still ended up giving away some runs and forcing the White Sox to make a comeback attempt. Neither pitcher ended up with a decision in their first start.
On the other hand, Scherzer has a lifetime ERA of 2.30 and 58 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings pitched against the White Sox, and most of those came when the Sox were a much better team with much better players. Peavy, on the other hand, has a 3.77 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 31 innings pitched. So both pitchers average a strikeout per inning against the other team, but Scherzer has the much better ERA. So, head-to-head, it’s a pretty even matchup, and either pitcher could simply dominate the other team (especially when no one on either team has had particular success against the other pitcher).
Saturday – 4/14/12
Adam Wilk vs. Gavin Floyd
Adam Wilk will make a spot start for the Tigers this weekend in the place of the “injured” Doug Fister. I use the term injured loosely, because he strained a muscle in his side, and therefore just needed to rest it and will in all likelihood be back in his next start on Tuesday or Wednesday in Kansas City. Wilk has never made a start in the major leagues, and so it could be a bad day for him against the Sox. Even if they’ve never seen him before, he could potentially be a AAAA pitcher still (not having turned that corner that makes someone a major league pitcher), and it’ll be an early day for the rookie.
Gavin Floyd, on the other hand, has had a lot of success against the Tigers over the years. I remember a couple seasons ago Floyd had been struggling through about three or so starts, until he pitched against the Tigers, when he beat Justin Verlander. Even though he gives up about four runs per game, he still has six wins lifetime, which means that even when he does give up some runs, he’s getting backed by a lot of run support. Of course, that was also when he had Jermaine Dye, Carlos Quentin, and others backing him, who just crushed Tigers’ pitchers. Floyd did struggle in his first start, though, giving up three homeruns to the Rangers. If the Rangers are at all considered a homerun team, the Tigers are a super-mega-homerun team. On top of that, a lot of current Tigers have had moderate success against Floyd (at least enough success to be guaranteed one hit during their three or four at-bats against him). If they can string that success together at the right time (probably in the 5-8 spots in the lineup, as the most success has come from Delmon Young, Jhonny Peralta, and Ryan Raburn), then the Tigers could finally get to Floyd.
Sunday – 4/15/12
Rick Porcello vs. Chris Sale
Both Porcello and Sale had very good starts to their seasons, with Porcello allowing only two runs, and Sale only one. For this matchup, though, Porcello looks to be at a disadvantage. Rick has very poor numbers against the White Sox over his career, with an ERA near seven, and four losses. Even though the White Sox lost a lot big pieces in the last year, there are still a large number of players on this team that hit Porcello well. It looks like Porcello could be outmatched in this game.
Sale is a bit of a lopsided case too, though. This is his first year in the starting rotation, so all his work against the Tigers has come out of the bullpen. Now, while it’s true that none of the Tigers have hit him particularly well, the sample size for those hitters is very, very small. When you’re coming out of the bullpen, and only have to pitch one, maybe two, innings, it’s much easier to get three outs. The Tigers have a lot of very smart hitters, so with two or three looks at Sale during the game, you could see some of those men start to really hit him around.
Series Final Picks
Game 1: Tigers
Game 2: White Sox
Game 3: Tigers
Final: Tigers win series 2-1
I’m not making these predictions lightly for this series. Nor am I allowing any bias to come into play. Scherzer has been very, very good against the White Sox, and I think he will have a slight advantage over Peavy, who has to work through a very tough Tigers lineup. Wilk may have done well down in the minor leagues, but Floyd has been too good against the Tigers in his career. Porcello has struggled against the White Sox, but he really looks like he’s turned a corner in his career, and seems to be on the precipice of a major breakthrough. Sale, on the other hand, is only making his second career start, and has to face the entirety of the Tigers’ lineup at least twice. He won’t be able to keep up the numbers against them forever. So I’ll give the Tigers the victory in this series, knowing full well that it’s just as likely (given the matchups) that the White Sox pull off a few wins.
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