Runs Aplenty in Tigers-White Sox Doubleheader Opener

Rainman M.

Friday, May 26, 2017 2:51 PM UTC

Friday, May. 26, 2017 2:51 PM UTC

The White Sox return to Chicago after a seven-game road trip but at least were off Thursday. The Tigers are in the middle of a 10-game trip and enter without a rest day. The teams play a twi-night doubleheader Friday, and here’s a preview of Game 1.

Friday’s Game 1 Probable Pitchers

The opener of the doubleheader, with a first pitch of 5:10 p.m. ET, which is taking place because an April 5 matchup was rained out. The unusual circumstances have caused the Tigers to be creative in their quest for a starting pitcher. For Game 1, they are calling up Buck Farmer from Triple-A.

Farmer is a power pitcher who throws a fastball that peaks at 96.6 mph. However, he has had trouble locating his pitches as his career BB/9 rate is an atrocious 4.78. He last pitched in the majors in 2016. He faced the White Sox twice in relief and gave up one run in two innings.

The White Sox counter with Mike Pelfrey. He is a finesse pitcher whose stuff is very familiar to Detroit batters as Pelfrey was a member of the Tigers in 2016. The Tigers have Pelfrey figured out. When they played on April 28 in Detroit, the Tigers knocked him around for three runs in 4.2 innings pitched. Pelfrey also struggled with his command in that game, giving up four walks.

Pelfrey seems to have improved his game, as he pitched six shutout innings in Seattle last time out, giving up just four hits and walking none.  I am not impressed by that performance, however, as the Mariners’ bats have been really cold, producing just a .447 OPS in the last seven days. They have not been able to hit anybody. On May 23, even Joe Ross got called up from Triple-A and pitched eight innings of one-run ball against them.

The Tigers match up well against Pelfrey, who is a ground ball pitcher because his sinker, which he throws far more than any other pitch and is designed to induce an extreme amount of ground balls. Against ground-ball pitchers, the Tigers’ OPS is .798, compared to .716 against fly-ball pitchers.


The Verdict

The White Sox have a solid history against pitchers who were just called up from the minors -- even if they haven’t faced them before (or in a year, as in the case of Farmer). On April 8, they knocked out Twins power pitcher Adalberto Mejia after 1.2 innings by tagging him for two earned runs.

Most recently, the Pale Hose y xtended their success to right-handers as well: On May 21, they produced six earned runs against Seattle’s Chris Heston, knocking him out after just three innings. White Sox bats have been hot lately, producing a .821 OPS in their last seven days. This boost in production is largely due to arguably their best hitter, Jose Abreu, whose OPS is an insane 1.376 in his last seven days. 

Farmer is pitching because the Tigers have no other choice. His 3.07 FIP would be good for the Majors, but his FIP is only 3.07 in Triple-A. He is likely not ready for this start and will need a lot of luck against a White Sox lineup that is hot and feasting upon pitchers like Farmer who are coming up from the minors. The White Sox showed last year that they can hit Farmer. They have also showed this year that they can hit the Tigers’ bullpen as they have already produced 14 runs against Tigers relief pitching in just five games. In fact, just about every team has beat up the Tigers’ bullpen, which is second-to-last in the MLB with a FIP of 5.05.

I expect the Tigers to do well against Pelfrey as well. Their bats are finally starting to heat up, having produced 12 runs in their past two games. They hit finesse pitcher Mike Fiers hard, producing four runs in 4.2 innings.

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