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Tigers Starters Roaring out of the Gate

The Detroit Tigers are two games into the season and have yet to allow a run. The departure of Max Scherzer left a lot of question marks in the rotation for the reigning A.L Central Champions.

On Opening Day, the Tigers decided that David Price would be given the ball, and Price did not disappoint. In his first outing of the season, Price went 8.2 innings, striking out five and surrendering five hits while walking none.

Following Price is the rotation is Anibal Sanchez, who threw 6.2 shutout innings today against the Twins. While the Twins are bound to end up as one of the worst teams in baseball, the Tigers starting pitching has been very impressive in their 15.1 shutout innings. The combination for Price and Sanchez is under extreme pressure this season with the loss of Scherzer and the early DL stint by Justin Verlander. These two must produce, and stay healthy if the Tigers want to win the American League Central, which has some of the best arms in baseball.

On Monday, David Price was spectacular in his 8.2 innings on the mound. In his first appearance of the season, the soon to be free-agent showed why he is amongst the best in baseball. During his outing, Price threw 101 pitches and just 12 of them were off-speed. Think about that for a second. Price was so dominant with his location that he only needed to throw eleven off speed pitches against a major league team. Another sign of his dominance in the strike zone is that he threw over 15 pitches in an inning just once, which was the inning he exited the game.

On the day, Price was elite, hitting 95 mph with both his four-seam fastball and sinker. As a compliment to those two pitches, Price sat at 88 mph with his cutter. The key with Price and his hard mix is the movement that comes with those pitches. Mainly, I am going to focus on the four-seam fastball and sinker of Price as they both come in at 95 miles per hour and were used 73 percent of the time.

Price used his four-seam fastball 31 times on Monday with just about 26 percent of those being put in play. Of that 26 percent, half were on the ground, which is exactly what Price wants to do. When Price used his sinker, the Twins put the ball in play 20.93 percent of the time. When they did put the ball in play,  just 6 percent were on the ground. No reason to be concerned as just 4.65 percent were line drives. Price also generated four of his five strikeouts with his sinker, which is another positive.

While both of his pitches were effective, Prices’ sinker had around 10 inches of horizontal run to it. At 95 mph with 10 inches of run, good luck. Especially if Price is locating his pitches well. The same goes for Prices’ fastball which had about six inches of horizontal run on his fastball. His dominant velocity along with the good-great run on his pitches against the Twins allowed him to dominate the Twins. Add in that Price dominated the strike zone (see below), and it makes perfect sense that he did not allow a run in his first appearance of the season.

pricechart

From one dominant performance to another. On Wednesday, the Tigers met the Twins in the second game of their three games series and Anibal Sanchez took the mound. Sanchez, who is going to be a key factor for the Tigers must stay healthy this season. Luckily for the Tigers, Sanchez looked very healthy on Wednesday, throwing 6.2 innings allowing three hits and striking out six.

In his outing, Sanchez threw 100 pitches against the Twins, and 64 for strikes. Obviously that comes out to a 64 percent strike rate, which is right in line with his career average of 63.9 percent. Dominating the zone is one thing, but doing it while showing five different pitches is another, and that is exactly what Sanchez did.

In his mix of pitches, Sanchez showed a fastball, sinker, changeup, slider and curveball against the Twins. Of those pitches, Sanchez threw his fastball 41 times, which was the most. Following his fastball, he threw 18 sinkers, 16 changeups, 19 sliders and six curveballs. Sanchez kept the Twins off balance all day with this mix. The Twins had a 42 percent swing rate on Wednesday as well.

Sanchez used all of his pitches effectively on Wednesday, which led to the second consecutive shutout for the Tigers. Below is the pitch chart for Sanchez against Minnesota.

sanchezchart

As you will see, Sanchez dominated the strike zone and rarely left a pitch over the middle of the plate. The Twins are not a great offensive club by any stretch of the imagination, so if you work the corners and use a great mix of pitches, you should have success.

In the end, the Tigers one-two punch provided them with to stellar outings that should make Tigers fans optimistic. The loss of Max Scherzer will still hurt the Tigers in the long-run because, well, you can’t just replace a top-5 pitcher.

If the Tigers can get 200 or more innings out of Price and Sanchez, they will be in good shape because they won’t need to go to the bullpen and will have one of the top one-two combinations in the American League. The biggest question mark for Detroit is Justin Verlander, who will need to perform much better than 2014 if the Tigers want to make a serious run.

If the Tigers offense puts up 3 runs per game with either Price or Sanchez on the mound, they should expect to win 85 percent of those games. Price and Sanchez were dominant in their opening performances of 2015. The Tigers should expect this to repeat throughout the season, giving the Tigers a good shot at yet another American League Central crown.





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