Round #4 with the White Sox

After sweeping the Red Sox and the Astros back-to-back, the Tigers are set to take on the Chicago White Sox for a three-game series at Comerica Park. The Tigers are 6-4 against the Sox so far this season. Another series sweep would put the Tigers at 60 wins, and -- what? Don't look at me like that, it's not out of the question that they could sw-- oh, right, Anibal Sanchez is starting the series opener.

Well then, let's get ready for the series with some totally random stats and facts.

Bad news

Anibal Sanchez starts Tuesday night. Checkmate, Theists.

Big Game James?

James Shields came to the White Sox in early June, and by the end of the month the fans were asking "where's the lube?" every fifth game. His numbers in those first five starts: an average of just four innings per start, an ERA of 11.07, an opponent OPS of 1.137, and I could go on but let's just cut to the chase and say

He seems to have snapped out of it, though. In the month of July he tossed another five starts, this time getting to the sixth inning or further every single time, with an ERA in that stretch of 1.78. Opposing hitters slashed .189/.254/.362 against him during that time period.

It feels like a stranger is pitching

In games two and three of the series, the Tigers face Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, two of the toughest left-handed pitchers in baseball this year. Oddly enough, it's Quintana that's the more difficult of the two. Quintana sits behind only Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, and Cole Hamels for the best ERA+ in all of baseball among lefty starters, with 141.

Most strikeouts per nine innings? In the American League pool of southpaw starters, that list goes David Price (9.5), Cole Hamels (8.9), Chris Sale (8.6), and Jose Quintana (8.2).

The Tigers can/can't hit lefties?

Speaking of lefties, remember earlier in the season when the Tigers and their righties-righties-and-more-righties lineup was struggling against left-handed pitching?

We can bury that narrative now, mostly. There's still a difference in the stats, with the advantage going to left-handed pitchers, but it's not nearly as violent now:

Tigers vs RHP: .272/.328/.446/.774
Tigers vs LHP: .256/.326/.417/.743

The American League average slashline against left-handed pitching isn't far from these numbers, at .260/.325/.421/.746.

We fixed the pitching, apparently

The team is red hot right now, sitting at 11-5 since the All Star Break. Surprisingly, it's the starting rotation that performed so well last month. 

Tigers starters accumulated a 3.46 ERA in July, a 3.12 FIP, a 1.21 WHIP, and a K/9 of 8.3 -- numbers all well ahead of the American League average starter's numbers for the month (4.28 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 1.33 WHIP, 7.6 K/9). 

And they did that with Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey making a combined ten starts in the month. Go figure.

Platoon splits, baby

Things are also going well behind the dish: the platoon combo of James McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia is slashing a combined .321/.375/.750/1.125 with four home runs since July 23. The reason? McCann has faced 53 percent left-handed pitching in that stretch, and Salty has faced 67 percent right-handed pitching. Play those boys to exploit their obvious platoon splits, and good things happen.

The future of Fulmer

Michael Fulmer takes the hill against Chris Sale on Wednesday -- how much longer will the rookie phenom be available this season? Hopefully straight through the eventual World Series victory. Since his breakout on May 21, opponents are slashing .174/.245/.289 against him (for an OPS of "HAHAHA go home"), and his ERA over those 12 starts is only 1.50.

But he is on an innings limit, or more accurately, a pitch count limit. The figure being tossed around in the broadcast booth was 160 IP, or roughly 2,500 pitches. Here's the quick-and-dirty math:

2500 pitches = 991 pitches left = 64 innings left = about 10 starts left, assuming he stays around his average of 15-16 pitches per inning and only pitches six innings per start. That would put his last start on or around September 16 (in the midst of a series against the Indians), with ten games still left to play in the season.

That's a long and round-about way of saying "they'll need to skip a few starts if they want him pitching in the postseason."

LOL White Sox

One final thing: oh, White Sox. You poor, dysfunctional organization. You started the season 24-12 (.667), and since then you've gone 27-42 (.391). No wonder your ace starter would rather destroy your sh*tty throwback jerseys than start games for you. Better luck next year.
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