Tigers at Athletics Preview: Mighty Mize takes the mound looking to even series

Bless You Boys

The Detroit Tigers dropped a tough one on Friday night to the Oakland Athletics despite a surprisingly strong start from José Ureña, getting shut out by a score of 3-0. Instead of starting a new winning streak, the good guys now look to prevent a series loss on its west coast swing.

The good news for Saturday is that the matchup on the mound is quite favorable for the boys in the Olde English D as they send one of their top prospects out to face a pitcher who is unremarkable in nearly every way. Here is a look at what is on tap.

Time/Place: 4:07 p.m. EDT, Oakland Coliseum

SB Nation Site: Athletics Nation

Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, 97.1 The Ticket

Pitching Matchup: RHP Casey Mize (1-0, 0.82 ERA) vs LHP Cole Irvin (0-2, 7.45 ERA)

Game 15 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Mize 11 19.6 8.7 2.86 0.3
Irvin 9.2 11.1 4.4 6.03 -0.1

Casey Mize needs no introduction to the Tigers fanbase — he was a first-overall draft pick in 2018 and threw a no-hitter in his first Double-A appearance with the Erie SeaWolves, among other notable achievements. While he struggled in his debut during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, going 0-3 with a 6.99 ERA and 6.47 FIP in 28.1 innings for a depressing -0.1 fWAR, the Auburn Tigers product has pitched well so far this season.

Over two starts totaling 11.1 innings in 2021, Mize has managed to win one game while compiling a microscopic 0.82 ERA and a sparkling 2.86 FIP good enough for 0.3 fWAR already. He only lasted four innings in his season debut against the Minnesota Twins — which the Tigers won but he did not receive a decision for — but held them to just an earned run on four hits and two walks while striking out four. His last outing against the Houston Astros was a gem, lasting seven shutout innings allowing just five hits and striking out seven. One of Detroit’s top prospects, Mize’s star appears to be on the rise.

Opposite of Mize on Saturday is Oakland Athletics starter Cole Irvin who is now in his third season of big-league play. His career numbers are unremarkable, having accumulated 0 fWAR so far in 55 MLB innings along with mediocre peripherals and an underwhelming pitching repertoire, but the one thing he does have going is his ability to limit walks. He features a four-seam fastball and a sinker that both sit around 91 mph along with a slider, change up and curve. His slider gets the most use at 28.6 percent while the four-seamer, sinker, changeup and curveball follow, respectively.

Let us talk about how Irvin has done so far in 2021. To put it lightly, not great Bob. See below his percentile numbers among his major league peers according to Baseball Savant.

Again, you will notice that his walk rate is the only feather in his cap according to the graphic. Otherwise, things just do not look good. He is also in the bottom seven percent in exit velocity (94.2 mph), five percent in strikeout percentage (11.1) and four percent in XBA (.357). Frankly, Irvin just has not performed impressively at the big league level, but who knows what can happen on any given day.

Key Matchup: Tigers’ power hitters vs Cole Irvin

Surely, the Tigers can muster up some offense against a guy who has been pummeled in the majors the past few years — especially this one so far. Well first off, don’t call me Shirley; secondly, against a pitcher like Irvin, the bats really need to give Mize a cushion allowing him to work in comfort. Casey should not have too much trouble with this lineup and with a few runs in support, a win is quite probable. But even more, power hitters like Wilson Ramos and Akil Baddoo need to punish him at every opportunity and buy some insurance for the inevitable bullpen meltdown. If they cannot get to him… well, it will be a very long evening.

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