Boston at Detroit Preview: One trip through the rotation

Bless You Boys

The Detroit Tigers are still longshots to make the 2022 MLB playoffs but there are enough pieces on the squad to at least make this season interesting. The first four games of the year have shown some of the highs, mostly in the form of new additions, as well as some of the same old lows.

One of the ways the Tigers can exceed expectations is getting enhanced contributions from the bottom half of the roster. Tuesday’s starter, Tyler Alexander, comes into the season as the sixth starter — meaning he is slated to spend the majority of the time as a reliever — but early injuries have granted him a spot in the rotation. While the southpaw is likely to give way to Michael Pineda when healthy, a strong outing or two could open up the door for more opportunities.

Alexander has plenty of starting experience after making 15 starts last season, mostly in the second half of the year. He was quite effective down the stretch, posting a 2.91 ERA and 3.96 FIP from August onward. The 27-year-old owns a career 7.7 K/9 and throws around 90 mph, but as along as he gets outs he will have a role on the Detroit pitching staff.

Boston Red Sox (1-3) vs. Detroit Tigers (2-2)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Over the Monster
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup (2021): LHP Rich Hill (7-8, 3.86 ERA) vs. LHP Tyler Alexander (2-4, 3.81 ERA)

Game 5 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Hill (2021) 158.2 22.7% 8.3% 4.34 1.7
Alexander (2021) 106.1 19.3% 6.2% 4.39 1.0

Rich Hill has been around baseball for a long time. The former Michigan Wolverine signed a one-year deal with Boston this offseason after playing for both the Rays and Mets in his 17th season last year. The veteran is one of the steadiest options out there when healthy, rarely even approaching an ERA over four. Last year he made 31 starts to the tune of a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP. Not too shabby for a player…over the Hill.

While once a solid strikeout pitcher, Hill has seen these numbers fall over the last couple seasons. His fastball velocity is even lower than Alexander’s, but he gets good spin (71st percentile per Baseball Savant) and is able to avoid hard contact in lieu of racking up whiffs. And he still slings that big curveball in there with good feel and command. This profile fits well enough at the backend of the Red Sox rotation.

All that being said, this is not an insurmountable matchup for the Tigers and could give the offense a chance to finally start producing. While Hill’s ERA remains solid, his FIP is rising a bit thanks to those weaker strikeout numbers; he also is surrendering more homers than earlier in his career. AJ Hinch can stack a full lineup of right-handed hitters in there if he so chooses, but Hill can be really tough on overly aggressive, pull happy hitters in particular. If Detroit waits for its pitches there are runs to be had against Hill, despite some tough sledding from the offense thus far.

Key matchup: Torkelson vs. his own headspace

Spencer Torkelson got the well-deserved callup to start the year and started each of the three games against the White Sox before pinch hitting Monday. It was not quite the beginning to his career that the top prospect hoped, going 0-for-10 with seven strikeouts. However, Torkelson has a great eye, taking three walks and suffering from some very questionable called third strikes. The media and fanbase might be restless, but A.J. Hinch will be patient with him, and the future star needs to stay calm and confident in himself. The hits will come, no need to worry after four games.

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