August 3rd, 2014

Analyzing Anibal’s fastball

Anibal Sanchez was barely a teenager when the Braves had their run of success with the Big Three rotation of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, but he was around to see them at the end of their careers.

“I’m a big follower of Greg Maddux,” he said. “To me, he’s one of the best pitchers, a guy that throws 84-85 with nasty command. That’s unbelievable. I faced Smoltz when I was with the Marlins early in my career. In ’06 I had the opportunity to face him. You just think about when this guy was 10 years younger.”

Sanchez’s game is different than either one of those guys. He throws way harder than Maddux, but he’s not as overpowering as Smoltz. But when Sanchez is on, there’s a simplicity to his pitching.

“He never throws anything straight,” Victor Martinez said.

When he’s on, even his fastball isn’t straight. When it moves like Sunday, he barely has to throw anything else.

The numbers from brooksbaseball.net and MLB.com Gameday are scary. Sixty-one of Sanchez’s 117 pitches were fastballs, averaging just under 94 mph, topping out at 96. He threw 42 of 61 fastballs for strikes. Rockies hitters swung at 32 of them — and missed 16 times. The only one they put in play was Brandon Barnes’ line-drive single in the seventh. That leaves 15 fastballs fouled off.

Think about that: 61 fastballs, one put in play. Colorado put more curveballs (3), sliders (4) and splitters (3) in play, according to the data, than fastballs.

“My last game, I feel like I had more life out of my fastball,” Sanchez said, “and today I used it all the time, executing until the guys can make contact. So I don’t try to throw a couple fastballs and go to the other pitch. I just keep my fastball, keep it on the corners, and I used it all the time.

“When you have a lot of command of your fastball, you can use the rest of your pitches and they’re going to work. Today when I throw my slider, any off pitch worked pretty much, especially because I put my fastball down and in and hit the corners very well today.”

Think, too, about this: Because Sanchez threw a few extra-slow changeups, his velocity Sunday ranged from 96 at the top end to 70 at the bottom. He went from the mid-90s to low-70s from pitch to pitch at least twice.

“He used his fastball perfectly today,” Brad Ausmus said. “He threw it for strikes. He threw it in, he threw it out, and all of his other pitches as a result were much better. He used his fastball as well as I’ve seen him use his fastball all year, and it just made his other pitches that much more effective.”

It’s one thing for a pitcher to say he’s going to attack hitters with fastballs and dare them to hit it. It’s another thing to pitch seven shutout innings, strike out 12 and walk none doing it.

In fact, according to baseball-reference.com, the only Tiger since 1914 to strike out 12 batters without a walk or a run allowed is Max Scherzer. He did it on June 17, 2012 — also against the Rockies.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Rockies

The Rockies are starting a left-handed pitcher for the 19th consecutive game. The Tigers are starting Alex Avila against a lefty for the second straight game. Avila’s three-hit game last night (two hits off Tyler Matzek, the third off ageless righty LaTroy Hawkins) didn’t hurt.

“I didn’t want Alex to not play three games,” Brad Ausmus said last night. “I was toying with the idea of Holaday playing the first and third game of the series, and it crossed my mind I could play him all three, but I just decided I didn’t want to keep Alex out that long. And then he made me look good by getting three hits.”

That said, Avila will have his work cut out against Jorge De La Rosa, who’s allowing a mere .183 average against left-handed hitters this year with 34 strikeouts in 125 plate appearances. However, De La Rosa has a bizarre home-road split for a Rockies starting pitcher: He’s 7-2 with a 3.43 ERA at Coors Field, but 4-4 with a 5.28 ERA on the road. He’s allowing a .754 OPS away from the Rocky Mountain air, compared with .687 at home.

TIGERS (career numbers vs. De La Rosa)

  1. Rajai Davis, CF (0-for-3, walk, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-3, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (3-for-6, double, HR, K)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (4-for-12, 4 walks)
  5. Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-13, 2 doubles, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  6. J.D. Martinez, LF (2-for-3, double, K)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS

P: Anibal Sanchez

ROCKIES (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Charlie Culberson Corey Dickerson, DH
  2. Josh Rutledge, SS
  3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
  4. Justin Morneau, 1B (6-for-19, 2 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)
  5. Drew Stubbs, CF (2-for-8, double, 4 K’s)
  6. Jason Pridie, LF (0-for-0, sacrifice bunt)
  7. Wilin Rosario, C
  8. Brandon Barnes, RF
  9. D.J. LeMahieu, 2B

P: Jorge De La Rosa

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