Pitching Matchups vs. Cleveland: How Smyly, Scherzer, and Crosby Can Be Successful


This week, the Tigers will match up with the Cleveland Indians for a 3 game series in Detroit.  Obviously the offense has struggled, but I have always been of the opinion that pitching lies at the core of any good team.  With that being said, I’d like to take a look at our 3 probable starters vs. the Indians, and do a sort of scouting report/how to be successful analysis for each of them.

Tuesday: Drew Smyly

Smyly has been very impressive to this point, but has struggled a bit lately; namely with giving up the long ball.  As a lefty, he features 4 pitches: Fastball, Cutter, Slider, Change.  He has yet to face the Indians in his career, and combined with the fact that Cleveland is a left-handed heavy hitting team, this should work in Drew’s favor.  Cleveland is a patient team, meaning that they are more than willing to take their walks and force a wild pitcher to leave balls over the plate (basically the exact opposite of the Tigers).  Smyly has been very good with his command this season (save the 1st inning of his 1st start), and this bodes well against a team like the Indians.  I believe that the pitch that will be most important for Smyly will be his cutter.  Against left handed batters, the cutter will run away from them.  Ideally, this should generate a lot of weak contact as the lefties try to pull it, as well as some swing and miss.  As I said, Cleveland is a patient team, so Smyly will have to use all of his pitches in each quadrant of the strike zone to be effective.  I believe that busting the hitters inside with firm fastballs at 93-94 MPH, followed by cutters on the outside corner at 89-90 MPH will be the best way to defeat the Indians.  Of course, Smyly’s slider and change will both be important, but the inside 4 seamer followed by the outside cutter vs. LHH is what will lead to the most efficient success.

Wednesday: Max Scherzer

Scherzer has now put together 3 consecutive good-to-great starts, which is the most consistent I can remember him being since 2010.  Obviously, consistency is key and this string of positive starts should bode well for Max.  Like Smyly, Scherzer has not faced Cleveland this season, which can work in his favor.  Max is a 3 pitch guy, with a fastball, slider, and change to his credit.  His fastball has been explosive in his last 3 starts, ranging 94-97, touching 98 a couple times, with outstanding life at the plate.  Sometimes he gets so much arm side run on his fastball that it acts like a LHP cutter. but we’ll ignore that for now.  Obviously, Max will set up all of his pitches with the FB, it being his bread and butter pitch, but I believe the most important pitch for him vs. Cleveland will be his changeup.  LHH as a rule like the ball down and in, where they can turn on the pitch with authority.  Max’s changeup, when throw correctly, has outstanding armside fade that runs down and away from LHH.  Set up the pitch with hard fastballs on the outer half with good movement, then bring the change in the same spot.  If Max does this correctly, the ball will come out of his hand looking exactly like a fastball running to the outer half, but will instead begin to fade down as well as away from lefties, at about 8-10 MPH slower.  This pitch could generate a lot of swing and miss from Cleveland’s LHH’s, and ideally cause some weak contact by inducing Cleveland hitters to be out in front, hitting the top of the baseball.

Thursday: Casey Crosby

Crosby is the pitcher that has me worried the most, but of course, that’s not exactly an original thought.  Crosby is one of my favorite Tiger prospects, but like he did vs. the Yankees, he could run into problems against a patient Cleveland team should he lose his command.  What he does have working for him is being a lefty with a lightning arm vs. a left handed heavy Cleveland lineup.  For me, Crosby’s fastball will be his most important pitch vs. the Indians.  He throws it at around 93-95, and can go higher, but as we all know, his problem is command.  He works his curve off of his fastball, and the change is more of a “show me” pitch at this point.  I’d like to see Crosby “pitch backwards” against Cleveland, that is to say, set up his fastball with his curve, rather than vice-versa.  If Crosby can manage to command his curve well, then he will not need plus fastball command to get outs.  Start the Cleveland hitters off with curves thrown for strikes, thrown low in the zone.  Once ahead in the count, change their eye levels with fastballs up (up as in chest high, not belt high).  From there, he can work with either another curve down, or fastballs in.  Either way, Cleveland’s hitters should be off balance in the box.  Crosby really just needs to realize that he does not need to overpower everyone to be successful, which leads to overthrowing, which leads to bad command.

To recap, I believe that our pitching matchups vs. Cleveland actually work in our favor, save Crosby.  Smyly and Scherzer, who both have good command, should be able to exploit Cleveland’s left-handed hitters by mixing their pitches effectively.  Crosby can be successful so long as he has command.  I’m not a big believer in “BIG SERIES IN JUNE” type thinking, but I do believe that for morale and momentum purposes, we need to win this series.  Our pitchers can dominate any lineup on any given night, so long as they bring their A games.

Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to comment on here with your thoughts or tweet me @B_Sakowski,

Go Tigers!