Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox Rivalry


The Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox have been in the American League since 1901, giving the rivalry a storied history. Lately, the Tigers have won more games than they have lost against the Southside rivals. Even though the ChiSox have had pitchers like Chris Sale, Mark Buehrle, and Jeff Samardzija, the Tigers have done well against them. In 2015 and 2014, the Tigers were 10-9. In 2013, the Tigers were 12-7. In 2012, they finished 12-6. Now that both teams have made significant changes for 2016, what will happen to the rivalries between these two teams? 

Sep 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) is hit by a pitch in the sixth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The 10-9 seasons in 2014 and 2015 coincide with the White Sox adding Jose Abreu to first base. The 2014 Rookie of the Year has dominated a few of the Detroit pitchers. He is 8 for 12 against Justin Verlander and 6 for 11 against Anibal Sanchez. He has hit two home runs against both star pitchers. He is 0 for 2 against Daniel Norris and 3 for 8 against Mike Pelfrey. He has never gotten a hit off of Blaine Hardy or Alex Wilson.

Abreu did not repeat his All-Star performance in 2015. His batting average dropped from .317 to .290 and he did not lead the league in any statistics. His WAR also dropped slipping from 5.5 to 3.8. Could it be a sophomore slump? Possibly. It could also be that pitchers on opposing teams were a bit more cautious against him. The only thing that is certain is that the Tigers will face him in 18 games in 2016.

In a strange move, the White Sox actually signed two third basemen: Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie. In 2015, Todd Frazier completely defeated Detroit pitching. During the series in 2015, 4 for 17 against the Tigers. While this is only .235, the pain came in the two home runs that he hit off of Kyle Ryan and the two RBIs he hit off of Justin Verlander. Justin Wilson walked him twice. Fortunately, Frazier is zero for eight against Francisco Rodriguez and two for eight against Jordan Zimmerman. These hits, home runs, and walks were while Frazier was in the National League. Now that he is a member of the White Sox, the Tigers must learn more about his weaknesses at bat in order to expose them and keep him from hitting dingers.

Brett Lawrie saw Tigers’ pitching a bit more during his time with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Oakland A’s. Over the years, he has been successful against Anibal Sanchez with 5 hits in 11 at-bats, including a double and a triple. He is one for two against Verlander with one home run. Blaine Hardy and Kyle Ryan have not allowed him to hit. He has gone one for three against K-Rod and Lowe. On the bright side, he is only one for five against Pelfrey.

Sep 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (49) lifts his cap towards the outfield after the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers and White Sox rivalry has seen some heat recently due to Chris Sale. In 2013, the All-Star pitcher (who grew up in Lakeland, Florida) threw too closely to Prince Fielder that later lead to Luke Putkonen throwing behind Alexei Ramirez. The two teams cleared the bench. The following year, Chris Sale began what became known as “Binocular-gate” accusing Victor Martinez of stealing signs. Through the game, Tigers’ players mimicked Sale’s binocular-like hand movements. This resulted in Sale hitting Martinez with a pitch later in the game. In 2015, the teams remained drama-free, but this was when Jeff Samardzija was the “ace” of the team despite Sale’s league leading 274 strike outs and a fourth-place finish in the Cy Young vote.

Next: The Tigers vs. The AL Central

Now that Sale is back in the first spot in the pitching rotation, the drama could start again. With concussion-prone Alex Avila behind the dish and the two newest members of the infield, the rivalry could certainly pick back up. Of course, the Tigers have made several pitching changes that could keep the White Sox hitters off the bases. And, the big hitters in Detroit have been able to get hits off of the Chicago pitchers. Miguel Cabrera is .290/.464/.845 against their current rotation. Victor Martinez is .346/.541/.939 against them and James McCann is .273/.485/.779.