Detroit Tigers: Casey Mize the Motown WAR leader

May 5, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Casey Mize (12) pitches during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
May 5, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Casey Mize (12) pitches during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Detroit Tigers have one player above what is considered average WAR and that is Casey Mize.

With all the injuries to the Detroit Tigers pitching staff, you expected any one of the reminding starters to step up their game. As a collective, the starting pitching staff is performing much better than in 2020, thanks to the work of the pitching staff of Chris Fetter and manager A.J. Hinch having let his young starters face difficult situations.

The injuries to the starting staff have been devasting with Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull out until after the All-Star game, and Julio Teheran unlikely at this point to pitch this season.

So what we are witnessing with Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize is something that is rare among Detroit Tigers fans who have seen homegrown pitchers come up with the hype based on wins and loss records. (Remember Nate Cornejo?)

So digging around Baseball-Reference yesterday, I noticed that Mize has a WAR of 2.6, which leads the team and he has ten quality starts, good for fourth in the AL and his WAR has him tied for fifth with Lance Lynn.

Before I go further, I would like to explain the difference between FanGraphs WAR and Baseball-Reference WAR.  FanGraphs uses FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) while Baseball-Reference uses actual runs allowed.  His fWAR is 0.8.

So, with that out of the way, let’s examine why this is significant. So far, among Detroit Tigers starters who have made at least 35 starts & started at least 80% of their games, Mize is already 18th on the list with an overall 2.2 WAR. Mark “The Bird” Fidrych’s 9.4 WAR in 29 starts is a record that may never be touched and Michael Fulmer’s rookie season of 5.4 in 26 starts is the most recent.

As far as single-season records go,  so far, Mize’s 2.8 WAR puts him 12th all time. He has been able to do this with a combo of limiting hard contact and an effective slider. According to Baseball Savant, batters are hitting .202 against the pitch, with his slider accounting for the second-highest put away pitch (19.4%) and elevate his fastball on the top part of the strike zone, which has generated his largest K% at 34.8%What is most impressive is his 50% GB rate, which above the league average of 47%.

It’s fun to watch as a Tigers fan no matter what age but If you are a fan in their late 30’s who grew up watching the endless parade of Tigers pitching prospects who never came to promise (minus Justin Thompson) in the 1990s, you may walk a little higher today, or smile a little wider, knowing you may have another ace just around the corner.

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