Casey Mize improving pitch arsenal could elevate him in Tigers rotation

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals
Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals / Ed Zurga/GettyImages

Before the Detroit Tigers signed Jack Flaherty and Kenta Maeda, their five main starters in 2023 — Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, Reese Olson, and Joey Wentz — averaged less than 2 1/2 years of experience in the major leagues. The Tigers' rotation was young, almost excruciatingly so. Skubal came out on the other end of the season looking like he could turn into a real ace for the club, while the others had okay-to-bad seasons.

Flaherty and Maeda both have seven MLB seasons under the belts, but Maeda also has the eight years he spent in NPB before he came over to the States. He, in particular, was signed to be a leader for the Tigers' pitching staff, and it seems that he's already making good on that at spring training. Chris McCosky of The Detroit News noted that Maeda seems to be making himself comfortable in Lakeland with his new teammates, and noted something interesting: he's advising one of them on his signature split finger pitch (subscription required).

Former first overall draft pick Casey Mize didn't pitch last season as he recovered from Tommy John, but if he had, he would've only pushed the Tigers rotation's average service years to 2 2/3. He's another very young pitcher with a lot of growing to do and a lot of expectations to live up to, but he's taking a page out of Maeda's playbook. According to McCosky, Mize has studied Maeda's split finger pitch and will be depending on him throughout the year as a guide.

Casey Mize taking a note from Kenta Maeda is a good sign of what's to come for the Detroit Tigers

In 2023, Maeda leaned on his split finger pitch more than ever before, and it worked. He used it 542 times during the season, and it resulted in only a .182 batting average against and 47 strikeouts. Mize has a split finger of his own; it was his third most-used pitch before he got hurt in 2022, but it resulted in a .333 batting average against. Having Maeda in such close proximity will surely be instrumental in getting that pitch, which had a .203 batting average against in 2021, back where it needs to be.

For his part, Mize seems to be settling back in with the club well. There were reportedly no hard feelings after he initially disagreed with the Tigers on his salary for 2023, and he knows how many expectations are on his shoulders this year. Luckily, he and the rest of the Tigers rotation will have a 16-year veteran to lead the way.