Detroit Tigers: Casey Mize pitching like an ace over his past five starts

(Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images) /

After barely making the opening day roster, Casey Mize is growing into a big-league top of the rotation starting pitcher before our very eyes.  The Detroit Tigers had been banking on their crop of youthful pitchers to step up and replace the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, but it’s taking quite some time.

Over the years, former Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski combined with current boss Al Avila quickly sold future assets from the farm to make a plethora of postseason runs but unfortunately could not come away with a World Series title.

After Dombrowski was dismissed, it began to signal the beginning of a wholesale rebuild. Still, the organization didn’t completely accept a full-blown rebuild until the franchise traded their longtime ace Verlander in the summer of 2017.

Fast forward to the present day, and the Detroit Tigers are continuing to navigate their way through a rebuild, and if I’m candid, the GPS seems to be searching for a signal more times than not over the past couple of seasons.

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During this lengthy Detroit Tigers rebuild, one bright spot has been the former first overall pick, Casey Mize.

The hard-throwing right-handed starter is off to a hot start in ’21 and has begun to string together a few good outings in a row for the Tigers.

It’s amazing to think that Mize needed back-to-back impressive starts to finish spring training to convince his manager A.J. Hinch that he belonged on the opening day roster and think Tarik Skubal had performed so well during the exhibition season he was a shoo-in to make the club.

Since March, the tables have turned, and it’s Mize looking like the high-end prospect we always expected he’d be, while Skubal is scuffing to keep the ball in the yard at the moment despite posting impressive strikeout numbers over his last couple of starts.

Mize will carry a 3-3 record backed by an impressive 3.42 ERA through his first nine starts of the 2021 season.  Mize has yielded six home runs and walked 20 batters to go with his 40 strikeouts and 1.120 WHIP through 52.2 innings of work.

Mize also owns a WAR of 1.4 on the season, and that is also improved from last seasons -0.5 he provided the Tigers with last season.

So far this season, Mize is limiting batters to a combined .210 batting average and .305 OBP, and a .349 SLG.  Each category has significantly decreased in a year’s time since his rookie season.

As a rookie, Mize allowed an OPS of .832, yet he’s decreased that number to .655 this season. Also, Mize’s hard-hit rate has decreased 7% from last season to this.

Mize has allowed just 16 hits and eight earned runs over his past five starts.  In those five appearances, he’s struck out 26 hitters but issued 13 free passes in 32 innings of work.

In those five starts, opponents are hitting just .152 off the youngster, and his 2.25 ERA during that time really stands out. When you’re hot, you’re hot.  Hopefully, Mize can continue to build off of his recent success.

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The 24-year old still has a ways to go but is proving to be what everyone expected coming out of Auburn back in 2018.  Casey will have a tough test when he toes the slab Friday night as the Bronx Bombers invade Comerica Park for a weekend series with the Tigers.