As part of a pitching shuffle that also includes sending the ineffective Phil Coke to the bullpen, the Tigers will give rookie Charlie Furbush a shot in the rotation. Furbush will make his first big league start today after spending the past five weeks in the Tigers' bullpen. Looking into what he'll bring to the table ...
As a minor league starter, Furbush was effective. In his four years in the Tigers' system, he put up a 3.69 ERA with a K/9 of nine and a half and a K/BB of four over 378 1/3 innings (all but three of his 71 appearances were starts). He gave up a few more home runs than ideal - about one per nine innings - due to a below average groundball rate. So, what has this minor league starting track record done for Charlie in the major-league pen? Over his first 21 2/3 innings, his walks are up, his strikeouts are down, pushing his K/BB to just under 2. Also, he's already yielded three home runs. This adds up to a poor 4.70 FIP, though based on the number of flyballs he has allowed, we could expect that number to be about half a run lower. It's also worth noting that despite that subpar peripherals, Furbush has only allowed six runs to this point.
There are a few different looks to the pitch (we'll get into this more later), but for the most part, it sweeps a lot and doesn't sink much. Aggregated over Furbush's 98 sliders, the velocity is 81.2 mph, with 4.5 inches of cut into a right-handed batter and 3.2 inches of vertical "rise" relative to a theoretical spinless pitch. For this to make more sense, the average lefty slider is 81.6 mph, with 1.7 inches of cut and 0.7 inches of rise. So Furbush's velocity on the pitch is about average, but he's getting a lot more cut and rise than the typical slider. Cut and rise is an interesting combination - typically, pitches with a lot of glove-side movement also drop a lot (curveballs and big sliders). Breaking pitches that don't drop a whole lot, like cutters, are usually accompanied by less horizontal movement. A guy like Furbush, with his low arm angle, is more likely to throw these "sideways" pitches due to the way the ball is released out of the hand. With all of that being said, it looks like Furbush is getting more drop on his slider than he was earlier in the year. This next chart shows vertical spin deflection plotted against time.
The added movement hasn't helped Furbush miss bats with the pitch; hitters have made contact on all swings on Furbush's slider since June 10th.
What about plate location? There are some hangers, but plenty of "good" misses as well. In keeping with the lateral action of the slider, most of the misses are wide as opposed to low.
A few final thoughts