In 2016, Michael Fulmer was a rookie and Aaron Sanchez was a full-time starting pitcher for the first time in his career. Fulmer won American League Rookie of the Year and Sanchez made his first All-Star Team. Both finished in the top-10 of the AL Cy Young voting.
Neither stayed completely healthy last season (Fulmer more so than Sanchez). This season, they have but without the same effectiveness they had in 2016.
Sanchez is nearly 26 but both will start Sunday’s game in Detroit as 25-year-olds struggling to bottle exactly what it was that made them so successful when they broke onto the scene.
The similarities don’t end there; both guys are in YouTube videos that feature them doing math, Fulmer on Intentional Talk where he blows Kevin Millar’s mind by converting Celsius to Fahrenheit and Sanchez explaining how to solve fractions with his old math teacher from Barstow, California.
Both guys know that their numbers this year fall short of expectations they set for themselves as young players.
Sanchez is 2–5; he has an ERA closer to 5.00 than 4.50 and his walk rate has never been worse. After two seasons of more than 150 innings pitched and and ERA+ of at least 120, Fulmer has been below average (97) this season. He’s walking 50 percent more batters this season than he did in his first two.
Both have cited command when talking to the press this season. They both claim to be healthy with the same stuff that they had at their early career peaks; they just aren’t harnessing it the way they did then.
Fulmer’s hit rate is up a bit but he’s striking out more guys this season than in either of his first two. Sanchez is giving up even more hits while striking out fewer. He’s also walking more batters than ever, as I mentioned earlier, which has been directly correlated with his success through his career. He walked over four batters per nine innings in 2015, cut it down to three in 2016 and jumped it back up to five last season and even more than that this one. Sanchez’s problems seem to me more pronounced.
Fulmer is more of a mystery. He’s been candid talking to the media about his problems, saying that he really doesn’t know what the problem is, just that there is one. He sounds concerned but not panicked, which is the most important thing now, as he figures this out.
The thing is, his Tigers are playing well. They’ve won four in a row, gotten good outings from both starting pitchers so far in this series and have a more well-rested bullpen than the Jays do going into this game.
I’m not sure what is going to happen to either starting pitcher in this game or for the rest of the season, but I tend to think the home crowd should help Fulmer. I also believe his offense, which got Miguel Cabrera back on Friday, will do more damage to his opponent than his opponent’s offense does to him.
Free Pick: Detroit -120