Gavin Floyd is being thrust from the disabled list into one of the most important games of the season Wednesday, presumably willingly. He's returning from his second inactive stint due to a right elbow flexor strain that makes it hard for him to snap off his sliders and curves without discomfort.
At the time, this decision to change the rotation schedule to accomodate the mercurial Floyd was somewhat surprising, but three crummy Liriano starts in a row and a trainwreck bullpen appearance later, and the general attitude toward Gavin is "Hey, why not?" Jim Leyland has been saying all sorts of fearful things about Floyd, and his impressive history against the Tigers, which is nice. Jim's the best, and the White Sox biggest and most loyal fan.
Floyd's facing Max Scherzer, which normally would set up a fun battle of enigmatic right-handers with big, hard sliders and homer-problems, but Scherzer has gone and turned into a battleaxe since the start of August, compiling a 1.88 ERA. Floyd has stayed committed to being unknowable.
- He's around two and a half weeks removed from his last start, where he was looking pretty much a continuation of his mess of a start against the Yankees.
- The hope is that the rest and recovery will stabilize Floyd, but that's not what happened last time he came off the DL. He spun back-to-back quality starts against Minnesota and Texas, but also showed some of the worst control of his career, walking 11 in two games.
- It's worth remembering now that in early May, I was pondering whether Floyd could be putting together his career year. It was obviously just a hot start at that point, but Gavin was using his cutter more than ever, which offered more stability than a slider and a way to rely less on his traditionally below-average fastball. All the cutters in the world couldn't make up for how his heater has been hammered this season, though.
- Floyd's "dominance" of the Tigers constitutes a 3.42 ERA in 19 starts against them, with 90 strikeouts in 115.2 innings. But I hate stats like that. Floyd has been pitching against the Tigers since 2007; four of those starts predate even Miguel Cabrera being on the team. More relevant is his 2 ER allowed this year to Detroit in 13 IP (12 K), but that was had during the early-season hot streak.
Predicting Gavin is like betting on spots of ground rain will land on, and so much of his troubles are of the self-induced and 'mistake pitch' variety, that it's going to come down to whether he executes--demonstrates feel for his cutter and curve, spots his fastball, sequences, etc. Floyd's talent has always been enough that the matchups won't matter if he's going right. It's hard to have any idea how he'll return immediately from injury, but glance at Floyd's gamelog--and you'll see that momentum is not something that exists for him anyway.