Tigers’ Casey Mize’s Comeback is More than Just a Good Story

Coming back off both Tommy John and back surgeries, Casey Mize is finally healthy and looking strong in the Detroit Tigers starting rotation.

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 9: Casey Mize #12 of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch in the second inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on April 9, 2024 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

After being selected first overall in the 2018 draft, Casey Mize was viewed as the next Detroit Tigers ace. Calling him a savior would be unfair, but with losing seasons pilling the Detroit faithful were stuck looking into the future and dreaming of brighter days. Mize was often the center of discussion and centerpiece to another rebuild.

After a cup of coffee in 2020, Mize started 30 games the following season posting a promising .371 ERA and 4.71 as a rookie. Then came the injuries. Two starts into 2022 Mize was shelfed with an injury and struggled to get healthy. An elbow injury and back injury wiped out 2022 and 2023 raising concerns about his future.

I, along with many fans, were unsure just how much the Tigers would be able to rely on Mize. Missing that much time is tough to bounce back from and once healthy, how did the injuries impact his ability?

With six legit starters heading into spring, the team had an excuse to send Mize to the minors and work back into the rotation. However, his spring earned him a spot in the rotation.

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So Far, So Good for Casey Mize

We all love comeback stories. A classic example of battling adversity to get back to your goal never gets old. Yet, so many comeback stories come with a theme of never being what once was. For Mize, that has not been the case.

Although we are working with a small sample (four starts), Mize has looked better than before, and much better than someone who hasn’t pitched in two years.

His fastball has jumped from an average of 93 mph in 2022 to 95 mph in 2024. Combine that with an increase in spin rate from 1951 RPM to 2236 RPM. Mize also has added about two inches of induced vertical break (IVB) on his fastball from 15 to 17 in 2024. You can see that improvement in a 5% increase in whiff rate on his heater. Simply put, it’s a better pitch.

Another pitch that has caught my eye has been Mize’s splitter. You might have noticed more buzz around the league about splitters and the Tigers seem to be buying into it as well.

Shelby Miller added a splitter and became a better pitcher and the Tigers were obviously intrigued by his development. So far, Mize has thrown his splitter 20% of the time, allowing only two hits (.133 average) and producing a 31.2% whiff rate. The pitch has graded out as a 111 Stuff+ with an impressive 14.4 inches of horizontal movement.

I know, I know, too many numbers. Just see for yourself.

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Throwing his splitter will lead to more groundballs and protect him from surrendering home runs. Mize is not going to be a strikeout artist, so finding ways to keep the ball of barrels and having batters drive it into the ground is key to his success.

Pumping in a 95 to 96+ mph fastball with a slider and splitter that average around 86 mph with a knuckle curve you can drop at 80 mph will leave hitters off balance.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Mize has not been perfect, but he doesn’t need to be. Coming back from injury he just needs to be checking boxes this early on.

Can you go six innings? Check – each of his last two outings. Is the velocity back? Check – 95+ mph is beautiful. Do you have your command? Check – 102 command+. Although he did walk three last outing, you can tell he is starting to settle in.

As Mize continues to get innings and confidence under his belt he’ll improve on the edges. If Mize can continue to produce solid outing after solid outing it changes the trajectory of this Tigers team. Skubal was the clear ace coming into the season but another “frontline” starter was in question. The rest of the rotation looked more like no. 4 or 5 starters. Olson has stepped up and so has Mize.

The offense’s slow start has put more pressure on the pitching staff and having Mize pitch better than expected is big. Not only for the Tigers, but for himself. I’m sure the road back was challenging and to not only get back on the mound, but to have success, has to feel like a major accomplishment.

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