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Tigers Series Preview: A team in transition

Detroit is not the scary division rival they once were.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As a franchise, the Tigers have had a rough couple of weeks. They were going to be buyers at the trade deadline, but a losing slump caused them to reverse-course and become sellers, leading to the departure of General Manager Dave Dombrowski. The team traded away ace pitcher David Price, closer Joakim Soria, and slugger Yoenis Cespedes. Manager Brad Ausmus has been under fire all season for his bullpen management and the team's disappointing record. Last weekend, the frustration boiled over in the dugout.

The Tigers came into this season hoping to compete for the Division, possibly in a race with the Royals. Instead, they trail the Royals by 12 1/2 games, with a 54-57 record. The big bad Tigers that beat up the Royals last year by taking 13 of 19 games, has split the ten contests so far. With a lineup full of no-namers and unproven pitchers on the mound, the Royals have a chance to take the season series this year.

Detroit has sorely missed former MVP Miguel Cabrera, who has missed over a month with a calf injury. Cabrera will take batting practice this week, but won't be back til late August at the earliest. Outfielder J.D. Martinez has helped fill the void with a fantastic season and his 30 home runs are fourth in the league. However Victor Martinez, fresh off a signing a four-year, $68 million contract last winter, has been dreadful. Young third baseman Nick Castellanos has been terrible offensively and defensively. Catcher Alex Avila, son of the new Tigers General Manager Al Aliva, has cratered offensively, creating an awkward situation this off-season.

Nonetheless, the Tigers are fifth in runs scored, lead the league in on-base percentage, and are second in slugging. They have scored just 3.75 runs per game in the eight games since the trade deadline. They have averaged just three runs per game against the Royals this year, with the Royals holding them to two runs or less seven times this year.

The Tigers are aggressive on the bases, but dreadful at stealing bases. They have been caught stealing more than any other team and have a success rate of just 63%. Fangraphs ranks them as dead last in all of baseball in Baserunning Runs.

Detroit's pitching has been the source of most of their problems this year. No team in the league has given up more runs per game than Detroit, with 4.82 runs allowed. No current starter in their rotation has an ERA below 4.20 this year. As a team, Detroit has given up the most home runs in the league. Rookie Matthew Boyd, who shut the Royals down last week, brings his changeup to Kauffman Stadium. Anibal Sanchez has gone at least six innings in each of his three starts against the Royals this year, but has a 5.59 ERA in those games. Daniel Norris is a promising rookie acquired from Toronto in the David Price deal. The 22-year old left-hander throws in the low-90s with a slider and changeup.

*-numbers with the Reds and Royals combined

#-numbers with the Blue Jays and Tigers combined

Alex Wilson and Bruce Rondon have both gotten a shot at closing with Joakim Soria off to Pittsburgh. Rondon was groomed as the starter a few years ago but failed, and Wilson was acquired from Boston in the Rick Porcello deal last winter. Wilson has converted his first two save opportunities, but doesn't have the velocity or the ability to miss bats teams generally like in a closer. Rondon does bring velocity but also a lack of command, although he has thrown five consecutive scoreless outings including a save on Saturday against Boston. Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny was summoned back from the minor leagues after a disappointing season led to his demotion earlier. He will join former Royals farmhand Blaine Hardy in tough situations against lefties.

Its Cueto Day, so don't forget to join us out at the K. The Royals have won two-thirds of their games at home this year, so you've got a good chance to see the "W" raised.