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Detroit Tigers series preview: Jockeying for the Central

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Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Hot on the heels of the Royals getting a share of the AL Central Division lead thanks to a sweep of Cleveland, Kansas City will play a four-game set with the Detroit Tigers. A lopsided weekend could really help the Royals set the Tigers back.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Pitching match-ups

Game One - Thursday, 7:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Justin Verlander 13 86.0 90 24 3.77 3.46 3.89 3.61
Danny Duffy (L) 22 49.0 59 10 2.94 3.12 3.33 2.85

Though his ERA stands at a relatively pedestrian 3.77, Justin Verlander has actually pitched quite well. In a resurgent 2016 campaign, his K-rates (9.42 K/9, 26.2 K%) are at their best marks since his 2009 season, and his K-BB% (19.2) is his best mark in that category since 2011. 2011 happened to be the year in which he won both the American League Cy Young and the Most Valuable Player Awards. Of course, he also enjoyed a .239 BABIP that season, a mark he'll likely not enjoy again. He is also allowing home runs at a slightly higher rate than he has in the past, which begins to explain why his ERA is not sitting closer to even with his peripherals. This will be the first time the Royals see Verlander this season.

Danny Duffy has looked like the pitcher every Royals fan dreamed he would be since being slotted back into the rotation. The walks have evaporated into the ether. The strikeouts and command are spectacular. His one slight problem spot has been in the long-ball department, but it hasn't been enough to derail a sterling young 2016.

Game Two - Friday, 7:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Michael Fulmer 9 53.2 52 19 2.52 3.58 3.87 3.90
Yordano Ventura 13 73.0 54 36 4.93 5.04 5.23 5.14

The key get in the Yoenis Cespedes deal last year, Michael Fulmer shook off a rocky start to his big league career and now heads into Friday's action riding a 28.1 scoreless innings streak. As highlighted by August Fagerstrom at FanGraphs, Fulmer is using a change-up that mere weeks ago was a fringy third pitch and a significant question mark in regards to his future as a big-league starting pitcher but is now a killer out pitch. It's early, but he could be the truth.

Ventura is coming off what has to be considered his best start of the season. That it came as he stares down a suspension for more on-field nonsense is more worrisome, though probably not as worrisome as the general struggles he has endured this season.

Game Three - Saturday, 7:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Matt Boyd 5 25.2 20 11 4.91 5.40 4.78 4.78
Edinson Volquez 14 85.1 67 33 3.90 4.02 4.31 4.43

Thus far, Matt Boyd has thrown more than 5.1 innings just once in his four starts. As the second-best piece the Tigers got in the David Price deal last year, Boyd started to establish himself as a mid-rotation celiinged prospect in 2015. Of course, the on-field results since his promotion have not matched that ceiling.

Volquez is who you think he is.

Game Four - Sunday, 1:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Jordan Zimmermann 12 78.0 49 16 3.46 3.83 4.59 4.59
Chris Young 11 45.1 46 18 6.15 7.46 4.90 4.36

For whatever reason, Jordan Zimmermann is not racking up the Ks like he is accustomed to. His K-Rates are at all-time lows. Facing the least strikeout-prone team in baseball probably doesn't bode well for Zimmerman if that's the case.

Chris Young shouldn't be this bad. Maybe he proves that belief to be true on Sunday.

The Batsmen

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Ian Kinsler 2B 283 14 56 44 7 .314 .367 .543 .387 145
Cameron Maybin CF 106 1 17 11 6 .379 .438 .432 .385 143
Miguel Cabrera 1B 277 12 37 37 0 .305 .379 .524 .381 140
Victor Martinez DH 237 9 24 35 0 .333 .384 .519 .383 142
J.D. Martinez RF 280 12 36 39 1 .287 .361 .526 .374 136
Nick Castellanos 3B 249 12 30 37 1 .297 .329 .526 .359 125
Justin Upton LF 250 4 29 22 3 .229 .284 .351 .276 69
James McCann C 117 3 7 16 0 .209 .287 .341 .278 70
Jose Iglesias SS 214 1 29 12 5 .250 .314 .313 .279 71
Bench Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C 128 7 17 20 0 .191 .305 .436 .374 136
Mike Aviles IF 73 0 9 4 0 .209 .254 .239 .223 32
Andrew Romine IF 44 0 2 4 2 .162 .279 .216 .235 41

Stats through Tuesday, June 14

With a .271/.331/.418 slash making a .330wOBA, the Tigers offense is not one to be trifiled with. They are lean, they are mean, and they are headed by one of the games' best hitters. This stacked lineup could well be a problem for the Royals' shaky rotation.

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