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Detroit Tigers series preview: The battle for second

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Trying to get right after the break.

Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Detroit Tigers and the World Champion Kansas City Royals come out of the All-Star Break hoping that some time off will have rejuvenated them. Each squad limped toward the All-Star Game - Detroit losing five of their last seven, and Kansas City dropping seven of their last ten. With half a game separating the two (and the Chicago White Sox), second place is there for either club to grab a hold of, but the real test is to not lose ground in the divisional race, as Cleveland has opened up a 6.5 game lead over second-place Detroit.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Pitching match-ups

Game One - Friday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Ian Kennedy 17 99.2 103 33 3.97 5.05 4.47 4.00 0.5 1.4
Justin Verlander 18 117.1 120 33 4.07 3.87 4.18 3.82 2.2 2.2

The Royals can take some solace in knowing that they are not facing the Justin Verlander of yore, the one who dominated them (and the rest of baseball) with his blistering fastball and remarkable stamina. His fastball now sits at just 92.8 MPH, and he still throws his slider, change, and curve, relying on his slider now more than ever before. As a fly-ball pitcher, Verlander has suffered the same fate as many of the Royals' pitchers this season, with the juiced ball that MLB will never admit is juiced leaving the park at a whopping 11.0 HR/FB%, well above his career 7.9% mark. His 18.2 K-BB% is actually his best mark since 2011, and he has been fortunate enough to have a .275 BABIP, but the ERA is a reflection of not being able to keep juicy balls in the park.

Ian Kennedy will hope to do teachers across America proud by shutting down the Tigers, thus earning his salary.

Game Two - Saturday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Danny Duffy (L) 27 81.2 94 17 3.09 3.43 3.54 3.14 1.6 2.0
Mike Pelfrey 18 98.1 46 38 4.58 5.21 5.05 5.27 0.3 0.6

This is the same Mike Pelfrey who pitched for the Twins. You may remember him. He doesn't strike anyone out, and he isn't very good. He'll probably Cy Pelfrey the Royals. He throws a junky fastball that sits around 92-93 MPH far too often and then mixes in a slider and splitter while praying for weak contact.

Danny Duffy is a bright, shining light from an otherwise dismal rotation that makes us long for men like Paul Byrd, Luke Hudson, and Runelvys Hernandez.

Game Three - Sunday, 12:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Yordano Ventura 17 94.1 69 40 5.15 4.90 4.89 4.94 0.6 0.1
Michael Fulmer 13 76.2 72 27 2.11 3.53 3.94 4.04 1.6 3.4

The key get for the Tigers in last year's trade sending Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets, Fulmer somewhat shockingly burst onto the scene this year for a Detroit rotation in need of a hero. Fulmer barely threw a change-up in the minors before suddenly having control of a plus pitch after a few starts in the majors. His slider was already a plus pitch, but the change-up has been his most valuable offering. As a predominant groundball pitcher, Fulmer also hasn't been hit extremely hard by the long ball.

Yordano Ventura has spent 2016 recalling visions of Kyle Davies.

The Batsmen

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Ian Kinsler 2B 391 16 71 52 9 .289 .348 .489 .358 122 2.9 3.1
Cameron Maybin CF 200 2 32 24 10 .341 .402 .413 .359 123 0.9 0.6
Miguel Cabrera 1B 381 18 49 53 0 .293 .370 .507 .368 129 1.9 2.3
Victor Martinez (S) DH 337 17 38 52 0 .305 .353 .514 .366 128 0.9 1.3
Nick Castellanos 3B 354 17 45 51 1 .302 .342 .534 .368 129 1.9 1.8
Justin Upton LF 356 9 40 35 5 .235 .289 .381 .288 75 -0.6 -0.2
Steven Moya (L) RF 92 5 9 11 0 .267 .304 .535 .349 116 -0.2 -0.2
James McCann C 190 5 14 23 0 .208 .259 .324 .254 52 0.2 0.3
Jose Iglesias SS 307 3 37 20 5 .250 .305 .332 .281 70 1.2 1.0
Bench Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (S) C 166 8 21 25 0 .203 .325 .428 .324 99 0.9 0.7
Austin Romine (S) IF 72 0 8 5 5 .222 .310 .270 .266 60 -0.1 -0.3
Mike Aviles Util 125 1 14 6 2 .211 .268 .272 .243 44 -0.8 -0.6

Stats through Sunday, July 10

As a unit, the Tigers' offense is slashing .267/.328/.437 with a .328 wOBA and 102 wRC+. Their 115 HR are good for ninth as a team, in the same general area as their wOBA and wRC+ put them. Of course once one takes into account the baserunning and defense of the unit, the 9.0 fWAR that the Detroit position players have put up as a whole place them just 20th, two spots behind the Royals.

With J.D. Martinez languishing on the disabled list, the Tigers' offense is missing one of its main cogs. Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, the ageless Victor Martinez, and the surprising Nick Castellanos have done the heavy lifting this season. Big offseason acquisition Justin Upton has been pretty terrible in his first season in the American League, putting the odds heavily in favor of Detroit getting to pay Upton $22.125M every year through 2021 as it becomes increasingly unlikely that he will be in a position to exercise his opt-out next year.

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