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Detroit Tigers series preview: a chance to play spoiler

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

What feels like three years ago now, Joakim Soria gave up a walk off home run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a moonshot over the RF wall in Comerica Park. The Royals had something like 14 walk off losses since 2014 and seven of them came at Comerica Park.

It's hard to say a series win was backbreaking or a disappointment but one of the all time lowlights of my Royals fandom was a September weekend series in 2006. The Royals were far, far out of competition (60-100 record) but they were visiting the Tigers who were in the race for the #1 seed in the playoffs (95-65) and winning the AL Central. The Royals have nothing to win for...in fact they actually had an incentive to lose: the worst record in baseball and the #1 pick. They were fighting the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays for that glorious spot and all they had to do was not win one game. Athletes don't think this way of course and every time they step out on the field they want to win.

The 2006 Royals won the Friday opener in extra innings. The Tigers jumped on Runelvys Hernandez early for five runs in the first three innings before the Royals offense came alive scoring:

2 in the fifth

1 in the 7th

1 in th 8th

1 in the 9th to tie the game on a Shane Costa single

The game would go to extras and the Royals would score four runs in the 11th on three home runs (Paul Phillips, Emil Brown, and Jeff Keppinger). The Tigers would get two of their own in the bottom of the 11th but it wasn't enough as Joel Peralta got Ivan Rodriguez to ground into a double play to end the game.

Saturday's game would see the Royals start the game with this series of events:

Double

Single

Triple

HR

Flyball

Single

Single

Walk

Wild Pitch

Strikeout

Single

Walk

Strikeout

The Royals had batted around in the first, scoring seven runs off Zach Miner. Detroit would slash away at the lead with sporadic runs throughout the game but couldn't overcome the first inning deficit, losing 9-6.

The Sunday finale was another high scoring affair and another extra inning win. The Tigers jumped to a 6-0 lead before KC got the lead down to 7-4 before an 8th inning explosion saw the Royals score four runs and take an 8-7 lead. Matt Stairs (former Royal) would hit the tying home run off of Scott Dohmann (who I literally just had to look up to remember who that is). In the 12th an Esteban German single and bases loaded walk by Emil Brown would put the Royals up by two. Jimmy Gobble would close of the bottom of the 12th scoreless and with that, the Royals had swept the Tigers at home.

Two extra innings games and 28 runs scored later, the Royals had swept Detroit at home. The Rays would lose all their final weekend games to finish at 61-101...one win worse than the Royals. The Tigers would finish at 95-65...one win less than the Twins who clinched the division.

Nine months later in the June draft the Rays would take college star David Price first overall while the Royals decided between Mike Moustakas or Josh Vitters. They made the right selection of the two but David Price would go on to be worth 32 fWAR under team control while Moustakas has been worth 10.

They didn't even have to be swept either. They finished worse than the Rays in 2005 so they held the #1 overall pick tie breaker, so even if they lost 2 of 3 they would have still had the first pick. Instead they won all three.

The 2016 Royals have the same chance at a spoiler this weekend, though they enter with not so dire of circumstances as the 2006 team ten years later. The Tigers have won four straight and are far away from the team that was nearly .500 back in June. They are playing for a shot of one of the two AL Wild Cards.

Game one: Friday, 6:10 PM CDT - Danny Duffy vs Michael Fulmer

Danny Duffy - - IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA/Pit GSc
2016 - - 169.2 148 61 60 36 181 23 3.18 -
Last 2 GS - - 45.1 48 22 21 11 43 9 4.17 52
9/18/2016 CHW W 7 8 3 3 2 8 1 110 55
9/13/2016 OAK ND 7.1 3 3 3 2 6 2 98 64
Last 2 v.DET - - 31.2 27 13 13 10 26 6 3.69 55
9/2/2016 DET ND 5.2 9 4 4 1 8 1 100 42
8/16/2016 @DET W 7.2 3 1 1 2 5 1 103 72

Michael Fulmer - - IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA/Pit GSc
2016 - - 148.2 122 53 50 39 120 16 3.03 -
Last 2 GS - - 44.2 41 22 22 8 32 6 4.43 53
9/16/2016 @CLE L 5 7 6 6 3 3 1 100 29
9/9/2016 BAL ND 7 3 2 2 1 5 1 103 67
Last 2 v.KCR - - 19.2 18 6 6 6 14 2 2.75 57
9/3/2016 @KCR L 6 7 3 3 1 4 1 87 49
7/17/2016 KCR ND 8 6 2 2 1 5 0 95 66

If BBWAA writers weren't so against selecting a pitcher for Rookie of the Year, Fulmer would stand a greater chance to win the award.

Game two: Saturday, 12:05 PM CDT - Yordano Ventura vs Daniel Norris

Name W L G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 HR/FB ERA FIP fWAR
Yordano Ventura 11 11 30 30 176 6.65 3.73 1.18 13.40% 4.35 4.71 1.2
Daniel Norris 3 2 12 11 57 9 2.84 1.26 12.10% 3.63 3.9 0.9

Game three: Sunday, 12:10 PM CDT - Edinson Volquez vs Matt Boyd

Name W L G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP HR/FB ERA FIP fWAR
Edinson Volquez 10 11 32 32 181.2 6.59 3.37 1.09 0.316 13.20% 5.25 4.46 1.6
Matt Boyd 6 4 19 17 97.1 7.58 2.68 1.48 0.275 12.30% 4.16 4.6 1

The Batsmen (min. 200 PA)

Name PA HR RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
Ian Kinsler 638 26 78 14 6.30% 16.90% 0.192 0.299 0.277 0.335 0.469 116 2.6 14.6 12.7 5
Miguel Cabrera 639 34 94 0 11.00% 16.70% 0.239 0.325 0.307 0.385 0.546 146 -8.6 26.7 -7.3 4.2
J.D. Martinez 478 21 62 1 9.60% 23.80% 0.235 0.381 0.312 0.381 0.547 148 -3.5 24 -20 2.1
Nick Castellanos 432 18 58 1 6.00% 24.50% 0.214 0.344 0.286 0.331 0.5 119 -1.7 8.4 -5.2 1.8
Cameron Maybin 350 3 39 15 9.70% 17.40% 0.096 0.387 0.318 0.388 0.415 121 0.6 9.4 -4.9 1.7
Jose Iglesias 484 4 30 7 5.60% 9.70% 0.077 0.268 0.248 0.3 0.325 68 1.9 -16.6 16.4 1.7
Victor Martinez 583 25 80 0 7.90% 14.80% 0.183 0.303 0.289 0.348 0.472 117 -9.9 2.3 -14.4 0.8
James McCann 352 12 47 0 6.50% 29.30% 0.142 0.278 0.219 0.271 0.361 67 -4.6 -18.6 13.3 0.7
Justin Upton 588 26 79 9 7.80% 28.90% 0.198 0.295 0.237 0.301 0.435 94 1.4 -2.5 -14.5 0.3
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 279 12 38 0 14.00% 35.50% 0.183 0.233 0.179 0.29 0.362 75 0.9 -7.7 1 0.3

It seems like there will never be a time when Miguel Cabrera won't be good. Ian Kinsler is putting up another star-level season (his sixth 4+ win year of his career) and he's actually hitting 30% worse than Miguel Cabrera.

The Tigers are terrible at baserunning, dead last in BsR and sixth worst since 2010. That hasn't really stopped their offense though as they have a 103 wRC+. That's the fifth best in the league, tied with the Indians. Defensively as well they rank in the bottom five.

This team is all about hitting the crap out of the ball. They rank 9th in average exit velocity, 2nd in average batted ball distance, and 4th in average launch angle.

Their common weakness among popular opinion is their bullpen but this year their relievers have been the fifth best staff by fWAR, just slightly better than the Royals bullpen.

This is a pretty good team and the Royals have really struggled in September. A sweep isn't out of the picture but Duffy vs Fulmer will be the best pitching matchup of the series...and maybe the Royals best chance at a win.