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Royals series preview: The Detroit Tigers

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Fourth-place Detroit comes to town in The Fight for the Central Cellar

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Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers
He’s back and on fire.
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

While much has been made of the Royals’ early-season struggles, the Detroit Tigers’ first two months haven’t exactly been ideal. Detroit comes to Kansas City holding down fourth place in the American League Central, just 1.5 games ahead of the Royals. Though the Tigers’ offense has been league-average (100 wRC+), their pitching staff has allowed the third-most runs in baseball. Not unlike the Royals, UZR and DRS stand in direct opposition with one another seeing the Tigers defense as either pretty solid or one of the bottom third in the league, respectively. So whether the runs the Tigers are allowing should be hung solely around the necks of the pitching staff or not is up for debate, but allowing so many runs has run the Tigers’ record to four games under .500 as the calendar gets dangerously close to June.

The series game times and matchups are as follows:

  • Monday, May 29, 6:15 PM CDT - Daniel Norris (L) versus Jason Hammel
  • Tuesday, May 30, 7:15 PM CDT - Justin Verlander versus TBA
  • Wednesday, May 31, 7:15 PM CDT - Matt Boyd (L) versus Ian Kennedy

Tigers at Royals pitching matchups

Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Daniel Norris (L) 9 49.1 44 19.3 23 10.1 4.38 3.81 4.63 4.65 0.8 0.2
Jason Hammel 9 46.2 38 17.4 19 8.7 5.98 4.75 5.30 4.86 0.3 -0.4
Justin Verlander 10 61.0 58 21.7 29 10.9 4.87 4.56 5.16 4.72 0.5 0.2
TBA
Matt Boyd (L) 10 51.2 36 15.1 23 9.7 5.40 4.72 4.85 5.06 0.4 -0.1
Ian Kennedy 8 42.2 36 20.7 20 11.5 4.43 5.24 5.13 4.81 0.0 0.6

Aside from Michael Fulmer’s continued excellence, which the Royals will not have to endure this series, not a lot has gone well for the Tigers’ rotation this season. Daniel Norris, Justin Verlander, and Matt Boyd each have xFIP and SIERA over 4.50, and of that trio only Norris has a FIP or ERA south of 4.50. The resurgent Verlander of the previous year-and-a-half seems to have gone back into Gobbler’s Knob for one more season of winter. This Royals’ offense can make lots of pitchers look good, so their success against these three is no guarantee, and the Royals’ pitchers going this series are no safe bet to shut down even a league-average offense. Basically, both of these teams stink right now.

Tigers position players

Player Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Player Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Alex Avila (L) C 109 6 13 20 0 .337 .459 .618 .453 193 1.5 1.5
Justin Upton LF 191 9 29 23 5 .242 .346 .461 .347 120 1.1 1.8
J.D. Martinez RF 62 7 11 14 0 .298 .452 .766 .482 214 0.9 0.8
Miguel Cabrera 1B 158 5 14 19 0 .257 .361 .412 .330 108 0.5 -0.1
John Hicks C 37 2 7 9 0 .361 .378 .611 .419 170 0.4 0.4
José Iglesias SS 148 2 18 13 3 .211 .238 .352 .253 54 0.2 0.5
JaCoby Jones CF 52 1 4 4 1 .149 .231 .277 .228 36 0.1 0.2
Andrew Romine (S) Util 138 2 20 12 2 .238 .316 .369 .302 88 0.1 -0.2
Alex Presley (L) OF 3 0 1 1 0 .333 .333 .667 .414 167 0.0 -0.1
Victor Martinez (S) DH 187 4 14 25 0 .258 .342 .374 .315 97 -0.1 0.3
Nick Castellanos 3B 210 4 22 25 1 .217 .290 .365 .287 78 -0.1 -0.6
Mikie Mahtook OF 60 2 5 7 0 .179 .233 .339 .249 51 -0.2 -0.2
Dixon Machado IF 40 0 3 0 0 .278 .333 .278 .279 72 -0.2 -0.1

Over the last week, the Tigers lost Ian Kinsler and James McCann to injuries, joining the surprisingly productive long-time minor-leaguer Jim Adduci on the disabled list. This means that for a Tigers team that was already struggling, things just got worse. Of course, the Tigers have been without one of their top hitters for most of the season—J.D. Martinez, who just returned from the disabled list 16 games ago—so at this point they’re used to playing down a key man. They’ve also gotten surprisingly little production from Miguel Cabrera, who is still destroying baseballs (second-lowest Soft% in baseball to Miguel Sanó) but has too little to show for his efforts.

Poll

How will the Royals fare against Detroit?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Royals sweep
    (13 votes)
  • 50%
    Royals take two of three
    (40 votes)
  • 21%
    Tigers take two of three
    (17 votes)
  • 11%
    Tigers sweep
    (9 votes)
79 votes total Vote Now

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference through action on Wednesday, May 17.

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