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Royals series preview: The Detroit Tigers

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The fourth-place and fading Tigers come to town

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Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Indians
New ace
Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Eight games under .500, the Detroit Tigers come to Kauffman Stadium with their fading hopes of contention rendering them likely sellers. Four games behind the Royals, the Tigers could close that gap, dragging the Royals down into the gutter with them, a chance to tie things up with the Royals with a four-game sweep that would leave both teams four games under .500 with equally poor chances at a postseason berth.

Game times and pitching matchups are as follows:

  • Monday, July 17, 7:15 PM CDT - Jordan Zimmermann versus Jason Vargas (L)
  • Tuesday, July 18, 7:15 PM CDT - Matt Boyd (L) versus Travis Wood
  • Wednesday, July 19, 7:15 PM CDT - Justin Verlander versus Jason Hammel
  • Thursday, July 20, 7:15 PM CDT - Michael Fulmer versus Danny Duffy (L)

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
Jordan Zimmermann 17 95.0 67 16.1 30 7.2 5.87 5.81 5.27 5.09 -0.1 -0.4
Jason Vargas (L) 17 106.1 78 18.2 25 5.8 2.62 3.78 4.77 4.62 2.0 4.0
Matt Boyd (L) 11 55.1 37 14.4 24 9.3 5.69 4.75 5.17 5.34 0.5 -0.1
Travis Wood 26 32.2 24 15.7 19 12.4 6.06 4.70 5.86 5.39 0.0 -0.4
Justin Verlander 19 110.0 103 21.0 54 11.0 4.66 4.33 4.97 4.88 1.5 1.0
Jason Hammel 18 100.1 81 17.8 34 7.5 5.02 4.54 5.25 4.85 1.1 0.7
Michael Fulmer 18 123.2 87 17.6 27 5.5 3.06 3.22 4.09 4.30 3.3 3.3
Danny Duffy (L) 14 89.2 71 19.4 27 7.4 3.51 3.61 4.55 4.57 1.9 2.5

Despite Justin Verlander’s long-time status as the Tigers’ ace, it would be hard to argue anything other than Michael Fulmer being their de facto ace in light of Verlander’s return to being decidedly average. Per Tigers.com beat writer Jason Beck:

Fulmer is averaging 14.56 pitches per inning, most efficient among qualified American League starters. His 1.32 groundout/flyout ratio ranks seventh among AL starters, while his .321 slugging percentage allowed ranks second behind Boston's Chris Sale.

Verlander could be gone soon. Fulmer could, too. Given Verlander’s contract and recent struggles, he would yield considerably less than Fulmer should Detroit opt to tear down to accelerate their seemingly pending rebuild.

While Verlander has been disappointing, Jordan Zimmermann and Matt Boyd have bordered on disastrous. Zimmermann carries a gigantic contract with his struggles, while Boyd will be making his start after getting recalled from Toledo. There’s no way to look at their numbers thus far without assuming there’s more bad to come. Boyd’s .354 BABIP on its own suggest regression to the mean should be in store, but his xBABIP is still .325 thanks in large part to a crazy 42.1 Hard%, the third-worst mark of any pitcher with more than 50 IP. Zimmermann isn’t far behind him with his 38.6 Hard% (10th-worst of pitchers at the same innings threshold), and he’s giving up more than two dongs per nine innings pitched.

Detroit 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
Justin Upton LF 344 15 54 56 6 .271 .358 .495 .363 127 2.5 3.3
Alex Avila (L) C 233 11 28 29 0 .297 .421 .526 .403 155 2.3 2.3
Ian Kinsler 2B 324 9 51 23 7 .237 .324 .380 .309 91 1.8 1.8
J.D. Martinez RF 229 16 38 39 2 .308 .389 .636 .417 164 1.8 1.8
José Iglesias SS 286 2 34 25 5 .255 .286 .351 .276 68 1.0 1.6
Miguel Cabrera 1B 329 12 34 45 0 .267 .359 .446 .342 113 0.9 0.5
James McCann C 178 9 18 26 0 .201 .288 .416 .301 85 0.7 0.7
Nick Castellanos 3B 373 11 44 47 2 .245 .314 .433 .319 97 0.5 0.6
Mikie Mahtook CF 145 4 14 17 1 .264 .283 .407 .293 79 0.0 -0.4
Alex Presley (L) OF 73 1 8 9 3 .277 .347 .385 .322 99 0.0 0.3
Dixon Machado IF 76 1 8 6 0 .319 .347 .403 .325 101 -0.2 -0.1
Andrew Romine (S) Util 201 4 30 18 4 .231 .296 .368 .290 77 -0.3 -0.1
Victor Martinez (S) DH 299 6 26 33 0 .253 .321 .361 .296 81 -0.8 -0.4

The Tigers position players have been the 15th-most valuable unit in baseball per fWAR, worth 11.4 wins in total. Those totals are not coming from their baserunning, as the Tigers are the third-worst team in baseball per BaseRuns. Their 19th-ranked defense is also dragging the unit down, as they’re the 11th-ranked unit per the offensive fWAR component. Their 101 wRC+ is both above league average and good for ninth, and their .325 wOBA is 11th. Justin Upton and Alex Avila have been driving the offense, somewhat surprisingly, and J.D. Martinez has helped to pick up the slack after missing the first 32 games of the year. Avila’s serious bump in production can be largely tied to his .407 BABIP, but he’s also walking an insane 17.2% of the time.

That those three are driving Detroit’s offense means that the usual suspects—Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and Victor Martinez—have not been. Martinez and Kinsler’s offensive contributions have been particularly disappointing.

Poll

How will the Royals fare against the Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Royals sweep
    (23 votes)
  • 52%
    Royals take three of four
    (71 votes)
  • 22%
    Split
    (30 votes)
  • 5%
    Tigers take three of four
    (7 votes)
  • 3%
    Tigers sweep
    (5 votes)
136 votes total Vote Now

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference through action on Sunday, July 16.

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