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Detroit Tigers Series Preview: Who wouldn’t love a weekend in Detroit?

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The Motor City is about to find out what speed do.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees
Apr 2, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario (46) reacts after being thrown out at first base against the New York Yankees in the eight inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals will help the Tigers open their home schedule with a three-game set in beautiful Detroit in April. The battle of rebuilding teams is one that surely will lead off all the highlight shows as a Jorge Lopez vs. Niko Goodrum matchup is one that simply cannot be missed. In all seriousness, the Tigers are not what we’d call good. The offense is rough, to say the least, but some of their pitching has been really impressive, so they have that going for them, which is nice. For now. While they are stuck at the bottom of the division and probably league for now, they do have some interesting players like Jeimer Candelario and Chrstin Stewart and Miguel Cabrera is always a threat to do something to break your heart as an opponent. It’s not all bad. It’s just mostly bad.

Meet the Tigers

Royals vs. Tigers Tale of the Tape - 2018 Stats

Category Royals Tigers
Category Royals Tigers
Winning % .358 .395
Team wRC+ 88 84
Team xFIP 4.63 4.55
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 5.2 Nicholas Castellanos, 3.0

Tigers Projected Lineup - 2018 Stats

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Josh Harrison 2B 374 .250 .293 .363 4.8% 18.2% 78 0.3
Nicholas Castellanos RF 678 .298 .354 .500 7.2% 22.3% 130 3.0
Miguel Cabrera 1B 157 .299 .395 .448 14.0% 17.2% 128 0.7
Jeimer Candelario 3B 619 .224 .317 .393 10.7% 25.8% 95 2.5
Niko Goodrum DH 492 .245 .315 .432 8.5% 26.8% 103 1.1
Christin Stewart LF 72 .267 .375 .417 13.9% 18.1% 120 -0.1
Grayson Greiner C 116 .219 .328 .281 14.7% 27.6% 73 0.0
Jordy Mercer SS 436 .251 .315 .381 7.3% 20.0% 85 1.0
Mikie Mahtook CF 250 .202 .276 .359 8.4% 26.4% 71 -0.2

Tigers Projected Bench - 2018 Stats

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
John Hicks C/1B 312 .260 .312 .403 7.1% 26.9% 95 -0.1
Gordon Beckham INF 50 .182 .250 .205 8.0% 22.0% 32 -0.1
Dustin Peterson (AAA) OF 442 .268 .324 .406 6.8% 21.7% 107 ---

Tigers Key Relievers - 2018 Stats

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Shane Greene 66 63.1 4 6 23.3% 6.8% 5.12 4.05 -0.1
Joe Jimenez 68 62.2 5 4 29.2% 8.2% 4.31 3.82 1.4
Buck Farmer 66 69.1 3 4 18.5% 13.3% 4.15 5.17 0.1

Probable Pitching Matchups

Thursday April 4th - 12:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jakob Junis 30 177.0 9 12 21.6% 5.7% 4.37 4.13 1.4
Spencer Turnbull 4 16.1 0 2 21.7% 5.8% 6.06 3.37 0.5

Spencer Turnbull was the Tigers second round pick out of Alabama and made it to the big leagues last season for the first time. He was fairly nondescript throughout the minor leagues, but with the Tigers on the hunt for any kind of talent, he finally got his shot. And he wasn’t good, but it was a small sample and a very good spring won him a rotation spot to at least start the season. Shoulder injuries have dropped his velocity a bit, but he still runs it up around 92-95 and has been a big-time ground ball guy. He seems like he’s probably a future reliever, but on a Tigers team hurting for good arms, there’s no reason not to give him a shot in the rotation and see if he can stick. He pitched reasonably well in his first start of the year, getting a few swings and misses, but ultimately took the loss after giving up three runs over five innings.

Jakob Junis actually had a vaguely similar stat line to Turnbull in his first start, but he got the win. He did strike out six in 5.2 innings last week against the White Sox with a decent swinging strike rate. One thing that caught my attention with Junis is that he got a ton of grounders against them, which is not his style. It’s one start, so let’s hold off on throwing a parade about it, but it’s worth mentioning at least and paying attention to moving forward. If you remember early last season, Junis built his strong start on dominating the Tigers, which he really has done throughout his career with a 6-1 record in eight games and 49 innings against them. Given the weather forecast for this one and the state of the Tigers lineup, it sure seems like he has a good shot to keep the good times rolling.

Saturday April 6th - 12:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jorge Lopez 17 53.2 2 5 18.3% 8.7% 5.03 4.72 0.2
Matt Moore 39 102.0 3 8 21.7% 5.8% 6.79 5.06 0.2

Matt Moore was an interesting reclamation project signing for the Tigers (along with Tyson Ross). It wasn’t that long ago that he was seen as a key cog for the Rays before hitting an injury roadblock and getting traded to the Giants. Two straight horrible seasons later, he’s trying to rebuild value and had a great start to that effort in his first start of the year, giving up just two hits and a walk over seven shutout innings. Even in struggles, his changeup has been a pitch he can turn to with a 34.6% whiff rate last year and way better than that even in his first start this season. His fastball, while much better in his first start of the year than last year, is still one that he struggles to controla t times and got hit very hard on last season. Righties had their way with him last year, so if you’re a DFS player, Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi and Jorge Soler might not be too bad of a play against Moore.

For Jorge Lopez, he looks to build on a solid first effort that was probably better than the final line looked. I thought he had moments of dominance and then some moments where a lack of command really hurt him, specifically on the Yonder Alonso home run he allowed. If he has his curve working in this one, I would guess the Tigers will be lost. If he doesn’t, they have a few guys who can hunt a fastball, so he might find himself in trouble quickly. The good news is that we’ll probably know fast. But if he’s on, his 12 swinging strikes out of 82 pitches could easily be repeated against a Tigers lineup with a ton of swing and miss in it. It’s worth at least mentioning that Christin Stewart’s two home run game came against Lopez last season, so maybe he should pitch around him just to avoid that again.

Sunday April 7th - 12:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 41 140.1 9 6 20.0% 4.7% 3.08 4.26 2.6
Tyson Ross 31 149.2 8 9 19.2% 9.8% 4.15 4.25 1.0

It seems like so long ago that Tyson Ross was on the road to stardom or at least somewhere near the road to stardom. He made 33 starts in 2015 with a lot of strikeouts and a good ERA and all was well. Then injuries hit and he’s still working his way back, but last season was a big step for him as he was fine for the Padres and pretty good for the Cardinals, though mostly out of relief. Now the Tigers are giving him a shot to start in the hopes that he can bring back something for them at the deadline. He doesn’t have nearly the swing and miss stuff anymore and his control is iffy, but he occasionally can still flash what he once was. Given the Royals love for swinging at everything, his lack of control may not hurt him against the Royals, but hey, you never know.

Brad Keller is off to a solid start through two starts, though not as good as Zimmermann. In his outing against the Twins on Tuesday, he didn’t really have his best stuff or command but found a way to gut through six innings and kept the Royals in the game. The good news is that even without his best stuff, his slider was fantastic again, getting six whiffs on 11 swings. His only start against Detroit last season was in his last start of the year and he went seven strong, though he didn’t get many whiffs or strikeouts. Still, this lineup is the sort of lineup that Keller should do very well against if he can regain the command he showed on Opening Day.

Prediction

It doesn’t get much more thrilling than an early April battle between two teams who will be fighting for the basement. I’m going to give the edge to the Royals, but the real winner is the fact that all games are in the afternoon so your evenings are free from watching.

Poll

Can the Royals Tame the Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Royals Win 2/3
    (45 votes)
  • 20%
    Tigers Win 2/3
    (15 votes)
  • 12%
    Royals Sweep
    (9 votes)
  • 6%
    Tigers Sweep
    (5 votes)
74 votes total Vote Now