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Detroit Tigers Series Preview: Only 97 games to go

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Two bad teams force two cities to watch them play this week.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers
Jun 7, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Niko Goodrum (28) looks on after striking out against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers are really bad. The Kansas City Royals are really bad. And yet, they’re going to be featured on a national broadcast on Wednesday from TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. So it’ll be great for each respective fan base to see their teams trying to out-bad each other on ESPN. But before that, they play the first two in Kansas City and I have to be honest when I say that I don’t think it’d be a bad bet to put money on the Royals finishing ahead of the Tigers in spite of the horrible play. The Tigers just don’t have much of anything going for them. They have a couple outfielders playing pretty well, a couple starters pitching very well and a close putting up some monster numbers. Still, I just think they’re in for a disaster second half of the season and the Royals probably get some sort of bounce and have a 13-13 type month that allows them to leapfrog the Tigers. But does it really matter? These are two very bad teams.

Meet the Tigers

Royals vs. Tigers Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Tigers
Category Royals Tigers
Winning % .308 .387
Team wRC+ 88 79
Team xFIP 4.70 4.72
2019 Head to Head Wins 1 5
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 2.3 Matthew Boyd, 2.8

Tigers Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Niko Goodrum SS 246 .235 .317 .396 10.6% 26.4% 91 0.9
Christin Stewart LF 181 .255 .337 .439 11.0% 22.7% 104 0.3
Nicholas Castellanos RF 265 .262 .313 .443 6.4% 23.8% 98 0.6
Miguel Cabrera DH 239 .296 .364 .385 9.2% 20.1% 103 0.2
Brandon Dixon 1B 114 .291 .307 .491 2.6% 33.3% 108 0.1
Harold Castro 2B 37 .314 .351 .371 5.4% 21.6% 97 0.1
Dawel Lugo 3B 60 .246 .267 .368 1.7% 16.7% 64 -0.1
Grayson Greiner C 162 .170 .241 .293 8.0% 34.0% 42 -0.5
JaCoby Jones CF 183 .250 .319 .457 7.1% 30.6% 103 0.2

Tigers Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
John Hicks C/1B 122 .217 .254 .374 4.9% 28.7% 63 -0.3
Gordon Beckham INF 108 .234 .333 .436 9.3% 27.8% 107 0.4
Ronny Rodriguez INF 150 .214 .247 .457 4.7% 30.0% 78 0.3

Tigers Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Shane Greene 26 26.0 0 2 27.5% 6.9% 1.04 3.76 0.6
Joe Jimenez 29 26.1 2 4 32.5% 12.0% 5.13 4.09 0.0
Buck Farmer 30 25.1 3 4 27.1% 7.5% 4.97 3.33 0.2

Projected Starting Pitchers

Tuesday June 11th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Spencer Turnbull 13 71.2 3 5 21.9% 8.7% 3.01 4.48 1.5
Jakob Junis 13 72.0 4 6 20.6% 8.7% 5.63 4.52 0.5

Spencer Turnbull has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, especially after coming up for a cup of coffee last year and getting hit hard in his short stint. The injury to Michael Fulmer opened the door for him and the Tigers are really benefiting. A big difference is he’s throwing his four-seamer much more than his sinker, which was the opposite last season. It’s not a great pitch, but the sinker has benefited from him backing off it a bit. But more important than that is his slider, which he didn’t throw a ton last season (though it was effective) and has upped the usage by about 10 percent. It’s responsible for 31 of his 68 strikeouts and has held opponents to a .153 average. He’s not without weakness, though. Lefties have a .795 OPS against him compared to .599 for righties and he’s only pitched into the seventh in three of his 13 starts. But even so, he’s allowed a .167/.253/.258 line the third time through the order, which is very impressive and probably a credit to the team for keeping him out of those situations as much as possible, but he’s still been quite good.

It really seemed like Junis was starting to figure things out, but then he threw a real clunker against the Red Sox in his last start, allowing six runs on eight hits in 4.2 innings. He walked three or more for the third time this season and while he did strike out five, he just didn’t really have it once again. The good news is that he’s historically been excellent against the Tigers. Earlier this year, he struck out eight in six innings. Last year, he had a 1.95 ERA in five starts against them. So if there’s any team and any lineup Junis can find himself against it, it seems to be this one. The Tigers are one of the worst in baseball against the slider, so maybe, just maybe he can find a way to get back on track here.

Wednesday June 12th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Daniel Norris 13 62.2 2 5 17.7% 5.9% 4.60 4.58 0.5
Danny Duffy 8 42.1 3 3 19.1% 8.7% 4.68 5.10 0.6

I remember thinking Daniel Norris was going to be something. He posted a 3.38 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning in 14 games in 2016 as a 23-year old and since he’s put up a 5.18 ERA in 208.2 innings with tons of hits allowed. This year, the strikeouts have gone way down as his fastball velocity has remained at 90-91 after averaging 93-94 prior to last season. His slider has been very good with a ton of strikeouts and a limited average to opponents, but the fastball has been good for a .330 average allowed and .563 slugging percentage. His sinker has been even worse with opponents hitting .500 on it! At this point, he’s probably just organizational depth that the Tigers have had to call on due to so many injuries. He’s pitched just once against the Royals this year, giving up three runs in three innings, but he’s been pretty good in his career against them with a 3.99 ERA in 49.2 innings historically.

Danny Duffy is on a bit of a bad run with the most recent issue coming from a line drive off his leg. After pitching quite well for two innings against the Red Sox, his second inning with a line drive off his leg. He returned to pitch the third, but didn’t have command or control, which was likely related to the rocket shot he took off that leg. It’s the second straight start he was cruising before hitting a wall, though the one before it against Texas was simply him pitching poorly. Because we don’t really know how he’s doing health-wise, it’s hard to say what this start will bring for him, but the Tigers for all their offensive issues, do hit lefty starters well, hitting .259/.333/.472 against them compared to .228/.287/.362. So while they can’t really hit, they can hit when there’s a southpaw on the mound, which isn’t great for Duffy.

Thursday June 13th - 7:05pm (from TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha)

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Matthew Boyd 14 84.2 5 4 30.5% 4.4% 3.08 3.41 2.8
Homer Bailey 13 61.0 4 6 20.5% 9.7% 5.90 4.49 0.8

The Royals can’t avoid facing the Tigers best pitcher, Matthew Boyd. After a solid 2018, he’s really broken out this year and is one of the better pitchers out there, striking out a ton, limiting walks and hits and just generally being awesome. He’s been remarkably consistent, both throughout the season and throughout the game. Opponents have not figured him out a third time through the order, and it doesn’t seem flukey with a similar strikeout rate to the first and second time through. He’s run roughshod through lefties with a .555 OPS allowed, but righties only have a .664 mark, so it’s not like they’ve done enough better to make a difference. Like the other two the Royals face in this series, his bread and butter is his slider, which has a 40.8 percent whiff rate and 41.8 percent strikeout rate. Opponents are hitting just .179 against it. Boyd is absolutely the real deal, but don’t tell Whit Merrifield or Hunter Dozier that. They’re the best hope. Whit is hitting .429/.467/.643 against him in 30 plate appearances and Dozier is hitting .444/.500/.667 against him in 10, so if he’s off the DL, at least that’s two guys who have seen him well. Is that sample too small to come to any sort of conclusion? Absolutely. Am I grasping at straws to find something borderline positive? You betcha.

The Homer Bailey Experience continues in this one. He actually hasn’t been quite as bad as his ERA would suggest as he’s still striking a decent number out and not giving up too many home runs. Still, there are way too many runners on, but he’s sort of giving the Royals some innings, which isn’t worthless I guess. He was solid in his last start against the White Sox, going six innings and giving up three runs. That’ll work. In his only start against the Tigers this year, he had 13 swinging strikes in 94 pitches. His splitter and slider both were really on and giving them fits. Bailey is exactly the profile of starter who will give them trouble, so he might be able to have another solid start here, but with him, it’s certainly hard to predict that.


Speaking of predictions, I’m going to say something very, very stupid and predict the Royals take their first series in two months. I just really don’t believe in the Tigers even though I have a feeling the offense is going to look borderline stupid in at least one game of the three.


Three games, two cities, how does it shake out?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Royals sweep
    (16 votes)
  • 7%
    Tigers sweep
    (9 votes)
  • 21%
    Royals take two of three
    (27 votes)
  • 31%
    Tigers take two of three
    (40 votes)
  • 26%
    MLB intervenes, issues both teams three losses
    (34 votes)
126 votes total Vote Now