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Detroit Tigers Series Preview: A last place battle in KC

One of these two horrible teams gets to jump out after the break on a strong note.

MLB: Game Two-Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox
Jul 3, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder Nicholas Castellanos (9) reacts after hitting an RBI double against the Chicago White Sox during the seventh inning in game two of a baseball doubleheader at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

If you look at the standings, the Detroit Tigers are a game ahead of the Royals but they have a slightly worse winning percentage. And that, my friends, was the most interesting thing about this first series out of the break between the two worst teams in the American League Central. That was before Bubba Starling was called up, so at least there’s that to focus on for a bit. As for the Tigers, well, they’re really bad, and on top of being really bad, they’re fighting the injury bug pretty hard with three of their main lineup pieces currently on the disabled list. Of course, two of them were basically non-contributors, so it didn’t hurt that much, but how much pain can a 100-loss team really feel from an injury? They do have a couple nice stories in the rotation in Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull, though the latter is on the IL and the former has an ERA over 6 since the start of June. And, for the time being, they have Shane Greene locked in as closer and he’s having a fantastic season. But he’ll likely be traded before the Royals see the Tigers again. So it’s just as grim in Detroit as it is in Kansas City this season.

Meet the Tigers

Royals vs. Tigers Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Tigers
Category Royals Tigers
Winning % .330 .329
Team wRC+ 85 77
Team xFIP 4.97 4.78
2019 H2H Wins 3 6
Run Differential -90 -159
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 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
Victor Reyes CF 29 .231 .310 .308 10.3% 10.3% 68 0.0
Nicholas Castellanos RF 366 .282 .342 .468 7.7% 21.3% 113 1.1
Miguel Cabrera DH 318 .304 .368 .399 9.1% 20.1% 106 0.4
Christin Stewart LF 267 .233 .315 .388 9.7% 22.5% 84 -0.3
Brandon Dixon 1B 197 .242 .274 .473 4.6% 31.0% 91 -0.2
Jeimer Candelario 3B 223 .214 .309 .362 10.8% 27.8% 80 0.7
Niko Goodrum 2B 330 .235 .315 .389 10.3% 27.3% 87 1.1
John Hicks C 181 .198 .232 .326 4.4% 32.0% 43 -0.9
Jordy Mercer SS 85 .192 .259 .308 7.1% 21.2% 47 -0.3

Tigers Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Bobby Wilson C 30 .143 .172 .179 3.3% 20.0% -12 -0.3
Gordon Beckham INF 154 .216 .292 .388 7.1% 27.9% 80 0.2
Harold Castro INF/OF 109 .294 .315 .392 3.7% 22.9% 85 0.0

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 33 33.0 0 2 26.0% 7.6% 1.09 3.98 0.7
Joe Jimenez 38 33.2 2 6 34.5% 10.8% 4.81 3.99 0.2
Buck Farmer 39 35.1 4 4 25.5% 8.3% 4.33 3.6 0.5

Projected Pitching Matchups

Friday July 12th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Spencer Turnbull 17 89.2 3 8 21.5% 8.7% 3.31 4.62 1.8
Danny Duffy 13 75.2 3 5 18.9% 9.0% 4.28 5.31 0.6

Spencer Turnbull comes off the IL that he was placed on because he felt shoulder fatigue just a couple innings into his last start on June 27th. The Tigers determined he just needed some rest and here he is, a little more than two weeks later, and we’ll see. He’s been a really great story this season with a solid ERA, a good number of strikeouts and really limiting the long ball. He’s been especially fantastic against the Royals. He hasn’t received a decision in his three starts, but he’s given up just four runs (three earned) in 19 innings against them with 22 strikeouts. He hasn’t gotten deep into games very much as he’s only pitched past the fifth inning in eight of his 17 starts and past the sixth in just three. I’d anticipate he won’t get deep in this one since he didn’t even make a rehab start and they’ll want to be careful. It seems like this would be a game that he’d be ripe to get to, but there’s no guarantees with this Royals team.

Danny Duffy’s overall line in his last start didn’t look that bad. Two runs and five hits over 6.2 innings is pretty solid really, but looking beyond the numbers and there’s at least a little reason for slight concern and to be hoping for a bounceback. He walked five and hit one more, so in addition to the five hits, the Indians had six free base runners. He struck out just three and got only seven swinging strikes in 108 pitches. In all, he’s posted a 3.38 ERA over his last three starts (21.1 innings) and 3.78 ERA over his last five starts (33.1 innings), so things are going generally well, but you hope the last start wasn’t the beginning of a trend for him. With the break, he’s had a nice rest between starts, so if it was fatigue, that should be taken care of and getting to face this Tigers lineup will help too. He’s been uneven against the Tigers in his career but he went seven innings with just two runs and four hits allowed against them earlier this year, and this lineup is not what you’d call “good.”

Saturday July 13th - 6:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Matthew Boyd 18 107.0 6 6 32.0% 4.5% 3.87 3.34 2.8
Brad Keller 19 110.2 4 9 15.9% 11.3% 4.47 5.17 1.2

I briefly touched on the struggles of Matthew Boyd earlier, and he really is having a rough go of it. To end may, Boyd finished with back to back games of six innings and no runs allowed. But since then, he’s allowed at least three in all six starts and four or more in four of the six. It’s not all bad, though. In those 34.1 innings over his last six starts, he’s struck out a ridiculous 54 and walked just five. He’s probably been in the zone too much with 41 hits allowed and 12 home runs. His hard stuff has really betrayed him with his four-seamer and sinker being responsible for half the home runs he’s allowed. His slider and curve has still been excellent. It seems that opponents, knowing he’s going to throw a first pitch strike a lot, have been sitting fastball. In the first two months of the season, opponents swung at 31 percent of his first pitch fastballs and 33 percent of first pitch sinkers and put 19 in play with five hits, including one triple and one home run. Since the start of June, they’ve swung at 55 percent of first pitch sinkers and 35 percent of first pitch fastballs with six hits in 12 at bats, two doubles and two home runs. So I guess getting to Boyd early in the count is the game plan.

Like Duffy, Brad Keller had a misleading start in his last one last Friday. He allowed just one run in 5.2 innings, but he walked a ridiculous five batters and only had four swinging strikes. He was back down to 55 percent strikes, which has been an issue for him this year. Prior to that start, he’d actually done really well with the walks with just nine in his last 40 innings over seven starts, but the issue was back in this last one. And the new issue for him is that he’s allowing home runs. He’s given up five in his last four starts, which is more than half of his season total. At least in his last start, he got back to getting ground balls, but that’s a concern, even against a Tigers lineup that isn’t likely to do much damage. He’s handled them fine twice before this year, so I don’t expect a blowup or anything, but he needs to throw more strikes to have a chance.

Sunday July 14th - 1:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jordan Zimmermann 10 48.2 0 6 15.1% 6.9% 6.29 5.43 0.8
Homer Bailey 18 90.0 7 6 20.8% 9.8% 4.80 4.61 1.1

The good news for the Tigers is there is only one more year left on the deal they signed Jordan Zimmermann to prior to the 2016 season. Outside of a magical first month or so, he’s been pretty much bad and this season has been his piece de resistance. He hasn’t won a game. His ERA is above 6.00 and he’s averaging fewer than five innings per start. I don’t think anyone saw this coming when he signed that deal. It should be noted that it’s not like he’s always horrible. He actually threw seven innings of one-hit ball in his first start of the year and then gave up just one run in 6.2 innings to the vaunted Yankees lineup. But since then, he’s allowed fewer than three runs just once and had a stretch where he gave up exactly five runs in four straight starts. He hasn’t allowed a home run since returning from the IL on June 19, which is remarkable considering he’s faced Boston and Texas in that time and has posted a 6.87 ERA. With all those fly balls he’s been allowing, though, on a hot July day in Kansas City, I have a hunch that streak ends.

Any of Homer Bailey’s next few starts could be his last with the Royals as I imagine he’ll be dealt for some package of players we likely never hear about again. With the exception of a hiccup in Toronto, Bailey has been fantastic for a few weeks now. He’s gone 3-0 with a 2.83 ERA in his last six starts, spanning 35 innings. He hasn’t allowed many long balls and while he’s walked a few too many, it hasn’t really hurt him with a 1.17 WHIP in that time. The overall numbers aren’t great or anything, but even if you pull it back to the start of May, he’s 5-3 with a 4.35 ERA in 60 innings, which is really quite serviceable. He’s faced the Tigers twice this year and is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings against them. As noted above, it might not be a great day to pitch in Kansas City, so we’ll see if he can keep that up, but he’s been quite good.


I firmly believe the Royals are better than the Tigers. The Tigers might be in a better future position with their farm system being ahead, but for now, I think KC is better and ends up taking two of three in this series and making the standings less weird to look at. What do you think?


Which also-ran takes the series?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Royals Sweep
    (25 votes)
  • 5%
    Tigers Sweep
    (5 votes)
  • 51%
    Royals Win Two of Three
    (45 votes)
  • 14%
    Tigers Win Two of Three
    (13 votes)
88 votes total Vote Now