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Detroit Tigers Series Preview: They’re worse than the Royals!

Four games of two teams careening toward 100 losses in August. Eat Arby’s.

MLB: Game Two-Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers
Aug 6, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera (24) hits a single during the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. This is his 1000 hit at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals are really bad. The Detroit Tigers are putrid. After trading Nicholas Castellanos and Shane Greene at the deadline, the Tigers have reached the point in their season when they really just hope for a win or two a week as they run out the clock on the 2019 season. They’re careening toward their second number one overall pick in three years, which isn’t the worst thing when you’re in a rebuild, but it’s certainly tough to watch. They don’t really hit and the bullpen is a mess. They do have a couple bright spots in their starting rotation, but even with that, it’s hard not to think they made a mistake in not trading Matthew Boyd, but maybe the offers just weren’t there. He and Turnbull have been pleasantly good at the top of their rotation, so it’s not all doom and gloom in Motown.

Meet the Tigers

Royals vs. Tigers Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Tigers
Category Royals Tigers
Winning % .357 .297
Team wRC+ 85 77
Team xFIP 4.90 4.75
2019 H2H Wins 5 7
H2H Runs 61 53
Run Differential -109 -220
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 2.6 Matthew Boyd, 3.8

Tigers Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
JaCoby Jones CF 331 .236 .309 .431 8.2% 28.1% 92 -0.2
Niko Goodrum 2B 427 .252 .328 .415 10.1% 28.8% 96 1.9
Miguel Cabrera DH 404 .285 .344 .386 7.9% 19.6% 94 -0.3
Brandon Dixon 1B 286 .263 .308 .489 5.2% 30.4% 105 0.5
Harold Castro 3B 206 .282 .299 .374 2.9% 23.8% 75 -0.2
Travis Demeritte RF 30 .200 .300 .360 13.3% 30.0% 72 -0.1
Victor Reyes LF 89 .232 .292 .305 7.9% 16.9% 60 -0.1
Jake Rogers C 28 .208 .321 .458 14.3% 28.6% 105 0.1
Jordy Mercer SS 156 .247 .295 .404 5.1% 18.6% 81 0.1

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 248 .204 .242 .340 4.8% 29.8% 49 -1.0
Gordon Beckham INF 197 .210 .274 .376 6.1% 30.5% 69 0.1
Dawel Lugo INF 99 .213 .232 .309 2.0% 21.2% 36 -0.6

Tigers Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Joe Jimenez 48 43.0 2 6 32.3% 9.1% 5.02 4.10 0.2
Buck Farmer 52 46.2 4 4 25.4% 7.8% 3.86 3.80 0.9
Trevor Rosenthal 22 15.1 0 1 20.0% 30.6% 13.50 8.54 -0.3

Good lord, look at that walk rate on Rosenthal. I mean, come on.

Projected Starting Pitchers

Thursday August 8th - 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jorge Lopez 29 84.1 1 7 21.2% 8.2% 6.19 4.64 0.0
Matthew Boyd 23 138.0 6 8 32.6% 5.2% 3.91 3.36 3.8

The aforementioned Matthew Boyd gets the ball to start the series, and he’s been very good this year with a ton of strikeouts and not many walks, but he’s been bitten by the home run ball and hasn’t been nearly as good since the start of June. In that time, he’s made 11 starts and gone 1-4 with a 5.10 ERA. The good is that he’s struck out a whopping 99 in 65.1 innings and only walked 15. The bad is that he’s allowed 67 hits and 16 home runs in that time. How does a guy with the stuff to get swings and misses on 16 percent of pitches give up that many hits and home runs? Well for one, he’s around the strike zone a lot, which isn’t always a good thing. For example, in July Boyd threw his four-seamer about 46 percent of the time and had a very solid whiff rate on it, but he allowed a .304 average and .625 slugging percentage on it. Of the 61 plate appearances that ended on it, he struck out 24 hitters but the other 37 were made up of 17 hits and five walks. The slider is nasty and will cause huge problems, but basically if hitters are able to get to the fastball, they’re able to get a hit off the fastball and that’s not great when he throws it as much as he does.

With Danny Duffy finding his way to the IL again, the Royals turn to his former rotation mate Jorge Lopez to start the series. If you’ve read my work for any length of time, you’d know I believe Lopez has a chance to be a very good reliever and I still do. Maybe that won’t happen with the Royals, but that’s another story for another time. Because what I don’t believe is that he can be a good long-term rotation answer. But, on the bright side, we know that Lopez does have it in him to be brilliant at times. He took a perfect game into the ninth last season and even this year, he’s pitched well enough as a starter at times to make you believe he can have a nice game. He’ll be on a 75-pitch limit, but there’s no better team to get your confidence up against than a Tigers team that ranks at the bottom of the league in pretty much every offensive category. That also means that failure will probably torpedo any and all confidence, so beware.

Friday August 9th - 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 24 146.0 7 11 17.0% 9.5% 3.95 4.87 1.9
Edwin Jackson 8 28.1 1 5 13.2% 9.0% 11.12 6.46 -0.8

Edwin Jackson begins his second tour of duty with the Tigers in this one. If only he hadn’t been in Detroit, he’d be pitching for his 15th team, but, alas, it’s his third team for a second time. Oh well. Jackson has mixed in randomly good seasons here and there throughout his career, but he posted an unsightly ERA with the Blue Jays earlier this year after a 3.33 last year in Oakland. He now has a 5.29 ERA in 652 innings since the start of the 2013 season, so let’s just say he’s not good and leave it at that. He’s thrown his cutter more than any other pitch and allowed a .523 average and 1.045 SLG against it. His best pitch this year has been his curve, which he’s thrown 20 times and hitters are 0 for 2 against it. I was looking for a positive and I found it. So let’s leave it at that. Okay wait, you guys like seeing who might do well. Jackson has allowed a .429/.494/.929 line to right-handed bats with nine home runs in 79 plate appearances. The Royals three best hitters are right-handed. Carry on with your day now.

Brad Keller looks to continue his impressive run in this one. He certainly hasn’t been perfect, but over his last 13 starts, the walks are WAY down and the strikes are WAY up. He’s thrown 81 innings, struck out 61 and walked just 18. He’s been more hittable, so there’s a tradeoff, allowing 83 hits and 11 home runs in that time, but the results have been considerably better with a 3.56 ERA in that time. And to shrink the sample a bit, he’s been dynamite in his last five starts with 35.1 innings pitched, 30 hits and a 2.29 ERA with 29 strikeouts and just four walks. After a heck of a start against a great offense in Minnesota, Keller has a chance to put forth a dominant outing against a rough Tigers lineup. Unlike Lopez, if he struggles, you probably don’t worry too much because he’s established now, but man if this isn’t a great opportunity for him to put up some zeroes and get some swings and misses.

Saturday August 10th - 5:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Mike Montgomery 24 43.1 1 5 15.3% 8.2% 6.02 4.49 -0.5
Spencer Turnbull 20 101.2 3 9 21.4% 9.2% 3.72 4.72 2.0

Spencer Turnbull went on the IL at the end of June and came off just in time to face the Royals on the other side of the break. He’s made three starts since then and has gone just 12 innings, allowing 10 runs on 12 hits with 11 strikeouts and seven walks, which looks a lot more like 2018 Turnbull than the guy the Tigers saw before the break. Ultimately what will likely be Turnbull’s undoing if there is one is his inability to control lefties. He’s allowed a .289/.372/.453 line to them compared with .213/.297/.324 to righties. Of course, that doesn’t bode too well for the Royals with all their best bats save for Alex Gordon hitting from the right side. They’ll need Ryan O’Hearn, Nicky Lopez and probably Meibrys Viloria (assuming he starts) to do some damage at the bottom of the order in this one. This’ll be Turnbull’s fifth start against the Royals this year and he’s been mostly good until his last one in the first four, pitching 22 innings with 23 strikeouts and eight walks and a 2.86 ERA. He somehow doesn’t have a decision in those games, but he’s been pretty darn good.

Mike Montgomery really surprised me in his last start. Yes he gave up four runs in five innings, but only two were earned and maybe more importantly, he got 14 swinging strikes in 90 pitches. He had 10 swinging strikes in his first 187 pitches with the Royals, so that was huge to see. His curve was the cause for a lot of them with eight whiffs on 25 curves thrown. The pitch in general wasn’t great for him, but he got the Red Sox out in front of it quite a bit. That’s notable because the Tigers as a team have hit .216 on curves from lefties, so that’s a pitch that Montgomery should be able to feature prominently as long as he’s careful with Niko Goodrum and Miguel Cabrera. The downside is that while the Tigers offense is pretty awful, they’ve been generally good against lefty starters, hitting .264/.328/.448 against them. Some of that was Nicholas Castellanos, but they do still have the ability to hit lefties reasonably well, so Montgomery will have to be on to get good results in this one.

Sunday August 11th - 12:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jakob Junis 24 138.1 7 10 21.5% 7.9% 4.88 4.60 1.2
Daniel Norris 23 117.1 3 9 19.4% 6.2% 4.76 4.55 1.6

The series concludes with another lefty, Daniel Norris, taking the hill for Detroit. Injuries and ineffectiveness in the Tigers rotation have given him another chance, maybe a final one, to earn his place. And he’s been...okay. He’s allowed a lot of hits and a fair amount of home runs, but he’s generally kept walks down and struck out enough batters to keep hitters honest. And he still doesn’t even turn 27 until the first month of next season, so there’s time. The issue is he just never got his velocity back. He was up to 93-94 a couple years ago and is averaging just 90 MPH this year with it and it’s gotten hit hard to the tune of a .313 average and .586 SLG with hardly any swings and misses. His slider and changeup have both been very good, but instead of leaning into those pitches, he’s actually been heavier with the fastball as the season’s progressed, which just seems like a poor decision. Even against right-handed batters where the changeup should be the real weapon, he’s thrown his four-seamer too much. Maybe he’ll figure it out and become something even with lower velocity, but if not, he’s going to be destined to a career of one-year deals on teams hoping he’s good enough to flip at the deadline. There are worse things, but it just seems like he can be more if he makes a conscious change.

Jakob Junis takes the ball to wrap the series for the Royals and he’s coming off one of the more promising starts of his career. It isn’t that he was exceptional. He gave up a run over six innings against the Red Sox, which is very good, but he didn’t give up a home run. I would have liked to see some more ugly swings from his slider, but his fastball was the star of the show for him, which is not typically the case. If he can throw that fastball every time out, there might be something for him to build on because he needs to have that working to make his slider even deadlier. He only had one swing and miss on the slider but had four on the fastball. Think what he can do when he has the slider working with the fastball. Against this Tigers team that he’s historically handled, it could be a lot of fun to watch.


The Tigers are an absurdly bad 14-39 at home, but worse, they started 9-8, so they’re 5-31 since then. The Royals looked a little better in Boston and are the better team here. I think they actually take three of four in this series, sending the Tigers farther down the road to the top pick in the draft.


Two horrible teams...who takes the series?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Royals Sweep
    (8 votes)
  • 5%
    Tigers Sweep
    (4 votes)
  • 36%
    Royals Win Three of Four
    (27 votes)
  • 6%
    Tigers Win Three of Four
    (5 votes)
  • 41%
    (31 votes)
75 votes total Vote Now