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

The worst team in baseball is 12-38 since the break and things aren’t looking up for them in September.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers
Sep 2, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera (24) points to the crowd after hitting a solo home run during the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

After hosting the Orioles over the weekend, the Royals welcome in the one team worse than those birds from Baltimore in the Detroit Tigers. And it’s even worse than it seems because while they’re just 40-95 this year, they were 18-20 at the end of splitting a four-game set with the Twins. So since then, they’re 22-75. They’re 12-38 since the break with a -113 run differential. That run differential would rank as fifth worst in baseball for the entire season and they’ve gotten that done in just 50 games. That, friends, is called efficiency. There is not a single offensive player on the team with a wRC+ above 100. The pitching is less bad, but still bad, which shouldn’t be surprising given that they’re, you know, 22-75 in their last 97 games. It’s real bad in Detroit, but they do have some pretty impressive pitching coming, so at least there’s that.

Meet the Tigers

Royals vs. Tigers Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Tigers
Category Royals Tigers
Winning % .355 .296
Team wRC+ 83 77
Team xFIP 4.94 4.80
Run Differential -150 -272
2019 H2H Wins 7 9
H2H Runs Scored 88 70
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 3.2 Matthew Boyd, 3.0

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 LF 186 .301 .333 .409 4.8% 22.0% 95 0.7
Willi Castro SS 37 .235 .270 .294 2.7% 37.8% 47 0.0
Miguel Cabrera DH 482 .283 .344 .398 8.3% 20.3% 97 -0.3
Ronny Rodriguez 2B 245 .225 .249 .472 3.7% 27.3% 79 0.3
Harold Castro CF 286 .278 .292 .374 2.4% 24.8% 72 -0.4
Dawel Lugo 3B 198 .235 .263 .358 2.5% 21.7% 58 -0.4
Jordy Mercer 1B 221 .267 .303 .424 4.1% 20.8% 88 0.2
Travis Demeritte RF 115 .243 .313 .369 9.6% 33.9% 80 0.0
Jake Rogers C 95 .111 .226 .272 11.6% 42.1% 32 -0.5

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 299 .213 .244 .378 4.0% 32.4% 58 -0.8
Gordon Beckham INF 226 .220 .279 .373 5.8% 28.8% 70 0.1
Brandon Dixon INF/OF 366 .251 .292 .447 4.9% 32.5% 90 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
Joe Jimenez 57 50.2 3 7 31.5% 9.9% 4.97 4.31 0.0
Buck Farmer 62 56.2 5 6 26.6% 8.5% 4.45 3.86 0.6
Jose Cisnero 24 27.0 0 3 25.6% 11.6% 3.67 4.95 0.2

Probable Pitching Matchups

Tuesday September 3rd - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Daniel Norris 27 129.1 3 11 20.0% 6.5% 4.66 4.68 1.5
Mike Montgomery 28 67.2 3 7 18.4% 8.2% 4.66 4.35 -0.1

Daniel Norris gets the nod to start the series in what will be his fourth appearance against the Royals and third start, so we’ve all seen quite a bit of him this season. It’s been a sort of okay year for him with a roughly league-average ERA and an xFIP to basically match. With decreased velocity that we’ve discussed quite a bit before, he’s not striking out nearly as many as he did last season (though his velocity was down then too), but he’s doing a reasonable job of getting outs for a bad team, which is important. And he’s been pretty good since the break without many wins, but a lot of strikeouts and a solid walk rate as well to go with his 3.96 ERA. His issue is that the fastball isn’t good enough to win at bats when he is behind in the count, allowing opponents to hit .350 with a .723 SLG in those situations compared to .240 with a .331 SLG when he’s ahead in the count. He throws a first pitch strike about 65 percent of the time and throws his fastball on the first pitch about 53 percent of the time. That’s the pitch to go after. It’s hittable, especially early in the count, and can lead to some success for the Royals.

The Royals counter with Mike Montgomery, making his ninth start with the Royals, and I have to say he’s been pretty solid. The ERA is good at 3.98, he’s given some innings for the most part and gotten way more strikeouts and swings and misses than I expected. Since the trade, he’s gone with his cutter quite a bit and it’s been really, really good, limiting extra base hits and keeping hitters guessing quite a bit. He had just two swinging strikes in his first two games, spanning 109 pitches, but since then, he’s been much better with a 13 percent swinging strike rate. That includes a ridiculous 21 percent rate against this very Tigers team back on August 10 when he went seven shutout innings and struck out 12. I wouldn’t necessarily expect an exact repeat performance, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s very good in this one.

Wednesday September 4th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Edwin Jackson 13 52.0 3 8 15.4% 9.8% 9.35 5.84 -0.8
Jakob Junis 28 160.2 8 12 21.5% 7.4% 4.93 4.57 1.4

Edwin Jackson is still a big league pitcher and he goes in game two. Since coming to the Tigers, he’s made five starts with a 7.23 ERA. His first two were actually pretty good with just three runs allowed and eight hits over 11.1 innings with the first coming against the Royals in his best start of the year. Since then, though, it’s been back to disaster. He’s 0-3 with a 11.68 ERA over 12.1 innings. He’s allowed 19 runs in that time, which is stupid. Jackson throws his cutter the most and has allowed a .427 average and .853 slugging percentage on it. His slider is number two. On that, he’s allowed a .313 average and .594 slugging percentage, though advanced metrics think that should be better. I could go down the list, but every pitch he throws is a pitch that gets hit hard. The Royals should be fine in this one. Of course, we thought that last time they faced him and we saw how that went.

Jakob Junis is the last remaining pitcher from the season opening rotation (don’t forget that Danny Duffy started on the IL). He’s having a good, not great, second half of the season with a 4-4 record and 4.14 ERA over 54.1 innings. He’s been a bit better with the home run ball, giving up a few still, but not quite as many. But luckily, it’s Tigers time for him. He’s thrived against Detroit in his career, going 7-1 with a 3.18 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) over 68 innings. He’s allowed just eight home runs in that time as well, which is great for him. This year, he’s 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA in 19 innings with 19 strikeouts, so I’d expect a solid performance out of him in this one as he continues his mastery of Detroit.

Thursday September 5th - 12:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Matthew Boyd 28 165.0 7 10 31.6% 6.2% 4.58 3.72 3.0
Glenn Sparkman 26 113.2 3 10 13.1% 6.8% 5.86 5.81 -0.4

Matthew Boyd is having a really weird season that we’ve talked about an awful lot here. He’s posted a 4.58 ERA this season, which isn’t good at all, but he’s struck out 219 hitters in 165 innings and walked just 43. But he’s also living off his first two months when he posted a 2.85 ERA. Since the start of June, he’s 2-6 with a 5.95 ERA. Yeah, there’s still a ton of strikeouts, but also he’s allowed 29 of his 36 home runs in 92.1 innings. He just throws too many hittable strikes. And to add insult to injury for the Tigers, he’s 1-2 with a 7.16 ERA in 32.2 innings since the Tigers chose not to trade him. He’s allowed 14 home runs in that time, which is just insane. And the Royals have had no issues with him this year, hitting .284/.366/.519 against him in four games with four home runs and they’ve somehow worked 10 walks in 20.2 innings against him in a year he’s not walking anyone. It’ll be interesting to see if they can do it again.

And they may have to with Glenn Sparkman opposing him on the hill in this one. Since his dominant shutout win, he’s gone 40.1 innings with 55 hits allowed, just 24 strikeouts with 16 walks and 10 home runs allowed with an 8.26 ERA. He has a 6.7 percent swinging strike rate in that time. And if you think being at home is the answer, since that shutout, he’s thrown 21.1 innings with 27 hits allowed, just 10 strikeouts, five walks and five homers and an ERA of 8.02 with a 6.8 percent swinging strike rate. No, the 116 mostly stress-free pitches over nine innings didn’t cause that. Being less than good caused it.


These are two bad teams, but the Tigers are in another world of bad. I’m going to actually go on a limb here and say the Royals get a sweep. So that means the Tigers are about to play their best baseball of the season.


A thrilling series ahead...who takes it?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Royals Sweep
    (17 votes)
  • 5%
    Tigers Sweep
    (4 votes)
  • 55%
    Royals Win Two of Three
    (41 votes)
  • 16%
    Tigers Win Two of Three
    (12 votes)
74 votes total Vote Now