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Detroit Tigers Series Preview: Royals have revenge on their minds

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The Royals swept the Tigers. Then the Tigers swept the Royals. Are there even any brooms left?

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a little bit odd that the Royals have played seven games against the Tigers before the Tigers come to Kansas City, but here we are in a matchup of two teams that do nothing but sweep each other. The Royals, of course, swept the Tigers in a four-game series in April while they were hot and the Tigers returned the favor when the Royals visited Detroit last week when they were decidedly not. And the Tigers have been playing better baseball, starting with a win right before the Royals came to town. They beat the Twins in the game before they saw the Royals and have won eight of 10 including that game to go from 9-24 to a more respectable 17-26. Of course the Royals have escaped from that 11-game nightmare sentence to win four of six, so they’re playing better baseball right now as well.

The Tigers offense on the whole looks really rough, but in May, they’re hitting .262/.342/.375 as a team, which isn’t terrible, though that’s not enough power. Robbie Grossman and Jeimer Candelario have really gotten going lately and they’ve made some changes with guys the Royals have seen starting for a couple years now getting pushed to the bench. They’ve averaged just under five runs per game in May and in their last 10 games, they’re hitting .277/.362/.401 and averaging five runs per game on the dot. The pitching has been so good in these 10 games, though, allowing just 3.5 runs per game with a 2.97 ERA. Of course, they got the no-hitter from Spencer Turnbull the other day, so that was a big performance, but even their beleaguered bullpen has stepped up. This is all to say that while the Tigers may not be a good team, they are playing well.

Royals vs. Tigers Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Tigers
Category Royals Tigers
Winning % .476 .395
Team wRC+ 89 82
Team xFIP 4.34 4.55
Run Differential -26 -57
H2H Wins 4 3
Highest fWAR Danny Duffy, 1.6 Matthew Boyd, 1.4

Tigers Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Robbie Grossman LF 183 .243 .377 .405 16.4% 23.0% 123 0.9
Jonathan Schoop 2B 159 .216 .258 .311 5.7% 25.8% 58 -0.7
Jeimer Candelario 3B 171 .288 .363 .412 9.9% 24.6% 120 0.6
Miguel Cabrera 1B 110 .184 .273 .255 10.9% 25.5% 54 -0.7
Nomar Mazara RF 75 .217 .280 .248 8.0% 22.7% 76 -0.3
Eric Haase C 24 .304 .333 .652 0.0% 29.2% 170 0.3
Harold Castro SS 75 .343 .378 .357 5.3% 20.0% 111 0.4
Wilson Ramos DH 116 .202 .237 .413 4.3% 22.4% 77 -0.1
Akil Baddoo CF 101 .222 .287 .478 8.9% 39.6% 106 0.4

Tigers Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Jake Rogers C 16 .250 .250 .438 0.0% 31.3% 87 0.0
Willi Castro INF 139 .203 .266 .297 5.0% 30.9% 59 -0.4
Niko Goodrun INF/OF 135 .220 .319 .364 11.1% 38.5% 95 0.5
JaCoby Jones OF 97 .172 .206 .258 4.1% 40.2% 27 -0.9

Tigers Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Gregory Soto 20 17.1 3 1 22.6% 15.5% 3.63 4.68 0.1
Michael Fulmer 15 30.2 3 2 22.3% 6.2% 3.23 4.06 0.7
Jose Cisnero 19 16.2 0 1 32.1% 10.3% 5.40 3.13 0.2

Probable Starting Pitchers

May 21 - Jose Ureña vs. Mike Minor, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jose Ureña 8 42.2 1 4 17.2% 10.2% 4.22 4.18 0.8
Mike Minor 8 43.0 3 2 24.4% 9.4% 5.02 4.54 0.3

The Royals have largely seen the same pitchers for the Tigers, but they haven’t yet seen Jose Ureña, who they picked up as a free agent to provide a veteran to the staff while the young arms continue to develop. He’s coming off a couple tough years with the Marlins, but he’s been solid enough for the Tigers to start. The ERA is good and he’s limited home runs, but he hasn’t gotten strikeouts and he’s walked too many batters, so you sort of just are waiting for the other shoe to drop with him. He’s definitely one of those pitchers who you look at the numbers and think he should be getting more strikeouts. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, his slider has a 34.2 percent whiff rate and his changeup looks the part. But it just has never really worked for him. And this season, while he’s had big success with that slider, he’s gotten pretty lucky on his sinker and four-seamer, so it really is easy to think the other shoe is about to drop at any time. He has handled righties well, but lefties have been pretty good against him. A good time to get him is early - 14 of the 22 runs he’s allowed this year have come in the first two innings.

Mike Minor is coming off his best start as a Royal, going seven innings and giving up just one run against a White Sox lineup that typically has no problems with lefties. He got a lot of weak contact and lazy fly balls in that start, and pitching in a bigger ballpark against a weaker lineup, you’d expect more of the same from him. When Minor pitched against these Tigers in Detroit last month, he actually had his most swinging strikes of any start this year, so that’s a good sign as well, though the Tigers are playing better than they were then. After struggling with the pitch in April, Minor’s four-seam fastball has really taken off in May with a .143 opponent’s average and .190 SLG against it.

May 22 - Matthew Boyd vs. Brady Singer, 3:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Matthew Boyd 8 47.2 2 4 19.5% 5.3% 2.45 4.70 1.4
Brady Singer 8 38.2 1 3 23.5% 8.8% 3.96 4.10 0.7

I still can’t figure out how Matthew Boyd is good again, but he just keeps on keepin’ on just about every start this season. Until his last one. He gave up more than three runs for the first time. He gave up just his second home run of the season. And he weirdly tied his season high for strikeouts with the other game he gave up more than two runs. I had a theory a couple years ago that Boyd threw too many strikes. He was just in the zone so much that hitters had a chance against him, even when they were swinging and missing a lot on his slider. I don’t know if that was the case in his start against the Cubs, but it’s certainly possible. Outside of a start where he left with an injury, he’s completed at least 5.2 innings in every start, so he’s likely in this one for the long haul, which isn’t great news for the Royals because he’s given up just two runs (one earned) in 14 innings against them this season. He is 0-1 in those two starts, so at least there’s that.

Brady Singer will take the same mound as Boyd for the third time this season and after a tough outing against these very Tigers his last time out, he pitched well against a better offense in the White Sox, giving up just two runs on seven hits over 6.1 innings with seven strikeouts. That was the game the Royals lost in the bottom of the ninth on a questionable call after a questionable managerial decision, but it was nice to see him get back on track. It was just the third time this year he’s had double digit swinging strikes, and I mention that because the first two were against this Tigers team. While he did get hit around a bit in Detroit last time, he seems to be flummoxing them a bit, so after a bounceback, this is a good opportunity for him to continue to get back on track.

May 23 - Casey Mize vs. Kris Bubic, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Casey Mize 8 46.1 3 3 17.8% 9.9% 3.69 4.56 0.3
Kris Bubic 5 18.2 0 0 20.0% 12.9% 0.96 4.47 0.2

If I’m being honest, I don’t really know what to make of Casey Mize yet, and that’s probably okay. Young pitchers don’t develop on the expected timetable most of the time. While many thought Mize might come up and dominate right away, he’s shown a mixed bag. He’s been tough to hit, but he’s also walked too many and not struck out enough. When he has gotten hit, it’s been kind of hard, but also not that hard. Since what was probably his worst start of the season against the Royals, he’s made four starts and averaged more than six innings per start with a 2.45 ERA. He’s walked 12 and struck out 20 in that time, so that’s not great, but he’s looked much better. His curve has been particularly nasty this season and while he only throws it about seven percent of the time, I could see him increasing that over time to be one of his strikeout pitches if he’s looking for a way to get a few more whiffs. It’s also really impressive how much better he is with runners on. With the bases empty, he allows a .243/.333/.463 line. With runners on, that drops to .186/.293/.257 and with runners in scoring position it falls even farther to .119/.191/.167. There’s likely some market correction coming, but that’s a very good trait to have.

After dazzling in his first start back in the rotation, Kris Bubic will get a second chance. But you can kind of argue that it’s his fourth start with his last two relief appearances lasting 5.2 and 5 innings respectively. The last one came against the Tigers after Daniel Lynch was once again unable to get deep enough into the game. While you could maybe argue the White Sox weren’t going hard against him in the first outing (though I think we’ve seen they’ll swing up big), the game wasn’t out of hand in Detroit last Thursday and he still allowed just three hits over five scoreless innings. He did walk four, which is too many, but he struck out six and got nine swinging strikes. His start against Milwaukee was really impressive and even though the Brewers offense isn’t exactly great, it was nice to see him in the zone, not walking a batter until his final inning when he was clearly tiring. Now after throwing 80 in Detroit and 85 against Milwaukee, he seems ready to get to that 95-100 range.

Prediction

I feel a whole lot better about the Royals now than I did at this time last week. They’ve gone 4-2 since breaking the losing streak and should probably be 5-1. The Tigers, as I’ve said, are playing well too, but I think the Royals ride their wave more than the Tigers ride theirs and the Royals take two of three to inch closer to .500.

Poll

How is this dish of revenge served for the Royals?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Cold. Royals sweep it.
    (33 votes)
  • 50%
    Chilled. Royals take two of three.
    (60 votes)
  • 11%
    Lukewarm. Tigers take two of three.
    (14 votes)
  • 2%
    Hot. Tigers sweep.
    (3 votes)
  • 6%
    I’m very confused by these temperatures and don’t know what to think.
    (8 votes)
118 votes total Vote Now