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Detroit Tigers Series Preview: Just a couple of teams riding the struggle bus

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The fourth series between these two teams finally sees them both playing poorly at the same time!

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals return home after a very disappointing road trip that saw them go just 1-6. The Tigers, though, were just swept by the White Sox and were almost no-hit in the finale, so they’re not exactly coming into this series hot. They didn’t really go into the series hot either as they’ve struggled most of the year outside of a stretch that saw them sweep the Royals back in Detroit during the Royals 11-game losing streak. The nice thing for Tigers fans is that you can at least start to see some progress with some of their young pitchers looking better and there are definitely some bats on the way in the minors.

Offensively, they just don’t have much. Royals fans may not believe it based on how he’s performed against KC, but Miguel Cabrera is pretty much unplayable. Nomar Mazara has been pretty awful. They just don’t have much power. They swing and miss a lot and while they do walk a little, it’s just not enough to score enough runs consistently. Akil Baddoo is one guy who seems to be leveling off in a good way. He started off scorching hot and then struggled, but he’s hitting .306/.444/.500 over his last 17 games. On the pitching side, their rotation is starting to look a lot like the Royals hope their starts to look. We’ll see both Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal and both have really turned a corner this season. They’re missing Spencer Turnbull, but the young pitchers are starting to really gel and give the Tigers something to be excited about.

Royals vs. Tigers Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Tigers
Category Royals Tigers
Winning % .469 .400
Team wRC+ 90 84
Team xFIP 4.34 4.53
Run Differential -31 -71
Highest fWAR Danny Duffy, 1.6 Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull, 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 275 .242 .356 .414 14.5% 23.6% 114 1.2
Jeimer Candelario 3B 241 .266 .336 .381 9.1% 26.1% 101 0.5
Jonathan Schoop 1B 252 .262 .317 .437 6.7% 22.2% 107 0.5
Miguel Cabrera DH 194 .199 .268 .301 7.7% 24.7% 60 -1.0
Nomar Mazara RF 124 .184 .250 .307 8.1% 26.6% 55 -0.5
Harold Castro SS 118 .282 .325 .318 5.9% 19.5% 82 0.1
Willi Castro 2B 204 .217 .281 .342 5.9% 26.5% 73 -0.2
Akil Baddoo CF 146 .246 .336 .484 12.3% 34.9% 121 1.0
Jake Rogers C 57 .216 .286 .451 8.8% 42.1% 100 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
Eric Haase C/OF 95 .250 .305 .591 6.3% 35.8% 141 0.9
Niko Goodrum INF 202 .201 .282 .302 9.4% 37.1% 65 -0.2
Daz Cameron OF 14 .077 .143 .308 7.1% 21.4% 19 -0.1

Tigers Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Jose Cisnero 30 26.2 0 4 30.2% 8.6% 3.71 3.34 0.6
Gregory Soto 30 26.2 3 1 25.4% 15.3% 2.70 4.37 0.2
Daniel Norris 24 24.1 0 2 23.8% 11.4% 6.29 4.05 -0.1

Probable Starting Pitchers

June 14 - Matthew Boyd vs. Brad Keller, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Matthew Boyd 12 68.1 3 6 18.8% 6.6% 3.56 4.93 1.4
Brad Keller 13 61.0 6 5 19.1% 10.1% 5.75 4.33 0.3

Matthew Boyd’s biggest issue over the past few seasons has been the home run ball. The Royals have seen him three times already this season and I’ve mentioned it every time. But the thing is that he wasn’t getting hit by the home run at all. And then the old Boyd showed up against the Brewers in his start before last, giving up three home runs in 4.2 innings. When I saw that, I thought he was coming back to earth. Then he had a chance to face the Mariners, who have been no-hit twice this season already, so that was a nice opportunity to get right and he took great advantage of that. Now, he’s allowed six home runs this year, which means only three outside of the one game against Milwaukee. While he really dominated the Royals the first two times he faced them, he gave up five runs in five innings the last time, which was the second start in a string of four in which he gave up four or more. The last start is the start that broke that, so it’s hard to say if he’s out of the stretch or not, but the Royals certainly won’t be surprised by anything.

I continue to talk about Brad Keller’s progression after a terrible start to the season. His last start against the Angels was rough by the numbers, but I really thought he looked better than the numbers. That doesn’t mean he looked good, mind you, but better than five runs in 5.1 innings. I wrote on Inside the Crown how a bad call really changed the whole outing. Even with the iffy outing, he’s put up a 4.22 ERA in 49 innings over his last nine starts with 46 strikeouts and 20 walks. He’s not the guy the Royals were touting him as at the top of a rotation, but those numbers will absolutely play in the middle to the back end. In his only start of the year against the Tigers, he gave up two runs over six innings in a tight win back in April.

June 15 - Casey Mize 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
Casey Mize 12 70.2 3 4 20.8% 7.7% 3.44 4.22 0.5
Mike Minor 13 74.0 5 3 26.6% 7.9% 4.50 4.08 1.1

I really like the way Mize has developed from a baseball fan’s perspective and hate it from a Royals fan’s perspective. When the Royals were first in Detroit, they exploited everything he was struggling with, getting him for six runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings with three walks and one strikeout. Since that start, he’s thrown 50 innings over eight starts and has a 2.70 ERA with 45 strikeouts and 15 walks with six home runs allowed. It’s not great, but he’s getting the job done and seems like he’s learning how to pitch in situations that troubled him before. A change he made before the season from last year has been beneficial, using his four-seamer more and his two-seamer less. That four-seamer has been both good and bad with a good amount of swing and miss but also a .569 SLG against it. The slider is where the money is made for him. It’s been a truly dominant pitch that he throws a lot when he’s behind in the count to get back into it, but it’s not all that often a strike, so Royals hitters should beware.

Mike Minor had 18 swings and misses against the A’s on Thursday night in an absolutely dominant pitching performance. It was probably his best start of the year but at worst his second best. It’s continued a trend for him as he’s been pitching really well for the last six starts with a 3.32 ERA over 38 innings with 44 strikeouts and nine walks in that time. That’s really good and exactly what the Royals have wanted and needed from him. He’s faced the Tigers twice this year and had some good and bad in both. He’s gotten 14 swings and misses in both starts and has 17 strikeouts and two walks in 11.2 innings against them, so he seems to do a nice job of exploiting their swing and miss issues.

June 16 - Tarik Skubal vs. Brady Singer, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Tarik Skubal 13 60.0 3 7 27.9% 10.9% 4.35 4.46 0.1
Brady Singer 13 65.0 3 5 23.6% 8.2% 4.85 4.02 1.3

I mentioned Skubal had turned a corner earlier, and he really has. His overall numbers are solid, but since the start of May, he has some similar numbers to Minor. He’s also thrown 38 innings with a 3.32 ERA, but he’s struck out a ridiculous 56 batters with 15 walks in that time. So the walks are a bit of an issue, but when you strike out that many batters, it’ll be just fine. He’s mostly a fastball/slider guy with those pitches coming about 75 percent of the time. His fastball sits at 94 MPH or so, but can touch 96-98. His slider has been outstanding with a nearly 35 percent whiff rate. He’s throwing his changeup a lot less this season, but he’s getting whiffs on nearly half the swings on it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he ups that at some point soon. He has thrown it a bit more this month, so maybe that’s already started. He’s struggled a bit away from home, allowing a .927 OPS on the road, so that’s good for the Royals. He’s also strangely been equally as good (or bad) when he’s even in the count as when he’s ahead in the count. I don’t know if that means anything worthwhile, but I found it interesting at least.

Brady Singer ended up with a perfectly fine start against the A’s on Friday when he gave up three runs over six innings. On the bright side, he was pretty fantastic in five of those six innings. On the down side, he was pretty bad in the inning where he left two pitches out over the plate that he later said were good pitches (Narrator: They weren’t). I liked the shape of his fastball much better in his last start than we’ve seen in awhile, so maybe he’s coming out of his slump that he had been in for a bit. Really, he had a solid start against the Twins before this start as well, so he’s maybe he’s already out of it. Against the Tigers this year, he’s been mostly good, with two solid performances, but one bad one during the 11-game losing streak, so hopefully we see the good Singer and not the losing streak Singer.

Prediction

Neither team is playing well and I think the Royals are the better team. I have zero confidence in this, but I think they take two of three in this series.

Poll

Do the Royals get back on track?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    In a big way. They’ll sweep the Tigers.
    (14 votes)
  • 40%
    Yep, they’ll take two of three.
    (28 votes)
  • 27%
    They’ll win a game at least, but only one.
    (19 votes)
  • 12%
    Nope, this losing streak goes to six.
    (9 votes)
70 votes total Vote Now