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Detroit Tigers Series Preview: We’ll be seeing a lot of these guys over the last few weeks

The battle for last in the AL Central will be decided in September.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Part of the unbalanced schedule that makes for some potentially boring Septembers is when you have a battle between the clear bottom two teams in the division three different times over the last month. This is the first of those three matchups as the Royals have 30 games left and the Tigers 31. For now, the Royals are holding off the Tigers, but this could go down to the wire for who is the worst in the division. The Tigers are definitely more disappointing. Not only did they spend real money this winter to help supplement their roster of young talent, but they’ve also not gotten what’s been expected of the young talent. Spencer Torkelson had to be sent to AAA after he couldn’t get it going and while he’s been better of late, he hasn’t even been good in the minors, though he is up now with September callups. Casey Mize is out for the year, Tarik Skubal was good but has had to be shut down. Riley Greene has been okay but more was expected than what he’s shown. It’s been a nightmare season for the Tigers that they’re just waiting for the end of to be able to turn the page.

Royals vs. Tigers Matchup Stats

Category Royals Tigers
Category Royals Tigers
Winning % .402 .382
H2H Wins 6 4
Team wRC+ 93 78
Team xFIP 4.47 4.33
Run Differential -156 -144
Highest fWAR Brady Singer, 2.2 Tarik Skubal, 2.9

Tigers Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Riley Greene CF 294 .257 .316 .387 7.5% 29.6% 103 0.7
Victor Reyes RF 255 .271 .306 .363 4.7% 23.9% 91 -0.2
Javier Baez SS 473 .223 .266 .361 4.7% 24.7% 78 1.1
Harold Castro 1B 357 .279 .308 .392 3.9% 19.3% 100 0.0
Kerry Carpenter DH 50 .273 .340 .523 8.0% 28.0% 143 0.3
Jeimer Candelario 3B 393 .204 .265 .354 6.1% 22.9% 77 0.1
Willi Castro 2B 333 .243 .288 .353 4.2% 21.0% 84 0.7
Tucker Barnhart C 251 .212 .272 .242 7.6% 25.5% 52 -0.3
Akil Baddoo LF 144 .182 .250 .212 8.3% 29.9% 36 -0.8

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 273 .237 .293 .398 7.3% 28.2% 97 0.6
Miguel Cabrera 1B 390 .258 .308 .319 6.4% 23.8% 80 -1.1
Spencer Torkelson 1B 298 .197 .282 .295 9.7% 25.5% 70 -0.9
Kody Clemens INF/OF 108 .143 .204 .276 7.4% 25.0% 34 -0.3
Ryan Kreidler (AAA) INF 250 .213 .352 .411 14.4% 28.8% 107 ---

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 49 47.0 2 7 22.3% 12.4% 3.64 4.69 0.3
Andrew Chafin 49 44.1 0 2 30.7% 5.6% 2.84 2.68 1.1
Alex Lange 57 51.1 4 4 30.7% 11.1% 4.21 3.22 0.5

Royals vs. Tigers Projected Pitching Matchups

September 2 - LHP Daniel Lynch vs. RHP Drew Hutchison, 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Daniel Lynch 21 103.1 4 9 20.7% 9.2% 4.70 4.44 1.0
Drew Hutchison 22 76.1 2 7 14.6% 10.1% 4.01 4.92 0.5

Daniel Lynch had a very nice stretch of pitching that culminated with five shutout innings against the high-powered Dodgers offense. Since then, it’s been uneven at best. He had a start against the Twins where he looked fantastic in his final couple of innings but was hit around before that. He didn’t strike out a single battera against the White Sox and, even though he was spotted four runs in the first, couldn’t get through the fifth. And then in his last start, the Padres hit him around in the second and third, but his final two innings looked like the top of the rotation starter many believed (and some still do) that he could turn into. So which Lynch do we see? It’s hard to know. He’s pitching against a struggling offense, so that probably helps him some, but Mike Matheny has mentioned multiple times that he feels like maybe Lynch is starting to tire down the stretch. The encouraging notes from his last start are that he got double digit swings and misses for the first time in four starts and he struck out six while walking just one. Since July 11, Lynch has a 7.3 percent walk rate. If he can just get more consistent with the swing and miss, there might be something there. He did mention that he fixed his slider grip before his last start, so that’s a pitch to watch in this one.

Career vs. DET: 3 GS, 14.2 IP, 1-1, 3.07 ERA

Drew Hutchison has seen some things in his career, including in his big league debut against the team he’ll face in this one. He didn’t fare very well, but he at least provided some innings to the Blue Jays for a couple of seasons before he struggled to stay healthy. He reemerged in the big leagues with the Tigers last year and now with all of their injuries, he’s starting games for them. The results have been good. The peripherals are a bit less encouraging, but he does limit home runs at least. He has an ordinary fastball that averages 91-94 and gets hit. His slider is pretty good and even when he makes a mistake on it, it’s not in a spot that hitters can typically drive. His sinker has gotten a good number of grounders, but his changeup has been crushed, so that’s a pitch to look for. It’s probably why lefties have an OPS of more than 200 points higher against him than righties do. And he has times through the order splits that are pretty much by the book. He’s solid the first time, a little easier to hit the second time and then it’s bombs away when the lineup turns over for a third time. Keep that in mind if the Royals have no runs on one hit or something the first time through the order against him.

Career vs. KC: 5 G, 3 GS, 23.0 IP, 2-1, 4.70 ERA

September 3 - RHP Jonathan Heasley vs. RHP Michael Pineda, 5:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jonathan Heasley 15 70.2 2 7 17.1% 10.9% 5.22 5.35 -0.5
Michael Pineda 10 42.2 2 6 12.8% 3.3% 5.27 4.68 -0.3

Jonathan Heasley did not throw up during his last start, so that’s the first plus. He also struck out seven and walked two in five innings, which should also be considered a positive. He gave up some runs, though it was a weird game that ended with the Royals putting 15 on the board, so it was obviously a good day to hit. Still, it just feels like there should be more in there for him, but maybe that’s not right. His fastball continues to be pretty pedestrian. Unless it’s up in the zone or just above it. When he locates it right, he’s allowed a .208 average and .292 SLG. Literally anywhere else and the average is .263 with the slugging percentage at .606. It’s a small sample but it jives with everything we heard about him in the minors. And even with that tidbit, he needs to be using his slider more. It’s a legitimate weapon.

Career vs. DET: 1 GS, 5.1 IP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA

The Tigers are planning to activate Michael Pineda from his third IL stint of the season to make this start. It’s actually his second first start off the IL against the Royals this season, which is fun for him. Because of all the injury issues, he hasn’t given the Tigers much, but when he’s on the mound he has done a nice job of limiting walks. But that’s about all he’s done well. An issue with Pineda is that as his fastball has continued to decline, he remains steadfast in his urge to use it. He throws it about 60 percent of the time but opponents are hitting .330 with a .633 SLG on it. He can get some swings and misses with his slider and it’s been a good pitch, but his changeup has been almost as bad. I wonder if throwing the slider more might lead it to regress as well, which puts him in a position of maybe just being…done. He has been much better at home with a .728 OPS allowed compared to 1.153 on the road (no, that’s not a typo) and this game is at home for him, so he has that going for him, which is nice.

Career vs. KC: 15 GS, 88.2 IP, 7-8, 3.96 ERA

September 4 - RHP Brady Singer vs. RHP Matt Manning, 12:40pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brady Singer 22 121.2 7 4 25.1% 6.1% 3.33 3.32 2.2
Matt Manning 8 40.1 1 2 19.0% 6.0% 3.79 4.18 0.7

In a way, I’m sort of glad Brady Singer unraveled on Tuesday night against the White Sox. It was easier to swallow because the Royals offense picked him up for once, but it allows the opportunity to see how he responds. We saw him not have much against the White Sox a few weeks ago and gut it out to go six. But we haven’t had many chances to see how he responds to bad results. He struggled against Houston in June and came out the next start and was just okay. The last time he failed to go five innings, he responded with nine straight starts of six innings or more. So he’s passed the tests so far, but it’ll be nice to see how he responds to this. As much as we don’t want to see failure, it’s a great test. My one concern with Singer is that he is showing some signs of fatigue with where he’s missing on his sinker, but even so, this is a good lineup to get back on track against. Weirdly enough, he’s walked just 30 batters this year and eight of them are Tigers in two starts against them, so they seem to have the idea that patience is the answer, which has also led to him notching two of his eight highest called strike numbers in a game this year. So it goes both ways.

Career vs. DET: 9 GS, 48.1 IP, 5-0, 2.79 ERA

Before Mize and Skubal, there was Matt Manning. The Tigers picked him in the first round of the 2016 draft and he was pretty much good right away. But after a great season in 2019 and not pitching in 2020, Manning came back last year with some rough numbers. He struggled in both AAA and the majors, but he came back this year and has looked better. He left his second start of the year (against the Royals actually) with an injury and then had a setback during his rehab stint, but is finally back now. He pitched well in his first six starts back before hitting a bump in the road his last time out, lasting just 2.1 innings and allowing seven runs. To be honest, I’m not really sure how he can remain successful because every time I watch him pitch, I wonder how he’s not getting hit hard. His fastball location just feels very hittable, yet opponents are hitting just .231 with a .256 SLG. His slider can be nasty, but he hangs it way too often, which is why it gets hit when there’s actually contact made. He also throws a curve, sinker and occasional changeup and while you can see flashes, it just isn’t an especially visually impressive arsenal. There’s also the little matter of his numbers with RISP being unsustainable. He’s allowed a .182/.184/.182 line in those situations compared with .267/.320/.467 with nobody on. That will even out. Whether it’s in this one or not remains to be seen, but that split won’t stay the same the rest of the year.

Career vs. KC: 1 GS, 2.0 IP, 0-0, 4.50 ERA

Royals vs. Tigers Prediction

I think the Tigers are circling the drain, but may get up for a series against a similarly bad team. I just like the pitching matchups for the Royals, though, and the chance for the Royals offense to score some runs against what the Tigers are throwing out there, so I’m going to predict the Royals take the series, but don’t sweep.


Three edge of your seat games between two powers. How does it turn out?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Royals sweep.
    (10 votes)
  • 4%
    Tigers sweep.
    (3 votes)
  • 46%
    Royals take two of three.
    (31 votes)
  • 22%
    Tigers take two of three.
    (15 votes)
  • 10%
    MLB decides not to subject fans to this and awards both teams 1.5 wins.
    (7 votes)
66 votes total Vote Now