Motown Meetup—Mariners at Tigers Series Preview

Ed Killian, Tiger Pitcher we can’t rule out seeing Ed Killian out of the bullpen in this series | Photo by Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Well, folks, the Tigers have rolled into town. A couple weeks ago, the Mariners walloped them over a 4-game set, doing nothing for their draft position but something for my deep-seated feelings of sadness over baseball. The Tigers have 8 wins since July 1st. Eight.

The numbers here are actually kind of interesting: Despite being holy cow so much worse than the Mariners in the win/loss arena, the underlying numbers are actually similar. Yes, our pitching is a tire fire, but so is their hitting. Bullpens and defense? Bad and bad. Despite all this, both teams are just a win shy of their Pythag expection. Math!

The Tigers are in a tie with the Marlins for the worst offense in baseball, posting a 77 wRC+ (technically, by fangraphs, the Tigers are the clear worst when you factor in non-hitting contributions to fWAR). Their best hitter over 100 PA (1) has a wRC+ of 106 and (2) is Nick Castellanos, who plays for the Cubs now. Jeimer Candelario is having a disastrous 25 year old campaign, with a 64 wRC+ and a sub-Mendoza batting average of .198. Again: a 77 team wRC+. Dee Gordon put up a 77 wRC+ in his injury-filled 2018. Imagine watching that for 9 hitters every night.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Boyd was not traded at the deadline for, uh, reasons. Consensus seems to be that the Tigers just asked for too much. He continues to be one of the Tigers’ lone bright spots this year, and has posted 3.3 fWAR over 140.2 IP with an eyepopping 12.03 K/9 number. Just 6-8 with a 4.16 ERA, he’ll entire arbitration this winter with relatively weak traditional numbers that have a lot to do with the bad team he plays on. Fortunately for him, the strikeout spike should help him make his case. The Tigers would still do well to move him in the offseason for whatever they can.

I gotta be honest: I had no idea Edwin Jackson was still pitching in the majors. Technically, that’s a recent development, as he caught on in the minors with Detroit after Toronto cut him loose earlier this year. This will be his second start for the Tigers, and he’s, well, he’s what you would think: A pretty old starter on a pretty bad team whose main virtue is being able to huck baseballs in the general direction of home plate until there’s somehow, some way, three outs. He will throw 7.1 shutout innings against the Mariners in this game.

Though the Tigers are rough, the Mariners are actually facing two pretty good pitchers in this series (and also Edwin Jackson). Turnbull is in his first full season in the bigs. Not yet 27, the 2014 2nd-rounder out of Alabama (ROLL TIDE) has racked up 2.0 fWAR in just 107.2 IP, using his 4-pitch mix to get a decent share of strikeouts and generally keep the ball on the ground. Unlike Boyd, who came to Detroit having already debuted in the Majors with Toronto, the now-healthy Turnbull (he had a couple years of shoulder and elbow issues while in the minors) is a homegrown success story for the Tigers, and a badly needed one.

The Big Picture

The only real playoff note I have here is that the Twins were, at one point not too long ago, 11.5 games up in the AL Central. They are now trailing Cleveland, and losing ground to other wild card teams. Yikes, as they say. Also, I need to speak to the person responsible about including the Rangers. What’s that? Oh, apparently I’m the person responsible. Please ignore the Rangers. They do not deserve this.

We’re never going to catch the Tigers. It won’t happen. BUT! We just caught the Blue Jays, and are not all that far behind the Marlins! The only problem is now we have to play the Tigers.