SB Nation Blog
The Opponent, in one sentence
The Tigers are an underrated squad that is loaded with veterans and has a solid lineup along with a rotation that contains some legitimate upside and could carry them into the playoff chase.
Down. This section will generally be used for how a team has played in their last ten games, but obviously there hasn’t been enough games played to properly utilize that right now. Detroit was supposed to start their season with a four-game set against the White Sox, but two of those contests were postponed. The Tigers took the first game, but were shellacked in game number two. I guess they’re trending down because they just got crushed in a game against James Shields, but really it’s too early to say they’re heading in either direction.
4/7: Steven Wright vs. Michael Fulmer, 1:10 PM ET
Wright makes his season debut today. The knuckleballer is coming off a very solid spring in which he pitched to a 0.68 ERA over 13 innings in four outings. Of course, he also struck out only six batters while walking five. He’ll look to repeat last year’s first half that earned him an All-Star appearance. Fulmer, meanwhile, is coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign in which he pitched to a 3.06 ERA over 157 innings. He features a good fastball to go with strong secondaries in his slider and changeup.
4/8: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Jordan Zimmermann, 1:10 PM ET
Rodriguez was originally supposed to make his debut on Thursday, but with that rain out the team decided to keep Wright on his normal schedule and push Rodriguez back a couple days. The young lefty had his typical inconsistent spring and is one of the most fascinating pitchers to watch on this roster. Anything from a breakout to a flameout seems possible for Rodriguez in 2017. Zimmermann, meanwhile, was a major bust after signing a huge contract with the Tigers last season. He battled neck injuries and struck out fewer than six per nine innings. He’s looking for a major bounce-back in 2017.
4/9: Rick Porcello vs. Daniel Norris, 1:10 PM ET
Porcello will look to build upon his solid first start of the season on Opening Day, pitching with an extra day of rest behind him. In his first start, if you recall, Porcello looked strong for most of his outing before sort of losing it towards the end. Matt Barnes didn’t help Porcello’s line when the reliever allowed a couple of inherited runners to score. Norris is one of my favorite breakout candidates in the league this year. A former top Blue Jays prospect, the lefty saw a major spike in strikeouts last year, albeit in a small sample. The issue for Norris has always been the long ball.
4/10: Chris Sale vs. Justin Verlander, 1:10 PM ET
On Monday, in the series finale, we have the marquee matchup of the series. We just saw what Sale did in his first Red Sox start, and on Monday we’ll be able to see what he has up his sleeve for an encore. There’s not much more to say about him at this point. Verlander had something of a renaissance in 2016 and had a legitimate argument to take the Cy Young over Porcello. He set a career high in strikeout rate with ten Ks per nine innings and pitched to a 3.04 ERA. Verlander started his season out by striking out ten batters and walking just two while allowing two runs over 6 2⁄3 innings in Detroit’s season opener.
There are a few old friends on this Tigers roster. Most notable is probably Victor Martinez, who of course spent half of 2009 and all of 2010 in Boston. Now 38-years-old, the full-time DH put up an impressive 123 OPS+ in a bounce-back 2016.
Jose Iglesias is still manning the shortstop position for Detroit and is still as exciting as ever with the glove. He made noise in Boston with some BABIP-fueled success in 2013 and even carried that over in 2015. It didn’t come back last year, though, and he’s more than likely a glove-only player. The glove is special, though.
Alex Wilson is a key member of Detroit’s bullpen. Little more than a throw-in in the Porcello deal, he’s built a niche as a command/control reliever.
Finally, there’s Anibal Sanchez. The former Red Sox prospect has flamed out in recent years and has found himself on the outside of the Tigers rotation and in a mop-up role.
The Tigers have some interesting pitchers going this week, but besides Verlander they’ll all be overshadowed by the offense. Detroit’s lineup is, of course, led by Miguel Cabrera. One of the best hitters of his generation, he just kept doing what he does last year when he posted a 157 OPS+ with 38 home runs. I’m, like, 95 percent sure he’s a cyborg.
Justin Upton was another free agency disappointment for Detroit last year, but at just 29 years old he’s a prime bounce-back candidate this year.
Ian Kinsler hates bat flips, and he’s also been a steady presence atop their lineup for a few years now.
Francisco Rodriguez holds down the back of the Tigers’ bullpen and continues to be one of the most consistent closers in recent memory.
It should be a relatively nice weekend in Detroit, with no rain on the forecast and no postponements on the horizon. Friday will be a chilly one, with highs reaching the mid-40’s. After that, though, the sun should be shining and the rest of the series will be played in 60-degree weather.
If you’re wondering why all of these games are day games, there is an explanation. Friday marks Detroit’s home openers, and teams like to have those during the day. Saturday and Sunday are...well, they’re Saturday and Sunday. Day games on the weekend are no rarity. Monday is a getaway day for Boston, who will be travelling back to Boston for a game on Tuesday.