SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Tigers are among the clear rebuilders in the American League with one of the worst lineups in the game by wRC+, a middling rotation and a downtrodden bullpen.
Red Sox 2, Tigers 1
It’s hard to really say a team is trending one way or the other given the four days off everyone (except the Cubs and Cardinals) just had. That said, the Tigers did lose six of their last seven prior to the break.
7/20: David Price vs. Matt Boyd, 7:10 PM ET
This is a massive second half for Price, who stumbled a bit into the break and is back on the very bad side of the fanbase. To be fair, the lefty did have himself a solid outing last time out against Toronto when he struck out eight and didn’t walk anyone while allowing three runs over 6 2⁄3 innings. Still, his outing against the Yankees is still fresh in everyone’s mind and he followed it up with another dud against a bad Royals lineup. As I’ve said in other previews similar to this one, how Price performs against the Tigers can only hurt his reputation, but even if a good one won’t really help change people’s minds it’s better than the alternative. This will be Price’s first outing against Detroit this year.
The Red Sox start their second half against a lefty, who have generally had success against Boston this year. Of course, the Sox have gotten better against southpaws and Boyd hasn’t exactly been a dominant force this year. He’s made 18 starts this season and has a 4.76 ERA, a 4.29 FIP and a 5.63 DRA. The Tigers lefty does have solid strikeout stuff, but he pairs it with poor command that leads to a few too many walks and home runs, and those start to add up after a while. His last two starts before the break really put a dent in his numbers as well as he allowed 12 runs (11 earned) over ten innings of work. The Red Sox scored just two runs over 6 1⁄3 innings against Boyd earlier this year, and he will feature a pair of high-80s/low-90s fastballs along with a slider and a curveball.
7/21: Brian Johnson vs. Mike Fiers, 6:10 PM ET
With Eduardo Rodriguez on the shelf for the foreseeable future, a rotation spot has opened up for Johnson for the same amount of time. The lefty has been solid, if unspectacular, when called upon, though he hasn’t been able to go super deep into games due to not being stretched out. Hopefully that changes more and more with each start. He’s now made three spot starts since the injuries have started to pile up and he’s yet to allow more than two runs, though he’s also yet to make it through five full innings. He also has nine strikeouts and seven walks over his 13 2⁄3 innings of work. The key for Johnson is to continue to avoid hard contact, because his stuff is not the overpowering type. He has faced the Tigers once out of the bullpen this year, allowing just one run over four innings.
There was a time when Fiers appeared he’d have a place in this league for a long time, and while he can still eat some inning he hasn’t turned into that reliable above-average starter some were hoping for. The righty has had a weird year, as his 3.70 ERA is more than solid but the peripheral metrics tell a different story with a 4.69 FIP and a 4.61 DRA. These aren’t disastrous, to be fair, but he gives up a ton of home runs while missing few bats, which is generally a tough recipe with which to succeed. He was on a hot run with an ERA of 2.00 over his final four starts of the first half, and he has not pitched against the Red Sox this year. Fiers will feature a pair of high-80s fastballs along with a cutter and a curveball.
7/22: Chris Sale vs. Michael Fulmer, 1:10 PM ET
Sunday is Sale Day, the first of the second half and the best day of the week. There’s really not much to say about the Red Sox ace at this point, as he continues to be a force and is arguably the Cy Young favorite as we are set to begin the home stretch of the year. He’s been on an incredible run really all year but even more so over his last seven starts as he has an ERA under 1.00 with 78 strikeouts in 48 innings. This will be Sale’s first outing against the Tigers this year.
This is an ace vs. ace matchup, though Fulmer hasn’t exactly pitched up to expectations this year. Perhaps the most valuable pitcher who could be dealt this year — if we assume Jacob deGrom stays with the Mets, of course — the 2016 Rookie of the Year has struggled with command this year after a couple of much stronger years to begin his career. He has a 4.50 ERA to go with a 4.28 FIP and a 5.04 DRA over his first 19 starts of the year and he struggled mightily against the Astros in his final start of the first half. Fulmer has not faced the Red sox this season and features a pair of mid-to-high-90s fastballs along with a slider and a changeup.
Victor Martinez was acquired by the Red Sox midway through the 2009 season and he stuck around in 2010 as well. The catcher/first baseman was an integral part of Boston’s lineup for those seasons and has been a consistently strong hitter for the majority of his career until recent years. The Sox eventually let him walk in free agency — they selected Henry Owens with the compensation pick — and he signed with Detroit, where he’s played ever since.
Jose Iglesias was a top prospect for a long time in the Red Sox system, almost entirely because of his glove at shortstop. He did come up for a few stints in 2011, 2012 and 2013 before eventually being traded in the summer of ‘13 as part of the Jake Peavy deal. This was a win-win-win for all sides involved. Iglesias hasn’t developed into a consistent hitter, but his glove is still spectacular which gives him a solid floor.
Alex Wilson was never a top prospect but he did spent parts of a couple different seasons in Boston, including a strong run in 2014. He was eventually dealt to Detroit as essentially a throw-in in the Rick Porcello/Yoenis Cespedes swap. Wilson has quietly served as a solid reliever for the Tigers ever since, though he’s been hurt by the home run surge of the last couple years.
Notable Position Players
Martinez, as I mentioned, has stumbled to finish off his career and this year in particular has been rough. He’s completely lost his power and while he still makes a ton of contact he also doesn’t walk much these days and rarely does damage with said contact. He has a 57 wRC+.
Iglesias has also struggled with the bat, though not quite to the same extent. He still has solid success on balls in play, but the shortstop doesn’t walk and doesn’t really hit for power.
Nick Castellanos is the star of the Tigers lineup these days as he’s developed into a hitter to fear in the middle of the order. He doesn’t walk much and will strikeout a tad more than the average hitter, but his balls in play turn into hits at a consistently high rate and he’s finally starting to add some consistent power to his game.
Jeimer Candelario is still young, but the third baseman has some real power and draws plenty of walks to cancel out his above-average strikeout rate. A low BABIP has kept his overall production close to average, but he has the talent to be more than that.
Niko Goodrum has been solid in the middle of the Tigers lineup despite a high strikeout rate due to consistently loud contact that leads to hits and power as well as an average walk rate.
Mikie Mahtook is a former Rays outfielder who hasn’t played a ton this year but when he has he’s been horrible at the plate to the tune of a 28 wRC+.
James McCann is having a rough year, even for a catcher. Thanks to a complete lack of power and an inability to draw a walk his wRC+ is just 66, which is noticeably rough despite the position.
John Hicks has been playing first base lately and actually has some solid numbers on the year, though digging a bit deeper much of that has to do with an inflated BABIP.
JaCoby Jones is athletic and can help on the bases but he struggles with contact and doesn’t walk much along with having just average power.
Shane Greene was acquired by the Tigers in the deal that sent Didi Gregorius to New York. Obviously, Detroit has been on the short end of that deal, but Greene has turned into a solid reliever and has served as their closer. The righty misses bats and limits his walks, and while he’s far from dominant he’ll serve as a solid setup man for a contender soon as he’s likely to be traded before the deadline.
Joe Jimenez was the Tigers lone All-Star representative and a future long-term closer for Detroit. At least, that’s their hope. The 23-year-old has extreme flyball tendencies that will likely lead to more homers in a larger sample, but he has good command and misses enough bats to make up for that.
Daniel Stumpf is the top lefty in Detroit’s bullpen, but he hasn’t been very intimidating this year. His strikeout rate isn’t all that impressive for a modern reliever and he has had major control issues.
Miguel Cabrera is of course one of the best hitters of his generation, and really of all time, but he’s out for the rest of the year after undergoing surgery on a torn biceps injury.
Daniel Norris has shown flashes over his career but the lefty has been out most of the year with a groin injury and it’s not clear when he’ll come back as he recently suffered a setback.
Leonys Martin has been a solid presence in the outfield for Detroit this year and he recently started a rehab assignment. He may be ready for activation prior to this series.
Johnny Barbato has been out of the Tigers bullpen since late-June with a rotator cuff injury.
Ryan Carpenter is a depth piece and has been out since June 1 with an oblique injury.
It’s going to be a rough weekend in Detroit. There are thunderstorms in the area Friday night, and showers on Saturday and Sunday. It’s unclear how much effect these will have on the games in this series.