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Series Preview: Detroit (September 3-5)

Miguel Cabrera.
Miguel Cabrera.

Now the Indians get back to the AL Central, and with one exception will be playing AL Central teams from now on, so they'll have a lot to say about who wins the division. They play both Detroit and Chicago six times between now and the end of the season. By the end of the day, Detroit and Chicago could be tied for the division lead with 28 games to play, and after this series, Detroit will play three against the Angels and then four more in Chicago before heading to Cleveland.

Team in a Box (click to enlarge)


Not a lot has changed since the last time the Indians played Detroit. They still remain in the top half of the league in run production, and also in the middle of the pack in run prevention. That seventh-place rank in runs allowed seems to be at least partly attributable to a bad defense (see the defensive efficiency); even though the Detroit pitching staff ranks first in the AL in both strikeouts and walks per 9 innings, they rank 11th in hits/9. This isn't that surprising, but the defensive problems are offset by the seasons both Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are having.

Typical Lineup

Pos. Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ PA
CF Austin Jackson .306 .386 .493 137 499
LF Andy Dirks .333 .393 .502 141 243
3B Miguel Cabrera .332 .396 .592 163 573
1B Prince Fielder .312 .410 .518 150 568
DH Delmon Young .275 .308 .432 98 494
RF Brennan Boesch .246 .288 .381 80 451
SS Jhonny Peralta .254 .318 .413 96 473
C Alex Avila .244 .349 .379 98 365
2B Omar Infante .264 .281 .419 87 137

The Tigers are getting they paid for from Fielder, and they're getting a typical season from Cabrera, but they're also getting a breakout season from Austin Jackson. Also, don't overlook Andy Dirks, who has picked up where he left off when he missed two months with an Achilles tendon injury.

The rest of the lineup has been mediocre, but not enough to drag the rest of the offense down. While it would be nice to have great hitters throughout the lineup, you can be effective with some great hitters and the rest being adequate. Peralta and Avila's good seasons a year ago (not to mention Victor Martinez) made the Tigers offense into one of the best in baseball; this season, they aren't hitting on all cylinders, but it's good enough to keep them in contention in a weak division.

Probable Starters

Date Pitcher ERA Innings SO/9 BB/9 H/9
Sep 3 Anibal Sanchez 5.29 34.0 5.3 2.6 12.4
Sep 4 Rick Porcello 4.57 151.2 5.5 2.1 11.5
Sep 5 Doug Fister 3.67 122.2 7.6 2.2 9.0

The Indians will miss both Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer this series, and I believe they'll miss them in their next series as well. Sanchez has pitched better of late, allowing 2 earned runs in 13.2 innings of work in his last two outings. Rick Porcello continues to be an enigma, and of the Detroit starters has probably been hurt the most by the poor defense. Fister has actually struggled lately, and is coming off a 5-inning, 4 run outing against the White Sox.

Key Relievers

Throws Pitcher ERA Innings SO/9 BB/9 H/9
Right Jose Valverde 3.56 55.2 6.6 3.6 7.3
Right Joaquin Benoit 3.10 58.0 10.6 2.6 6.7
Left Phil Coke 3.72 48.1 8.2 2.8 12.1

No changes here. Valverde hasn't blown a save since the middle of July (12 opportunities), and last lost a game on August 9th. Dotel (not pictured) has been a great pickup, striking out 10.4/9 and only walking 1.6/9.

On the Shelf

  • C Victor Martinez (knee) - out for season
  • LF Ryan Raburn (quad) - day-to-day
  • LHP Daniel Schlereth (shoulder) -60-day DL

Martinez is now officially out for the season, but the other two should be back soon. Raburn has been activated from the DL, but hasn't appeared in a game yet, and Schlereth has been making rehab appearances in the minors.