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Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers series preview

AL Central baseball can be fun!

Tampa Bay Rays v Detroit Tigers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Welcome to another week of Cleveland baseball. If you were otherwise preoccupied this last weekend, your Cleveland Indians took 2 of 3 from the Kansas City Royals, a feat known in baseball as a “series win”. Another one of those would be just peachy as the Tribe heads to Comerica Park to face the Detroit Tigers for 3 games.

Looking ahead

The Indians are in Detroit for the next three days. After that, they’ll had back into the gauntlet that is the AL West to face the Houston Astros for a weekend series before flying to Wrigley Field to face the Chicago Cubs for 2 games. The Tigers, after this weekend, will fly out to Seattle for 4 games against the Mariners before heading back to the Midwest to take on the Twins for 3 games.

Pitching matchups

Monday, May 14 7:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) v. Mike Fiers (RHP)

Reports of Cookie’s demise were greatly exaggerated. His season numbers are fantastic up to this point: in 52.1 innings, Carrasco has allowed 21 earned runs while walking 11 and striking out 53 (which translates to an ERA+ of 128). Despite a couple of games in which Cookie didn’t look like his sharp self, he rebounded in the best way in his last start. On May 9 against the Milwaukee Brewers, Carrasco went all 9 innings and allowed just 2 runs on 5 hits while walking 1 and striking out a season high 14.

Mike Fiers hasn’t looked great this season, but he has looked better than he did in 2016 and 2017, so that is progress. Brooks Baseball has basically all of his pitches below average velocity (including this bit I particularly enjoyed: “His sinker is so slow that it is substantially gravitational”), but Fiers survives by inducing weak contact that results in lazy pop-ups. He’s like Josh Tomlin except without the ridiculous propensity for home runs...oh wait, he kind of has that too with a 1.9 HR/9. So far in 2018, Fiers has pitched in 32.1 innings and has allowed 17 earned runs while walking 5 and striking out 21 (which translates to an ERA+ of 97). His most recent start came on May 8 against the Texas Rangers; in that game, Fiers went 5.1 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 6 hits while walking no one and striking out 5.

Tuesday, May 15 7:10 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) v. Francisco Liriano (LHP)

Speaking of home runs, Josh Tomlin returns to the mound after his last turn in the rotation was skipped over. 2018 has not been kind to Tomlin. According to Baseball-Reference, Tomlin has already been worth -0.8 WAR, which means at some point any random AAA pitcher would be more effective than the Little Cowboy. In 2018, Tomlin has pitched in 25.2 innings and has allowed 23 earned runs while walking 6 and striking out 14 (which translates to an ERA+ of 58). His last start came on May 4 against the Yankees; in that game, Tomlin lasted 7.0 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 8 hits while walking 2 and striking out 4.

Francisco Liriano, on the other hand, is currently enjoying his best season since his All-Star year way back in 2006 when he was still with the Twins. The 35-year-old Liriano is currently one of the best starters on the Tigers, along with Matt Boyd (Michael Fulmer is hovering somewhere around “slightly above average”). Liriano may not strike a ton of guys out, but he uses his sinker/change-up combo to induce either pop-ups or ground outs, and he’s been successful at it so far this season. In 2018, Liriano has pitched in 40.1 innings and has allowed 15 earned runs while walking 20 and striking out 29 (which translates to an ERA+ of 136). His most recent start came on May 9 against the Rangers; in that game, Liriano went 4.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 4 hits while walking 4 and striking out 3.

Wednesday, May 16 1:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) v. Ryan Carpenter (LHP)

Trevor Bauer is having his best season to date. Across 51.0 innings so far, Bauer has allowed 17 earned runs while walking 21 and striking out 57 (which translates to an ERA+ of 155). His last start, however, was his worst of the season. Against the Kansas City Royals on May 11, Bauer lasted just 4.2 innings and he gave up 4 earned runs on 11 hits while walking 2 and striking out just 3.

MLB isn’t sure who will be pitching for the Tigers on this day, but FanGraphs believes it will be Ryan Carpenter. They seem like pretty stand-up folks over there, so I’m inclined to believe them. Carpenter was drafted in the 7th round of the 2011 draft by the Rays. He made his way into the Rockies’ organization in 2014 before finding his way to the Tigers this year. He made his MLB debut this season on April 1 against the Pirates; in that game, Carpenter went 3.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 1 and striking out 3. He’s only made one other appearance so far this year, and it was for 0.2 innings out of the bullpen on May 12 against the Mariners. He’s got a low-90s fastball, but the slider is the pitch you want to watch for with Carpenter. It has a grand, sweeping motion that has the chance to fool many a batter.

Players to watch

  • Jeimer Candelario - The Tigers may have their third baseman of the future in Candelario. He made his debut with the Cubs in 2016 and was traded midway through last season to the Tigers, and he’s hit ever since showing up in the Motor City. This season, for example, Candelario has a slash line of .272/.359/.497 across 167 plate appearances (which translates to a wRC+ of 129). All of his peripherals look to be right in line with his career norms, so this isn’t an instance in which a young player is on a hot streak or something; Candelario is the real deal. He’s making slightly more hard contact than he has in previous years, so that may explain some of the uptick he’s seeing in his slugging.
  • Miguel Cabrera/Nick Castellanos/Leonys Martin - These are the other three position players who are currently doing well for the Tigers. The problem is they are all injured. Cabrera and Martin are both on the DL with hamstring issues and Castellanos left a recent game with a left finger contusion and it’s not clear if he’ll play this week. The rest of the lineup has been decidedly underwhelming in 2018, so I don’t want to feature any of them here. Injuries suck.
  • Warwick Saupold - I would feature Saupold for his name alone because it’s incredible. Thankfully, he’s been great for the Tigers so far this year and is with the team through 2022, so he could figure into their long term plans while also being effective in the short term. In the 12.2 innings he’s pitched, he’s allowed just 4 earned runs while walking 6 and striking out 5 (which translates to an ERA+ of 163). He’s also given up 12 hits; basic math tells us that that’s a total of 19 base runners (he also has 1 HBP) in 12.2 innings, which is not a recipe for success. His FIP of 5.04 is much higher than his current ERA of 2.84; eventually, those base runners are going to find their way home. Why not during this series?
  • Joe Jimenez - Jimenez, on the other hand, is doing well and may have some room to improve. Across 19.0 innings, Jimenez has allowed 7 earned runs while walking 6 and striking out 17 (which translates to an ERA+ of 139). He’s allowing fewer base runners on a per inning basis than Saupold, and he’s also striking out more hitters (8.1 K/9). His FIP is 2.99 while his ERA is 3.32, so there’s not as large of a discrepancy, but he does have a little room for positive regression.


Will Josh Tomlin go a game without giving up a home run again?

Tomlin is known for having his “Patented Solo Shot”, which is fine when it’s one per game and it is indeed a solo shot. However, in 2018, he’s only had 2 games out of 6 in which he hasn’t given up a home run. In the other 4, he’s given up 13. In those games, he’s given up 4, 4, 2, and 3 home runs (i.e. more than one). Tomlin is facing a Tigers lineup that is missing some of its key contributors and everyone else is hitting poorly. If he can’t get through this series without giving up 39 home runs, then I don’t know that he has a place in the rotation anymore.

Michael Brantley batting second is working

In the minuscule sample size of 9 plate appearances this season, Brantley is batting .556/.556/1.000 when batting second behind Francisco Lindor. Overall this season, he’s slashing .342/.375/.559, so maybe it’s just that Michael Brantley is really good at baseball and his position in Tito’s lineup is irrelevant. But there’s something intuitive about batting your best hitters back to back at the top of the lineup, and it seems to be working.

Beardless Andrew Miller is back

I don’t like Andrew Miller without his beard. Maybe it’s my own subconscious coming through because I myself can’t grow a full beard. Who knows. But beard or no, Andrew Miller rebounded on Sunday after his first game back was a bit of a disaster. He went two-thirds of an inning and struck out a pair, which is the Andrew Miller we know and love. Hopefully the beard is back by the postseason.

Detroit Tigers roster



How many games will the Indians win against the Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    (52 votes)
  • 51%
    (75 votes)
  • 6%
    (9 votes)
  • 6%
    (9 votes)
145 votes total Vote Now