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Series Preview: Mariners (21-20) vs. Tigers (14-26)

The Mariners wrap up their homestand with a three-game series against the Tigers.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After Thursday’s much hyped debut of Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert was spoiled by a Zach Plesac no-hit bid, the Mariners settled in and won the remaining three games of their series against Cleveland. This upcoming series against the Tigers is the calm before the storm — the Mariners are scheduled to play 30 games in 31 days from May 21 through June 20. With all the injury issues that have cropped up recently, the team’s depth will be seriously challenged during this stretch. Luckly, they’ve got a cakewalk series against the Tigers to start the week. What could go wrong?

At a Glance

Tigers Mariners
Tigers Mariners
Game 1 Monday, May 17 | 7:10 pm
RHP Casey Mize LHP Yusei Kikuchi
40% 60%
Game 2 Tuesday, May 18 | 7:10 pm
RHP Spencer Turnbull RHP Justin Dunn
42% 58%
Game 3 Wednesday, May 19 | 7:10 pm
LHP Tarik Skubal RHP Logan Gilbert
40% 60%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Tigers Mariners Edge
Overview Tigers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 82 (15th in AL) 91 (12th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) -3 (9th) 4 (5th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 106 (9th) 116 (14th) Tigers
Bullpen (FIP-) 129 (15th) 95 (4th) Mariners

The Tigers have been playing much better baseball lately. They’ve won six of their last ten games and their offense has finally shown signs of life. They are by no means a good team — it took them five weeks to win their tenth game this year — but this mini hot streak has helped them climb out of the cellar in the AL Central.

They’re entering year five of their latest rebuild and a number of their prospects have graduated to the majors already. If there was a cautionary tale for the Mariners as they come out of their own rebuilding phase, the Tigers are probably it. It’s too early to make any sweeping determinations, but the prospects that have made their debuts in Detroit have been largely lackluster. The biggest success has probably been Jeimer Candelario, but Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal have both largely disappointed so far. They have another wave of prospects coming up soon, led by Spencer Torkelson and Matt Manning, but at this point in their rebuild, you’d expect to see some more solid signs of hope than they’ve seen so far.

Tigers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Robbie Grossman LF S 169 0.309 130 0.5
Jeimer Candelario 3B S 157 0.378 117 -0.7
Miguel Cabrera DH R 102 0.238 57 -1.0
Nomar Mazara RF L 67 0.239 82 -0.6
Jonathan Schoop 1B R 145 0.273 50 -0.3
Niko Goodrum SS S 127 0.400 105 -1.1
Eric Haase C R 12 0.375 81 0.0
Willi Castro 2B S 137 0.289 59 -0.9
JaCoby Jones CF R 91 0.261 24 0.0

The struggles of the Tigers top two pitching prospects is a big concern, but their lineup really exposes the problems at the heart of their rebuild. Detroit’s best hitter this year is Robbie Grossman, an offseason acquisition signed to be a holdover until they find a long-term solution in the outfield. He’s proven that his breakout season last year with the A’s was legit and he’s become a menace at the top of the Tigers lineup. But beyond that, it’s a whole bunch of disappointment and futility.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Casey Mize

38 2/3 16.5% 9.8% 15.6% 52.2% 4.19 5.04
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 30.2% 94.6 2262 120 121 90
Sinker 21.9% 93.6 2196 109 97 117
Splitter 17.3% 87.2 1270 94 40 79
Curveball 6.8% 82.4 2362 127
Slider 23.7% 87.8 2282 107 70 116
Mize’s curveball does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

Casey Mize was the first overall pick in the 2018 draft but recurring shoulder troubles have cast a shadow over his prospect luster. He had some shoulder issues in college at Auburn, and dealt with the same problem in 2019, cutting short a very promising year in the minors. He made his major league debut last year, completely skipping over Triple-A. That quick ascent through the minors may have been a bit detrimental to his development as he really struggled through seven starts last season. He’s still trying to figure out how to best use his deep repertoire. His minor league scouting reports really liked his splitter but he’s struggled to locate it well and it just hasn’t been very effective in the majors. If he can figure out that pitch, it would go a long way towards helping him reach the lofty expectations he had as a prospect.

RHP Spencer Turnbull

25 1/3 19.6% 5.4% 4.2% 51.3% 3.91 3.08
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 39.1% 93.8 2500 69 74 113
Sinker 21.1% 94.9 2231 123
Changeup 6.9% 86.5 1819
Curveball 9.6% 79.8 2637
Slider 23.3% 85.3 2511 107 109 125
Many of Turnbull’s pitches do not have large enough sample sizes for Stuff+ or pitch arsenal scores.

Spencer Turnbull has found plenty of success over the last few years by finding a way to consistently limit hard contact. His four-seamer doesn’t really have the kind of ride you’d expect from a modern fastball. Instead, it possesses a ton of seam-shifted spin, giving it a really uncommon movement profile. His barrel and hard hit rate allowed both sit well below league average for his career. That hasn’t translated to low BABIPs — his batted ball mix isn’t really conducive to limiting hits — but he has produced a miniscule home run rate during his career. Since his debut in 2018, he has the third lowest home run rate in baseball among all pitchers with at least 200 innings pitched.

RHP Tarik Skubal

33 20.4% 11.2% 20.4% 26.7% 5.73 7.30
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 53.5% 94.0 2234 117 93 89
Changeup 6.2% 81.9 1499
Splitter 9.2% 85.1 1380 77
Curveball 6.7% 73.7 2259
Slider 23.1% 85.3 2171 98 75 117
Many of Skubal’s pitches do not have large enough sample sizes for Stuff+ or pitch arsenal scores.

Tarik Skubal thrived in college (at Seattle University!) and in the minor leagues by relying exclusively on a dominant fastball with good velocity and ride. His long and lanky delivery adds an element of deception to his profile, but he quickly found out that he couldn’t find that same success in the majors with just a fastball. The command of his secondary offerings is below average so he’ll need to figure out how to locate those pitches effectively if he’s going to make it in the big leagues. He added a Casey Mize-inspired splitter to his arsenal this year, giving him an offspeed pitch with vertical action to play off his rising fastball. So far, the results haven’t followed.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 25-17 0.595 -- W-L-W-L-W
Astros 24-17 0.585 0.5 W-W-W-W-W
Mariners 21-20 0.512 3.5 L-L-W-W-W
Angels 17-22 0.436 6.5 L-L-L-L-W
Rangers 18-24 0.429 7.0 L-L-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 24-17 0.585 +1.0 W-W-W-W-W
Blue Jays 22-17 0.564 -- W-W-L-W-W
Cleveland 21-17 0.553 0.5 W-W-L-L-L
Yankees 22-18 0.550 0.5 W-L-W-W-L
Rays 23-19 0.548 0.5 L-W-W-W-W

We’re a quarter of the way through the season and it’s already looking like the Angels will need a miracle to sniff the postseason this year. They lost both of their series last week to the Astros and Red Sox, and barely managed to avoid a sweep in Boston when Shohei Ohtani blasted a go-ahead two-run home run in the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon. Things aren’t going to get any easier this week, either. They’re playing eight games in seven days, with a Thursday makeup doubleheader against the Twins slotted in between series against Cleveland and Oakland. The Astros have won six straight after sweeping the Rangers over the weekend and travel to Oakland for a three-game series to start this week. Their offense is crushing the ball right now, but their pitching staff has continued to deal with injury issues, and their depth might not be able to compensate.