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Series Preview: Mariners (30-31) at Tigers (24-35)

The Mariners head off on a Midwest swing beginning with a three-game series in Detroit.

Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

After salvaging a series split in Los Angeles with a win on Sunday, the Mariners wrapped up a 14-game stretch against AL West opponents going 9-5. Overshadowing this positive spell is the demotion of Jarred Kelenic. Making the jump from Triple-A to the majors is incredibly difficult and the initial struggles he faced eventually compounded into some pretty poor at-bats during the Angels series. He’ll get a chance to hit the reset button a la Taylor Trammell. In more exciting news, Shed Long Jr. was activated from the Injured List and should get a chance to get his major league career back on track after a disappointing season last year.

At a Glance

Mariners Tigers
Mariners Tigers
Game 1 Tuesday, June 8 | 4:10 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales LHP Matthew Boyd
54% 46%
Game 2 Wednesday, June 9 | 4:10 pm
RHP Chris Flexen RHP Casey Mize
45% 55%
Game 3 Thursday, June 10 | 10:10 am
LHP Justus Sheffield TBD
50% 50%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Tigers Mariners Edge
Overview Tigers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 85 (15th in AL) 86 (14th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) -10 (12th) 0 (10th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 100 (8th) 118 (13th) Tigers
Bullpen (FIP-) 119 (15th) 90 (4th) Mariners

The Tigers have turned a corner after spending most of April looking like the worst team in baseball. Their record in May was a game over .500 (14-13) and they had a positive run differential (+3) during the last month. Of course, three of those wins came in Seattle during the middle of the month. Their turn around has been largely fueled by their starting rotation. Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal have both been outstanding recently and Spencer Turnbull had been looking great before being sidelines with a forearm injury. Luckily, the Mariners will only see one of those three starters during this series.

Tigers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Robbie Grossman RF S 248 0.282 105 -0.2
Jeimer Candelario 3B S 241 0.358 103 0.8
Miguel Cabrera DH R 173 0.232 61 -2.4
Jonathan Schoop 1B R 229 0.298 104 -0.8
Eric Haase LF R 74 0.306 162 -0.3
Niko Goodrum SS S 185 0.333 74 1.1
Willi Castro 2B S 184 0.301 83 0.5
Jake Rogers C R 41 0.333 56 0.3
Derek Hill CF R 87 0.510 156
*Hill’s stats from Triple-A

The Tigers lineup hasn’t taken as big a step forward as their rotation, but they have been a bit better than they were earlier in the season. Jonathan Schoop has broken out of his funk and has posted a 143 wRC+ since the beginning of May. Akil Baddoo, their Rule-5 selection, has continued to hone his approach at the plate. He had plenty of exciting fireworks to start the season but his plate discipline was a mess. In May, he cut his strikeout rate by more than 16 points and pushed his walk rate up to 24.2%. They’ve also received some surprising contributions from Eric Haase, a journeyman catcher who is all of a sudden crushing the ball. He hit two home runs against the Mariners back in mid-May and has launched five more in the past week.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Milwaukee Brewers Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

LHP Matthew Boyd

62 1/3 19.5% 6.9% 7.7% 37.5% 3.90 3.86
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 43.7% 91.8 2334 77 88 112
Sinker 3.8% 90.3 2287
Changeup 24.0% 79.9 1881 156 89 106
Curveball 7.4% 73.6 2579 94
Slider 21.1% 80.0 2376 86 59 101
Boyd’s sinker and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

Matthew Boyd has tantalized with some excellent strikeout rates in the past but has failed to turn those skills into consistent performance. As a fly ball heavy pitcher, he’s struggled with huge home run rates throughout his career. The issue is his fastball. He likes to elevate the pitch so that he can play his changeup and slider off of it down in the zone. But his heater doesn’t have great ride or elite velocity. Batters seem to have a pretty easy time squaring it up leading to some really loud contact in the air. Back in 2019, he mitigated some of that damage with a gaudy strikeout rate, but it’s fallen from 30.2% to 22.1% last year and 19.5% this year. He’s managed to keep his home run rate pretty low this year which has helped him keep his ERA and FIP low, but without those strikeouts, his potential ceiling is considerably lower.

RHP Casey Mize

64 2/3 20.4% 7.7% 18.2% 50.6% 3.34 4.72
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 28.7% 94.4 2255 115 122 95
Sinker 23.0% 93.5 2182 114 105 103
Splitter 15.4% 87.1 1249 94 52 79
Curveball 7.8% 82.0 2340 129
Slider 25.1% 87.1 2299 117 85 110
Mize’s curveball does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

From a previous series preview:

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.

In mid-May, Mize threw his longest outing of the season against the Mariners, lasting into the eighth inning in a 4-1 victory. He allowed three hits and three walks and struck out seven.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 35-26 0.574 -- W-W-W-W-L
Astros 33-26 0.559 1.0 W-L-W-L-W
Mariners 30-31 0.492 5.0 L-W-L-L-W
Angels 28-32 0.467 6.5 L-W-W-L-W
Rangers 23-38 0.377 12.0 L-L-W-L-L

The Astros maintained their position in the standings with a series win against Toronto over the weekend. They’ll travel to Boston for three games to start this week. The A’s won their series in Colorado and finally have a positive run differential on the season. They host the woeful Diamondbacks for two games this week. The Angels got their series against the Royals off to a good start with a 8-3 win last night.