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Game 39 Preview: Milwaukee Brewers at Detroit Tigers

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The Tigers and Brewers face off for the first time in nearly six years.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee Brewers (13-25) at Detroit Tigers (23-15)

Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Brew Crew Ball

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Mike Fiers (1-4, 5.00 ERA) vs. LHP Kyle Lobstein (3-3, 4.33 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Fiers 7 36.0 12.25 3.75 1.50 1.58 3.93 3.19 0.5
Lobstein 6 35.1 4.08 3.06 0.25 1.44 3.64 4.72 0.6

Mike Fiers is a former 22nd round draft pick out of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His four-seam fastball has averaged 89.5 miles per hour during his MLB career. He has one season with more than 100 innings pitched at the major league level. He has allowed a 5.00 ERA in seven starts this season, and has worked into the seventh inning just one time. Tigers starter Kyle Lobstein has nearly as many innings pitched as Fiers despite making fewer starts. Sounds like an easy night at the office for the Tigers' lineup, right?

Not so fast. Fiers may have an elevated ERA, but he is striking out 12.25 batters per nine innings this season, the second-highest rate among starting pitchers (minimum 30 innings pitched). He has a 3.93 FIP, over a full run below his 5.00 ERA. Other metrics like xFIP and SIERA are even more forgiving, and indicate that he has pitched like a solid No. 2 starter. He has a 3.27 strikeout to walk ratio, one of three Brewers starters with three times as many strikeouts as walks.

As Beyond the Box Score indicates in a recent breakdown of Fiers' performance, the soft-tossing righty relies heavily on his four-seam fastball. Fiers has no fear of using the fastball up in the strike zone, a strategy that has paid off and cost him at the same time. He fares better when the ball is down in the zone, but generates far more swings and misses when the fastball is elevated.

Mike Fiers whiff rate

Kyle Lobstein had a 3.00 ERA and was pitching his way into the rotation conversation before some stupid blogger had to go open his mouth about it. As you might expect, Lobstein had his worst start of the season, allowing six runs on seven hits in just 2 1/3 innings. It had nothing to do with Lobstein leaving his fastball up in the strike zone or hanging a few sliders over the heart of the plate. It didn't have much to do with Lobstein's 10.6 percent strikeout rate, the sixth-lowest rate among starting ptichers, or that a couple of seeing-eye singles started off the five-run inning that ended his day. He is still struggling to get out of jams at times, with a strand rate of just 66.5 percent for the year.

Hitter to fear: Adam Lind (.292/.386/.533 in 140 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Martin Maldonado (.157/.211/.229 in 91 plate appearances)

The Brewers have been one of the worst offensive teams in baseball in the early season. Their 74 wRC+ as a team is tied with the Philadelphia Phillies for the worst total in baseball, while their 142 runs scored is the third-lowest total in the National League. Only two Brewers regulars, Adam Lind and Gerardo Parra, have an OPS above .800 this year. Lind was a platoon bat who did plenty of damage against the Tigers during his time with the Blue Jays, hitting .267/.323/.526 in 33 plate appearances. Ryan Braun leads the Brewers with eight home runs on the year, and Lind is the only other player with more than five. All-Star center fielder Carlos Gomez was hit in the head by a pitch from New York's Noah Syndergaard yesterday and may not play tonight.

Outlook

Last night's nationally televised matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals did the Tigers no favors for tonight's game, as the team likely did not get back to Detroit until the wee hours of the morning. This small disadvantage, combined with a Chris Young-esque arsenal from Brewers starter Mike Fiers, could give the Tigers offense some problems in the early going. Fiers has pitched better than his results indicate, particularly if you believe that his home run rate will regress. They may not need to do too much, though, as the Brewers have a .598 OPS against left-handed pitching this season.

Prediction

The offense struggles early, but does enough to get back into the win column.

★★★

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