Seattle Mariners (36-35) at Detroit Tigers (36-35)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Lookout Landing
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (6-5, 4.18 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Fulmer (7-2, 2.43 ERA)
Father Time might finally be catching up to Hisashi Iwakuma. After posting ERAs of 2.66, 3.52, and 3.54 with comparable peripherals over the past three seasons in Seattle, the 35-year-old saw an offseason contract offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers evaporate when they took a closer look at his medicals. The M's were happy to snatch him up on an option-laden deal shortly after, but his numbers have declined just as fast as the Dodgers' interest did last December. He has a 4.18 ERA and 4.42 FIP through 14 starts.
Even worse than the rise in ERA may be the swift decline in his peripherals. His strikeout rate has dropped to just under 18 percent after hovering in the 21-22 percent range over the past three years, while his walk rate has spiked somewhat. He is allowing more home runs as well, though that rate has held steady on a per-fly ball basis.
The real kicker, though, is the drop in his ground ball rate. Once above 50 percent, Iwakuma's ground ball rate has dropped below 40 percent, and his fly ball rate has risen accordingly. His velocity is declining at a steady but age-expected rate, and the movement on a once-deadly splitter has dropped off a bit. He's still getting whiffs on the pitch when it's buried down in the zone, but opponents aren't pounding it into the ground as often. Opponents are hitting .238 with a decent .167 ISO on the splitter, and are hammering his fastball at a .278 clip with a .467 slugging average.
Tigers hitter to fear: Ian Kinsler (.379/.438/.759 in 32 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Jose Iglesias (.300/.300/.300 in 10 plate appearances)
Here's a weird one for you: Iwakuma has been relatively successful against the Tigers in his career, limiting them to a 3.34 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in six meetings. However, the Tigers' top three hitters are a combined 20-for-50 against him with three doubles and six home runs. Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martinez all have an OPS north of 1.050 against Iwakuma, with Kinsler maintaining that mark for 32 plate appearances. Nick Castellanos has also previously homered against Iwakuma.
The respective platoon splits for Fulmer and the Mariners make for an interesting matchup in this game.
Fulmer struggles early but gets back in the win column.
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