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Game 78 Preview: Miami Marlins at Detroit Tigers

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Daniel Norris takes the mound looking for his first win of 2016 and a season sweep of the Marlins.

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Marlins (41-36) at Detroit Tigers (39-38)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Fish Stripes
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB Network, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Tom Koehler (6-6, 4.07 ERA) vs. LHP Daniel Norris (0-0, 4.50 ERA)

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Koehler 84.0 19.3 12.5 4.18 0.9
Norris 6.0 20.0 4.0 8.49 -0.2

The Marlins' roster is littered with names that sound like people you went to college with -- remember Adam Conley yesterday? -- and Wednesday starter Tom Koehler is no exception. The 30-year-old Koehler has been around a bit longer though, pitching for the Marlins in each of the past five seasons. He has filled a valuable role as a back-end starter, posting a career 4.10 ERA and 4.23 FIP in 619 innings with underwhelming strikeout and walk totals. Consistency has been his hallmark, as his ERA has fluctuated between 3.81 and 4.41 throughout his major league career.

This season has largely been the same for Koehler, but he is walking 12.5 percent of hitters, the highest rate of his career. His strikeout rate is also a career high, and nearly identical to the 19.1 percent clip he managed during the 2014 season, his best of his career. However, the walk rate has resulted in Koehler's worst strikeout-to-walk ratio and worst xFIP, at 4.82.

Once primarily a fastball-curveball pitcher, Koehler has developed a slider and changeup over the course of his career. The slider has taken a step forward this season, inducing swings and misses at nearly a 22 percent rate. Naturally, he has upped his slider usage to almost 20 percent, by far the highest clip of his career. It has been a useful out pitch against righthanders, as he is throwing it over 35 percent of the time against them in two-strike counts. As you might expect, this has made life tough on same-sided hitters; they are batting just .218/.307/.321 against him this season.

Tigers hitter to fear: Justin Upton (.375/.444/.688 in 13 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Jose Iglesias (.000/.000/.000 in 2 plate appearances)

The Tigers obviously haven't seen much of Koehler, a homegrown Marlins product, but former NL stalwarts Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin have faced Koehler a handful of times in the past. Upton has a home run and triple in 13 plate appearances, while Maybin is 3-for-8 with a double. The only Marlins hitter that has faced Norris previously is Chris Johnson, who is 1-for-2 with a walk.

Outlook

The Marlins have one of the most average offenses in baseball. Their 96 wRC+ ranks in the middle of the pack among NL and MLB teams, and they don't hit any better against right- or left-handed pitchers. They have been slightly better on the road than at home, which is not a surprise considering how cavernous Marlins Park is.

However, the Marlins' home run power pales in comparison to the Mariners lineup Daniel Norris saw last week. That Mariners unit ranks third in baseball with 113 home runs as a team this season, while the Marlins have just 67, the third-lowest total in the game. If Norris can limit walks like he did in his first start of the year, the Tigers should be in good shape, even if Koehler keeps their righty-heavy lineup under wraps.

Prediction

Norris picks up his first win of the season.

★★★

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