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Tigers vs. Padres Preview: Luis Perdomo is a ground ball machine

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If the Tigers can elevate the ball, they should have success against Perdomo.

San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Luis Perdomo is the type of pitcher the Detroit Tigers have tried to draft for years now. Standing a solid 6’2, Perdomo throws a bowling ball of a sinker that averages over 94 miles per hour on the radar gun. He has gotten above 97 mph with the heater this season, and pairs that fastball with a solid curveball that misses bats. His walk rate is better than your average Tigers pitching prospect, but he will lose the strike zone from time to time.

While Perdomo doesn’t strike out a lot of hitters, he generates a ton of ground balls. Through 213 23 innings, Perdomo has generated ground balls at an incredible 60.5 percent rate. That is the highest rate in baseball since the start of 2016 (minimum 200 innings pitched).

However, Perdomo has struggled to limit the damage otherwise. He has a 4.97 ERA this season, and has allowed six home runs in his last five starts. Over 20 percent of the fly balls he has allowed this season have left the ballpark, a similar rate to what he allowed in 146 23 innings last season. Opponents are hitting a solid .282 against him this season, and the Padres’ defense isn’t good enough to help him significantly outperform his 4.54 FIP.

That hasn’t stopped this Tigers team lately, though. Can they snap their losing streak on Friday in San Diego?

Detroit Tigers (32-40) at San Diego Padres (29-44)

Time/Place: 10:10 p.m. Petco Park
SB Nation blog: Gaslamp Ball
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Fulmer (6-5, 3.45 ERA) vs. RHP Luis Perdomo (1-4, 4.97 ERA)

Game 73 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Fulmer 86.0 17.8 5.6 3.11 2.4
Perdomo 67.0 18.9 7.9 4.53 0.6

It says something that a pair of five-run starts have kickstarted the “What’s wrong with Michael Fulmer?” takes. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year has a 6.50 ERA in three June starts, and has just nine strikeouts to five walks in his last 18 innings. Even in his last start, Fulmer walked four despite tossing a quality start against a good Tampa Bay Rays offense. It’s production we haven’t seen from Fulmer yet, and it’s puzzling.

Spoiler alert: he will be fine. Fulmer was briefly sidelined with some shoulder inflammation, but his velocity has not taken a turn for the worse. He averaged 97.2 miles per hour with his four-seam fastball in his last start, one of his best performances of the year (in terms of velocity). His slider was a tick harder too, at 92.3 mph. One might point at a slight drop-off in horizontal movement on that slider in his last start, but that looks like nothing more than a blip on the radar.

Strangely, most of Fulmer’s worst outings this season have come at Comerica Park. He has limited opponents to a 2.30 ERA with a 4.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six road starts, but has given up a 4.60 ERA with a 2.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio at home.

Key matchup: The Tigers vs. an actual Triple-A team

This isn’t just a shot at the Padres, it’s also an indictment of how many injuries they have suffered this season. The presumptive worst roster in baseball has been thrashed by the injury bug this year, with 14 players listed on Baseball Reference’s handy injury report. A recent Gaslamp Ball post updated the status of a number of those players, including starters Jered Weaver, Christin Friedrich, and Trevor Cahill.

With all of these players (especially the starters) out, the Tigers need to take advantage. Their playoff chances are all but shot at this point, but it would be nice to see them save face and take this weekend’s series against a patchwork ballclub in San Diego.

Outlook

While he has struggled lately, Fulmer is still one of the best pitchers in the American League and potentially deserving of the Tigers’ consolation All-Star nod. Whether he has been better than last year is up for debate, but few will argue that he has regressed in any way. Meanwhile, Perdomo is a ground ball machine, but has struggled to keep runs off the board. The Tigers offense has been rather feast or famine lately, but it feels like things will come together in the right way tonight.

Prediction

Fulmer gets back in the win column with a strong effort.