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Tigers vs. Athletics Preview: Let’s talk about the MLB draft again

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Because this game isn’t really all that exciting.

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics - Game One Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

I don’t have anything to say about this game.

Chad Bell has been the very definition of replacement level for the Tigers this season, posting unremarkable strikeout and walk rates as a rotation fill-in down the stretch. He was mildly intriguing as a long relief option out of the bullpen, but his numbers have fallen off considerably after that early honeymoon period. A’s rookie starter Daniel Gossett is your run-of-the-mill back-end starter, and we’ll discuss him a bit more below.

So, let’s talk about the 2018 MLB draft (again). The Tigers have widened the gap between themselves and others vying for the No. 4 overall pick. The New York Mets are three games “behind” Detroit in the loss column, but a tiebreaker essentially gives the Tigers a four-game lead. The Cincinnati Reds are next, at 66-84. Barring a late winning streak from the Tigers, they will likely finish the year with a top-five pick.

They might be able to go higher, though. Detroit finished their weekend series two games ahead of the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central standings. After Monday’s loss, the Tigers are within one loss of Chicago, who currently holds the No. 3 overall pick in next year’s draft. Chicago begins a series with the Houston Astros on Tuesday; while this would normally mean bad things for a Tigers team suddenly rooting for Chicago to win, the Astros may suffer a bit of a post-clinch hangover after locking up their first AL West title on Sunday.

If the Tigers do jump “ahead” of Chicago in the loss column, they will be hard pressed to move any higher. The Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants have both lost more than 90 games already, with the Giants (58-93) now steamrolling towards next year’s No. 1 overall pick.

Oakland Athletics (67-83) at Detroit Tigers (62-88)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Athletics Nation
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Daniel Gossett (4-9, 5.02 ERA) vs. LHP Chad Bell (0-3, 6.42 ERA)

Game 151 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Gossett 80.2 18.2 7.0 4.73 0.7
Bell 54.2 18.8 10.2 5.37 -0.2

Gossett’s numbers should look familiar to anyone who has followed this Tigers team all season long. He has posted solid strikeout and walk rates, but opponents have not been fooled. The 24-year-old rookie righthander has allowed 96 hits in 80 23 major league innings, including 1.6 home runs per nine frames. The hits (and subsequent runs) have resulted in a 5.02 ERA, while the home runs have elevated advanced metrics like FIP to likewise uncomfortable levels. The home-run neutral xFIP is a bit more optimistic, at 4.31, but a 4.60 SIERA and 5.75 Deserved Run Average (DRA) further cement home that Gossett isn’t hiding any major tricks up his sleeve.

And that’s okay. A former second round pick out of Clemson, Gossett has never profiled as anything more than a back-of-the-rotation starter. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen projected Gossett as such prior to the season, and colleague Jeff Zimmerman echoed that sentiment shortly after Gossett was called up in June.

Gossett has a lot of sort of OK stuff but nothing great besides the slider. He can throw four pitches but they are inconsistent. He hung too many of his breakers allowing solid contact (1.7 HR/9 on the season). He’s got enough ability to be in the majors and that’s it. Something got to change for him to take a step forward.

To his credit, Gossett has been a little better lately. He was roughed up in his final start in July, but has posted a 4.01 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 33 23 innings since then. He hasn’t been particularly efficient — he has only worked six innings in three of his six starts since August 1 — but a slight uptick in strikeout rate is a good sign for his development.

Key matchup: A’s hitters vs. left-handed pitching

As I detailed yesterday, the A’s have a surprisingly potent lineup. They have a 102 wRC+ as a team on the season, good enough for sixth in all of baseball. They have been red-hot since the All-Star break, and Monday night’s eight-run outburst only helped that figure. However, nearly all of that production has come against right-handed pitching. The A’s have a putrid 84 wRC+ against southpaws this year, second-to-last in the American League. It’s a surprising statistic when you consider that some of their best hitters — Khris Davis, Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien, and Ryon Healy — are all right-handed. There aren’t many softer matchups for a struggling lefthander like Bell, and the Tigers could use a few good innings out of him in this game.

Pick to click: Nicholas Castellanos

He’s on a hitting streak, so why not? Castellanos has been hitting the cover off the ball for the entire year, and his results have started to match over the past few months. Since June 1, Castellanos is hitting .303/.341/.557 with seven triples and 19 home runs. He has been even better in September, with a 1.097 OPS in 73 plate appearances. Tuesday’s matchup also works in Castellanos’ favor; Gossett has sported slight reverse splits this season, and 11 of his 14 home runs allowed have been hit by right-handed batters.

Prediction

The Tigers slug their way to a win.