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Tigers vs. Angels Preview: Hey, the Tigers are pretty good at home

They might not be great overall, but the Tigers have been tough to beat at Comerica Park.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

While it has been played up as an Important Thing to Have over time, home field advantage doesn’t mean a whole lot in sports. Certain sports and leagues lend themselves to being a bit more home-friendly, but baseball is not one of them. According to a 2017 study from FiveThirtyEight, home teams win 54 percent of their games in baseball, the lowest percentage among the four major professional sports.

Don’t tell that to these Detroit Tigers, though. Despite sitting five games below .500, the Tigers are a respectable 15-11 at Comerica Park this season. They have won five of eight home series, and have only lost one series (two if you count their rain-soaked weekend against the Yankees in April). They have a modest +10 run differential in those 26 games, and have already won four games via walk-off, tied for the most in the American League.

What does this mean? Nothing, really, given that the Tigers are still under .500. But it makes for more exciting baseball for the hometown fans, especially in an otherwise forgettable season.

Los Angeles Angels (29-25) at Detroit Tigers (24-29)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Halos Heaven
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Nick Tropeano (2-3, 3.86 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Fulmer (2-3, 4.08 ERA)

Game 54 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Tropeano 39.2 20.1 10.1 4.75 0.2
Fulmer 57.1 21.2 8.3 3.95 0.8

Nick Tropeano was never regarded as a top prospect, but the Angels were probably hoping for more production when they acquired him from the Houston Astros in November 2014. Tropeano had logged just 106 innings for Los Angeles prior to the start of this year, and missed all of the 2017 season after having Tommy John surgery in late 2016. He has largely looked like the same pitcher in 39 23 innings since returning, limiting opponents to a 3.86 ERA that is nearly a full run better than his FIP. His fastball velocity was down in April, but has returned to its usual 91-92 miles per hour in May.

Surprisingly, Tropeano has started using his splitter more often in the handful of innings since his surgery. While there isn’t any concrete link between the splitter and elbow strain, it’s surprising that he and the Angels have gone against conventional wisdom. Tropeano’s performance is the likely reason why, though; opponents have whiffed on the splitter nearly 20 percent of the time so far this year, which pairs well with decent whiff rates on his slider and changeup.

Despite the high whiff rates, Tropeano hasn’t figured out a way to turn those into strikeouts. Opponents have whiffed on at least 11.5 percent of his pitches in each of his three seasons in Anaheim, yet his strikeout rate has hovered in the low 20s. He’s at just 20.1 percent so far this year, and his walk rate is just north of 10 percent again. He is coming off one of his best starts of the season — a six-strikeout performance in 7 13 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Key matchup: Michael Fulmer vs. Mike Trout

It’s not often that a pitcher gets the better of Mike Trout, but Michael Fulmer has the early edge over the future Hall of Famer. In nine plate appearances against Fulmer, Trout has yet to collect a hit. He is 0-for-8 with a single walk, and has struck out four times.

This is a common refrain for most of the Angels lineup against Fulmer. He has limited the team to a .211 batting average and .562 OPS in four starts, and the current roster has just eight hits in 50 at-bats. No Angels player has more than two career hits against Fulmer, albeit in a limited sample. However, it’s worth noting that most of his dominance has come in Los Angeles; Fulmer has a 0.61 ERA in two starts at Angels Stadium, but has allowed eight runs in 9 13 frames against the Halos at Comerica Park.


Fulmer and the Tigers make it three wins in a row.

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