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Tigers vs. Twins Preview: The one without Miguel Cabrera

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The Tigers have 94 games remaining this season without Cabrera in the lineup.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers
The Tigers will be without #24 for the rest of the year.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Tigers are not expected to contend this season — they fell back into third place after Tuesday’s loss to the Twins — losing Miguel Cabrera for the rest of the season is a huge blow. Cabrera is one of few veterans remaining from a team that was expected to contend as recently as last season, and has seemingly embraced more of a clubhouse leader role. Sure, he was fairly moody with the media recently, but that seemed to be a product of him itching to get back onto the field.

With Cabrera now gone, the Tigers will have to figure out how to replace his production, both on and off the field. Away from the diamond, the Tigers can rely on other veterans. Victor Martinez will still hold plenty of clout within the clubhouse, even as he is hitting just .243/.306/.345. James McCann and Nicholas Castellanos have also stepped into leadership roles, even if they are still in their mid-20s.

On the field, the Tigers will be hurting. Cabrera was having a resurgent season, hitting .299/.395/.448 in 38 games. He only hit three home runs in 157 plate appearances, but was otherwise the excellent hitter we have come to know and love in his 11 seasons with the Tigers. Filling that void for the most part will be John Hicks, who has a solid .764 OPS in 162 plate appearances this season. The Tigers could also turn to a number of players in the minor leagues, including veteran outfielder Jim Adduci, utility infielder Ronny Rodriguez, and — here’s hoping — top-hitting prospect Christin Stewart.

We may have to wait a few days to see how all of this shakes out. Cabrera has not even been placed on the disabled list yet by the team, and his eventual placement on the 60-day DL will open a 40-man roster spot. Until then, let’s hope the rest of the current Tigers roster can step up and fill the massive void left by Cabrera.

Minnesota Twins (29-34) at Detroit Tigers (31-37)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jose Berrios (7-5, 3.66 ERA) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (4-4, 3.20 ERA)

Game 69 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Berrios 83.2 25.8 4.3 3.29 2.0
Boyd 70.1 19.0 9.2 3.95 1.1

The Tigers got a face full of Jose Berrios a few weeks ago, when the 24-year-old righthander held them to two runs on just three hits in eight innings. He struck out nine, and picked up his fifth win of the season in a 4-2 Twins victory. He hasn’t missed a beat in the three starts since then, allowing a 3.22 ERA while striking out 25 batters in just 22 13 innings. He has picked up wins in his last two outings, including a 10-strikeout complete game against the Chicago White Sox six days ago.

For the season, Berrios is striking out 25.8 percent of all batters he has faced. This rate is up from just 22.6 percent last season, leaving him closer to what fans expected when Berrios was a top-20 prospect in all of baseball a couple years ago. He hasn’t tweaked his arsenal much in his three MLB seasons, apart from an increased reliance on his curveball against right-handed hitters. His command, on the other hand, has taken a huge step forward. He looked in over his head in 2016 — think “2017 Joe Jimenez” levels of lost — but was effectively wild in 145 23 innings last season. This year, Berrios is walking just 4.3 percent of hitters, and only eight qualified AL starters have a better K-BB%.

Key matchup: The Twins offense vs. Matthew Boyd at home

While statistics are showing that Comerica Park is much more of a hitter’s haven than we first thought, at least one pitcher is plenty comfortable on that mound. Matthew Boyd has made six starts at home this season, limiting opponents to just 10 total runs. They are hitting .186/.267/.302 with just three home runs. According to sOPS+, a stat comparing Boyd’s home splits to league-wide home splits, he has been 40 percent better than average. While this comes with a .208 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) that should regress some, his penchant for generating lazy fly balls plays well with Comerica Park’s spacious dimensions. Add in Minnesota’s paltry 87 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this year, and this should make for a low-scoring affair.

Prediction

Boyd stops the Tigers’ two-game skid with a strong performance.

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