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Tigers vs. Red Sox Preview: Mike Fiers’ trade deadline audition is a stiff, stiff test

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Fiers might be on the trade block, but facing the Red Sox won’t be good for his numbers.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

This Mike Fiers trade might actually happen, y’all. Not only has the 33-year-old helped his own case by putting together the best season of his career — he’s on pace for almost 4 rWAR! — but it sounds like the Tigers are hell bent on moving him this summer. According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Tigers are focusing on moving him, lefthander Francisco Liriano, and outfielder Leonys Martin before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

While both Fiers and Martin have another year of club control remaining, it makes sense for the Tigers to move both this summer. Not only does that extra year of club control raise their value slightly, they are also having excellent seasons that could entice opposing clubs to part with a prized(ish) prospect in a deal. Fiers, in particular, could be in demand given a relatively slow starting pitching market. He doesn’t have a high strikeout rate, but has limited walks and is averaging almost six innings per start.

This game could be a nice little audition for Fiers. He’s facing one of the best lineups in baseball, and several scouts are sure to be in attendance. One might even be the general manager that eventually trades for him; the Red Sox have eyes for another Tigers righthander, and Dave Dombrowski has a history of targeting players that perform well against his teams (Robbie Ray, anyone?).

Facing one of the best lineups in baseball could also be a problem. Fiers has been great lately and better at home, but the Red Sox are on another level against right-handed pitching. Can he keep them in check and boost his trade value in the process?

Boston Red Sox (69-30) at Detroit Tigers (41-58)

Time/Place: 6:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Over the Monster
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Brian Johnson (1-2, 4.20 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Fiers (6-6, 3.70 ERA)

Game 100 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Johnson 49.1 19.5 7.9 4.07 0.3
Fiers 104.2 17.2 4.8 4.68 1.0

Tigers fans interested in prospect Matt Hall might want to pay close attention to Brian Johnson. The 27-year-old was a first round pick back in 2012, but he doesn’t have first round stuff. His fastball averages just 89.2 miles per hour, and he relies heavily on a big, looping curveball. Like Hall, Johnson pitched very well in the lower minors, and put up a high strikeout rate in Double-A.

From there, Tigers fans hope it goes better for Hall. Johnson put up decent numbers at Triple-A, but couldn’t maintain very good peripherals, and he has done very little at the major league level. He has put up solid strikeout and walk numbers in his first foray as a reliever this year, but has a 5.10 ERA in 21 appearances out of the bullpen. He may eventually become a solid left-handed option in that role — something many project for Hall — but the results aren’t there quite yet.

Of course, Johnson might not end up there if his recent stretch as a starter holds steady in the future. He has all but pulled a Blaine Hardy, limiting opponents to a 3.38 ERA in three starts since the end of June. It’s not likely, though. He has has just nine strikeouts to seven walks in 13 13 innings, and none of those starts have made it past the fifth inning. We should expect more of the same in this matchup, but perhaps with a few more runs. Right-handed batters are hitting .295/.344/.459 against Johnson this season, which doesn’t bode well against a Tigers lineup that is still an above-average outfit against southpaws.

Key matchup: Mike Fiers vs. Justin Upton, basically

Remember yesterday, when I said the Red Sox were actually kinda average at hitting lefthanders? That’s... not the case against righties. The Red Sox have a 120 wRC+ against right-handed pitching this year, a gaudy number few teams every approach for a full season. It means that, as a team, they are 20 percent better than league average. Only a handful of individual hitters get there for a full year, and there’s a who’s who of hitters just below that mark, including Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, and former Tigers slugger Justin Upton. We’re well aware of how streaky Upton can be, but he has still managed a 119 wRC+ this season and a 121 wRC+ for his career.

Now imagine Upton facing Mike Fiers at every spot in the batting order. That’s basically what the Tigers are going up against in this game.

Prediction

Bad things.

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