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Tigers vs. Royals Preview: Francisco Liriano aims to get back on track in Kansas City

Liriano hasn’t been the same since coming off the disabled list in June.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the non-waiver trade deadline just eight days away, rumors are starting to fly faster than ever. The Tigers have been shopping several players, most aggressively starters Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano. The former has acquitted himself well lately, posting a 3.00 ERA since May 8. His latest audition went perfectly; he tossed 6 13 scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox, one of the teams reportedly interested in his services. Dave Dombrowski was in attendance, chatting with Tigers general manager Al Avila throughout the game.

Liriano, on the other hand, might be tougher to move. He missed about a month of action earlier this year with a hamstring injury, and hasn’t been the same since. In five starts since coming off the disabled list, Liriano has a 6.75 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 16 walks in 21 13 innings. Opponents have an .896 OPS against him during that span. Worse yet, Liriano left his last start with lower back tightness; while he will start this game, potential suitors will question his overall health.

In other words, the Tigers aren’t getting a Teoscar Hernandez for Liriano.

He can still help the Tigers’ (and his own) fortunes with a strong outing in this game, though. Fortunately for him, the Royals have one of the worst offenses in baseball. Can he help boost his trade value and deliver a Tigers win on Monday?

Detroit Tigers (42-59) at Kansas City Royals (30-68)

Time/Place: 8:15 p.m., Kauffman Stadium
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Francisco Liriano (3-5, 4.67 ERA) vs. RHP Heath Fillmyer (0-1, 3.45 ERA)

Game 102 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Liriano 79.0 18.9 13.5 5.32 0.0
Fillmyer 15.2 10.6 12.1 5.45 -0.1

Heath Fillmyer sounds like a 35-year-old journeyman reliever, but he’s actually a rookie with an interesting profile. Originally drafted in the fifth round by the Oakland Athletics in 2014, Fillmyer was part of the Brandon Moss-Jesse Hahn trade* from last offseason that you (and fans of both teams) have long forgotten about. Fillmyer put together a solid season for Double-A Midland in 2017, but saw his numbers get PCL’d at Triple-A Omaha this year. He was called up after the Royals traded Kelvin Herrera in June, and has limited opponents to a 3.45 ERA in 15 23 innings despite facing a gauntlet of AL playoff contenders. His lone appearance against an also-ran went well enough; he limited the Chicago White Sox to a run on three hits in 2 13 innings of mop-up duty on July 13.

While Fillmyer looks like a swingman type right now, there’s a little potential for more. He was a late convert to the mound, and didn’t start pitching until his final year in college. He handled the transition well in the lower minors before stalling somewhat at Triple-A. His fastball sits around 92-93 miles per hour, and he has shown flashes of an above-average curveball and changeup. While he was something of an afterthought even when FanGraphs spotlighted his trade last winter, he could eventually be the best piece in the deal.

Royals Farm Report went deeper shortly after Fillmyer was acquired.

Fillmyer works with a pretty slow, straight-forward, over-the-top delivery. Doesn’t feature a lot of moving parts and it seems easy to repeat. The arm speed looks really good, allowing for a sneaky mid-90s fastball that holds some good sinking action. From what I’ve seen, he commands this pitch really well, having a good feel for both sides of the plate


Fillymer has typically been a pitch-to-contact guy throughout his career (career K/9 of 7.3), doing most of his work through weak-contact (44.1% GB% in 2017). I wouldn’t be surprised to see the K-rate start to trend upwards though as he finishes up with his development, working with three above-average offerings that all have above-average movement.

*Oddly, neither Moss nor Hahn have appeared in the major leagues this year. Fillmyer and A’s reliever Ryan Buchter are duking it out to see which team #wonthetrade.

Key matchup: Both teams vs. scoring runs

While neither starting pitcher in this matchup is exactly ace caliber, they might face relatively easy sledding against two of the very worst offenses in baseball. The Tigers have been MLB’s worst outfit over the past month, with a putrid 63 wRC+. The Royals haven’t been much better, with a 77 wRC+, though they came out swinging after the All-Star break in a series win over Minnesota. The two teams have just three combined players with a wRC+ over 120 this season (minimum 200 plate appearances), and seven at 81 or worse, with Kansas City’s Hunter Dozier just a few plate appearances away from making it eight.

Yeah, they bad.


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