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Tigers vs. Indians Preview: Hopefully Mike Fiers doesn’t start this game

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The Tigers would do well to trade Fiers before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Detroit Tigers v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

It’s funny how things in this game can change in just one year. Last season, Tigers general manager Al Avila was heavily criticized by fans for the deal that sent J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks. One of the more common gripes was that Avila traded Martinez too early, and didn’t wait for a better offer than the lackluster return the Tigers received.

This year, the market might be shaping up differently. At least three starters have been traded by the time you read this, including Thursday evening’s big-time trade (in name only) involving Cole Hamels. Lefthander J.A. Happ and oft-injured righty Nathan Eovaldi have also changed teams.

Meanwhile, Mike Fiers is still a Detroit Tiger as of Friday morning. This isn’t necessarily for lack of trying — there are a number of teams showing interest in the veteran righthander — but one wonders if the Tigers need to take a page out of last year’s book and deal Fiers while they still can. Contenders like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs have already addressed their rotation needs, leaving just a few more still poking around for a deal. With a plethora of arms available, this year’s deadline almost feels like a game of musical chairs.

Would the Tigers benefit from holding out until July 31 for a last-minute deal? Or will they be the ones left standing when the music stops? We won’t know the answer to that for a little while, but personally, I’d feel a little better if Fiers was wearing another uniform by the time this game starts.

Cleveland Indians (55-46) at Detroit Tigers (44-60)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Let’s Go Tribe
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Carlos Carrasco (12-5, 4.03 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Fiers (7-6, 3.49 ERA)

Game 105 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Carrasco 109.1 27.0 5.4 3.43 2.3
Fiers 111.0 17.5 5.1 4.58 1.2

Don’t let Carlos Carrasco’s elevated ERA fool you; he’s doing just as well as he has in previous years. There have been a few rough outings along the way, such as a 3 23 inning, six-run stinker against the Minnesota Twins on June 1. However, things have otherwise been business as usual for the 31-year-old righthander. Take that start against the Twins, for example. His ERA pushed up to 4.50 after that start; since then, he has posted a 2.97 ERA in seven outings. He has 47 strikeouts and five walks in his last 33 13 innings, and the Indians have won six of those seven starts.

Carrasco’s season-long peripherals tell a similar story. His 27.0 percent strikeout rate is just hair off from what he produced last season, and his 5.4 percent walk rate is nearly identical to what he has managed in each of the past five seasons.

Seriously, check this out:

2014: 5.5%
2015: 5.9%
2016: 5.7%
2017: 5.8%
2018: 5.4%

Also impressive are Carrasco’s numbers against the Tigers. They hit him around early in his career, but ever since his breakout in 2014, Carrasco has dominated Detroit. He has a 2.39 ERA and 2.52 FIP in 109 innings against the Tigers since then, and has allowed a .269 wOBA to Tigers hitters. The current roster is hitting just .231/.280/.321 against him in that span, with Jose Iglesias (really?) the only one who has had any sustained success. Even his career numbers have shaped up; he has a 3.69 ERA in 131 23 innings against Detroit all-time.

Key matchup: Mike Fiers vs. the Indians’ recent hot streak

Few teams have been hotter than the Indians lately. They rank fourth in baseball with a 116 wRC+ over the past 30 days, and have gained five games in the standings since June 17. Though they are only two games above .500 this month, the Indians are 19-13 since that date in mid-June and have addressed their biggest weakness with a recent trade.

Will this matter against Mike Fiers, though? The Tribe haven’t been able to hit him all season, batting just .182/.239/.394 in three meetings. Fiers is just 1-1 in those matchups, but owns a 3.00 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 18 innings of work. We touched on his recent work prior to his last start, and that outing against the Red Sox only made his numbers look better. Since May 8, Fiers has an even 3.00 ERA in 84 innings. The Tigers have won 10 of his 14 starts during that stretch.

They have to score to make it 11 in 15, though.

Prediction

Carrasco strikes out 10 and shuts out the Tigers.

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