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Tigers vs. Blue Jays Preview: Jordan Zimmermann is desperate for a decent outing

Hey, at least Marcus Stroman is pretty fun to watch.

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Last night in Cleveland, scouts filled out the typically thin crowd at Progressive Field to watch two notable trade chips, Matt Boyd and Trevor Bauer, do battle. Probably some of those same scouts will be on hand at Comerica Park tonight, but it won’t have much to do with the Tigers. With Jordan Zimmermann on the mound, their chances of avoiding a fifth consecutive loss are poor, and Blue Jays’ starter Marcus Stroman will be the featured attraction.

However, as bad as the 2019 Tigers are, the Blue Jays aren’t much better. Despite the presence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Jays aren’t notably closer to contention than the Tigers. Of course their division is orders of magnitude tougher. Stroman is having a fine season, but if the Tigers can post a few runs against him and get him out of the game in the middle innings, they may be able to make it interesting against the soft underbelly of the Blue Jays’ bullpen.

Of course that all depends on Zimmermann avoiding another drubbing.

On the plus side, the Tigers will get JaCoby Jones back in the lineup after a short, but quite successful rehab stint with the Toledo Mud Hens. Let’s hope he packed his sparkplugs.

Toronto Blue Jays (36-62) at Detroit Tigers (29-63)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Bluebird Banter
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Marcus Stroman (5-10, 3.25 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (0-6, 7.01 ERA)

Game 94 Pitching Matchup

Pitchers IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitchers IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Zimmermann 52.2 14.6 6.3 4.64 0.8
Stroman 110.2 19.1 7.4 3.72 2.3

Marcus Stroman is that rare pitcher nowadays who can succeed without a ton of strikeouts in a homer-happy era of baseball. Despite featuring a strikeout-to-walk ratio not much better than Zimmermann’s own, Stroman has the key advantage of keeping the ball on the ground, and without giving up the home run totals so many sinkerballers have been plagued by since the juiced ball era began in mid-2015.

He’s also unique in this era, in that deception and playing with hitters’ timing is a big part of his game. Stroman will pause, quick-pitch, shimmy and shake, and has good feel for combining those looks with a diverse mix of fastballs to get hitters off-balance. As a true heir to the stylings of Luis Tiant and Johnny Cueto, Stroman is as fun to watch as he is irritating for opposing hitters.

This is a lethal combination against a swing-happy and generally impoverished Tigers’ offense. Stroman isn’t so hard to put the ball in play against. But the weak hitting Tigers aren’t likely to just “run into a couple” against him either. He packs a good breaking ball, and doesn’t really use a changeup much, so left-handers should have some advantage. The question is how good his feel is from night to night.

Key Matchup: Jordan Zimmermann against everything

If Tigers’ left-handed hitters like Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum can contribute, it’s possible they can do some damage against Stroman. The problem of course, is that with Zimmermann on the mound that’s likely not good enough.

After his last outing, Zimmermann talked about how embarrassing this season has been for him, and about his efforts to find the handle on a twoseam fastball to try and give hitters a different look. His slider has already suffered during his Tigers’ tenure from the declining velocity separation from his faded fastball. Ongoing injury issues have only hurt an already meager arsenal. Zimmermann is working to try to build the depth back into the slider, and has also made more use of his curveball in recent outings. But until proven otherwise, it’s all just grasping at straws. The Blue Jays lineup is nearly as feeble as the Tigers’, so if anything is going to change, the time is now.


The Tigers put up a better fight than we saw in Cleveland, but lose a battle of the bullpens on a scorching hot night in the Motor City.