I don’t want to talk about Edwin Jackson. I don’t want to discuss Kyle Gibson either, or much of anything to do with the Tigers’ matchup against the Twins on Friday. Jackson, predictably, has fallen back to earth after two excellent starts to kick off his second tour of duty in Detroit — funny how that happens when you face playoff-bound competition — and the Tigers are still the worst team in baseball. They are losers of five straight, and have already clinched their third consecutive 90-loss season. We haven’t even reached September yet.
Worst of all is just how bad the Tigers are this year. At this point, Detroit needs to finish 25-8 just to equal their 64-98 record from the past two seasons. They have to win 24 games over the final month of the year just to avoid 100 losses.
There aren’t many interesting storylines to follow at this point either. The Tigers could have a say in how the AL Central works out, but the Twins and Cleveland Indians play more games against one another in September than they do against the Tigers. Cleveland, who is a solid 64-54 with a +40 run differential against non-Tigers teams, has just three games remaining against Detroit to help pad their win total.
Things have gone sour on the micro level too. Matthew Boyd’s continued home run troubles and Spencer Turnbull’s recent struggles have taken the air out of their respective narratives, and injuries have robbed the everyday lineup of most of its young talent. Those that remain, like catcher Jake Rogers, have struggled to adapt at the major league level. It’s early, but when searching for something fun to talk about on August 30 — something to keep our minds off of Labor Day, football, and any of the other million things that could grab our attention — I’m at a loss.
At least Michigan State kicks off around the same time as this game?
Minnesota Twins (82-51) at Detroit Tigers (39-92)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Kyle Gibson (12-6, 4.49 ERA) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (3-7, 8.70 ERA)
Game 133 Pitching Matchup
Kyle Gibson has largely been the same pitcher he was last season, when he produced a career-best 3.8 rWAR in a career-high 196 2⁄3 innings. He is well off that pace this year, with just 0.7 rWAR through 144 1⁄3 frames, but his 4.05 FIP (and, by extension, 2.8 fWAR) is actually better than what he produced in 2018. Slight improvements in his strikeout and walk rate have contributed to this marginal improvement.
Gibson’s ERA is nearly a full run higher, however, thanks to some poor timing on his part. Opponents have hit .239/.289/.398 against him with the bases empty, but .296/.378/.486 with runners in scoring position. He has gone to his secondary pitches more often when he gets ahead, but his two-seam fastball is what has gotten him into the most trouble. After hitting .246 against it last season, opponents are hitting .288 and slugging .428 against it last year. It alone is responsible for 19 of the 45 extra-base hits he has surrendered this year despite him using it roughly one-third of the time.
Key matchup: Line play vs. overmatched opponents
Err, wait, wrong sport.
/looks at Tigers lineup
Alright, let’s roll with this. Michigan State had one of the worst rushing attacks in the country last year, ranking in the 100s (that’s really bad) per S&P+. A lot of that falls on their offensive line, which, according to our friends at The Only Colors, should be better and more experienced this year. A strong effort against Tulsa, who was really bad defensively last year, doesn’t necessarily mean much, but continued issues with generating push up front against a subpar opponent could hint at future problems when the Spartans face better competition.
The same goes for Michigan’s defensive line against Middle Tennessee State. The Wolverines are replacing a ton of production from their 2018 defensive line, which was one of the best in the country. If they fail to generate pressure against MTSU, that’s not a good sign for the rest of their schedule.
The Tigers lose their sixth in a row.