It isn’t often that rebuilding teams head into September with major storylines surrounding the club. There is little to speak of regarding the Detroit Tigers, for instance, other than the horrible news of prospect Chace Numata’s death. Generally speaking, the product on the field isn’t worth much conversation when there are playoff races happening elsewhere.
The Kansas City Royals are a different story, however. According to reports, owner David Glass has agreed to sell the team to a local ownership group headlined by businessman John Sherman, who was previously a minority owner of the Cleveland Indians.
While we don’t know for sure what this means for the Royals — and, by extension, their AL Central rivals — in the future, our friends at Royals Review are extremely happy with this development. Glass may have been signing the checks when the Royals won their first championship in three decades, but he was also reticent to extend payroll, only opening up the checkbook after the team had banked substantial playoff revenue from their two runs to the World Series. Sherman and Co. may not spend more than Glass, but it will be tough for them to be much cheaper.
Naturally, this isn’t great news for the Tigers. It takes more than just money to win in this era, but having an owner willing to spend on premium talent — or at least to paper over the front office’s mistakes — is arguably the greatest competitive advantage remaining in the game today. The Tigers, who previously spent $50-plus million more than their division rivals under Mike Ilitch, may not get to enjoy that same advantage going forward.
As for this current series? Prepare for some bad September baseball.
Game times, TV listings, streaming info, etc.
Game 1: Tuesday, Sept. 3, 8:15 p.m.
Game 2: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 8:15 p.m.
Game 3: Thursday, Sept. 5, 1:15 p.m.
Venue: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
SB Nation site: Royals Review
Media (all games): Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Game 1: LHP Daniel Norris (3-11, 4.66 ERA) vs. LHP Mike Montgomery (3-7, 4.66 ERA)
The Royals acquired Mike Montgomery from the Cubs at the trade deadline for reasons, but his return to Kansas City has actually gone pretty well so far. The 30-year-old lefthander has a 3.98 ERA and 36 strikeouts to just 11 walks in 40 2⁄3 innings with the Royals this summer, and has been getting even stronger of late.
Our friends at Royals Review have more.
Since the trade, he’s gone with his cutter quite a bit and it’s been really, really good, limiting extra base hits and keeping hitters guessing quite a bit. He had just two swinging strikes in his first two games, spanning 109 pitches, but since then, he’s been much better with a 13 percent swinging strike rate. That includes a ridiculous 21 percent rate against this very Tigers team back on August 10 when he went seven shutout innings and struck out 12. I wouldn’t necessarily expect an exact repeat performance, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s very good in this one.
I wouldn’t either.
Game 2: RHP Edwin Jackson (3-8, 9.35 ERA) vs. RHP Jakob Junis (8-12, 4.93 ERA)
I wondered aloud earlier this year if Jakob Junis’ dominance over the Tigers was just a one year thing. While there might be some statistical noise involved here — the Tigers have generally been awful over the past couple years — Junis has continued to thrive against his AL Central rivals. He has a 3.32 ERA with 19 strikeouts and just three walks in 19 innings against the Tigers this year, and is now 7-1 with a 5.90 strikeout-to-walk ratio against them in his brief career.
Junis has been better in the second half than he was in the first, in no small part thanks to a big reduction in his home run rate. He threw his fastball more often than his slider in August, marking the first time he did this in 2019, but given that opponents are hitting .322 and slugging .598 against the fastball this year, I’m not sure if that’s why he has taken a step forward.
Game 3: LHP Matthew Boyd (7-10, 4.58 ERA) vs. RHP Glenn Sparkman (3-10, 5.86 ERA)
Glenn Sparkman may sound like a player who belongs in the 1970s, but he is, in fact, just 27 years old. It came as news to me that he has thrown 113 2⁄3 innings for the Royals this year, but that’s because exactly zero of them have come against the Tigers. Sparkman has been in the Royals’ rotation since late May (!), and has made 17 starts over the past three months.
Unfortunately for him, they haven’t been any good. Sparkman has a 6.67 ERA in those 17 outings, and the Royals are just 3-14 in those games. Opponents have hit .300/.354/.548 against him during this span, including 22 home runs in 89 innings (or 2.22 per nine innings). He maintains decent velocity, with a 93-94 mile-per-hour fastball, but opponents make far too much contact against three of his four offerings, and have done plenty of damage against the low-80s slider (17.6 percent whiff rate) as well.
What we’re looking for: moar bullpenning!
The Daniel Norris-Drew VerHagen tandem has been widely praised by Tigers fans — well, those still paying attention, anyway — for its effectiveness over the past few weeks. NorHagen, if you will, is just 1-2, but has allowed a combined eight earned runs in 23 innings across three starts, a 3.13 ERA. The strikeout numbers are a bit lacking, which is almost entirely VerHagen’s fault, but the duo has combined for just seven walks, most of which are from Norris.
Now that rosters have expanded in September, why stop there? Edwin Jackson didn’t make it through three innings in his last start anyway, and Tyler Alexander would be a perfect fit alongside the struggling veteran. Matthew Boyd can handle his starts alone, as can Spencer Turnbull, but cutting Turnbull’s outings a bit short while throwing more bullpen arms at the games Jordan Zimmermann’s starts would both make the team a bit better heading down the stretch — we’re still trying to avoid all-time futility here, people — as well as give the fans a chance to see a few younger arms (Bryan Garcia!) that might actually be around in another couple years.