Opinion

4/19-4/21 Series Preview vs. Detroit Tigers

The Yankees start their fourth series of the year on Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers. Let’s take a look at the Tigers roster and how the Yankees will match up in the three game set.

Story so far

The Tigers are led by manager A.J. Hinch and have started off the season 4-5 with a -12 run differential, good for 3rd place in the AL Central. Before yesterdays off day Detroit had just wrapped up a four game set against the Kansas City Royals. The finale was rained out so the Tigers are coming in against the Yankees with two days rest.

The Tigers went a better than expected 77-85 in last years campaign and spent this offseason adding pieces to make a run at a playoff spot this year. Notable additions include pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, shortstop Javier Báez, outfielder Austin Meadows, and catcher Tucker Barnhart. They also added top prospect and former #1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson, who made the Opening Day roster as the starting first baseman.

In the early going the Tigers offense has been pretty poor, ranking 24th in baseball with a 82 wRC+ and 27th in runs scored. The pitching staff has made up for some of it. The hurlers rank 14th in baseball with a 3.71 ERA. Their 3.42 FIP as a staff shows even more success, ranking 8th in the league.

Projected Lineup (2021 stats)

  1. RF Robbie Grossman (.239/.357/.415, 114 wRC+)
  2. LF Austin Meadows (.234/.315/.458, 113 wRC+)
  3. 2B Jonathan Schoop (.278/.320/.435, 105 wRC+)
  4. 3B Jeimer Candelario (.271/.351/.443, 119 wRC+)
  5. DH Miguel Cabrera (.256/.316/.386, 92 wRC+)
  6. 1B Spencer Torkelson (.267/.383/.552, 149 wRC+ in the minors)
  7. CF Akil Baddoo (.259/.330/.436, 108 wRC+)
  8. C Tucker Barnhart (.247/.317/.368, 81 wRC+)
  9. SS Willi Castro (.220/.273/.351, 69 wRC+)

This lineup has some tough outs on paper but it just hasn’t shown up so far this season. Meadows is off to a tremendous start, hitting .417/.517/.500 across 29 plate appearances. As we know he destroys the Yankees historically, so the Bombers need to try to avoid more of the same in the midst of a hot streak. The Tigers gave Javier Báez a six-year, $140 million contract this offseason and he was having a strong start to the year, but he is on the IL with a right thumb injury and is out for this series.

Torkelson and Miggy are the only other two healthy regulars that are league average or better so far in wRC+. Torkelson is have a strong start to his career, batting .240/.387/.520 with two long balls in 31 plate appearances. Watching him this series should be fun. Cabrera is five hits away from 3,000 in his career. The Tigers are on a six game home stand and I hope he can accomplish the feat in front of his home town fans. Would be cool.

Akil Baddoo is exciting and easy to root for. He was a Rule 5 pick two winters ago and hadn’t played above High-A, but still posted an above average season in 2021. He is off to a tough start this year with only two hits in 24 plate appearances. Many Yankees fans wanted the Yankees to get Tucker Barnhart this winter. He hasn’t been Kyle Higashioka bad, but he still has been terrible at the plate thus far.

Probable Pitchers

Tuesday (6:40 ET): RHP Gerrit Cole (career vs. Tigers) vs. LHP Tyler Alexander (career vs. Yankees)

Tyler Alexander is what old timers would call a crafty left handed pitcher. He has a five pitch repertoire that he mixes fairly well, doesn’t walk many batters (1.96 career BB/9), and doesn’t throw very hard (career 90.7 vFA). This is his fourth season in the big leagues. Last season for the Tigers he pitched 106.1 innings to the tune of a 3.81 ERA (4.39 FIP) in 41 games, 15 of which were starts. So far in 2022 he has made one start, lasting 5.1 innings and giving up five hits and three earned runs.

Anderson relies mostly on his cutter instead of his fastball, throwing it 35.4% of the time in 2021. He uses that pitch to get inside on opposite side batters and away from same sided ones. He limited batters to a .239 batting average against the offering last season. His sinker (20.6%), changeup (18.4%), and 4-seam fastball (15.1%) all are used about the same. The sinker and changeup were both hit pretty hard last year. Tyler also has a slider to offer, which he threw 10.5% of the time in 2021. This will be Alexanders third career appearance against the Bombers.

Wednesday (6:40 ET): RHP Luis Severino (career vs. Tigers) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (career vs. Yankees)

We know Eduardo pretty well from his time with the Red Sox. He has started 21 games against the Yankees in his career, posting a 3.87 ERA in 118.2 innings. Rodriguez ditched Fenway early last offseason for a five-year, $77 million contract with the Tigers. The season has not been kind to him so far. Eduardo is 0-1 with a 5.87 ERA (4.92 FIP) in two starts and 7.1 innings thus far in the Motor City.

He uses his 93 mph fastball to set up his changeup and cutter. His changeup got thrown 23.1% of the time in 2021, and the cutter 17.7% of the time. He used the cutter has his put away pitch 26% of the time. A sinker and slider round out Eduardo’s offerings, which he throws 11.2% of the time and 8.1% of the time respectively.

Thursday (1:10 ET): LHP Jordan Montgomery (career vs. Tigers) vs. TBD

This is TBD but it’s more likely than not going to be old friend Michael Pineda. Pineda signed a one year deal late in Spring Training and has had two tune up starts in the minors in preparation for a call up. Even if he hasn’t reached the greatness we all hoped for him in pinstripes, Pineda has leveled out as a solid back of the rotation guy. His Baseball Savant percentile ranking graphs are always strange to look at:

 

Elite ability to make people chase, elite ability to limit walks, lots of hard contact. There will always be an element of Big Mike that has you wanting more. Pineda is a three pitch pitcher these days. His fastball makes up more than half of his pitches, but it has steadily fallen year over year, plummeting to a career worst 90.6 mph in 2021. His slider made up 28.9% of his pitches last season and it’s still elite, holding batters to a .199 batting average. The changeup wraps up his arsenal, being tossed 16.9% of the time last season. Pineda never reached the ace ceiling he flashed his rookie year, but at the very least he’s been more productive than Jesus Montero. Yankees won the trade.

Three things to watch

  1. Miguel Cabrera – As I mentioned earlier, Miggy is just five hits shy of 3,000 for his career. He isn’t the player he used to be but Miggy getting hot this series and reaching 3,000 against the Yankees would be kind of cool to be honest. Dude has been an absolute monster in his career and has been a pleasure to watch. Over 20 seasons he is a career .310/.387/.532 hitter with 502 home runs and a 143 wRC+. 15 years later and I still can’t believe the Marlins traded this dude when he was 24 years old. Hats off to Miguel on the milestone. Hopefully we get to see it this series.
  2. Yankees offense – Do I need to explain this one? The Yankees went anemic again in the Orioles series and are still waiting to get going offensively. Hopefully Boone will decide against resting guys just because he can and let the offense get their footing under them.
  3. Luis Severino – Severino turned in a vintage 2017-2018 performance his last time out against the Blue Jays. Will he follow it up with an encore? All aboard the Severino comeback train.

 

 

 

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