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After sweeping the Tigers in the Bronx a month ago, the Yankees square off against Detroit once again this weekend, but this time in the Motor City. It’s a somewhat unusual single series road trip with the Yankees returning to New York to start a homestand on Memorial Day against Tampa Bay. Let’s take a look at the Tigers and what’s ahead for this weekend’s three games.

Their story so far

Now that the Twins have begun to get their act together, Detroit has fallen into the cellar of the AL Central at 19-31. Only the Orioles have a worse record in the American League, but in terms of run differential (-64), the Tigers are dead last.

The Tigers do not hit or pitch well. They’ve scored the third-fewest runs in MLB and have surrendered the 9th-most runs. If fWAR is your WAR metric of preference, then I’m afraid to say that Detroit’s position players are virtually replacement level at -0.6 fWAR. It’s the only position player group below 2.1 fWAR, in fact. At lease they’ve gotten better output (3.7 fWAR) from the pitching staff.

All told, Detroit is well on its way to missing the playoffs for a seventh-consecutive season. They may not be as horrible as the 47-114 team from 2019, but this has been a mighty-long rebuild without much light at the end of the tunnel.

Injury Report

PlayerPositionInjuryRoster StatusEstimated Return
Grayson GreinerCStrained Hamstring10-day ILThis series
Wilson RamosCStrained back10-day ILEarly June
Julio TeheranRHPStrained shoulder60-day ILEarly June
Erasmo RamírezRHPStrained pectoral10-day ILEarly June

Spotlight: Casey Mize

The former first overall pick in the 2018 draft made his big league debut last season, but struggled in seven starts. He finished with a 6.99 ERA and completed five innings just once. This season has been a much different and better story for the promising young righty, though. His fastball velocity is up 1 MPH, he has a 3.42 ERA in 9 starts (52.2 innings), and has been on a roll of late entering his start tonight against the Yankees.

Mize owns a 2.25 ERA in his last five starts — all quality starts, by definition — though he hasn’t necessarily been overpowering. He doesn’t miss many bats, but at the same time, hitters aren’t squaring up well against him. His strikeout, chase, and whiff rates are well below average, but his average exit velocity against and hard hit percentages are very good. Low exit velocities and a ground ball rate north of 53 percent make for a good pairing.

To combat his mediocre strikeout totals, the Auburn alum is trying to find a swing-and-miss pitch. He introduced a slider this season, which he’s thrown 23.6 percent of the time. He doesn’t throw any particular pitch north of 30 percent, by the way (though his four-seamer and sinker combine to 52 percent). Anyway, his new slider has been effective thus far. Only his seldom-used curveball has a lower wOBA and xwOBA against. Meanwhile, the slider has garnered a strong 30.3 percent whiff rate.

It appears the introduction of a slider is also in response to Mize’s splitter faltering. The split was supposed to be his moneymaker, but instead, it’s been mostly ineffective. Last year, opponents torched it to the tune of a .385 wOBA and 50 percent hard hit rate in spite of a decent enough 28 percent whiff rate. This year, the balls in play results have been much better (.281 wOBA, 39 percent hard hit rate), but hitters are only whiffing 16.4 percent of the time.

To beat Mize, the Yankees will need to be patient. Aside from his propensity to generate grounders, he also will walk his fair share of opponents (9.3 percent walk rate). Mize seems to nibble around the zone quite a bit, so it’ll be key to work some walks while not going after pitches on the edges that often result in weak contact and/or grounders for him.

Projected Lineup

Here’s Roster Resource’s projected lineup, along with stats to date:

  1. Robbie Grossman, LF (.247/.372/.408, 120 wRC+) – Impressive 15.8 percent walk rate.
  2. Harold Castro, SS (.333/.385/.345, 110 wRC+) – Team-best .374 xwOBA, well above his .329 actual wOBA.
  3. Jeimer Candelario, 3B (.276/.348/.398, 111 wRC+) – Has had a strong May (139 wRC+).
  4. Miguel Cabrera, DH (.205/.281/.311, 69 wRC+) – Looks pretty toast, sadly.
  5. Nomar Mazara, RF (.198/.270/.309, 63 wRC+) – At some point the former top prospect will run out of chances. He just can’t hit.
  6. Jonathan Schoop, 1B (.226/.268/.328, 65 wRC+) – Power’s been Schoop’s calling card (.200 ISO since 2015), but not this year.
  7. Akil Baddoo, CF (.238/.325/.495, 121 wRC+) – Cooled off after scalding start, but he’s still getting on base and hitting for power. 37.6 strikeout rate is a concern.
  8. Willi Castro, 2B (.193/.250/.303, 55 wRC+) – Yikes.
  9. Jake Rogers, C (.222/.250/.370, 70 wRC+) – Another yikes.

Bench:

  • Eric Haase, C/OF (.250/.302/.450, 108 wRC+) – Only 43 plate appearances to date.
  • Niko Goodrum, UTIL (.226/.321/.358, 93 wRC+) – Starts at shortstop quite a bit, though Harold Castro has taken some time away.
  • Victor Reyes, OF (.157/.192/.271, 25 wRC+) – Recalled from Tripe-A last week after spending most of the month there.

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 7:10pm eastern:

RHP Gerrit Cole

Cole struck out 12 Tigers across six shutout innings on April 30th. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see a repeat performance tonight given Detroit’s putrid lineup. (Stats vs. Tigers)

RHP Casey Mize

The subject of today’s Spotlight has never faced the Yankees nor any players on the roster, for that matter. He’s going for his sixth consecutive quality start this evening.

Mize.

Tomorrow, 4:10pm eastern:

RHP Deivi García

He’s back. Now that Corey Kluber will be away for a while, García has a chance to claim a rotation spot for a couple of months, starting tomorrow. Aside from one start against Baltimore, Deivi’s spent his time in Scranton this season. He’s struggled with strike throwing in two starts there, but has also put together two really good performances as well. He’s never faced any of these Detroit hitters in the majors.

RHP Spencer Turnbull

The 28 year-old Turnbull has been one of Detroit’s bright spots. Two starts ago, he threw a no-hitter against Seattle. Overall, he owns a 3.12 ERA and 2.80 FIP in just over 40 innings pitched this season. He does an exceptional job keeping the ball in the park, owning a 0.62 HR/9 mark in more than 260 career innings in the big leagues. Aaron Judge is one of the few to take Turnbull deep in the majors. (Stats vs. Yankees)

Turnbull.

Sunday, 1:10pm eastern:

TBD

This was Kluber’s turn. Though nothing is official, Jameson Taillon almost certainly will start this one. He last pitched on Sunday and would be on six days rest. Jordan Montgomery nor Domingo Germán would be rested enough to go Sunday. The only other option would be Michael King, who pitched in long relief on Tuesday.

LHP Tarik Skubal

Ever since Skubal debuted last year, he’s had no trouble racking up strikeouts. However, he’s had a lot of trouble doing just about anything else. He gives up a ton of home runs (22 in 75 career innings) and walks (31), which is not a good combination. The Yanks touched him up for three long balls at the end of April. (Stats vs. Yankees)

Skubal.

Bullpen Status

PitcherThursdayWednesdayTuesday
Michael Fulmer18
Gregory Soto (L)14
José Cisnero19
Daniel Norris (L)13
Bryan Garcia15
Derek Holland (L)1614
Kyle Funkhouser32
Joe Jiménez20
Tyler Alexander (L)7
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