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Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers

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Monday, 7:05 PM: Jeremy Hellickson (3.81 FIP) vs. Phil Coke (3.56 FIP)
Tuesday, 7:05 PM: Wade Davis (4.83 FIP) vs. Justin Verlander (3.25 FIP)
Wednesday, 1:05 PM: Andy Sonnanstine (6.14 FIP) vs. Brad Penny (4.48 FIP)

The Rays have a lot of variables working against them for this series. They've just had to travel a long distance for the third time in a week (up to Toronto, down to Miami, up to Detroit), and now the back end of the rotation squares off against the Tigers and Justin Verlander. 

The Tigers aren't a terribly impressive team: their offense has a .315 wOBA, which ranks them around the middle of the pack in the majors, and their pitchers have a collective 3.85 FIP (again, middle of the pack). They're currently a .500 team, led by a couple standout players like Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, and the majority of their offensive is slumping. They only have four players that are hitting -- Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Alex Avila, and Jhonny Peralta -- while they have four players that have wOBAs below .300: Magglio Ordonez, Ryan Raburn, Brandon Inge, and Austin Jackson. It's a very top heavy lineup at the moment.

Keys to the Series:

  • Hit against Phil Coke and Brad Penny. I'm not expecting the Rays to hit Verlander well, considering how dominant he's been this season and over the past few years, so they'll need to put up good showings against Coke and Penny to have a good chance at winning the series. Neither Coke or Penny are all that intimidating, though, and Coke is likely pitching a little above his head at the moment.
  • Get to the bullpen. No matter how you look at it, the Tigers have had a pretty awful 'pen so far this year. Their 4.22 FIP ranks them sixth worst in the majors, and their 5.97 ERA is the worst in the majors by far. Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde are their two big names out in the bullpen, and Benoit hasn't pitched anything like what he did last year. He's only striking out 7 batters per nine and he's allowed a large number of hits, so his FIP has gotten worse (3.22) and his ERA has ballooned (7.47). I'm sure he'll improve going forward, as his FIP suggests he will, but I still can't help but laugh when I think of how much money Benoit is getting paid right now.