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Series Preview: Rays vs Tigers

The Motown club is having a rough start to the season.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays took care of business in a series victory against division rivals the Toronto Blue Jays. They have won all three series against American League East opponents. Next up are the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers looked to make additions this winter and build upon an up-and-coming prospect core. They signed Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Baez to long-term free agent contracts and traded for Austin Meadows from the Rays. Unfortunately, things haven’t gone well for the Tigers as they sit at 12-23. They looked to get well in a three-game sweep against the Baltimore Orioles after dropping 9 of their previous ten games. Meadows has been dealing with vertigo-like symptoms including dizziness and lightheadedness leading him to the Injured List.

The Rays solidified their hold on second place in the American League East at 21-14. They are 4.5 games behind the New York Yankees. The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by 7.5 games. Baltimore trails by 11.5 and Boston trails by 12.

Schedule

Monday 6:40 PM: Alex Faedo vs Corey Kluber
Tuesday 6:40 PM: Beau Brieske vs Shane McClanahan
Wednesday 1:10 PM: Eduardo Rodriguez vs Drew Rasmussen

Alex Faedo returns home. He was the 18th overall pick by the Tigers in the 2017 MLB draft out of the University of Florida. He attended Braulio Alonso High School in Tampa. This will be his third major league start. He’s looked solid in his first two putting up a 3.60 ERA/3.70 FIP/3.76 xFIP through 10.0 innings. He has an 18.6% strikeout rate and 7.0% walk rate. Faedo works off a 92.6 mph four-seam fastball that he throws over half the time. Against right-handers, he goes to an 85.9 mph slider and against left-handers he will throw an 86.1 mph changeup as his primary secondary offerings. He is willing to throw a third pitch against each side but has been sub 5% usage.

Beau Brieske was an under-the-radar call-up within the first month of the season. In four starts he’s put up a 3.86 ERA/6.58 FIP/5.81 xFIP over 21.0 innings. He hasn’t gotten strikeouts (12.6% strikeout rate), and has walked too many (11.5% walk rate). He’s allowed five homers. That’s a tough way to keep runs off the board as FIP and xFIP think he’s in for a lot of regression if this keeps up. Brieske throws a 94.3 mph four-seam fastball, 80.7 mph changeup, and 85.3 mph slider. A nearly 15 mph separation between the fastball and changeup is quite impressive.

Eduardo Rodriguez is a familiar face to most Rays fans who have seen him over the last half-decade with the Boston Red Sox. In his first seven starts with the Tigers, he’s put up a 3.72 ERA/3.85 FIP/4.12 xFIP over 38.2 innings. His strikeout rate is marginally lower at 21.0% and his walk rate has crept up to 9.3%. Rodriguez uses a 91.9 mph four-seam fastball as his primary pitch. He’ll add an 88.8 mph cutter and 85.4 mph changeup. Against left-handers, he’ll add an 83.0 mph slider.

Despite spending resources the offense has been lackluster.

The Tigers spent up in free agency for Javier Baez even though he is better known for his defensive contributions. They traded for Austin Meadows and promoted number one overall pick, Spencer Torkelson. They still have Miguel Cabrera who is the most recent member of the 3,000 hit club and 500 homerun club. Despite this, they have had the lowest-scoring offense in the majors at 2.86 runs per game. They are hitting .225/.292/.317. They have the only offense that has put up a sub .100 ISO and combined with a sub .300 OBP there haven’t been many opportunities to put runs on the board.

Miguel Cabrera leads their way offensively with a .297/.344/.423 line and 124 wRC+.

Austin Meadows has had a very interesting season. He’s hit well putting up a .267/.362/.347 line and 118 wRC+, but the way he’s gotten there is not what Rays fans were accustomed to. He has yet to hit a homer in 118 plate appearances. He’s dropped his strikeout rate to 12.1%, but all the power has disappeared. He’s getting on base. Unfortunately, Meadows won’t be able to play in his first return to Tropicana Field in a different uniform.

Javier Baez has hit .216/.252/.333 and put up a 72 wRC+. He’s not hitting for power and not walking leading to a really low OBP. He’s not known for his on-base skills, but he’s better than this.

Robbie Grossman (86 wRC+), Jeimer Candelario (70 wRC+), Spencer Torkelson (68 wRC+), and Jonathan Schoop (30 wRC+) have had lackluster starts.

This offense is better than it’s shown, but it’s also not a good offense.