Series Preview: Detroit Tigers @ Texas Rangers - Midwest's Best

Yep - Getty

The Rangers are 5-7 against teams from the Midwest. The Rangers are 21-7 against every other region. The Tigers were swept by the lowly Angels. Something's gotta give

Series Schedule:

Thursday, May 16 7:05: RHP Justin Verlander vs. RHP Yu Darvish

Friday, May 17 7:05: RHP Rick Porcello vs. RHP Nick Tepesch

Saturday, May 18 7:05: RHP Anibal Sanchez vs. RHP Justin Grimm

Sunday, May 19 7:05: RHP Doug Fister vs. LHP Derek Holland

Other than the New York Yankees winning while utilizing decent starting pitching, miracles, and Vernon Wells (A.K.A. proof that miracles are real), the Rangers and Tigers have been the two best teams in the American League so far this year. Record wise, the Tigers are doing that Detroit thing where they let the Royals or Indians hang around through the first few months of the season before they inevitably run away with the division in August and September. This is just what the Tigers do.

Sure teams such as the Orioles and Red Sox may have a better record than the Tigers right now, but the Tigers lead baseball in run differential (+60, with St. Louis next closest at +53), team pitching fWAR (by a full 3.0 wins), are second offensively in baseball in RAR, wOBA, & wRC+, and have had the second best bullpen in baseball by RAR & FIP.

Four starters in the Tiger rotation are in the top 15 in fWAR (Anibal Sanchez 1st, Justin Verlander 6th, Max Scherzer 7th, Doug Fister 14th). That's right, Sanchez has been the best pitcher in baseball by fWAR and it's not even particularly close. Sanchez leads Felix Hernandez by 0.4 wins. And, of course, like clockwork, Miguel Cabrera is already one of eight 2.0+ win position players.

The Tigers are currently the only team in baseball to have scored more than 200 runs. Only the Cardinals and Rangers have allowed fewer runs than the Tigers in either league. The Tigers have excelled at every aspect of the game in 2013. Except, that is, at defense. The Tigers are currently a below average -6 in Defense Runs Saved.

Regardless, all of this is to say that the Tigers have been a very good baseball team so far; arguably the best in the American League. Then again, in the results-based world of sports, the Rangers could stake a claim to that moniker as well. After all, the Rangers have the best record in the American League, the league's second best run differential, baseball's second fewest runs allowed, two starters in the top 10 in fWAR (Derek Holland 5th, Yu Darvish 8th), and have the best home and road record in the league. What makes that particularly noteworthy is that the Rangers have played ten more road games than home games thus far.

By second and third order wins, the Tigers and Rangers are #1 and #2 in baseball. These two teams have been the class of the American League for the last few years and that's certainly not changed this year. And that's what makes this an exciting match-up. We have arguably the two best teams in the American League in a four-game weekend series in Arlington with Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander on the mound to kick things off. For a mid-May series, it doesn't get much better than this. May the best team win.

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the Midwest's best Detroit Tigers:

  • Yu Darvish: 6-1, 13.67 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, .253 BABIP, 79.6% LOB, 2.41 FIP, 2.16 xFIP, 1.9 WAR - Last three starts: 10 runs allowed in 20.0 innings
  • Justin Verlander: 4-3, 9.99 K/9, 3.16 BB/9, .319 BABIP, 80.9% LOB, 2.10 FIP, 3.06 xFIP, 2.1 WAR - Last three starts: 4 runs allowed in 19.0 innings

Advantage: Baseball fans.

  • Nick Tepesch: 3-3, 7.11 K/9, 2.37 BB/9, .289 BABIP, 73.8% LOB, 4.02 FIP, 3.56 xFIP, 0.7 WAR - Last three starts: 11 runs allowed in 16.2 innings
  • Rick Porcello: 1-2, 5.85 K/9, 1.95 BB/9, .311 BABIP, 55.3% LOB, 4.47 FIP, 3.71 xFIP, 0.3 WAR - Last three starts: 8 runs allowed in 19.1 innings

Advantage: Now here's a fun match-up. It's the guy everyone wanted the Rangers to trade for in Spring Training so Nick Tepesch wouldn't be in the rotation vs the guy the Tigers asked for (Tepesch, along with Leury Garcia) for Rick Porcello so the Tigers could start Drew Smyly and the Rangers wouldn't have to start Nick Tepesch.

The Rangers didn't trade for Rick Porcello and Nick Tepesch has had a better month and a half than Rick Porcello. Advantage: Rangers. That said, Nick Tepesch hasn't ever faced a lineup in his life like the one the Detroit Tigers will send at him. The good news is, I don't think Nick Tepesch will be worried about it.

  • Justin Grimm: 2-3, 9.09 K/9, 3.48 BB/9, .323 BABIP, 77.3% LOB, 4.18 FIP, 3.92 xFIP, 0.5 WAR - Last three starts: 13 runs allowed in 16.2 innings
  • Anibal Sanchez: 4-3, 11.28 K/9, 2.05 BB/9, .333 BABIP, 77.3% LOB, 1.44 FIP, 2.27 xFIP, 2.6 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 20.0 innings

Advantage: People like Anibal Sanchez have no business just suddenly becoming the best pitcher ever. That's not fair and I don't agree with it. Sanchez has been a fine 3.5-4.0-ish win pitcher over the last few years. That's all well and good. He's a good starter. But he's on pace for a 10.4 win season in 2013. That's unreasonable. It's time for the Rangers to step in and do something about this injustice (although, they probably will not).

So Nick Tepesch hasn't ever faced a lineup like the Tigers before. Justin Grimm has. Grimm faced the Tigers in his second career start last season on June 25. It was also Grimm's last start of last season. Grimm lasted an inning and allowed 8 hits, 6 runs, a walk, and didn't strikeout a single Tiger. It was ugly. And, especially given this particular pitching match-up, this one could be ugly too.

  • Derek Holland: 3-2, 7.81 K/9, 1.79 BB/9, .291 BABIP, 71.2% LOB, 2.35 FIP, 3.29 xFIP, 2.1 WAR - Last three starts: 5 runs allowed in 20.2 innings
  • Doug Fister: 5-1, 7.20 K/9, 1.44 BB/9, .318 BABIP, 69.5% LOB, 2.76 FIP, 3.42 xFIP, 1.6 WAR - Last three starts: 8 runs allowed in 16.0 innings

Advantage: So, one bit of good news: Every Tiger starter in this series is right-handed. I note this because I always forget that Doug Fister isn't left-handed. He seems like he would be left-handed and then he isn't. The bad news is that Doug Fister is good at throwing baseballs with his right hand so he should present as many problems as your average soft-tossing lefty that we hate so, so much.

Would you have guessed through eight starts that Derek Holland has been the Rangers' best starting pitcher? If you believed in The Year of Holland you might have. Here is a list of starters who have been better than Holland in 2013 (by fWAR):

1. Anibal Sanchez (somehow)

2. Felix Hernandez

3. Clay Buchholz

4. Adam Wainwright

And that's it. Those four people.

The Tiger offense should be a good challenge for Holland if he wants to prove to us that this is for real and not just a mirage like a humor-deficient young man wearing a green shirt to do a celebrity weather report.

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Detroit Tigers (22-16, 1st Place in AL Central)

Rangers' 2013 Record vs. Detroit: First Meeting (7-3 in 2012)

Detroit's Recent Results: 2-1 home series win against the Houston Astros

Detroit's 2013 Road Record: 9-9

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 122/114 - Runs: 117/118

SB Nation Tigers Blog: Bless You Boys

Match-up: (as of 05/16) Rangers Detroit Advantage
Batting (RAR) 4.9 (6th) 22.2 (2nd) Here's a thing the Tigers are good at
Base Running (RAR) -5.8 (30th) 1.5 (11th) Good heavens
Starters (RAR) 46.0 55.7 Good, the Rangers are missing Max Scherzer
Bullpen (RAR) 16.0 (6th) 21.7 (2nd) Joaquin Benoit is having a good year
Defense (UZR) 6.4 (10th) -6.7 (23rd) Finally, something the Tigers aren't good at
Overall (UZR + RAR) 67.5 94.4

So...the Tigers are good

Questions to Answer:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10: How hyped are you for this mid-May series against a very good Detroit Tigers team?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Never bet against Nelson Cruz against the Tigers.)
  • Over/Under: 20.5 Strikeouts by Justin Verlander and Yu Darvish combined tonight?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Derek Holland on Sunday Night Baseball in the finale against Doug Fister?
  • Yea or Nay? The Rangers finish this four game series with the best record through 44 games in franchise history (Previous best: 28-16 in 1998)
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