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The Detroit Tigers in 1,430 more words: An Oakland A's series preview

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Didn't we just do this?

Mighty Miggy did strike out.
Mighty Miggy did strike out.
Harry How/Getty Images

The Athletics face the Detroit Tigers for three games, and...we just did this, didn't we? The Tigers took two of three last week at the Coliseum, the first on a single unearned run and the other on Yoenis Cespedes's three-run home run off Dan Otero to conclude the series.

The Tigers did not look all that great in their series against the A's. They were outscored 6-4 and caught stealing in five of six stolen base attempts. The most ignominious was, after Josh Phegley threw out two runners in the second game of the series, Rajai Davis was caught with Miguel Cabrera at the plate and nobody out:

Tigers fans have since become quite concerned about the state of their team after getting swept in four games visiting the Los Angeles Angels:

With the sweep, the Tigers are in third place in the AL Central, 3½ games behind the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central, and 3 behind the Kansas City Royals.

On the mound

The A's will miss Justin Verlander for the regular season, as he is still on rehabilitation assignment. The A's also avoid David Price after he pitched in Detroit's Sunday Night Baseball game against the Angels. Instead, the Green and Gold will be up against right-handers Alfredo Simon, Anibal Sanchez, and Shane Greene.

Tuesday vs. Alfredo Simon
Tuesday (4:08 PM PDT)
Kendall Graveman vs. Alfredo Simon
5.79 ERA 2.67
5.56 FIP 3.57
5.06 xFIP 4.21
12.8% K% 16.1%
1.89 GB/FB 1.11

Simon had been scheduled to start against the A's last Wednesday, but he was placed on the bereavement list the night before to be with his ailing father.

The 34-year-old with the "Big Pasta" sobriquet was obtained from the Cincinnati Reds for Eugenio Suarez and minor leaguer Jonathon Crawford. He's relying a lot more on his splitter than ever before, throwing it 32% of the time this year, according to Brooks Baseball. Some 60% of balls in play on the splitter are ground balls. Simon primarily throws a two-seamer at 93 mph, that splitter, a cutter, 93 mph four-seam fastball, curve, and changeup.

Wednesday vs. Anibal Sanchez
Wednesday (4:08 PM PDT)
Sonny Gray vs. Anibal Sanchez
1.82 ERA 5.75
2.73 FIP 4.29
3.50 xFIP 3.64
23.0% K% 23.8%
1.53 GB/FB 0.84

Sanchez, 31, is suffering a career-worst year. He is still striking out batters and not really walking too many more, but his fly ball percentage has shot through the roof at the same time as his HR/FB percentage. Bless You Boys' Brandon Day ties this to control issues in that Sanchez is failing to keep the ball down because of a mechanical issue that "leaves his throwing arm lagging behind. Of particular note, Day writes, is Sanchez having trouble out of the stretch, "When you compare Sanchez's line with no one on base, .212/.262/.364, to his line with men on base, .346/.391/.603, there certainly is an issue there."

Brooks Baseball says Sanchez is throwing his fastball at 93 this year, and mixes in a change, slider, sinker, curve, and cutter.

Thursday vs. Shane Greene
Thursday (10:08 AM PDT)
Jesse Hahn vs. Shane Greene
3.77 ERA 5.19
3.26 FIP 4.51
3.60 xFIP 4.19
15.9% K% 15.5%
2.40 GB/FB 1.42

The only starter of these three the A's faced last week, Greene gave up all four runs against the series opening complete game shutout thrown by Jesse Hahn. After that, Greene recorded as many outs as home runs allowed against the Angels, five. He allowed seven runs to the Angels before getting mercifully pulled from his start.

Greene is primarily throwing a sinker and cutter, and also throws a 94 mph fastball, a changeup, and a slider, according to Brooks Baseball.

At the plate and in the field

A's AL Ranks Tigers
8th (4.19) RS/G 10th (4.12)
7th (101) wRC+ 4th (107)
11th (46) HR 12th (41)
5th (.257) AVG 2nd (.272)
5th (.318) OBP 1st (.338)
10th (.392) SLG 4th (.410)
12th (.134) ISO 11th (.138)
4th (31) SB 1st (45)
15th (52) Errors T-1st (22)
6th (5) DRS 3rd (14)
15th (-11.5) UZR/150 2nd (12.2)
4th (.718) DE 8th (.714)

The Tigers have scored just 14 runs in their last seven games and hit just three home runs while collectively batting .208/.291/.281.

The A's do avoid facing Rajai Davis and his speed because he was just placed on the paternity leave list today (Congratulations). The Tigers also lost utilityman Hernan Perez off waivers to the BRewers, and called up outfielder Daniel Fields and infielder Josh Wilson. If you missed last week's injury report, Alex Avila and Victor Martinez remain on the disabled list.

Sogard Line: The Eric Sogard Line represents my gut feel for what represents serviceable offensive production for a bottom of the order hitter with a good glove. Eric Sogard moved his wRC+ from 70 to 66 after going 1-for-7 with no walks and two strikeouts in two games against the Yankees last weekend. The downward trend also means fewer of Detroit's batters are batting below the Sogard line, with the injured Victor Martinez the only batter with significant playing time below Sogard. In all, 8.8% (172/1959) of Detroit's non-pitcher plate appearance have gone to batters with a wRC+ worse than Eric Sogard.

The bullpen

A's AL Ranks Tigers
8th (155.0) IP 13th (145.2)
15th (4.76) ERA 3rd (2.90)
12th (4.20) FIP 5th (3.67)
12th (4.21) xFIP 9th (4.05)

Manager Brad Ausmus comes under a lot of fire for his tactical decisions, particularly bullpen usage. One might say Ausmus is fortunate that he's had the decision of removing his embattled closer made for him by Joe Nathan's trip to the disabled list.

You will note on the bullpen usage chart below that Detroit's best reliever, Joakim Soria, was not used at all during the four-game sweep by the Angels. Neil Weinberg of New English D criticizes Ausmus for bringing in Joba Chamberlain in a preposterously high leverage situation instead of even warming up Soria in the eighth inning:

This was a completely indefensible move by the manager. The only logical conclusion you can reach is that he was saving him for a save situation (a stat that doesn't matter!). Except this was the absolutely worst game in which to make that choice. Ausmus does a lot of things wrong, yet somehow, this one seems among the worst. He had the time to think it through and it was so obvious to everyone watching.

Choosing when to pull Price was tricky. The guy who should have pitched, and at least should have been warming up, was not tricky at all.

Maybe Ausmus is a great instructor and a brilliant leader, but on Sunday he showed again why so many of us consider him an awful tactician.

I'll put in another way. With the bases loaded and the game tied with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, the situation called ideally for a strikeout. Ausmus inserted his reliever with the lowest strikeout rate of any of his regulars, or the highest likelihood of introducing a fielding mistake.

2015 Stats Recent usage (pitch count from
Player Hand IP ERA K% GB% FB% 1-Jun 31-May 30-May 29-May 28-May 27-May 26-May
Joakim Soria R 21.1 1.27 21.8% 48.2% 35.7% O 19 19
Joba Chamberlain R 14.1 1.26 14.8% 38.8% 20.4% F 3 15 6 7
Angel Nesbitt R 20.1 3.54 15.1% 49.2% 30.2% F 16 22
Tom Gorzelanny L 16.0 5.06 19.1% 43.8% 35.4% 26 2
Al Alburquerque R 20.1 3.98 19.6% 47.6% 30.2% 27 16
Blaine Hardy L 21.0 3.00 19.1% 26.2% 52.5% D 21 9
Alex Wilson R 26.1 1.71 17.8% 46.5% 38.0% A 49 43
Kyle Ryan L 3.0 3.00 0.0% 60.0% 30.0% Y 48

The games

Can you believe that only one of these three games was originally scheduled to be televised? Fortunately, Wednesday's game is a full-production addition to the schedule, and Thursday morning's game is one of the radio simulcasts.

Time (PT) Probable starters TV
Tuesday 4:08 PM Kendall Graveman vs. Alfredo Simon CSNCA
Wednesday 4:08 PM Sonny Gray vs. Anibal Sanchez CSNCA
Thursday 10:08 AM Jesse Hahn vs. Shane Greene CSNCA radio simulcast