If there’s one thing that’s sad about the last five years of baseball, it’s that the Detroit Tigers didn’t get a ring. The group Dave Dombrowski and the late Mike Illitch put together was something really special—Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, and Victor Martinez in their respective primes was a sight to watch. Now, they’re very much a zombie team of their former self. Still having retained many of the players now past their former glory, they currently sit at 47-56 with playoff odds at less than 3%, according to FanGraphs.
This week the Yankees will take on this once legendary ball club, and they’ll face one relatively fresh face, and two familiar ones. In game one Michael Fulmer will face Luis Severino. Fulmer was last year’s Rookie of the Year and has a 74 ERA- over his short career. He’s probably the real deal. Severino has basically been the ace of the staff with a sparkling 3.03 ERA on the year.
In game two the Yankees will have CC Sabathia (but hopefully Sonny Gray), and the Tigers will feature Anibal Sanchez. There was a time when Sanchez was one of the best pitchers in the game; from 2009 to 2014 he never had a year with an above average ERA-. Over the past three years, though, he has an ERA- of 132. Sabathia, on the other hand, has been phenomenal this year in his late-career renaissance, putting up a 3.66 ERA over 93.1 innings. If he can be similarly good down the stretch, it would be vital for the Yankees in their chase for the division.
In game three there’s yet another once-great starter on the mound for the Tigers, Jordan Zimmermann. After a prolific career with the Washington Nationals, Zimmermann has a 122 ERA- in his two seasons with the Tigers, and just hasn’t lived up the steep price of his contract. Masahiro Tanaka will go for the Yankees, and despite his last masterful, 14-strikeout start, there have also been concerns as to whether he is fading himself. He’ll hope to put those questions to rest in this series and in the second half.
Overall this Tigers team is not what it once was. I used to fear the Yankees having to face them, especially in the heat of a pennant race, but now I see them as a necessary victory, especially with JD Martinez out of the picture and in Arizona. Other than him, only Alex Avila (who may also be traded), Cabrera, and Justin Upton have been above average offensive starters. For a Yankees team on a roll, this is a series you need to win at home.