Tom Greene | October 1st, 2019
The Detroit Tigers, also known as the team I wrote my debut article about, and the team that’s closest to me had a rough year. To say the least. A season that looked promising turned out to be furthest away from that, and the injury bug had its way with this rebuilding team. Were playoffs in the question? Not necessarily, but was Ron Gardenhire‘s team looking for respectability in the American League? Certainly.
In a certain season of trial and error, let’s look at the trials that worked and the errors that occurred
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Detroit Tigers Team Recap
What Went Right
With a team that’s lost over 100 games, the easy thing here to say is, “Not a lot”. However, in a lot of things gone bad, three things went well. Three minor leaguers in deals for the rebuild made the parent club, the team has established an Ace for the future, and the team continued to play with heart, despite an early elimination.
Dawel Lugo, Willi Castro, and Travis Demeritte have arrived in the deals with J.D. Martinez, Leonys Martin, and Shane Greene, and they have had instant results. Each bat .252, .242 and .207, respectively, and each have made positive strides. Of course, the emergence of Jake Rogers at the catcher position has helped get John Hicks off his feet. With those few pieces in place, even if the results haven’t been eye-popping, it helps steer the team in the right, rebuilding direction.
With the pitching injuries this season, the Tigers needed an ace to rely on for the future. By holding on to Matt Boyd, the Tigers ensure that for the next three seasons. He finishes with a 4.57 ERA over 181.1 innings, which is by far the most on the staff. Like the hitting, his numbers weren’t eye-popping, but it helped get the team through what seems to be rock bottom in this rebuild.
Also, despite elimination, the team is still playing Ron Gardenhire-brand baseball. Gardy has his teams take the extra base, challenge the outfield, and play with passion at all times. Just this week, we saw that in Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera scored from first on a double hit by Jeimer Candelario. A lot of fans and experts are asking themselves, “On a 110-loss team, why is Cabrera even out there?” to which he and the team responded (by their play), “We play to win. We play as a team. We play with heart, pride, and passion for the game.”
On a team such as the Tigers, one can figure that with that many losses, one has to play with that mentality to stay on the field daily. Now, with that many losses, let’s look at:
What Went Wrong
The short answer- a lot. The long answer- injuries galore, mental and physical errors, and finding ways to lose rather than finding ways to win. Winning 110 games doesn’t happen overnight, or rarely at all. Losing 110 games also doesn’t happen overnight, despite it feeling that way.
Things started to take a downturn when Michael Fulmer had to have Tommy John surgery. The guy that looked to be the ace on this staff goes down before a game was played. Then, Matt Moore suffers a knee injury early in the year. In total, as we close 2019, the Tigers have injuries to Fulmer, Moore, Tyson Ross, JaCoby Jones, Blaine Hardy, Niko Goodrum, Daniel Stumpf, and Harold Castro. If the equivalent of a full team is injured for over half the season, that resorts to problems not only across the parent club but across minor league clubs. Players like Gregory Soto and Tyler Alexander were relied upon perhaps before they were ready. A season of respectability turned to rock bottom quickly.
Due to these injuries, minor leaguers were brought into the majors. With that, comes mental and physical errors. There were many times where an outfielder would miss the cutoff man. Times where the extra base wasn’t taken, and times where runners that should have scored were left on base. With players that are still developing their major league skills, these problems are bound to happen. Another reason how a season can turn ugly quickly.
White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone talked with Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne on the Sox rebuild. A few things he mentioned that could coincide with this Tiger rebuild are pain, finding ways to win and taking two steps back to take five forward. The Tigers certainly had their fair share of finding ways to lose, and it was painful to watch. The bullpen had their struggles, and the offense was at times nonexistent. Tiger fans are certainly looking toward the offseason as the rebuild continues.
Impending Free Agents
With any team, even a rebuilding one, there are free agents that could be leaving the team for another one. For the Tigers, those free agents are Ross, Moore, Jordy Mercer, Gordon Beckham, Edwin Jackson, Bobby Wilson, Logan Kensing, and Hector Sanchez. The majority of these guys were keys to making the team respectable. Veteran leadership that could steer the team in the right direction. If the Tigers lose all these pieces, they would only have Cabrera and Boyd to fall back upon.
While it’s not important to sign every one of these pieces, signing at least one pitcher and one fielder could help them get back on track. It’s clear the Tigers have a lot of decisions to make during this offseason, and letting all of these players go could be a tragic one.
2020 Players to Watch For
Three players to watch for are players Tiger fans have probably heard of. Jake Rogers, Alex Faedo and Casey Mize. Two possible AA and AAA batteries that could power the club for the future ahead. Rogers has gotten major league experience with the struggling bats of Hicks and Grayson Greiner. Mize has been the talk of the minor leagues, being the #1 draft pick last season, he has certainly not disappointed in the minors. Also, Faedo has kept his ERA below 4 in AA. He will still need work to start next season, but if he can get his ERA below 3, perhaps you could see him at Comerica Park in 2020.
With the way this season went, injuries and all, it’s possible that all three of these names could be in Detroit by 2020’s end. However, we certainly hope they’re not called upon when they’re needed. They shall be called upon when they’re ready to go.
So, the question associated with every team recap will be, “What does this team need to do to contend next season?”. The answer to this is not very easy, but here it is.
Stay healthy, start to find ways to win, and limit, if not eliminate, mental errors. If the injuries can be cut in half, Detroit could win at least 10 more games. If they start to find ways to win, that could be another 10 games. And, limiting errors could lead to another 10. This would mean a maximum of 78 wins, but progress is progress.
This team needs a sense of progress before contention. If they can achieve that, maybe the 2020 recap will be looking towards a postseason berth, rather than aspirations of one.
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