From now until Opening Day (and a little bit beyond) Let’s Go Tribe will be previewing the 2020 season for the Indians from every angle — position previews, a look at the AL Central, players you should know, and more. See the full preview here.
The Tigers aren’t good.
PECOTA gives them a 0% chance to make the playoffs, predicting a 70-92 record.
That’s bad. That’s also a 22-win increase from last season, when they posted their worst Pythagorean winning percentage ever.
In lieu of describing, objectively, how bad they are, I decided to reach out to some fans of the Detroit Tigers and get a feel for their expectations.
Nobody responded. What that actually means is that my influence and reach to Detroit Tigers fans is significantly limited, but I’m explicitly misinterpreting the lack of response to mean is this:
No one is excited to watch the Detroit Tigers this season.
Don’t they have at least one thing to be excited about?
Buck Farmer had a nice 2019 and will get shopped around the trade deadline if he replicates that performance. Before July, though, Tigers fans should keep an eye on his groundball rate. He boosted the rate on his fastball and got grounders on his slider and changeup more than 50% of the time, too.
Matthew Boyd is another pitcher upon whom to keep an eye, a sentence that sounds really annoying when written in a such a manner as to be correct from a grammatical standpoint. He, too, is trade fodder come July. Despite leading the American League with 39 home runs allowed, Boyd posted 3.5 bWAR / 3.3 fWAR. This represented his best overall season. His peripherals also outpaced his outcomes, so there is reason to believe that the best is still yet to come for Boyd. That probably means enjoying his breakout as a true Ace before shopping begins in earnest. Assuming, you know, they don’t hang on to him like they did with Michael Fulmer.
Meanwhile, prospects Casey Mize and Matt Manning might make their way to the major leagues at some point. Mize is a former No. 1 draft pick and the top overall prospect in the Tiger’s system. Depending on when he receives the call Mize is a serious contender for Rookie of the Year in many evaluators’ eyes. He’s dealt with some shoulder inflammation in the past but the toolset (can we say that about pitchers? I’m going to start saying it about pitchers if we don’t. Why do hitters get a toolset and pitchers don’t?) is good enough to make everyone salivate. Salivate, people.
Manning is also a pitcher, and FanGraphs actually ranked him ahead of Mize in this season’s rankings. He throws 98 with a plus curveball, and his changeup continues to improve. He pitched the entire season in Double-A last year after traversing three levels in 2018. He’s good, he’s young, and despite not being a soft-tossing lefty there is a good chance that he’ll give the Indians fits in the near future.
Other than that, remember Miguel Cabrera? I do. He’s accumulated 0.2 fWAR in the past three seasons and may become the new answer to a trivia question Jason Lukehart answered for me this offseason:
Among pitchers, the worst WAR season for a player with 50+ career WAR is Bob Feller's 1952, when he posted -2.9 WAR, followed by Roy Halladay's 2000, at -2.8. Among hitters, it's Ted Simmons' 1984, at -2.6, followed by Craig Biggio's 2007 and Pete Rose's 1983, both at -2.1. https://t.co/pp8q3mQDS4— Jason Lukehart (@JasonLukehart) February 29, 2020
I’m not saying it’s fun to watch great players become old and bad, because it’s not. It’s kind of like ... relief. After a decade or so of him torching the entire AL Central is a relief to see his name in the order and not assume at least one three-run bomb.
Who else do they have on the roster?
Niko Goodrum owns a fun skillset in addition to his 70-grade baseball name. He’ll start at shortstop, while Jonathan Schoop joins the team to play second base. CJ Cron is the guy on first, while Jeimer Candelario will man third. LGFT Willi Castro may make an appearance this year. Christin Stewart will swing through half of all the pitches he sees while launching some massive dingers; JaCoby Jones continues, year after year, to be nondescript; and what on Earth is Cameron Maybin doing in right field? Didn’t he retire? I could have sworn that he retired. Apparently, this is the eighth team for which he has played since 2014.
It’s not going to be a very good offense, is what I’m saying. Previously undiscussed pitchers likely to join the rotation on opening day include Jordan Zimmerman, Seth Turnbull, Ivan Nova, and Daniel Norris. Joe Jimenez is set to close, so I guess what I’m saying is that the pitching isn’t going to be very good, either.
There are reasons to be optimistic about the Tigers if you’re a fan and concerned about them if you’re an opponent. It just won’t be for a couple of seasons, and it’s contingent on them making wise decisions with payroll and prospects.