Detroit Tigers Last Season Performance
The Detroit Tigers showed signs of improvement in 2021. They advanced from the bottom of the American League Central to third place with a 77-85 record. Much of their success stemmed from surprising performances from various players.
Catcher Eric Haase broke out to the tune of 22 home runs with a .459 slugging percentage. Outfielder Robbie Grossman posted a .239/.357/.415 slash line with 23 home runs and 20 stolen bases. First baseman Jonathan Schoop hit .278 with 22 home runs.
The lineup has developed a number of solid players and the team has already made some additions so far during the offseason.
But the real excitement in Detroit stems around the vibrant young pitching staff.
Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning are all pitchers under the age of 25 with high ceilings. Mize finished with the best ERA out of the three with a 3.71 mark, but Skubal led the trio in strikeouts with 164. Manning labored in limited action, but he is the youngest of the bunch so growing pains were to be expected.
Wily Peralta and Matthew Boyd both impressed in limited action as well.
Detroit had relievers such as Gregory Soto flash signs of potential as well last season.
The Tigers are in the final stages of their long-term rebuild. They saw a 30-win improvement from 2019 to 2021. Detroit has developed a solid young core built around starting pitching. They have a number of quality offensive options, but they had a goal of bringing outside help to the lineup during the offseason.
But there is no question that 2021 was a step in the right direction.
Detroit Tigers Off-Season Changes
The main change for Detroit this offseason was a newfound desire to win now. Following years of rebuilding and trading players away, the Tigers are finally at a place where free agents want to sign with the team since they are trending in the right direction.
Prior to the MLB lockout, the Tigers had made two noteworthy signings. The team signed Javier Baez to a six-year contract and Eduardo Rodriguez to a five-year deal.
But they might not be done. Once the lockout comes to an end, we very well might see Detroit look to add more key pieces and continue to strengthen the roster.
In a lot of ways, they share a lot of similarities to the Toronto Blue Jays over the past few years. Toronto went through a phase where they were consistently near the bottom of the AL East.
But they built a quality young core and began to improve. Once the Toronto front office saw their young players beginning to come together and develop, they immediately went out and signed established veterans such as George Springer and Marcus Semien to balance out the roster.
Detroit is in the phase where their young talent is progressing and learning how to win together. But 2022 might be the breakout campaign for this club.
Detroit Tigers Key Additions
The Tigers have already made a number of moves.
Their most notable move was signing Javier Baez to a six-year contract. Baez labored with the Cubs at the beginning of the 2021 season and was dealt in July to the New York Mets. Baez found his footing once again in Queens and hit .299 with a .371 OBP with the team.
The two-time all-star saw his stock rise mightily due to the late-season offensive surge, leading to Baez’s deal with Detroit. The Tigers believe he is somebody who will not just help the team from a talent standpoint, but can also lead them mentally.
Baez has seen plenty of postseason action and even won a World Series with the Cubs in 2016.
The Tigers needed a leader like that, especially since Miguel Cabrera is aging and is far from the same player he once was.
Left-handed starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez posted an ERA just above 3.80 from 2018 to 2019. He finished sixth in the Cy Young voting during the 2019 campaign after leading the league in games started and walks while striking out over 200 batters.
But he struggled to replicate that success in 2021 after not pitching in 2020. His ERA rose by almost a full run, although he still struck out 185 batters.
The Tigers are hopeful that Rodriguez’s difficult season was a product of not pitching since 2019. They believe he can bounce back and lead their young pitching staff in 2022.
They also acquired catcher Tucker Barnhart. Barnhart is a two-time Gold Glove Award winner who had spent his entire eight-year career in Cincinnati prior to coming to Detroit. He is a modest hitting catcher, as he posted a .247/.317/.368 line a season ago over the course of 116 games.
But the Tigers think he can be a vital piece in guiding this young pitching staff this season.
Detroit has made some other minor additions, but these are the moves that stand out.
Detroit Tigers Key Subtractions
The Tigers had a chance to retain starting pitcher Matthew Boyd but opted not to offer him a contract so he became a free agent in December.
After an underwhelming first seven seasons in the big leagues, Boyd finally put the pieces together in 2021. The lefty posted a 3.89 ERA with just 23 walks and 67 strikeouts over the course of 15 games. Although injuries plagued him, he finally showed the poise and ability to succeed.
However, the injury concerns and inconsistent background led Detroit to non-tender Matthew Boyd. The team also feels as if it has enough pitching depth without Boyd on the roster.
Backup catcher Grayson Grenier was also non-tendered by the Tigers. Grenier hit .201 over the course of four seasons in Detroit, and never was much of a threat at the plate. Nonetheless, he was a solid backup option at an important position.
Super utility man Niko Goodrum became a free agent during the offseason. Goodrum is a valuable player because of his ability to play almost anywhere on the diamond. Whether it is any outfield spot or just about anywhere in the infield, Goodrum has the capability to lock down a number of different positions.
But he has also displayed an ability to hit at a decent level in the big leagues. Goodrum hit .245 with a .432 slugging percentage and 16 home runs back in 2018, and he hit nine home runs in 2021, while also swiping 14 bags.
His mixture of power, speed, and versatility will be missed in Detroit. He is someone they may consider re-signing once the MLB lockout ends.
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Detroit Tigers Head Coach Analysis
A.J. Hinch may have a tarnished reputation in the MLB because of his involvement in the Houston Astros scandal, but he is an undeniably capable big league manager. Hinch led Houston to a winning record each season he was with the team.
And yes, you might point to the talent on the roster. However, Houston started off the 2010’s decade by losing a lot of games. Hinch took over with the sole responsibility of helping their youthful core learn how to play together in 2015.
After leaving the Astros, Hinch signed a contract to manage the Tigers in 2021. In his first season in Detroit, he took a team that had been amongst the worst in the league over the past few seasons and turned them into a respectable third-place finisher.
Hinch will look to improve upon his success from a year ago and lead Detroit to the playoffs in the near future. But there is no question that the Detroit front office enjoys having Hinch at the helm of this ballclub.
Detroit Tigers Injured Players at the beginning of the season
One of the main goals for 2022 will be to keep their young pitching staff healthy. If injuries begin to creep in it could completely derail the Tigers’ impressive progress they made last year.
But here is a look at some of the injuries the team is already dealing with heading into the 2022 campaign.
Pitcher Spencer Turnbull has been productive during his time in Detroit. But he underwent Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss the majority of 2022. Detroit does not expect him back this season, but they also are not ruling it out.
If Turnbull is able to return this year, it would be a nice mid-season addition to the roster.
Catcher Jake Rogers also underwent Tommy John surgery in September. Since his surgery took place later than Turnbull’s, the odds of him returning in 2022 are extremely thin. Although the Tigers have catching options in players such as Tucker Barnhart and Eric Haase, Rogers would have been a quality depth option to fall back on.
Outfielder Derek Hill also underwent surgery at the end of last season. However, it was just a knee procedure and he is expected to be ready for Spring Training, assuming the MLB lockout ends soon and Spring Training starts on time.
Other players who are listed as probable for the start of the season include pitcher Joey Wentz and Rony Garcia.
Detroit Tigers Prediction for 2022 Season
Detroit is not quite at the Chicago White Sox level of competitiveness just yet. But an argument can be made that they have finally surpassed the Cleveland Guardians. Cleveland was the class of the American League Central from 2016-2020, only missing the postseason once during that span and consistently beating up on the Tigers.
But Detroit finished just a few games behind them last year and the Tigers ceiling is climbing higher and higher by the minute with the progression of their prospects and the free-agent signings.
With Minnesota and Kansas City both rebuilding, second place seems like a reasonable prediction for Detroit. Cleveland’s pitching is still amongst the best in baseball, so it is possible that the Guardians claim the second spot in the AL Central.
I would say the Tigers’ ceiling is second place and their floor is third place. This is a better team than both Kansas City and Minnesota, and things would have to go drastically wrong for them to finish below those teams.
The best-case scenario is that this young pitching staff takes off and produces some all-star seasons from pitchers such as Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. A rebound campaign from the recent free-agent acquisition Eduardo Rodriguez would help to establish structure in the rotation as well.
If Javier Baez is able to continue his late 2021 success he might be able to lead Detroit’s lineup to a solid year.
Look for the Tigers to be a sneaky Wild Card contender in 2022. Check their MLB Odds for this season.
Detroit Tigers Final Thoughts
Is it possible that Detroit is still a couple of years away from contending? Sure, that is a possibility.
But the seasons that Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal posted last year tell me that they are both ready to succeed at this level. And you have to assume that Eduardo Rodriguez is going to be decent at the very least.
So they have at least three quality starting pitchers ready to roll. If other pitchers like Matt Manning and Tyler Alexander can step up Detroit might wind up with one of the better pitching rotations in baseball.
I would like to see another offensive acquisition or two, but Tigers fans certainly have reason to be excited entering the 2022 campaign. Check out their MLB Lines for the season.
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