There is nowhere to go but up, right? That’s what the Detroit Tigers have to think after a disastrous season in 2019, where they had the worst record in the Major Leagues at 47-114.
The team has young talent, especially in the farm system, but the Tigers also have a couple of albatross contracts in Jordan Zimmermann and former two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera.
The Tigers have promise but also have a lot of issues at the plate and on the mound. This abbreviated season due to the COVID-19 pandemic makes it possible for any team to start hot and make the playoffs.
Can Detroit do that? A tall task, for sure, for a team that is the only one this millennium to have two seasons with at least 110 losses. One of those seasons was last year.
Any team has high hopes entering the season, but BetUs Sportsbook is not giving the Tigers much love in terms of futures odds. They are tied with three other teams with the worst odds to win the World Series at +3500.
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Detroit Tigers 2019 Results
The Tigers may have been worse than their record. The team bolted to a 7-3 start, and at the end of May, they were 22-33. That is when the bottom fell out for Detroit, which went 25-81 the rest of the way.
The Detroit Tigers ranked third to last in the bigs in team ERA and fifth to last in runs scored. They had a run differential of a whopping -333, and to put that in perspective, the team with the second-worst run differential was the Baltimore Orioles at -252.
To put how bad the Tigers’ season was in further perspective, Brandon Dixon led the team with a grand total of 15 home runs. Miguel Cabrera led the club with 59 RBI, and the team had no starter with double digits in wins.
The Tigers’ Ace? That would be the shopped Matthew Boyd, who led the team with nine wins and also led the club with an ERA of 4.56.
The Detroit Tigers struggled to score runs last season, which is why they spent some money in the offseason to sign the free-agent trio of C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Austin Romine.
However, Cron and Schoop, who have combined for 237 home runs in their respective careers, were signed to one-year deals worth $6 million each. The former Twins duo should be an added upgrade in power and production for the Detroit lineup. Last season, each had at least 23 home runs and 59 RBI.
Cameron Maybin is back for his third stint with the Tigers. In 239 at-bats last season with the Yankees, he batted .239 with 11 home runs and 32 RBI.
When it comes to additions to the pitching staff, it all deals with the farm system. Casey Mize (2018 Draft No. 1 pick) and Matt Manning (2016 Draft No. 9 pick) are prized pitching prospects, but will either see the mound this season?
The same question can be posed for 2018 ninth-round pick Tarik Skubal, who was seen as a draft steal, and in the minors, he has gone 9-8, with an ERA of 2.11, and 212 strikeouts in 145 innings.
In terms of veterans, Detroit added starter Ivan Nova, who was 11-12 with an ERA of 4.74 with the Chicago White Sox last season. He should be in the Tigers’ rotation this season.
Catcher John Hicks signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. While a pretty solid defensive catcher, he only batted .210 with 109 strikeouts in 319 at-bats.
The Tigers did not lose much in the offseason. They have a loaded farm system, but when will the young prospects start playing for the big club?
Pitching was bad for the Detroit Tigers last season, period. Boyd is the leader of the staff. However, the 29-year-old starter has been on the block for a while. He may not be in the rotation for long if the team is out of the playoff run, and other teams are looking for a solid arm.
After Boyd, the three pitchers for the Tigers that went at least 112 innings were Spencer Turnbull, Daniel Norris, and Zimmermann. They went a combined 7-43 with an average ERA of 5.34.
Boyd, Turnbill, Norris, and Nova are expected to be in the starting rotation. Zimmermann was also, but he recently went on the 45-day disabled list and is out for much of the season.
Zimmermann’s albatross contract was mentioned earlier, and let’s break it down. Before the 2016 season, the Tigers signed him to a five-year, $110 million deal. This is his last season on that contract, and in the other four seasons, he went 25-41 with an ERA of 5.61. Last season, he was 1-13 with an ERA of 6.91.
Zimmermann’s injury may lead to one of the young prospects being brought up, as Detroit could use a jolt to its staff.
The bullpen is decent for the Tigers, at least the setup guys. Still, last season, the Tigers had one of the worst safe percentages in baseball.
Michael Fulmer, the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year, missed all of 2019 after Tommy John surgery, but the team is hoping he will be back sometime this season.
The Tigers were a bad team at the plate last season, but can snagging Cron and Schoop from the division rival Twins help?
Former superstar Miguel Cabrera is 36 years old, and it looks as if his best years are behind him. He has been hampered by injuries in the last three seasons, and last season, he played in 137 games batting .282 with 12 HR and 59 RBI. The Tigers are stuck with the two-time MVP, who still has four years and $124 million remaining on his contract.
While Dixon led the team with 15 home runs last season, he batted under .250 and lost his starting spot with the signing of Cron.
Detroit Tigers’ Three Key Players
Victor Reyes is a 25-year-old center fielder projected to be the leadoff man. He has the speed and batted .304 last season but only played in 69 games. The defensive gem has the tools to be one of the best in the game at his position, and his third year with Detroit is a big one for the Venezuelan.
Boyd has the talent, tying for 10th in the majors last season in strikeouts. He has not gotten much help from the lineup or the bullpen in the last couple of seasons. Boyd was 9-12 last season, but that was for a Tigers team with a win percentage of .292.
In 112 games last season, Niko Goodrum led all Tigers position players in WAR (1.9). He played many positions and swiped 12 of 15 bases.
He has the tools but also struck out 29.2% of the time in 2019. Still, he had 12 home runs and 45 RBI, and his versatility is key for Detroit.
Detroit Tigers Schedule Breakdown
In this abbreviated season, the Tigers will play 60 games, with 40 AL Central games and 20 interleague games facing teams from the NL Central. Last season, Detroit was 22-53 in division games and only 5-15 in interleague games.
The Tigers have a chance to get off to a solid start this season. In their first 10 games, they face the Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Royals, who were both well under .500 last season.
In 2019, the Tigers were 10-9 facing the Royals, who are the only team in the American League they had a winning record against.
The big schedule question is, can the Tigers beat the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians, who BetUS sportsbook has as the teams with the top two odds to win the AL Central?
The Tigers went 5-14 against the 2019 division-winning Twins last season, and out of 19 games facing the Indians, they had one win.
The Tigers may be an intriguing betting team this season, as they have a lot of young talent but not much of it with the big club. Sportsbooks know the team’s success is in the future, with BetUS putting the Tigers’ World Series odds at +35000.
Not much is expected of the Tigers this season, but with the abbreviated system, Detroit looks for its first winning campaign since 2016.