Baseball

Detroit Tigers 2019 Season Review

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Detroit Tigers fans and baseball fans around the globe can finally rejoice that the season is over. 114 losses is a lot for any fan base to handle. For many Tigers fans this one evoked some deja vu of the historically bad 2003 team that lost 119 times. It is actually possible that the 2019 team was worse when you consider the context of how bad the White Sox and Royals were this year as well. You also have to contextualize that more teams are tanking their seasons now than they did 15 years ago.

The Good

I know everything can see bad when all you lose better than 70% of the time, but there were bright spots!

Matthew Boyd – How is a 4.56 ERA a bright spot? Boyd posted a career high 185 innings this year. He improved his strikeout rate by nearly 10% and cut his walks. For the first half of the year, he looked like an ace, but he has locked himself in as a solid mid-rotation starter in the major leagues.

Miguel Cabrera – We are slowly going to be watching Miggy sail off into the sunset, and this is one more year out of the way until his contract is out of the way. Enjoy them Tigers fans, knowing he is the best hitter we have had call Detroit him in the last 50 years, and that the fans aren’t actually paying his contract. That being said, Cabrera had a slash line of .282/.346/.398. He didn’t display much power, but given his couple of lost seasons, this was nice to see.

The Future Is Coming

Riley Greene – The Tigers first round pick of this draft has already cleared 2 stages of the minor leagues, which is impressive for a 19 year old. He is the son of a hitting coach and could be the next hitter that the Tigers build their lineup around. Keep an eye on him, he could be exciting.

The next Big 3. No I’m not talking about the basketball league, I’m talking about Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, and Casey Mize. Let’s also not forget their plus one, Tarik Skubal. These 4 starters collectively are the hope of this franchise for the next 5 years. If the 4 of them reach something that looks like their potential, the Tigers will be in great shape. They will have the making for what might be the best rotation in the league. All reports have been glowing on Manning, Mize, with both showing front line potential, while Skubal and Faedo likely represent mid-rotation pieces. The collective of them could allow the Tigers to spend big on hitting come 2024, to fill any gaps that remain.

The Bad

It is best to try to keep this part short. It might be considered blind optimism, but when you lose this many games there is clearly going to be a good amount of bad.

What was the worst part of this Tigers team? The lineup. The Tigers managed to accrue just 6 batters who were better than league average in Fangraphs WAR. None of them higher than 2. Soak that in for a minute. The Tigers lineup at a 5.5 collective WAR contributed significantly less WAR than Cody Bellinger(7.8). 

There were a few young players who were exciting coming into this year, Christian Stewart, Joe Jimenez, Jeimer Candalario to name a few. By the end of the season, or in some cases mid-season, all of those players disappointed. 

Christian Stewart, only played 104 games due to injury and failed to show the power that many people expected, hitting just 10 home runs in 416 plate appearance. 

It was expected that Jimenez would overtake Shane Greene as the closer this year, and establish himself as the closer of the future. This did happen, but more because Greene was traded than because of JImenez’s performance. He struggled to keep the ball in the park, with 18.3% of all fly balls leaving the yard. 

Lastly Candelario was probably the most disappointing of the young players. Coming off a year where he played the majority of games at third base, Candalario showed promise. We all wanted to see the batting average improve, but the other tools looked to be there. This year, however, was a different story. Candalario struggled across the board, and only played 94 games in the majors. He spent a significant part of the season in the minors.

What to expect for the 2020 Season

There are two words that come to mind when thinking of the 2020 season: hope and patience. Hope because we should see Matt Manning, Casey Mize, and Isaac Parades come up at some point next year. The talent should be making their way into the majors, as opposed to the rag tag bunch who we saw hit the field at the end of this year. Patience because in the offseason we should expect patience from the Tigers front office. They likely won’t spend much money because they are willing to tank. Expect some bullpen or starting pitchers to be added on one year deals and maybe a cheap outfielder. We are years away from offseasons being interesting for the Tigers. The only real trade bait left on the roster is Boyd. For that to happen the price is going to need to come down. The demands coming from the Tigers front office were “borderline comical,” according to one NL Exec in a conversation with Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press.

It’s safe to say that we are a few years away from having a team that can compete. There is a lot of work ahead for the Tigers organization as a whole. The biggest work today is finding position players who can make an impact, as that part of the farm still appears somewhat barren. They have the first pick in the 2020 draft, so keep an eye on Spencer Torkelson, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Austin Martin and the other top position players in the upcoming draft. There should also be another top 5-10 pick coming in 2021 that will really shape the future.

Keep your chin up Tigers fans! There are still some rough years ahead, but this should be the last of the worst years.

Author Twitter: @andrewkdewhirst

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