Saturday, July 4, 2020

Detroit Tigers 2020 Season Preview 2.0


       Nothing went right for the Tigers in 2020. While everyone thought that the Orioles would finish last in the MLB, the Tigers proved everybody wrong, going 47-114. They drafted Spencer Torkelson 1st overall in June, their second first overall pick in three years, after pitcher Casey Mize was selected in 2018. The lineup is terrible, and the rotation is even worse. They missed their chance to trade away Matthew Boyd at the deadline, costing them valuable assets. It will be another rough season for the Tigers.

       Offseason additions: 1B CJ Cron, 2B Jonathan Schoop, C Austin Romine, RHP Ivan Nova, OF Cameron Maybin, RHP Zack Godley, OF Jorge Bonifacio, LHP Hector Santiago.

       Offseason subtractions: UT Brandon Dixon, UT Ronny Rodriguez, C John Hicks, LHP Daniel Stumpf, IF Gordon Beckham, IF Josh Harrison, LHP Matt Moore.

       Rotation
Matthew Boyd emerged as one of baseball's top strikeout starters. Boyd, who has three more years left under contract, struck out 238 batters in 185.1 innings. However, he allowed a league leading 39 home runs, and 94 earned runs in total, for a 4.56 ERA. Boyd saw most of his stats drop-off from his 2018 numbers, but those strikeouts were the main difference, as his K/9 rose by 3.2 points. Spencer Turnbull had an ERA under 3.00 in June. Injuries and poor play hurt that as the year went on. He went 3-17, leading the league in the latter category. He had a 4.61 ERA in 148.1 innings. He also hit a league leading 16 batters. Turnbull's big issue is his sinker, which allowed a .349 average against and a 92.1 average exit velocity against. Veteran starter Ivan Nova had one of his worst seasons for the White Sox last year. He allowed 225 hits, a league high. He had a 4.72 ERA with just 114 strikeouts in 187 innings for a 5.5 K/9, which was not the lowest of his career. To show how bad Nova was, he was in the bottom half of the league in all of the following categories: exit velocity against, hard hit percentage, xwOBA, xERA, xBA, xSLG, barrel percentage, K%, Whiff%, fastball velocity, fastball spin and curve spin. Expensive veteran Jordan Zimmermann has been terrible in all four of his seasons in Detroit. He had a 6.91 ERA in 23 starts last year. In his Tigers career, Zimmermann has a 5.61 ERA and 6.4 K/9 in 508.2 innings. Zimmermann, like Nova, is in the bottom half of the league in all of the previously mentioned categories, except for fastball spin, as he just barely escapes, falling in the 51st percentile. Daniel Norris is always injured. He is still only 26, and the lefty had a 4.49 ERA in 144.1 innings last year. It was the most he's pitched in an MLB season, in his sixth year overall. Norris had an average velocity against of 90.2 mph, in the bottom six percent of the league. Non-roster invitee Hector Santiago has a 4.14 ERA in 257 career games (139 starts) with 826 strikeouts in 920.2 innings over nine years for four different teams. For the Mets and White Sox last year, Santiago had a 6.68 ERA with 40 Ks in 33.2 innings. He will likely make the bullpen.

       Bullpen
There are not many guaranteed spots in the Tigers bullpen. After Shane Greene was traded at the deadline, Joe Jimenez stepped in as closer. A 2018 all-star, Jimenez converted nine saves with a 4.37 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 59.2 innings. His fastball (2528) has a much better spin rate than his slider (2329). Former starter Buck Farmer had a productive season as a reliever. He pitched in 73 games, striking out 73 in 67.2 innings with a 3.72 ERA. Farmer had a career high 25.3% K rate. Nick Ramirez is in camp as a non-roster invitee, but he was a vital part of the bullpen last year. Ramirez pitched in 79.2 innings over 46 games as a 29 year old rookie last year. He struck out 74 and had a 4.07 ERA. Ramirez does not throw hard, with a fastball averaging 90.1 mph (he throws a cutter averaging 86.7 mph more often). However, he can limit hard contact with an 86 miles per hour average exit velocity. Swingman Gregory Soto played in 33 games (seven starts), with a 5.77 ERA and 7 K/9. Him being a lefty helps his case for the roster. He was one of seven AL pitchers to commit three errors. Soto's .298 xBA was awful. Jose Cisnero played for the Astros from 2013-2014, and made his return to the MLB in 2019, with a 4.33 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 35.1 innings. Cisnero throws a mid-to-high-90s fastball. The Tigers used the first overall pick in the Rule-5 draft on Rony Garcia. He had a 4.01 ERA with 129 strikeouts in 130.1 innings for High-A Tampa and AA Trenton (Yankees system). Both Tyler Alexander and Zack Godley are the starter/reliever-type. Alexander is a lefty, while Godley has more experience and his right-handed. Alexander had a 4.86 ERA in 53.2 innings. Godley had a 6.39 ERA for the D-Backs last year, but joined the Blue Jays late last year. He had a 3.94 ERA in 16 innings for Toronto. He had a 3.37 ERA with 165 strikeouts in 155 innings in 2017. Godley throws his curveball over 40% of the time, showing that he could be best-suited for a relief role. David McKay debuted at age 24 for Seattle before being waived and claimed by the Tigers in August. Combined, McKay had a 5.47 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. His curveball has a great spin rate of 3054. The Tigers could give the last spot to young of their young arms in Casey Mize or Matt Manning. Or, the could go with starter Dario Agrazal. Debuting for the Pirates last year, Agrazal made 14 starts (plus one relief appearance) with a 4.91 ERA. His K/9 of 5.0 was one of the lowest in the league.

       Catchers
The Tigers signed Austin Romine to a one year deal so he will finally get his chance to be a starting catcher. He had a career high .281 average and .748 OPS for the Yankees last year. Now sporting a beard like other former Yankees before him, Romine hit the ball hard a good 40% of the time last year. With John Hicks gone, the catching depth is not as good as it used to be. Jake Rogers is an elite defender but hit .125 in 35 games last year. Rogers made MLB Pipeline's all defense team two times, but missed out to the A's Sean Murphy this year. Rogers threw out 49.3 percent of runners in his minor league career. Grayson Greiner played in 58 games last year, with a .202 average and .559 OPS. He may be on the 3-man squad that must require a catcher, as Rogers stays as the backup.

       Infielders
Miguel Cabrera will be a Hall of Famer and the Tigers will eventually retire his number 24. The two time MVP and Triple Crown winner had a .937 OPS and .315 average in 1680 games for the team. Unfortunately, they might be best without Cabrera and his lengthy contract right now. Cabrera had a respectable .282 average last year, but he hit just 12 home runs in 136 games, and his .744 OPS was the second lowest of his career. Cabrera can still hit the ball hard, with an average exit velocity of 90.3 mph. The Tigers signed a pair of veterans from the Twins in CJ Cron and Jonathan Schoop. Cron and Cabrera will alternate at first base and DH. Cron hit 25 home runs with a career high 78 RBIs last year. He hit .253 with a .780 OPS. His OPS+ was barely above average, at 103. Cron's 15% barrel percentage was a career high. Schoop, a former 32 home run hitter, hit 23 bombs last year, with a .256 average and .777 OPS. With five outs above average, Schoop is a good defender at second base. Schoop and Cron are very welcome additions who have played in the division before. The rest of the infield is where things get tricky. Jordy Mercer hit .270 with a .747 OPS last year, but he may not make the team. Utility man Niko Goodrum is trying to settle on one position, and that may be at short. Goodrum hit 12 home runs and stole 12 bases with a .743 OPS last year. Goodrum had a combined eight outs above average at seven different positions last year, with six of them at short. He is fast, with a 29.0 ft/s sprint speed. The third base job is between Jeimer Candelario and Dawel Lugo, who are both out of options. Candelario hit 19 home runs in 2018, but hit just eight last season, with a .203 average and .643 OPS. Lugo hit six home runs with a .652 OPS last year. Harold Castro seems to be a lock as a utility infielder. He hit .291 with five homers and six stolen bases in 97 games, but he had a .689 OPS. He isn't a great fielder, with -3 outs above average, but he can play a lot of positions.

       Outfielders
The Tigers brought back Cameron Maybin on a one year deal. The journeyman is entering his third stint as a Tiger. He hit a career high 11 home runs with nine stolen bases, a .285 average and .858 OPS in 82 games for the Yankees last year. His sprint speed has slightly decreased, but he still fast, at 28.7 ft/s. In 88 games, JaCoby Jones also hit 11 home runs, with seven stolen bases and a .740 OPS last year. Jones hit the ball surprisingly hard, for an average of 91.3 mph. Victor Reyes had a solid season. The 25-year-old played in 69 games, hitting three home runs with nine stolen bases, plus a .304 average. Reyes is really fast for a guy who is six feet tall and five inches, with a 28.9 sprint speed. Former first rounder Christin Stewart hit 10 home runs last year, but still had a .693 OPS. He is a bad fielder, with -7 outs above average. Travis Demeritte was acquired for Shane Greene at the deadline. He started off his Tigers career strong, with a .291 average and .822 OPS 22 games in. He struggled the rest of the way, with three home runs, three stolen bases and a .225 average plus a .630 OPS. He played in 48 total games. Four of Demeritte's five hits in Spring Training were home runs.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
RF Cameron Maybin (R)
2B Jonathan Schoop (R)
DH Miguel Cabrera (R)
1B CJ Cron (R)
SS Niko Goodrum (S)
C Austin Romine (R)
LF Victor Reyes (S)
CF JaCoby Jones (R)
3B Jeimer Candelario (S)

        Projected Rotation
Matthew Boyd (L)
Spencer Turnbull (R)
Daniel Norris (L)
Ivan Nova (R)
Jordan Zimmermann (R)

        Projected Bullpen
Joe Jimenez, closer (R)
Buck Farmer (R)
Jose Cisnero (R)
Nick Ramirez (L)
David McKay (R)
Gregory Soto (L)
Zack Godley (R)
Rony Garcia (R)
Hector Santiago (L)
Tyler Alexander (L)
Dario Agrazal (R)

        Projected Bench
C Jake Rogers (R)
SS Jordy Mercer (R)
UT Harold Castro (L)
OF Travis Demeritte (R)
IF Dawel Lugo (R)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
32-57 record, 5th in AL Central
Most home runs: CJ Cron (22)
Highest batting average: Cameron Maybin (.310)
Highest OPS: Cameron Maybin (.792)
Best ERA, starters: Jordan Zimmermann (4.50)
Best ERA, relievers: Buck Farmer (1.82)
Most innings pitched: Jordan Zimmermann (108)
Most strikeouts: Matthew Boyd (108)
Best K/9: Joe Jimenez (10.7)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 23-37
2018: 28-32
2017: 29-31
2016: 30-30
2015: 31-29

       Prediction
Despite their awful records in previous years, the Tigers haven't actually started off the season terribly in recent years, although their 2019 record through 60 games says otherwise. But, they are just really, really bad. Their pitching staff is just an open audition, the lineup has some decent players at the top of it but falls off quickly, and while they have a lot of competition for roster spots, that is because no one is good enough to blow anyone away. The Tigers will show the world once again in 2020 that they are one of the worst teams in baseball, if not the worst.

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