Jays From the Couch brings you MLB Wrap Ups. This edition, we chat with Totally Tigers to get perspective on the Detroit Tigers
Jays From the Couch is kicking off a little series of wrap ups of teams around MLB. We’ll sit down with writers from all over the league to get their thoughts on teams we might not have been paying attention to in Blue Jays Land. This time: Detroit Tigers!
For this MLB Wrap Up, we sat down with Kurt Snyder and Holly Horning of Totally Tigers to talk about the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers finished 8 games back of Cleveland in the AL Central and seemed like they would take one if the Wild Card spots, but ended up 2.5 games back in that race. Led by Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers fell short, but were pleasantly surprised by rookie, Michael Fulmer.
Be sure to head to Totally Tigers for unique coverage on the Detroit Tigers.
JFtC: If you could sum up the Tigers’ season in a paragraph, what would you say?
TT: Injuries had an unusual 2-sided effect on the Tigers. They closed some doors but opened others. But as we learned from the Indians, injury-based excuses just don’t fly anymore. The Tigers, with one of the highest payrolls in baseball, still couldn’t find the right formula for success, despite great years from their leaders, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander.
JFtC: What went right for the Tigers this year?
TT: What stands out beyond anything else is the influx of young talent in the starting rotation. The deals that brought Michael Fulmer, Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris have set things up nicely for the future. They should definitely form 3/5ths of the starting rotation while Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann hold down the #1 and #2 spots; assuming JV and JZ survive the cost-cutting initiative.
JFtC: What went wrong for them?
TT: After a great start, the injury bug hit Jordan Zimmermann, causing him to miss most of the remainder of the season. However it did help to open the door for Michael Fulmer. J.D. Martinez missed almost half the season with a broken elbow, which took a huge bat out of the middle of the Tiger lineup. Nick Castellanos missed most of the season with a broken hand while Justin Upton struggled mightily at the plate for most of the season until finally getting hot in late August. All this combined to be one factor that led to an inconsistent offense, which believe it or not, we are pretty used to in Detroit, despite all the offensive talent.
JFtC: Who stood out on the roster?
TT: Oh, the wonders of Justin Verlander! JV returned to the form we never thought we would see again. Sure he finished 2015 extremely strong, but no one envisioned the kind of dominance he displayed in 2016. This was vintage JV. Most of Detroit doubted him when he announced during some early season struggles that he was ready to dominate. Well, we learned quickly never to doubt him again. Verlander is one heck of a competitor. He did indeed dominate again and was the Tigers unquestioned ace in 2016.
JFtC: Who went under-appreciated?
TT: It speaks to the Tiger goals for 2017 when someone like Cameron Maybin is let go. He was the catalyst of this baseball team and was responsible for keeping the team energized; bringing so much needed enthusiasm and team chemistry. The fact the Tigers would let someone go who brought all of those intangibles, makes us feel his impact was underappreciated.
But doesn’t every team have someone under the radar that consistently contributes something when they are in the lineup? Utility man Andrew Romine did that for the Tigers. You can’t discount the value of a player who can play just about every position on the field. He is an above- average defender who’s almost daily contribution cannot be understated. Bench players are important pieces, but are often underappreciated.
JFtC: Who underperformed?
TT: Well, Mike Pelfrey underperformed, but no one in Detroit expected much from him when he was signed. We are still scratching our heads over that signing. The first player who stood out as an underperformer for most of the season was Justin Upton. He showed Tiger fans in late August and September what he could do as he was one of the hottest hitters in the league. But until then, he was a human strikeout machine.
In the bullpen, Mark Lowe was brought in to fill one of the all-important late inning roles. The Tigers had put together a combination that on paper looked to be pretty solid as Mark Lowe was signed, Justin Wilson arrived in a trade with the Yankees and Francisco Rodriguez arrived as the Tigers new closer. But Mark Lowe was awful all year; from beginning to end, and was probably the biggest disappointment of the season.
JFtC: Where do the Tigers go this offseason? What do they do?
TT: Well if you haven’t heard, the Tigers are looking to get “younger and leaner,” which screams rebuild to all who follow baseball in Detroit. Maybin has already been shipped out of town saving the $9M the Tigers would have paid to pick up his option. Beyond Maybin, many big names on the roster have been mentioned as potential trade pieces. This is an environment we are not accustomed to in Detroit. We are used to big spending in the off season, so any kind of cost cutting talk is definitely foreign territory. What will they do? There are rumors that change is at hand via the ownership level and we should learn more before the end of the year.
JFtC: What can fans expect from Detroit in 2017?
TT: It will depend on how serious the Tigers are about the restructuring. Per GM Al Avila, he “hopes” that the goal is to still be competitive. Just being competitive hasn’t been a goal in quite some time. We’ve been used to the “win now” mentality of our owner, Mike Ilitch. But again, big and unfamiliar changes could be on the horizon. Realistically, fans should not expect a division title in Detroit especially with the ascent of Clevelan. In fact, selling at the trade deadline is probably something they would rather do considering some of the expensive long-term contracts given to now-ageing players and the franchise’s new direction.
Don’t miss the rest of our MLB Wrap Ups:
THANK YOU FOR VISITING JAYS FROM THE COUCH! FOR EVERYTHING TORONTO BLUE JAYS, CHECK US OUT ON TWITTER @JAYSFROMCOUCH AND INSTAGRAM. LIKE US ON FACEBOOK. BE SURE TO CATCH THE JAYS NEST PODCAST