I’m sad to see that Hall of Fame Bills quarterback Jim Kelly’s cancer has returned once again. I can’t imagine what his family must be going through right now but if he can win 4 straight AFC championships, beating cancer again will be a breeze. On to happier news, we enter Day 11 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Detroit Tigers. Let’s get to it.
Record: 64-98, 38 games behind Cleveland Indians, 21 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot
Notable Offseason Additions: SP Francisco Liriano, RP Travis Wood, CF Leonys Martin, IF Alexi Amarista, SP Mike Fiers
Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Anibal Sanchez, 2B Ian Kinsler, OF Alex Presley, RP Bruce Rondon, OF Tyler Collins, IF Andrew Romine
Best Offensive Player: 1B Miguel Cabrera
Best Pitcher: Michael Fulmer
C-James McCann, John Hicks
1B-Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez (DH)
SS-Jose Iglesias, Alexi Amarista
CF-Leonys Martin, JaCoby Jones
RF-Nicholas Castellanos, Victor Reyes
SP-Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Fiers, Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris, Francisco Liriano
Bullpen-Shane Greene (CP), Travis Wood, Alex Wilson, Zac Reininger, Joe Jimenez, Daniel Stumpf, Drew VerHagen
Manager-Ron Gardenhire (1st season with Tigers)
Hitting Coach-Lloyd McClendon
Pitching Coach-Chris Bosio
1st Base Coach-Ramon Santiago
3rd Base Coach-Dave Clark
Bench Coach-Steve Liddle
If ever there were a team in baseball that was in a rebuild, it’s the Tigers. They’ve practically gutted the team that started Opening Day for them. Gone are Justin Verlander, JD Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, and pretty much anybody else who made the Tigers one of the potentially more dangerous teams in baseball. However they were going nowhere fast so they decided now was as good a time as ever to commence with the rebuild, which got off to a pretty good start as far as rebuilds go as they managed to finish tied for the worst record in baseball at 64-98 and won the tie breaker over the Giants for the #1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. It’s a pretty thin Major League roster for the 2018 season, as you can see from their projected lineup.
1. Leonys Martin-CF
2. Nicholas Castellanos-RF
3. Miguel Cabrera-1B
4. Victor Martinez-DH
5. Jeimer Candelario-3B
6. Mikie Mahtook-LF
7. James McCann-C
8. Dixon Machado-2B
9. Jose Iglesias-SS
The only guys really of note in this lineup are Cabrera and Martinez and they appear to be nearing the end of the line. Cabrera had his worst season in 2017, as he hit .249 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI and was worth -0.2 WAR. Granted, it may not have entirely been his fault, as according to a “study” I did, Cabrera was the unluckiest hitter in the game last season. So perhaps 2017 was a fluke for the future Hall of Famer. Victor Martinez also struggled last season as he battled injuries, as he hit .255 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 107 games for a -1.1 WAR. In fact it was the second time in 3 seasons the 39 year-old was worth a negative WAR. However they’re also the only two hitters in this lineup that can be deemed as dangerous even if they’re practically shells of their former selves at this point. Nicholas Castellanos is a guy that could be a positive for this lineup, as he had a breakout season in 2017. He hit .272 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI. He was only worth 1.8 WAR, however that could be due in fact to his poor defense in right field, which could be excusable given the fact he’s still learning the position. He came up as a third baseman and played there for the first couple years of his career. Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about in this Tigers lineup. It could also be a rough time at the plate for the foreseeable future as the Tigers don’t have a single hitter in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects.
The Tigers REALLY struggled on the mound in 2017, finishing with the worst team ERA in the Majors (5.36). The only real bright spot amongst pitchers who finished the season with the team was Michael Fulmer, who is basically the default ace right now. Last season, Fulmer went 10-12 with a 3.83 ERA and was worth 3.5 WAR in 25 starts. His strikeout rate was pretty poor, as his 6.23 K/9 was 7th worst in baseball, however he showed good control, as his walk rate of 2.19 BB/9 was 11th best in baseball. He was also excellent about keeping balls in the yard, as his HR/9 rate of 0.71 was 2nd best in all of baseball (Washington’s Stephen Strasburg was best at 0.67). So despite the fact that he doesn’t miss a lot of bats, Fulmer does a good job of not giving hitters great pitches to hit. After him, though, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Jordan Zimmermann has been a disaster since signing with the Tigers after a successful career in Washington, last season being particularly bad as he had an ERA of 6.08. Had he thrown 2 more innings to qualify for the Major League minimum, that would’ve given him the worst ERA in baseball by half a run (Matt Moore’s 5.52 was the worst among qualifying pitchers). New additions from the Astros Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano could provide some value in the rotation, but Liriano barely appeared for Houston late in the season while Fiers got bumped out of the rotation by younger pitchers.
The Tigers’ bullpen is pretty rough. The only guy who had a solid season last year was Shane Greene, who will be inheriting the closer’s role. He had an ERA of 2.66 last year however his FIP was 3.84, suggesting that his defense was helping out his overall numbers. He did manage to strike out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings and he was able to strand 84% of inherited runners. However he lacks experience in the closer’s role as he only has 11 career saves, though looking at the rest of Detroit’s options in the bullpen, he’s really the only legitimate candidate they have right now. Their only other quality relief pitchers, Travis Wood and Alex Wilson, have a combined 8 saves between them in their careers and neither was particularly good last season. Wilson had an ERA of 4.50 while Wood’s was a whopping 6.80. It’s not even a guarantee Wood makes the Tigers’ Opening Day roster. After that, it’s going to be a bunch of experimental guys. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see some of Detroit’s top pitching prospects such as Franklin Perez, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, and Beau Burrows appear in the Motor City at some point in 2018.
Overall, the Tigers are going to suck, but that’s kind of the point. The only exciting players on this team, Cabrera and Martinez, are 34 and 39 years old, respectively, and they may be past the points in their careers where they can be of serious value to the team. There are far too many question marks on the mound and I’ll be very surprised if the Tigers don’t end up in the cellar of the AL Central this season, perhaps even for all of Major League Baseball. However I do believe there is one team that will have a worse season than the Tigers, but they’re not due for another few days in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series.
Projected Record: 64-98, Last in AL Central
That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I transition from the worst team in the American League to the very best. We’ve got the defending champion Houston Astros on tap tomorrow as they look to try and defend their first ever World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Tigers’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.