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2018 MLB preview: Detroit Tigers

2018 Detroit Tigers preview

2017: 64-98 (fifth place in AL Central)

Last Postseason appearance: 2014

Last World Series title: 1984

2017 Recap

In 2011, the Tigers made it all the way to the ALCS before losing to the Texas Rangers in six. The following season, Detroit made it to the World Series. In 2013, they were back in the ALCS, and the following season, they won the American League Central Division for the fourth straight year. Boy that seems like decades ago.

64 wins was Detroit’s fewest since the dreadful 2003 team that won just 43 games. It all started in March when Tigers star, and future Hall of Famer, Miguel Cabrera left a World Baseball Classic game with back tightness. He would eventually spend some time on the DL and posted the worst numbers of his career. Cabrera hit just .249 with an OBP of .329 while slugging just under .400. He had a WAR below zero for the first time in his 15-year career.

Also in March, J.D. Martinez was forced to miss around two months because of a right foot sprain. However, in his 57 games, Martinez mashed 16 home runs and hit .305. He was later traded to Arizona in July for a trio of prospects.

Detroit’s offense finished 16th in OBP and 18th in slugging percentage. They ended up 29th in run differential, which was mostly due to their atrocious pitching. The pitching staff finished 20th in BB/9, 23rd in HR/9 and last in H/9, WHIP and ERA. Among the 15 AL teams, they were 11th in walks and 12th in home runs.

Fortunately, it wasn’t all bad. Before being traded to the Los Angeles Angles, Justin Upton hit .279, 28 home runs and 94 RBIs in 125 games for Detroit. Nick Castellanos hit 10 triples, which was good for third in the MLB. He also hit 26 home runs, had 101 RBIs and batted .341 with men on base.

2018: Around the Diamond

No more Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton or Ian Kinsler means a new wave of Tigers will be asked to step up in 2018. Numbers show that Miguel Cabrera should go back to being his elite-level self.

Last year, in expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA), which, according to rotoballer.com, establishes the “value a player brings per plate appearance, accounting for unintentional walks, hit by pitches, and all base hits,” Cabrera ranked 19th in the MLB. Expected weighted on-base average uses launch angle and exit velocity of every ball put in play, so it is quite possible that Cabrera was just a tad unlucky last year.

2018 Detroit Tigers preview
Miguel Cabrera will bounce back in 2018. (Photo from Call to the Pen)

James McCann will remain behind the plate, but needs to do a better job defensively. In 2017, he allowed the fourth most steals and had the fifth most past balls.

Taking over Kinsler at second will most likely be Dixon Machado. The 170 pound Machado has played in 105 career games and has hit just .246 with a .303 OBP. Jose Iglesias, who hit 33 doubles last season, will remain at shortstop, while Jeimer Candelario is in line to start at the hot corner. Candelario, who was acquired by the Cubs in the Justin Wilson and Alex Avila trade, hit .330 in 27 games for the Tigers in 2017.

Nick Castellanos, the former third baseman, will start in right field if he remains on the team. Castellanos has been heavily mentioned in trade talks and is coming off a solid offensive season. Newcomer Leonys Martin, who Detroit signed as a free agent this offseason, will start in centerfield. In limited games, Martin struggled mightily last season with the Mariners and Cubs, but hit 15 home runs and stole 24 bases back in 2016.

Mikie Mahtook will most likely start in left field after posting the second best OBP on the team last year. JaCoby Jones and Victor Reyes will also be competing for playing time.

As far as the DH goes, Victor Martinez, in his last year of his deal, will start. Now 39 years old, Martinez did not have a great 2017, hitting just .255 with 10 home runs in 107 games.

On the Bump

Michael Fulmer, who was an All-Star in 2017, looks to be the No. 1 option on this team and should be ready for Spring Training following an elbow injury. Fulmer is lucky the All-Star game is a first half competition, because he posted a horrendous 5.33 ERA in 49 innings during the second half of the season. However, Fulmer looks like a legitimate top of the rotation starter, as he allowed the second fewest home runs per nine innings in 2017.

2018 Detroit Tigers preview
Jordan Zimmerman is owed around $75 million over the next three years. (Photo from Bleacher Report)

Detroit also signed Mike Fiers, who won a World Series with Houston, but did not pitch in the playoffs. In the 2017 regular season, Fiers went 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA.

Speaking of scrub pitchers over 30, Jordan Zimmermann will again attempt to figure it out in Detroit. Zimmerman, who was terrific in Washington, has been a total disaster with the Tigers. In 48 career games with Detroit, Zimmerman has a 5.60 ERA. In 2017, he finished tied for the most earned runs allowed.

Keep in mind, Zimmermann is owed $24 million in 2018, $25 million in 2019 and another $25 million in 2020. I know there is a lot of crime in Detroit, but Zimmermann stealing from the Tigers is the biggest of them all.

Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris will make up the rest of the rotation. Boyd rocked a 1.56 WHIP in 2017, while Norris, a former second-round pick, posted a 5.31 ERA in 18 starts. Both are still considered young, so hopefully they turn out better. In 2017, Shane Greene looked good when he moved over to the closer role after trades, so it makes sense for him to remain the ninth inning guy.

The Future

The Tigers have four starting pitchers on MLB.com’s “Top 100 Prospects” list for 2018. Among them is Franklin Perez, who was sent over in the Verlander trade. The 20-year-old Perez went 6-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 19 appearances between A+ and AA. He is seen as a middle of the rotation type of starter.

Next on the list is Matt Manning, son of former NBA player Rich Manning. Matt was the ninth pick in the 2016 draft and pitched well between short-season Class A ball and Class A West Michigan.

Alex Faedo, who ranks 59th on the list, was selected 18th overall in the 2017 Draft. Coming off knee surgery, Detroit opted not to use him in 2017, but he pitched well with the Florida Gators, so Detroit is hopeful they made the right decision.

The last Tiger on the prospects list is Beau Burrows. The right hander has a fastball in the mid-90s and looks to be a big league starter down the road.

 

2018 Prediction: 72-90

Miguel Cabrera will be back in the All-Star game, and Nick Castellanos, if still on the team, will have another good year with Detroit. However, the pitching is still a disaster. They’ll win more games than last year, as they should play better against the White Sox and the Royals, but it will be another long year for Tiger fans.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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