As we are just over the halfway point, the Detroit Tigers are 16-16 with a series sweep of the Minnesota Twins. What is the good, bad, and the ugly of the season so far?
Just two weeks ago, on August 9, the Detroit Tigers were a half back of the first place in the Al Central. The following week, they were 6.5 and a half back and in the middle of a nine-game losing streak. Now, they have taken three series in a row and have won five straight.
It is safe to say that Detroit Tigers fans have run the gauntlet of emotions this season. But if there is one word to describe the season, it is “exciting” and a surprise. But not to Ron Gardenhire.
The Tigers have gained considerable momentum in the past week with the past week’s events as you can see above to put them back into a wild card situation. Let’s put the season in a segment that I normally do for the Tigers podcast I co-host with fellow contributor Chris Brown and breakdown the first “half” of the season into the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. This will be stat driven.
With just working with stats from the first 32 games of 2019 to use as a starting point, the Tigers last season offensively speaking, looked like this.
.230/.303/.370 OPS .673 322 SO 103 BB 23 HR
Granted, this is a lineup without Jonathan Schoop or CJ Cron but a majority of the roster is still the same.
.252/.314/.434 OPS .748 303 SO 85 BB 42 HR
Candelario has been the hottest hitter in the Tigers’ lineup for the past month. He’s batting .298/.342/.500 and hit his fourth home run of the year on Sunday. The advance stats also show it with a wRC+ of 130, an OPS+ of 100, and his hard-hit contact percentage is up from last year while switching positions. It’s a significant difference you hope continues.
Miguel Cabrera’s accomplishments.
Miguel collected his 2000th as a Tiger on Sunday. He had an opposite-field shot on Saturday that put him ahead of Charlie Gehringer for 50th on the all-time hit list. What makes this even special per Jason Beck’s story on Tigers.com, Cabrera became one of just 16 players ranked among the top 50 all-time in hits, home runs, and RBIs. We all have accepted Miguel is not what he once was but there have been moments.
Jose Cisnero and Gregory Soto
No one really knew what to expect from the bullpen, which was one of the worst in the league last year. Taking a flyer on Jose Cisnero as Kellen discussed in his article, has paid off for Detroit. Along with Gregory Soto, who picked up his second save in a row on Sunday, they are a big reason why Detroit is at .500. Cisnero by the way has not allowed a run since August 10th against the White Sox and for the month of August, that was the only time he was scored on.
Soto has been hitting triple dights and has moved up the bullpen ladder to closer. Something to consider with Soto. He was a starter in the minors and then started to make the adjustment to the bullpen. Dan Dickerson pointed out on Saturday that in five weeks, he has already changed his mindset a few times from the 7th inning pitcher to the closer and that is a lot to process.
He has been the Tigers’ most consistent starter, posting a 3-2 record with an ERA of 2.97. While he has had a few long innings the past few starts. Turnbull’s command of the strike zone has been to what he said to reports. “Less is more”. His slider is generating a 52.5% whiff percentage. That is up from last year.
Honorable mentions: JaCoby Jones, Jonathan Schoop, Victor Reyes.
The Tigers’ starting pitching staff
Until this past week, the Tigers’ starting pitching staff was one of the worst in the league. They have been pitching better as of late with Matthew Boyd appearing to figure out his issues from earlier in the season and Tarik Skubal looking sharp over the weekend. Mize has shown flashes of command of his split-finger fastball. Before he was sent to the IL, Ivan Nova was getting hit hard. The Tyler Alexander experiment was short-lived and seems better suited for the bullpen.
Matt Manning and Alex Faedo being shut down for the year.
Now the reason why this is not in the “ugly” category is simple. Tigers are just taking precautions with this. Until more is announced, we are left in the dark, wondering if this could be a prelude to something else.
His struggles at the plate are well documented. He had a home run over the weekend, granted, and he is among the higher percental in terms of barrel % but he has to really pick up his game in order as the Tigers chase the wild card.
C.J Cron, Ivan Nova, Dario Agrazal come to mind for Detroit but teams like the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays have had their depth charts tested with all the injuries that have happened. MLB making sure that sixty games happen no matter what the cost seems it could be damaging long term for players.
It could be worse
The Detroit Tigers have given fans something to root for as the calendar flips to September. If they fall short on their postseason birth, we can all agree that there have been signs of progress. From Isaac Paredes at-bats to Kyle Funkhouser pumping in 97 MPH on a regular, at least this season, Detroit has been fun to watch.