What We Learned About the 2020 Detroit Tigers Season

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The contributors got together and gave what they learned about the Detroit Tigers in this shortened 2020 season.

I find myself starting each of my articles with “2020 has been a strange year” as a way to break the ice but with the Detroit Tigers, I believe it more so than any other recent season. While COVID plays a factor in it, the actual baseball itself was strange. The 7th inning games, the Tigers flirting with the playoffs in early September, and performances that indicated where the team really is.

That’s where we will start. I went and ask every one of our contributors what they learned about the Detroit Tigers this season.

Detroit Tigers in 2020 thoughts:

Chris Brown:  The nature of the 2020 season means that small sample size concerns need to be applied to everything we learned about the Detroit Tigers, but I think Jeimer Candelario can be an above-average big league hitter. I think we learned Willi Castro has usable game power. I think we learned Niko Goodrum can only hit fastballs (.111 batting average on non-fastballs.) I think we learned Christin Stewart, Jake Rogers, and Joe Jimenez aren’t likely to be big parts of the future. I think we learned Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal have the stuff to handle big-league hitters, but they both need a lot more development. I think we learned Joe Varva is a solid hitting coach. And I think we learned the Tigers need to move on from Rick Anderson as pitching coach and drastically alter the way they approach and develop pitching. Spencer Turnbull gave up just 2 home runs this season. The rest of the starting rotation averaged 2.3 home runs per 9 innings. Something needs to change.

Jake Boes:  The Detroit Tigers entered the season littered with starting pitching candidates: Michael Fulmer was said to be a full-go heading into the season, Ivan Nova was signed to a one-year deal as an inning-eater type arm, and Jordan Zimmermann was in the final year of his injury-ridden career. This does not even figure in the top prospects which were thought to be close to the major leagues themselves. But between injuries to Jordan Zimmermann, Dario Agrizal, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, and Ivan Nova coupled with the uncharacteristic performances of Matthew Boyd, Michael Fulmer, and Casey Mize, the team was forced into openers for two out of their five rotation spots. The mantra of never having enough pitching rings true; and not even a shortened season was able to negate the fact.

Yooper: Willi Castro is a player with hopes for a fulltime spot at shortstop. It was only 36 games and there are real reasons to be skeptical if you’re the skeptical sort. However, Castro posted a slash of .349/.381/.550. His six homers looked pretty legit, they weren’t fence-scrapers. That gets you first dibs at shortstop next year unless they make a major move for a veteran SS.

Kellen: My biggest takeaway from this season is that the top pitching prospects are going to need some developmental help from the organization. I think a lot of people, myself included, assumed that Mize/Manning/Skubal/etc would be able to take their lumps and figure it out on their own. Of course, that’s still possible, but I think it’s apparent that they need some real developmental work in the offseason. Mize needs help getting lefties out, Manning needs to work to command his curveball in the zone, and Skubal must command his electric fastball better. The good news is that the tools are there for these guys, and with some good coaching, they all have the ability to be good Major League pitchers for a long time.

Marty Tallman: 

I learned that Casey Mize and Tarik Skuball still have a lot of growing to do.  Entering this year, I optimistically thought that if Casey Mize and Tarik Skuball were called up that they would be instant contributors for the 2020 season. Part of this optimism is because the Tigers had one of the worst rotations in baseball with Jordan Zimmerman, Ivan Nova, and Daniel Norris. Another part is how toted both prospects were coming into the year.

Mize finished the year with a brutal 6.99 ERA, allowing 29 hits in  28.1 innings. Obviously, it’s very early for Mize so I have no concern at all but I thought he was going to be a lot more polished. In the off-season, Mize will need to increase his consistency and command while Tarik Skuball just needs to build off this season.

Skuball has already shown an ability to strikeout hitters posting 37 strikeouts in 32 innings. Overall, Skuball pitched better than Mize and looked more major-league ready on his way to a 5.63 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

Both players have very bright futures ahead but they will have to work at it. Hopefully, the Tigers organization can really tap into their star potential and get the ace-ready by 2021.

Jon Welter: I learned two things this season. Firstly, it’s not time to count out Miggy just yet. Every swing he takes and every run down to first might hurt his knee but he grinded out an above-average offensive season and his bat only got stronger as the season progressed. His OPS went from .716 through July and August to .784 in September. I also learned how important Jacoby Jones is to this team. He went down with a left-hand fracture after a 12-1 thrashing of the playoff-bound Brewers. Detroit was 17-16 at the time of his injury and only won 6 games after.  Austin Romine, Niko Goodrum, Jonathon Schoop, Christin Stewart, and Victor Reyes all saw their OPS drop over 200 points after Jones’ season was cut short. And Spencer Turnbull definitely missed his defense out in center. His ERA pre-injury was sub 3 and over 5 post-injury. The 2021 Tigers need the energy that Jones brings to the team.

Myself, what I have learned about the Detroit Tigers is that Jeimer Candelario is going to be a solid major leaguer. The small sample size was enough to show he could handle the ups and downs. The doubts were there, no doubt and warranted but he showed enough that he could handle two different positions but I think he should be back at third base.

I also learned Miguel Cabrera was still able to contribute. He finished the season with a wRC+ over 100 (103) and saw his exit velocity go up to 93.2, up from 90.3 last season. He still wants to play in the field and expressed that during an interview with the press last week. He has the off-season to rest his knee and see what happens in 2021.

As Chris mention earlier, Jake Rogers, Christin Stewart, and Joe Jimenez do not seem to be a part of the Tigers’ future, and with that, I also think they do not have any answers at second base. Isaac Paredes, who in his last 10 games, finished 10-for-33 (.303/.361/.333 with an OPS of .694) did not get an opportunity to play and Goodrum, did not seem too thrilled to play there. So, do the Tigers resign Jonathan Schoop? With Kody Clemens in Erie among others in the minors, it seems like Detroit does not have a long-term solution set up yet at second base.

I learned that left-field continues to be an issue for Detroit and I am interested in seeing how they will look within to fill the role or sign a free agent. I learned Victor Reyes is a serviceable MLB player. I also learned Willi Castro flashes power and a good return from an Al Avila trade.

Lastly, I learned the Tigers have future starting pitcher potential in Mize and Skubal but they really need to sign a starting pitcher for more than a band-aid (Sorry, Ivan Nova). With the uncertainly of Matt Manning and Alex Faedo’s forearm issues, I am curious what top prospect Franklin Perez will look like come spring. Joey Wentz is out all of next year and beyond that, the depth at Toledo and Erie looks shallow. Does Detroit put Rony Garcia into the rotation? We shall see but this is one of the most important off-seasons in a long time.

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