Are the Detroit Tigers one of the best young teams in MLB? They are not. Have they been able to develop an abundance of impact players at the big-league level? They have not. All that said, they have an aspect of their roster that’s emerging into a potentially potent force, that being their starting rotation.
The Tigers have been at least competitive in most of the games they’ve participated in this season, despite a losing 23-32 record. That’s entirely due to their starting rotation.
Detroit Tigers’ starting rotation is making enormous strides
Spencer Turnbull and Casey Mize have been a sight for sore Tigers fans’ eyes.
Across eight starts, Turnbull has posted a 2.93 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP, holding opponents to a .208 batting average. He has found success by means of effectively utilizing his slider and sinker. By the way, Turnbull threw a no-hitter in May. It’s been an encouraging start to 2021 for Turnbull, who flashed glimpses of potential in the past.
Mize was the number one selection in the 2018 MLB Draft for a reason: he had ace potential. The right-hander is flaunting that potential this season. He sports a 3.28 ERA, is holding opponents to a .214 batting average and has been providing manager A.J. Hinch with length.
Prior to hitting the injured list with a forearm injury, Jose Urena was holding his own, and young left-hander Tarik Skubal has been logging strikeouts at a high rate.
Matthew Boyd has been dealing for the bulk of the season. In all likelihood, the southpaw will be a wanted commodity at the MLB trade deadline given the Tigers’ rebuilding status and the starter being a free agent after 2022. The same logic applies for 28-year-old Michael Fulmer, who was recently moved to the bullpen – where he has thrived. Even without one or both of the veteran pitchers, the Tigers have a foundation to work with on the pitching front.
Starting pitching is providing a safety net for Detroit Tigers’ offense
Starting pitching has made strides for the Tigers. The offense has not.
The positional depth chart continues to be a tedious combination of veterans looking to right the ship and youngsters struggling to get their feet beneath them in the big leagues. The latter applies to the likes of Willi Castro, Niko Goodrum, JaCoby Jones and Victor Reyes. As a whole, the Tigers offense entered Thursday 25th in MLB in hits (408) and home runs (52) and 27th in runs (204), batting average (.227) and OPS (.663).
Outside of some power and slap hitting from Akil Baddoo, Jeimer Candelario and Harold Castro, positives have been difficult to come by for this unit. While it’s obviously a concern in both the short and long-term, the Tigers now have a part of their roster they can lean on to the point where they have some wiggle room in the accompanying parts of their operation.
At some point, teams who build through starting pitching need to see considerable growth from their offense if they aspire to contend for the playoffs. That time has to come within the next two seasons for the Detroit Tigers, but is feasible given their roster’s youth and the organization’s payroll flexibility (the Tigers are on the hook for just $37 million in salary at the moment for the 2022 MLB season per Spotrac).
A full-bloom rotation, which is what the Tigers hope develops over the next year, needs to be complemented by an at least middle-of-the-pack offense.
Starting pitching has become the Detroit Tigers’ identity
Yes, Miguel Cabrera is the face of the Detroit Tigers. When it comes to the team’s ability to prosper, however, the Tigers’ young starters have become the team’s identity.
Detroit is at best fourth in the American League Central from a competitive standpoint. Division rivals like the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins are more advanced, with veteran cores and highly productive players. Running parallel to the Tigers’ improvements is the Kansas City Royals having a competitive, homegrown offensive attack.
One way or another, a young, rebuilding team needs a bedrock, and the Tigers appear to have theirs. Starting pitching keeps you in games, and is likely the ideal factor to be working in the club’s favor given the high-profile and/or proven offenses in the AL Central. They need to combat that firepower with some hurlers who can mow down the side.
Improvements and/or fine-tuning elsewhere may position the Tigers to pounce on one of their rivals who’s struggling or taking a step back. Maybe top position player prospects like Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene can get to the show within the next year, providing the Tigers’ offense with legitimate hope at the plate.
The Detroit Tigers probably aren’t going to the playoffs this season — and perhaps not even in 2022. At the very least, they finally have an identity in what has been a monotonous rebuild: starting pitching.