The 2019 Detroit Tigers: What Went Wrong?

By Robert Banas

Welp… I was wrong. I predicted the Tigers to improve upon their 2018 season where they won 67 games, all the way up to a 75-87 record in 2019 in my season preview. Please check this article out as well, as I will be comparing what I said in that article to this one. Instead of building on 2018, the Tigers let the whole city of Detroit down and tanked down to only a miserable 47 wins in 2019. As a lifelong fan, this was just pitiful to watch. The broadcasting crew changed, new, young players came in and sucked, and the veteran free agents that we brought in to be mentors were a joke. Worse, the supposed “mastermind” behind this “rebuild”, Al Avila, was signed to a contract extension this season. Since Avila took over as the Tigers GM in 2016, the team has done nothing but lose. The team has no signs of a productive rebuild besides a few elite pitching prospects. Unfortunately, you cannot win without scoring runs, so Avila will have to make some more moves unless we want the Tigers to continue with 47-win seasons.

Offseason Mistakes

  • James McCann

Another homegrown talent that was wasted… McCann signed with the White Sox in 2019 and went on to become an All Star in his first season without the Tigers. McCann batted .273 with 18 homers and 60 RBI for a division rival. With a WAR of 2.3 and wRC+ of 109, he was an above average player in 2019. The Tigers elected to not re-sign him and let Grayson Greiner, John Hicks, and prospect Jake Rogers run the backstop. Greiner batted .202 with a 31.3% strikeout percentage that led to pitiful -0.9 WAR. Hicks may have had the best hitting stats of the three, which in this situation means a .619 OPS and -1.2 WAR. The supposed future of the Tigers, Jake Rogers, hit .125 in his first stint in the majors. His K% was a laughable 39.8%. He is still young, but if Rogers doesn’t become a considerably better hitter, the catcher position will continue to be a weak spot for Detroit. 

  • Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison

The Tigers signed 2 former Pirate veterans to run the middle infield in 2019. One played as if he belonged in the minor leagues. Harrison, a former All-Star, was so bad that he got cut by the worst team in the Majors. What can you expect when you bat .175 with a .208 wOBA.? His wRC+ of 22 was a joke, as it tells us he was 78% worse than the average hitter in 2019. Mercer actually was not that bad in a Tigers uniform. He batted .270 and hit 9 home runs finishing with a WAR of 0.6. The issue was his durability. Mercer only played 74 games for the Tigers and therefore was not worth the $5.25 million salary he was paid.

  • Matt Moore

WHAT? Are you saying that the guy that had a 0 ERA was a mistake? Yes I am. What a waste of 2.5 million dollars. The injury-prone Moore was signed very early in the offseason with tons of cheap starters available. Moore pitched 2 games and 10 innings for the Tigers before getting injured. The Tigers could have easily signed some other starter to eat innings, but chose a potential injury liability who did nothing.

Offseason Positives(?)

  • Brandon Dixon

I guess you could say Brandon Dixon was kind of a positive? The Tigers picked him up off waivers from the Reds last spring and he could actually somewhat hit the ball. I didn’t even expect him to make the team, and he actually had some production for the Tigers. Dixon hit 15 home runs and drove in 52 runs for the Tigers. Someone had to drive in the minimal amount of runs the Tigers scored, and Dixon was not terrible at it. Hopefully the 27-year-old can improve on this season and continue to get better.

Player to Watch Updates

  • Christin Stewart

I was really hoping Stewart would continue his streak being an above average hitter and having a wRC+ over 100 at every level, but it didn’t happen. Stewart had a wRC+ of 80 while hitting 10 dingers, driving in 40 RBIs, and hitting .233. Still young, it seems like he will need more time for his hitting skills to transfer to the majors. Sadly, his defense is still putrid. Stewart saved 13.6 fewer runs than the average outfielder in 2019. His below-average hitting and terrible defense resulted in a -1.2 WAR. 

  • Zac Houston

Zac Houston is still racking up strikeouts in the minors. The fastball is still electric. He dominated AA with 11.12K/9 in 2019 with a great 2.04 ERA and even better 1.76 FIP. When promoted to AAA, his numbers shockingly plummeted. He still struck out 9.5 batters/ 9 innings but his ERA ballooned to 10. This is due to his LOB% dropping from 73.3% in AA to only 38.7% in AAA. This was the first time in his career that he struggled. Hopefully, this was just a fluke and he gets a crack at the major league bullpen next year.

  • JaCoby Jones

My current favorite Tiger had a confusing season. He started out hot, having a great May, and cooled down from there. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit him and he only played 89 games this year. His hit tool continued to improve, as he went from a 35 wRC+ in 2017, to a 69 in 2018, to 92 this year. He still is an above-average baserunner, and any fan could tell he was one of the only Tigers players who played with a purpose that was trying to get better. Sadly, Jones went from arguably the best outfield defender in baseball to a very below average defender. He went from 21 DRS in 2018 to -13 in 2019. I hope and pray that JaCoby gets back to his elite defensive ways, continues to get better at hitting, and stays healthy as the new, young talent from the minor leagues comes up to the show with him.

New Positive?

  • Victor Reyes

The number one pick in the 2017 Rule 5 draft had an eye-opening season this year. Instead of looking like a high schooler hitting against major leaguers in 2018 (38 wRC+), Reyes was actually league average this year (100 wRC+)! He had a batting average of .304, stole 9 bases in 69 games, and was above the league average in fielding and baserunning advanced metrics. All this translated into a 1.6 WAR for the 25-year-old outfielder. If this type of play continues, the 6”5 monster could be looking at a starting job in the Tigers’ outfield next year.

Conclusion

The future is not that bright. Many fans are expecting a high tech, LED type of bright future for the Tigers, but in reality, we only got a fluorescent lightbulb going. The pitching could really be elite in a couple years. The two headed dragon, 1-2 punch of Casey Mize and Matt Manning could—dare I say it?—be the next Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole one day. A couple of lefty pitching prospects shot through the ranks, as Tarik Skubal came out of nowhere to become their number 4 prospect, and 10th-ranked Joey Wentz was acquired in the Shane Greene trade. Franklin Perez should transition to the bullpen with his injury concerns, along with Beau Burrows and his electric fastball. Pair these prospects in the minors (I didn’t forget about you Alex Faedo) with Matt Boyd, Joe Jimenez, and maybe even Daniel Norris and Spencer Turnbull, and the Tigers could have solid pitching in the future.  Hitting is where the issue is. The only positional prospects in the system that seem like they could be above average hitters are Isaac Paredes and Riley Greene. These guys are only 20 and 19 respectively. It will be years before we see these guys in the show. Unless we expect the current guys in the majors to improve drastically, or Miguel Cabrera to return to Triple Crown Miggy, or JaCoby Jones turning into the All-Star I believe he can be, the Tigers will have a league-worst offense for years. I cannot be optimistic anymore. This team should fire Al Avila, so we can get some offensive prospects in the minor leagues.



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1 reply

  1. Sorry it took u so long to realize how bad the tigers are. The will not be good for the next 10 years. Unfortunately no veteran s want to play in Detroit anytime soon. Sad state of affairs. Just bad management and ignorance. Cheers. Rick

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