2022 Season Review: Detroit Tigers

Check out Daniel Pardi’s 2022 Season Preview Article for the Detroit Tigers here.

Image: Steven King / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2022 Record: 66-96 (.407 win%, 4th in Division)

2022 Payroll: $149,145,436 (18th)

2022 Lineup:

1. OF Riley Greene, .253 AVG/.321 OBP/.362 SLG, 0.9 fWAR

2. SS Javier Baez, .238 AVG/.278 OBP/.393 SLG, 2.0 fWAR

3. OF Victor Reyes, .254 AVG/.289 OBP/.362 SLG, -0.2 fWAR

4. 3B Jeimer Candelario, .217 AVG/.272 OBP/.361 SLG, 0.0 fWAR 

5. DH Miguel Cabrera, .254 AVG/.305 OBP/.317 SLG, -1.4 fWAR

6. 2B Jonathan Schoop, .202 AVG/.239 OBP/.322 SLG, 1.5 fWAR

7. 1B Spencer Torkelson, .203 AVG/.285 OBP/.319 SLG, -0.9 fWAR  

8. C Tucker Barnhart, .221 AVG/.287 OBP/.267 SLG, -0.2 fWAR

9. OF Akil Baddoo, .204 AVG/.289 OBP/.269 SLG, -0.2 fWAR

10. UTL Harold Castro, .271 AVG/.300 OBP/.381 SLG, -0.4 fWAR

2022 Rotation:

1. Tarik Skubal, 117.2 IP/3.52 ERA/1.156 WHIP, 2.9 fWAR

2. Drew Hutchison, 105.1 IP/4.53 ERA/1.481 WHIP, 0.1 fWAR

3. Tyler Alexander, 101 IP/4.81 ERA/1.317 WHIP, -0.3 fWAR

4. Eduardo Rodriguez, 91 IP/4.05 ERA/1.330 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR

5. Beau Brieske, 81.2 IP/4.19 ERA/1.200 WHIP, 0.1 fWAR

2022 Top 4 Relievers:

1. CL Gregory Soto, 60.1 IP/3.28 ERA/1.376 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR

2. Alex Lange, 63.1 IP/3.69 ERA/1.247 WHIP, 0.7 fWAR

3. Jason Foley, 60.1 IP/3.88 ERA/1.376 WHIP, 0.8 fWAR

4. Joe Jimenez, 56.2 IP/3.49 ERA/1.094 WHIP, 1.4 fWAR

Regular Season Recap:

To say the Tigers’ 2022 season was a disappointment would be an understatement. After the breakout year the team had last season, fans of Detroit were expecting to watch some continued growth for the team. What they got instead was a lineup full of regressing players and an injured list that seemed to be adding players every couple of days, and the third worst offense in franchise history at 3.43 runs per game.

Miguel Cabrera earned a historic achievement with his 3000th career hit this season. The future hall of famer started the year off absurdly hot with a .308 average and 106 wRC+ through the first three months of play. Although Miggy waned off down the stretch, he still finished above league average and got what might be one last all star game under his belt.

New additions to the roster seemed to all fall short of expectation this year. Pre 2022 if I told you the Tigers went out and got Eduardo Rodriguez, Javier Baez, Austin Meadows, and Tucker Barnhart you might think “wow these are some solid signings” because I certainly did as I raved about these players in our season previews, but boy was I (and maybe you, too) wrong. 

Let’s go in order of increasing disappointment. Eduardo Rodriguez found a home in Detroit as a veteran pitcher looking to get back on track and maybe fill a role as a mentor to the developing young staff. Unluckily for the Tigers, he did neither of these things. To no fault of his own, almost the entire starting rotation took a back seat to injury recovery almost immediately and Rodriguez was left with rushed prospects and bullpen games to share starts with. Combine that with the fact that he would later leave the team for over two months. 

While I’m not criticizing him for taking time off, it surely did not mean I’ll say he played well. He finished the season with 17 starts that yielded a relatively average year with a 93 ERA+ and 18.4% strikeout rate. While Rodriguez surely did not have an awful year, the organization and fans were surely expecting more and hope that he can turn things around next year. 

Tucker Barnhart was coming off a decent season in 2021 and while his expectation was never to lead the team offensively he did have the worst hitting year of his career. His defense, unfortunately, was not there this year either as he fell into the 38th percentile for Frame Rate from the 79th last season. For $7.75 million it could have been much worse. What’s that he’s the ninth highest paid catcher? Oh jeez, maybe it is that bad. 

In hindsight it’s easy to say never make a trade with the Rays. But Austin Meadows was 26 years old and seemed to be a solid addition to the lineup. He was an All Star and an MVP vote-getter just a few years ago, which would have been super appealing to a team trying to bolster their lineup. All the Tigers had to give up was Isaac Paredes, who had never done much for them. Clearly this aged well. 

Meadows played just 36 games with the team and never found his way back into the lineup after struggling with injuries and mental health complications. Paredes on the other hand posted 2.4 WAR for the Rays and served as a nice utility piece for the team. While it’s easy to mark this one up to bad luck, it’s still disappointing nonetheless.

Javier Baez. Oh boy. El Mago showed up without his magic hat it seemed this season as he was by far the biggest disappointment to the Tigers. Baez was paid $20 million to strikeout 24.9% of the time, have the worst chase rate in the league, and a bottom 4th and 8th percentile finish in Whiff rate and walk rate respectively. Everyone knew when he was signed that his plate discipline was a subject of concern but clearly the issue was more of a problem than believed. There’s so many horrible Baez batting stats I can include here but I’ll share some of my favorites. 

Of all the pitches Baez saw outside of the zone, he swung at 47.7% of them. He had the most swings and misses on sliders in the league with 178; 128 of those were out of the zone (there’s a 7 minute video on Twitter of these if you’re bored). Needless to say this was not Javy’s season. His defense wasn’t even above average. The only thing Tigers fans have to like with Baez is that his contract has a player option in 2024 that we will be praying he declines. But until then, channel your inner Lovin’ Spoonful and ask yourself “Do You Believe in Magic?”

Another let down this year were the returning players. Among the solid performances the year prior were players like Jeimer Candelario, Jonathan Schoop, and Akil Baddoo, all of whom were underwhelming this season. This trio regressed quite significantly as none of them hit above league average and while Baddoo’s 2021 might have been easier to diagnose as a flash in the pan season reminiscent of his demotion to the minors early on, the lack of success from Candelario and Schoop was definitely a larger disappointment.

The injury bug ran rampant through Detroit’s pitching staff this season. The list of those who served time on the IL included Casey Mize, Spencer Turnbull, Kyle Funkhouser, Tarik Skubal, Beau Brieske, Rony Garcia, Reese Olson, Joe Jimenez, Matt Manning, and Alex Faedo. 

Not only did the starting rotation fall but so did the staff meant to fill in for them. If you looked at the most common pitchers listed above and thought “I don’t recognize these guys” I don’t blame you. The Tigers look to put together a healthy squad next season as most if not all should be returning from injury. Hopefully the group can give it one last chance before calling some of the young names busts. 

The rookie duo was another site for disappointment in 2022. The preseason top 5 pair of Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene was thought to be the force that would propel the Tigers out of the rebuild and into a contending year. Instead, an unfortunate injury led to Greene’s debut getting postponed and a rough start for Torkelson forcing a demotion mid-season. Not all is lost, though. 

Greene had a decent season and looked quite solid in center field snagging himself a highlight reel every once and a while and Torkelson made the most of his recall hitting about 30 points higher than his average was when he was demoted and producing a wRC+ just below average at 95. The Tigers seem to keep adding to their list of young players, the question has just become when will one of them shine.

The Tigers roster seemed to be a revolving door this year so I’m going to devote this section to the rag-tag group of players that contributed this year. The headline for this group has to be Harold Castro. The 28 year old served time at all four infield positions, right and center field, DHed a couple of games, and even came in to pitch a few times all while managing some of the best offensive stats on the team. His 98 OPS+ and 94 wRC+ were both top three on the team. The problem was his fielding, as Castro was below average in defensive runs saved in the infield. 

When the rotation went down early in the year it was up to members of the farm to rise to the occasion and fill in. This group included Beau Brieske, Alex Faedo, and Elvin Rodgriguez. While Rodriguez struggled greatly posting a 10.62 ERA and Faedo battled injury, Brieske showed a little more promise in his 90 ERA+ just don’t look at his Savant page. 

Late additions from the pipeline included Ryan Kreidler and Kerry Carpenter after the rosters expanded. Kreidler performed quite poorly but Carpenter was a pleasant talent added to the lineup. In 31 games, the 25 year old slashed .252/.310/.485 with a 128 OPS+. The only knock against this guy is that he wasn’t brought up earlier as he led the minors in home runs and was hitting .313 with a .795 OPS (but more on Avila’s great decision making later).

Finally, Eric Haase sneakily had a somewhat productive season at the plate. Logging just 110 games, Haase launched 14 home runs and had a 112 wRC+. He clearly had flaws with his 27.6% and 6.8% strikeout and walk rate, respectively, and while his performance was nothing to write home about, compared to the rest of the team he was alright. Where Haase really struggles is behind the plate. His career as a catcher will likely be over after this year but his season as a hitter will hopefully keep him in the lineup.

M-SABR Predicted Record (79-83) vs. Actual (66-96):

I’ll be the first to admit another season of baseball just shy of .500 may have been a stretch for the Tigers, but I also know I wasn’t the only one who thought it. No one could have predicted the hit the team would take due to injuries and the regression of so many players seemed unlikely at the time. 

It’s a trend that unfortunately does not suit the Tigers too well as they move into next season. The improvement in Detroit felt so fresh just a year ago and Tigers fans alike are longing for the next step to be taken in the rebuild. For a year that was thought to bring more development and promise to the developing squad, the Tigers definitely fell short.

Surprise of the Season:

The bullpen for Detroit had quite the year as Chris Fetter continues to prove himself as a crucial coaching piece of this team. Their 3.46 ERA landed them 8th in the league and they were 7th as a unit in fWAR. Andrew Chafin was an especially impactful piece that the Tigers added this offseason. He more than proved his worth posting a 2.83 ERA and 1.169 WHIP. 

Flamethrowers Alex Lange and Joe Jimenez also managed pretty spectacular seasons as they both finished the year in the top 15th percentile for both K% and chase rate in addition to Lange’s top percentile finish in Whiff%. Kody Clemens even struck out Shohei Ohtani! It was a bright spot to an otherwise uninspiring season for the Tigers but definitely something the team will hope to replicate moving forward.

Players We Watched: 

Jonathan Schoop

After his polarizing performance last season, I had predicted Schoop would be dethroned as the power king in the lineup, but would still serve as a solid piece. While he definitely regressed, to say he was replaced would be untrue as this whole lineup sucked. However, with his new permanent role at second base Schoop did shine. 

He said himself in May that a big leaguer has to separate his offensive play from his defense and he definitely did so. He finished with the most outs above average for second baseman at 27 and only 3 errors on the year, embodying what it means to have a lopsided season.

Riley Greene

I talked about him above, but Greene felt like he was a special case this season. Not debuting until June was less than ideal, and although he may not have lived up to expectations this year he was by no means a bad player. We’ll likely be watching him again next year.

Jeimer Candelario

To me, this was the biggest loss of the season. Jeimer had been so good for this team the last two seasons, and improvement seemed imminent for the third baseman. Though the entire offense struggled, Candy’s lack of success stung the most. The hitter that led the league in doubles last year just could not bring it back in 2022.

Offseason Outlook:

The upcoming offseason for the Tigers can be summed up by one big question mark right now. None of the players with expiring contracts deserve to be brought back. The biggest name in arbitration for this team is Candelario, which may excite or disappoint you depending on what path you think Detroit should take. 

Regardless, Candy’s last year of being arb eligible will pass this winter, and the team will have to decide whether he’ll be a piece moving forward. Chafin and Schoop both have options coming up, and while I can’t see a reason Schoop would leave, the Tigers will likely, and unfortunately, lose Chafin as he seeks a multi year deal if the Tigers do not extend him. So what are the team needs? Is all of the above an option? 

\An upgrade is plausible at catcher, second base, designated hitter, and third base depending on what happens with Candelario. They could also use another outfielder and would be wise to sign some pitching help. Needless to say their options are open, and as sad as it sounds, it might be smart to spend small this offseason in the hopes of really splurging once Miggy’s contract is off the books. That being said, I don’t think signing someone like Jacob DeGrom would ever be considered a bad thing.

Something to Watch: The Search for a New General Manager

DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD. Hired in 2015, Al Avila more than proved in the last few years that his plan for a rebuild did not work. This parting was long overdue in my opinion as, since being appointed, first round picks for the Tigers have netted a measly 0.6 fWAR. 

The Tigers will be on search for a new GM to kickstart this rebuild process and facelift the organization. Seeing a fresh staff is hopefully going to turn this team around. We saw what brining in AJ Hinch and Chris Fetter did and this team has a lot of managerial roles to fill. Recently ditching the hitting coaches, the Tigers will look to bring the bats back next year. 

Scott Harris from the Giants organization was hired as the new president of baseball operations in September and can hopefully help Detroit out as well. Whoever the Tigers hire as their GM, they’ll have an important first task in making the 2023 pick which will be a top one. Fans are all crossing their fingers that this will be the point the Tigers turn things around and become a contender again.

Categories: 2022 Season Review, Articles, Post-COVID

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