Baseball

See the source image VS.

Records: Tigers 7-16 / White Sox 12-9

First Pitch: 7:10 Tues-Thurs

TV/Radio: NBCSN and ESPN1000

TIGER UPPERCT! – Bless You Boys

 

Probable Starters

Game 1: Jose Ureña (0-3 4.57 ERA) vs. Lucas Giolito (1-1 5.79 ERA)

Game 2: Casey Mize (1-2 5.23 ERA) vs. Carlos Rodon (3-0 0.47 ERA)

Game 3: Matthew Boyd (2-2 1.82 ERA) vs. Dylan “Sigh” Cease (0-0 4.15 ERA)

 

I don’t hate the Tigers anymore. I really used to, back in the early part of the 2010s. Much like my hatred for the Vancouver Canucks and Red Wings in hockey it’s just sort of fizzled out, leaving behind a feeling of indifference bordering on pity (probably how a lot of other teams felt about the Sox in the late 2010s and how everybody feels about the Hawks now).

A lot of this stems from how MLB teams run their franchises these days. The first time I ever went to Comerica Park in Detroit (beautiful field, BTW. If you can make it up there, you should), the Tigers were playing the Indians and both teams were hell bent on racing to 100 losses that season. The highlight of the game was my buddies and I setting the over/under for total number of errors in the game at 4, and them blowing by it with 9.

A few years later and both teams were in the postseason and the Tigers lost to the Giants in the World Series. Then everyone aged out for Detroit and it was back down the other side of the hill for them. They’re currently at the bottom right side of the dip in their bell curve, waiting to climb on up. There are a lot of solid pieces on this team that just need the major league experience to take that next step.

The biggest part of this for the Tigers is their pitching staff, which in the next few years could rival Cleveland for youth and skill. Tigers GM Al Avila (despite looking like a used car salesman who moonlights as a gameshow host) has done well for himself by compiling a trio of starters with massive upside in Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning. All three of which have the potential to dominate AL Central hitting for the next decade.

The thing the Tigers are missing at this point is position players. After Spencer Torkelson (now THAT’S a baseball name) and Daz Cameron there isn’t much in the pipeline that will be up in the next year or so unless they make a huge leap from A ball. As for who’s currently on the roster now that could be a piece of that future, Jeimer Candelario and Victor Reyes seem like they could be + players. Candelario arrived from the Cubs in 2017 along with Isaac Paredes for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila. He was essentially handed the starting job at 3rd base from then on, mostly because the Tigers didn’t have any other options. He made a breakthrough last season, slashing .297/.369/.872 and a 136 wRC+ rating. He’s decent enough in the field, and will most likely have to stick at 3B because while Torkelson plays there, long term he profiles (much like our own Andrew Vaughn) as a 1B/DH type.

Another potential piece for the Tigers who mirrors the exciting story of Yermin Mercedes on the South Side is Akil Baddoo. A highly regarded high school player from Georgia, Akil Baddoo, was a 2nd round selection by the Twins in the 2016 draft. With the Twins stacked with OF prospects like Alex Kirilloff, they exposed Baddoo in the Rule 5 draft  last year and the Tigers snatched him up.

He forced his way onto the roster this year with a scorching spring training, then smoked a home run on the first ever pitch he saw in the major leagues. He then went on to hit a grand slam a day later, and walked the team off in the 9th with a pinch hit single after that. Things have gotten a little more difficult since that first week, but he’s still hitting .260 with 4 dingers and 19 batted in. Odds are he’ll end up in a platoon with his difficulty hitting left handed pitching, but he’s the kind of breakout guy the Tigers need to progress to that next level.

As for the Sox, after their sweep of the Texas Rangers this past weekend they’re looking to go on a nice dash this homestand before they have to hit the road again next week. The Tigers present the perfect opportunity to do that, as their young pitching staff has hit a bump in the road early on this season. Casey Mize has had trouble with the long ball, and Jose Ureña has had difficulty with walks in his first few starts. Both stats are the type that the White Sox hitters easily capitalize on, as walks and dingers are kind of their thing. The 3rd projected starter for the Tigers is currently their most successful one, Matthew Boyd. With a 2-2 record and a sub 2 ERA he’s been able to keep the ball in the yard and on the ground, which has eluded him in the past few seasons. The one thing working against him this series is the fact that he’s left handed, and the Sox penchant for skulling left handed pitchers is well known.

The wind is going to be blowing tonight, and the weather warm. The Sox bats are heating up, with 27 runs in their last 4 starts. In that span Jose Abreu has 3 dingers and 6 of his 17 RBIs on the season. Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert are coming around as well, with Moncada raising his average from .180 9 days ago to .258 now. He’s driving the ball to all fields, and knocked out an oppo dinger in game 1 against the Rangers. It will be interesting to see how LaRussa uses Kopech this series, as if Cease is unable yet again to get out of the 4th inning, he realistically could step in especially with Lance Lynn rumored to return on Friday night against Cleveland.

The hitting is there, the pitching is there (minus Dylan Cease on Thursday) and the time is ripe for the Sox to go on a tear and take the top of the division away from the stupid Royals, who nobody believes are going to be able to stay there anyways. The table is set perfectly, all the pieces in place…just need to take advantage of it.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

The Detroit Tigers are a bad baseball team. There aren’t many people out there who would argue otherwise with you, and if they did odds are they’re huffing paint outside the wreckage of Tigers stadium. Even the Tigers themselves know this, and are OK with it. For a long time, the team was very similar to the White Sox of the late 2000-2013 era. The farm system was treated like a debit card, to be swiped whenever a piece needed to be added to the roster at the deadline for a playoff run.

Much like most debit cards, there was a limit. The Tigers bottomed out of that limit at the end of the 2014 season, their last appearance in the playoffs where they were broomed right out by the Baltimore Orioles (another team that sits at rock bottom right now). This last push by the Tigers was the result of Mike Ilitch desperately wanting to win a World Series before passing away (which he eventually did in February of 2017). For the next few years the Tigers were in the sort of limbo that kills the future of baseball franchises; not bad enough to get the high ranked young talent in the draft, but not good enough to go anywhere in the playoffs.

Finally in 2017 with Ilitch dead and gone, the Tigers bit the bullet and decided for a full rebuild. The problem at that point was that all of their best talent was either on the last year of their deals (Justin Upton), in the middle of the worst stretch of their careers (Justin Verlander), or just too damn expensive and old (Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez). So the return for all these guys was not going to be the type that can jump start a rebuild and shorten it by a few years like (hopefully) the White Sox got for trading Sale, Q, and Eaton (remember forever that the Sox got Giolito and Lopez for Adam fucking Eaton).

This left the Tigers with one option, that being the “suck so bad you build through the draft” one, which is exactly what they’ve done. It’s been an ugly few years on the west side of Detroit Rock City, but it’s yielded results in terms of farm system rankings. To start the year, most analysts had the Tigers somewhere around the 10-11th best system in the league. After re-ranking the teams after the trade deadline and adjusting for some callups around MLB the Tigers now are just outside of the top 5, usually around the 6-7 position. Jim Callis of MLB.COM has the Tigers at 6th best in the league after all the deadline shakeups.

Sitting in the 1 and 2 spots for Detroit in the farm system rankings are former #1 pick Casey Mize (and #2 overall in prospect rankings) and Matt Manning, both of whom are right handed pitchers. Mize had some shoulder issues this year, but when healthy dominated the hitters of high A level and AA. He will begin next season (shoulder permitting) at AAA and much like Dylan Cease end up on the big league roster at some point after June. Manning has progressed on a very similar path, laying waste to the AA level this season and earning a few honors along the way, including Eastern League Pitcher Of The Year and Baseball America’s pick for best Tigers minor league player.

Six of the top ten spots in the Tigers minor league rankings are reserved for pitchers. Beau Burrows, Alex Faedo and Franklin Perez will all be throwing at the AA level or higher next season and Burrows may even break camp with the squad next March. Which is good for the Tigers, as they currently sit in the bottom 3rd of the AL in pitching, and without the breakout year from Matthew Boyd they might be sniffing Orioles territory.

For position players, the crop is lead by outfielder Riley Greene who’s the only Tigers position player currently in the top 100 ranked prospects in MiLB. Green is a solid contact hitter with solid power that projects out to 25+ dingers a year. His athletic tools grade out positively as well, but the kid is only 18 and probably can’t be counted on before 2021 at the earliest.

The next two callups for the Tigers offensively seem to be catcher Jake Rogers and SS Isaac Paredes, both of whom would be upgrades for the major league team as it stands. The rest are works in progress, pushing the Tigers window for contention back past 2022 which works well for the White Sox as it stands. Bless You Boys has a good rundown of the rest of the position player prospects for the Tigers here if you want to check it out.

The risk for Detroit having such a pitching-heavy top half of their system was apparent back in June when Mize was pulled from a game with shoulder pain that caused a collective gasp among the Tigers faithful. Fearing the worst, he was sent to Dr. James Death-Andrews and was given a diagnosis of shoulder inflammation. He pitched for another month and a half and then was shut down for the team for precautionary measures. Manning has so far avoided the injury bug that seems to plague young arms in the lower levels but there are no guarantees. If all breaks well for the Tigers they could have an amazing rotation in a few years. If they end up with the kind of luck the White Sox have had over the past 12 months, the window for them could be pushed even further back. With a team like the Tigers hard to watch enough as it is, it could spell doom for their attendance, which was already down almost 21% from 2017 to 2018.

The Tigers have charted a path through risky waters, but really no rebuild is guaranteed success. Their ultimate timeline will probably be more clear next June when they pick once again in the top 5 of the entry draft. If they take a polished college player like the Sox did with Andrew Vaughn it signals they expect to be competitive sooner rather than later. If they go a different route, it may signal another few long winters for the Tigers faithful. That would be quite all right with me.