The Detroit Tigers will soon begin Spring Training games—and while the contests that actually matter don’t begin for a number of weeks, it is never too early to predict the team’s record for 2016.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Detroit Tigers have had an extremely busy offseason.
In addition to the two big moves, general manager Al Avila also bolstered his outfield with the addition of Cameron Maybin. Avila also bolstered the bullpen with Francisco Rodriguez, Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe. What’s more, the general manager added some much-needed depth with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Aviles.
Avila even added notable veterans on minor league deals with respective invitations to Spring Training. These include, among others, Bobby Parnell, Casey McGehee, John Mayberry Jr. and Nate Schierholtz. This represented a significant change in strategy as Avila’s predecessor Dave Dombrowski didn’t bring in too many players with that kind of upside on minor league deals.
With all the new additions grouped together in Lakeland with the rest of the team for Spring Training, it’s only fair to wonder what kind of record the team will finish with in 2016. Luckily the staff here at Motor City Bengals have wondered that exact same thing. Here are our picks for what record the Tigers will finish with this season.
They are a team built to win and I believe they will. Mr. Ilitch cannot wait much longer for this team to earn a ring for him. I think they are going to have more trouble with the White Sox, but not as much with the other AL Central teams. I also think that they will do fine outside of the Central, except for the Angels, the Mets, and the Astros (and possibly the Red Sox, but only if David Price pitches).
This seems about right for the Tigers, especially if the pitching can put it all together. The team certainly has the offense with the likes of Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton. Mind you that’s without mentioning Victor Martinez. All four are threats to drive in 100 runs. Additionally, Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos could each eclipse the 80-RBI mark. Two of the other batters in the lineup—James McCann and Cameron Maybin—could reach 50 RBI respectively.
A massively-improved bullpen should also help. Francisco Rodriguez is a legitimate threat to rack up 40-50 saves, while Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe provide manager Brad Ausmus with two hard-throwing options. In addition to Wilson and Lowe, incumbents Blaine Hardy and Alex Wilson are still around, giving the team even more quality options.
In addition to the lineup and the bullpen, the rotation will be improved. Justin Verlander returns to front a group that also includes Jordan Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez, Mike Pelfrey and Daniel Norris. If Zimmermann can pitch like the ace he was in Washington and Pelfrey can eat innings, the Tigers will be in a good position to win the division.
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The Tigers are built to win now, but the pitching is still a big question mark. Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez need to turn back the clock and give this team 20+ quality starts for them to even have a chance to compete in the Central Division. Bullpen additions of Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Lowe don’t provide any guarantees, either. Remember how Joe Nathan was supposed to put the Tigers over the hump in 2014? In the division, Kansas City is the defending World Champions, Cleveland is due for a decent start to the season after late August/September runs the last two years, and Minnesota and Chicago aren’t exactly pushovers. The Tigers have a chance to do better, but until I see it on the field, I just don’t expect them to be a playoff team in 2016.
I am not a fan of placing an exact number of wins on the season, but I believe the Tigers will be a 90+ win team in 2016. They were hampered by injuries in 2015 that should not repeat themselves in 2016. If they do repeat themselves, the Tigers have created more depth to cover themselves with players like Jacoby Jones, Matt Boyd, Michael Fulmer and the forgotten players like Shane Greene and Drew VerHagen. The three biggest keys for the Tigers are management, bullpen performance, and base running. If the Tigers can at least be average in all three of those departments, their lineup and starting rotation should be able to carry them to the postseason.
Beyond just the free agent pickups this offseason, I look at how much it took to make us a last place team. We had Miguel Cabrera do a lengthy DL stint, Victor Martinez recovering from knee surgery, Justin Verlander missing the start of the season, and a trade deadline player dump. Keeping those players healthy alone should improve the team’s record alone, the free agent pickups add to it. What I’m concerned about is the Kansas City Royals. They are returning nearly the same team that won it all last year so chances are they’ll provide some stiff competition. That is what I believe will keep the Tigers from winning over 90 games.
I really love the offseason that the Tigers have had. Picking up a great arm in Jordan Zimmermann and the great bat of Justin Upton on paper looks like a great lineup. But as the Washington Nationals have proved that paper sometimes lies. I don’t see the Tigers winning 90+ or even 85+. I think the Tigers will be around 81 to 82 wins. I know no Tigers fan wants to see that but there is reason behind it. Baseball isn’t all about the talent on a lineup card, there is a lot of emotion in baseball. With 162 games in a season baseball tends to run people down and this will hurt this Tigers in my opinion. This team is full of all-stars which is great, but if the team doesn’t mesh right it will crush them. We all saw what happened between James McCann and Jose Iglesias last season, and I know that it is claimed to be handled, but there is a underlying reason that it happened and that may be a crack in the foundation of the Tigers success. Justin Upton has also had a few issues with attitude and those were on teams that he was a spotlight of, on a team where he isn’t the best I’m not sure it will be great for him. There is also the factor that the other teams in the AL Central are significantly better. The Kansas City Royals will continue to be very good, the Chicago White Sox have been huge strides to be better and the Minnesota Twins have a good foundation for success too. The added competition will only decrease the Tigers’ win count. Of Course the Tigers have a chance to be a 90+ win team and if everything goes right they will be, I just don’t see it happening. I think they are going to be in the running for a Wildcard spot.