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Ranking the Detroit Tigers Teams of the 2010s – Part One

DETROIT, MI - JUNE 28: Joakim Soria #38 of the Detroit Tigers comes in and pitches in the ninth inning to get the win against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park on June 28, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers win 5-4 with a walk off home run. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JUNE 28: Joakim Soria #38 of the Detroit Tigers comes in and pitches in the ninth inning to get the win against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park on June 28, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers win 5-4 with a walk off home run. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) /
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The 2010s have fielded some championship-caliber Tiger clubs. We rank each team from the last decade in a two-part series

The Detroit Tigers of the last decade were a tale of two organizations. The Tiger teams of the early 2010s were spent trying to find the right formula to get them to a championship. Meanwhile, the second half was spent dismantling the roster under a different GM in an effort to provide payroll relief and develop young, cost-effective talent for the future.

In this two-part series, we will rank each team from the 2010s. No doubt, ranking the clubs will be a bit subjective. I could organize the teams by WAR and call it a day, but what fun is that? Despite my opinion, though, I will do my best to explain my outline:

  • Rosters will be evaluated by the talent level and overall value each player brought by the team that particular season. Playoffs are very unpredictable in that the best teams do not always win–I will take playoff results with a grain of salt in this ranking.
  • Players which were acquired after the season started will be evaluated for the time they were with the club that season. After all, that is how the season really happened.
  • Front offices and coaching staffs will not be taken into consideration, as their thumbprint is on the roster and player performance anyway.

With that, let’s dive in:

10. 2019 Detroit Tigers – Quick hits: 47-114 record, 5th in the AL Central, 8.6 team bWAR

  • Rotation:
    • Matthew Boyd
    • Spencer Turnbull
    • Daniel Norris
    • Jordan Zimmermann
    • Tyson Ross
  • Lineup:
    • Josh Harrison, 2B
    • Christin Stewart, LF
    • Miguel Cabrera, DH
    • Nicholas Castellanos/Travis Demeritte, RF
    • Jordy Mercer, SS
    • Brandon Dixon, 1B
    • John Hicks, C
    • Jeimer Candelario, 3B
    • JaCoby Jones, CF
  • Reserves:
    • Grayson Greiner, C
    • Niko Goodrum, UTIL
    • Victor Reyes, OF
    • Harold Castro, IF
  • Bullpen:
    • Shane Greene, CL
    • Joe Jimenez, SU
    • Buck Farmer, SU
    • Drew VerHagen, MR
    • Nick Ramirez, MR
    • Daniel Stumpf, L
    • Blaine Hardy, LONG

This team looks bad enough on paper, but adding in the injuries and trades makes the team atrocious. Matt Moore would only make two starts over 10 innings before going out for the season. Tyson Ross wasn’t the same pitcher he was when pitching out of the bullpen in St. Louis and would only pitch 35.1 innings in 2019 anyway. These injuries forced Daniel Norris into the rotation and, although he would perform well, he would meet his innings limit sooner than anticipated, forcing Gregory Soto into making piggyback starts with him.

Injuries found the field too, as former Pirates Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison both spent time on the IL and would only play 74 and 36 games, respectively; along with JaCoby Jones, who would only appear in 88 games in 2019. The team was not competitive to begin with, but these injuries gave the organization a built-in excuse to try to lose in exchange for the 2020 top draft choice.

Nicholas Castellanos and Shane Greene were both traded during the deadline as well; with not a ton of immediate help outside of Travis Demeritte, who had not found the big leagues prior. The end of the season forced the club into starting players like Victor Reyes, Dawel Lugo, and Harold Castro; all of which are bench players at best. Considering each variable and the 2019 squad was by far the worst of the decade.

9. 2018 Detroit Tigers – Quick hits: 64-98 record, 3rd in the AL Central, 16.7 team bWAR

  • Rotation:
    • Matthew Boyd
    • Michael Fulmer
    • Mike Fiers
    • Jordan Zimmermann
    • Francisco Liriano
  • Lineup:
    • Leonys Martin CF
    • Niko Goodrum, 2B
    • Nicholas Castellanos, RF
    • Victor Martinez, DH
    • Jeimer Candelario, 3B
    • James McCann, C
    • John Hicks, 1B
    • JaCoby Jones, LF
    • Jose Iglesias, SS
  • Reserves:
    • Mikie Mahtook, OF
    • Dixon Machado, IF
    • Victor Reyes, OF
    • Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  • Bullpen:
    • Shane Greene, CL
    • Joe Jimenez, SU
    • Alex Wilson, SU
    • Buck Farmer, MR
    • Daniel Stumpf, L
    • Louis Coleman, MR
    • Drew VerHagen, LONG

The obvious omission here is Miguel Cabrera, who was diagnosed with a chronic knee injury shortly into the season. The result is a lineup which lacked the depth to make any serious noise in the AL Central. Nicholas Castellanos had a solid offensive season by providing 4.6 oWAR, but no other player would produce even 2 oWAR in 2018. Leonys Martin had a nice start to the season, but he was traded to the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline.

Pitching lacked depth, too, as Mike Fiers would get dealt to the Oakland A’s at the trade deadline. The only other starter with an ERA+ over 100 was Matthew Boyd with a 102. The bullpen, ironically, was one of the better showings the Tigers had over the last decade, with Buck Farmer, Joe Jimenez, Alex Wilson, Blaine Hardy, Louis Coleman, and Victor Alcantara all supplying ERA+s over 100.

8. 2017 Detroit Tigers – Quick hits: 64-98, 5th in the AL Central, 23.0 team bWAR

  • Rotation:
    • Justin Verlander
    • Michael Fulmer
    • Matthew Boyd
    • Anibal Sanchez
    • Jordan Zimmermann
  • Lineup:
    • Ian Kinsler, 2B
    • Justin Upton, LF
    • Miguel Cabrera, 1B
    • JD Martinez, RF
    • Victor Martinez, DH
    • Nicholas Castellanos, 3B
    • James McCann, C
    • Mikie Mahtook, CF
    • Jose Iglesias, SS
  • Reserves:
    • Alex Avila, C
    • Andrew Romine, UTIL
    • Dixon Machado, IF
    • Alex Presley, OF
  • Bullpen:
    • Justin Wilson, CL
    • Shane Greene, SU
    • Alex Wilson, SU
    • Daniel Stumpf, L
    • Blaine Hardy, MR
    • Francisco Rodriguez, MR
    • Warwick Saupold, LONG

I was tempted to put this team ahead of the 2015 squad, but it is important to recall that this was the year the club was torn down completely; they would deal Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila, and JD Martinez all at the deadline in exchange for returns which have produced little MLB results to date.

Replacements in the rotation were less than ideal, with Norris and Boyd both struggling and Anibal Sanchez losing a rotation spot. Francisco Rodriguez fell off a cliff in 2017 and wouldn’t pitch in the MLB again. Buck Farmer would find himself making 11 starts in 2017 as well; pitching to a 5.05 FIP and giving up over a hit per inning. Although some of it was by design, the season truly fell apart after the trades were made–and the team struggled more than perhaps would be portrayed by the roster outline.

7. 2015 Detroit Tigers – Quick hits: 47-87 record, 5th in the AL Central, 24.9 team bWAR

  • Rotation:
    • David Price/Matthew Boyd
    • Justin Verlander
    • Anibal Sanchez
    • Alfredo Simon
    • Shane Greene/Kyle Lobstein
  • Lineup:
    • Ian Kinsler, 2B
    • Yoenis Cespedes, LF
    • JD Martinez, RF
    • Miguel Cabrera, 1B
    • Victor Martinez, DH
    • Nicholas Castellanos, 3B
    • James McCann, C
    • Jose Iglesias, SS
    • Anthony Gose, CF
  • Reserves:
    • Rajai Davis, OF
    • Alex Avila, C
    • Andrew Romine, UTIL
    • Tyler Collins, OF
  • Bullpen:
    • Joakim Soria, CL
    • Alex Wilson, SU
    • Al Alburquerque, SU
    • Bruce Rondon, MR
    • Joba Chamberlain, MR
    • Tom Gorzelanny, L
    • Blaine Hardy, LONG

The team looks much better on paper than it is in reality, unfortunately. The team made a decision in late July after a series against the Tampa Rays to sell; and they would deal three pieces: Yoenis Cespedes, David Price, and Joakim Soria. They would do well in each trade and insisted it was a retool and not a rebuild, but the team would part ways with GM Dave Dombrowski shortly after the deadline and ultimately dismantle the team in 2017 after taking one last shot in 2016.

David Price would produce 3.7 bWAR until he was traded, Justin Verlander supplied 2.4 bWAR over 20 starts, and the next starter in WAR is Anibal Sanchez at .2. Trade acquisition Alfredo Simon would end up being a disaster after watching Max Scherzer walk in free agency the same off-season.

6. 2010 Detroit Tigers – Quick Hits: 81-81 record, 3rd in the AL Central, team bWAR 36.6

  • Rotation:
    • Justin Verlander
    • Max Scherzer
    • Armando Galarraga
    • Rick Porcello
    • Jeremy Bonderman
  • Lineup:
    • Austin Jackson, CF
    • Johnny Damon, DH
    • Magglio Ordonez, RF
    • Miguel Cabrera, 1B
    • Brennan Boesch, LF
    • Brandon Inge/Johnny Peralta, 3B
    • Carlos Guillen, 2B
    • Alex Avila, C
    • Ramon Santiago SS
  • Reserves:
    • Ryan Raburn, OF
    • Scott Sizemore, IF
    • Gerald Laird, C
  • Bullpen:
    • Jose Valverde, CL
    • Phil Coke, SU
    • Joel Zumaya, SU
    • Ryan Perry, MR
    • Robbie Weinhardt, MR
    • Brad Thomas, L
    • Eddie Bonine, LONG

The 2010 Tigers were a team in transition. While they did have new youth in 25-year-old Max Scherzer and 23-year-old Austin Jackson, they also had 36 year-olds Magglio Ordonez and Johnny Damon on the club. The team was also in the testing stage with a couple of minor leaguers: second baseman Scott Sizemore, who would start opening day–and Brennan Boesch, who was a much-needed lefty power bat.

Sizemore would never stick at second and the remainder of the season was a revolving of Carlos Guillen, Don Kelly, and Will Rhymes. Boesch, meanwhile, had a ferocious first half of the season before mellowing out and finding his level each season between 2010 and 2012. Johnny Peralta was acquired prior to the trade deadline from the Cleveland Indians for the injured Brandon Inge, who would fill in nicely and ultimately move to shortstop in the following years.

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