Detroit Tigers: 2020 Season Preview

 

The start of baseball is upon us. Let’s start this 60-game sprint to a season and preview the 2020 Detroit Tigers season and what to expect from the staff here.

Every year, former Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer broadcaster Ernie Harwell would read before the start of spring training.  “The Voice of the Turtle”

For, lo, the winter is past,

The rain is over and gone

The flowers appear on the Earth

The time of the singing of birds is come

And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. 

As you hear Harwell’s voice say those words, it seems more official now the start of the Detroit Tigers season is underway. Our staff has given you an overview of the players on the roster and given some insight on the 2020 MLB Draft.  For this abbreviated season, expect us to provide some deeper dives and provide different angles to the players plus, weekly recaps.

As the season begins, there is still a strange cloud surrounding it.  It was announced that Washington Nationals star outfielder Juan Soto was diagnosed with COVID19. He, along with Aroldis Chapman, will not be with their teams as they face each other to kick off the season this evening.

The Toronto Blue Jays still do not have a home, Fox wants to use virtual fans for the lack of fans in the stands this season and out of nowhere yesterday, there has been a discussion of expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to 16. There is a lot to unpack and many words to describe what is going on.  For the Detroit Tigers, to describe what the 2020 season will be in one word, I would use the word “transition” in the rebuild.

60 games in 66 days.

Yep. When you see the number of games in bold, black font, it stands out. The Tigers’ next day off is August 13. This will be an endurance test for the veterans. Not only are you playing during the hottest part of the year, which they are all used to but you are playing within a confined bubble. Granted, it will be an endurance test for all the players, I point out the veterans because they are used to a certain routine for this time of the year. Give credit to Matthew Boyd, who is adjusting to the new norm per his quote to the Detroit media.

“Normal is where we are at right now, it’s a new normal,” “What used to be was special and fun but if we’re hoping for that to be the same we’re not going to enjoy where we are right now.  “Don’t get me wrong, nobody wants this (pandemic), so many people are suffering and we’re not taking any of that lightly…But baseball-wise, no one knows how it’s going to play out. We’ve never experienced anything like this, but we are looking at it through the lens of this is an exciting opportunity.”

The Tigers have several new faces on the roster that have never played on the major league level so, for them, they are getting used to the “new norm”.  These 60 games are critical for three reasons on the player development side.

  • C.J Cron and Jonathan Schoop were signed to one-year deals. The Tigers do not have anyone in their system that can play either first or second at the moment with Kody Clemens needing to work on his bat more and other players just not getting enough time in.  Staff writer Jacob Boes made an excellent point that the Tigers should resign Cron to shore up the position for another season. The Tigers lose a year of player development in the minors. These 60 games should indicate if Cron can stay healthy and provide power, it should be a no-brainer to resign him. If they can swing Schoop, great but Issac Paredes has the makeup to play second with the hope that Candelario can hold down third.
  • At some point, you will see Casey Mize in a Detroit Tigers bullpen. He pitched strong in camp and Al Avila has indicated the youth will get their opportunity as seen with the likes of Burrows and Funkhouser making the team. Franklin Perez was throwing in camp, which is huge for Detroit and he, along with Matt Manning and Alex Faedo, will get to work on their craft in Toledo.
  • The outfield. Simply put, Christin Stewart has to hit. JaCoby Jones looks to continue to get better and Victor Reyes needs to have a strong season to vindicate to some Tigers fans that he is a good player.   Reyes hit .304 last year and had a 1.6 fWAR, ok, cool. But he had three home runs with a 4.8 BB% rate. If he hits with power, I am sure we could all live with the career 21.5% K rate. If he improves again, then you can breathe a sigh of relief. Detroit still has to figure out what to do with the gluten of outfielders in their system. If Stewart and Reyes can play to their ceiling, it helps on the development side.

The starting rotation will be the team’s biggest strength led by Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull. If Michael Fulmer can return to his rookie of the year form, you are looking at a good, starting rotation that will keep Detroit in games.

Staff Win Predictions:

Yooper-27

Marty Tallam-22

Jacob Boes-26

Sebastian Oslund-23

Chris Brown-23

Jon Welter-28

Myself-25

According to Fangraphs’ ZiPS projections, they have the Tigers at 23-37 with their wild card changes at 3.9%.  Ouch. With the Royals short-handed, I felt Detroit could take a few wins away from them but overall, I felt 25 was fair since there are too many unknowns to go as high as 25 wins. The Tigers will be better than last year. A slight improvement, but still, baby steps as they still work on the rebuild.

The game is the same, but the feeling is different.

Lastly, as a fan, it is a bummer that we cannot go down to the ballpark. We are all creatures of habit and whatever your habit is for baseball season, whether it’s going to Mexicantown for a meal before the game or enjoy a slice of Coney Island pizza at Comerica Park, whatever you enjoy, even for fans, the season is one of transition.

The way you enjoy the game will be different. This is will be temporary or at least we are told it will be but with the minors possibly going through a minor restructuring, the rule of a runner starting at second base in extra innings and now relievers must finish the inning they pitch in, there is a lot of change for fans for 2020. Whether we see all 60 games, all I know is we are witnessing one of the strangest seasons in MLB history. So sit back and enjoy Detroit Tigers baseball and of the following recent traditions that have popped up.

  • Speculate when Matthew Boyd will be traded or be signed long term.
  • Complain about the lineups on social media.
  • Boo whenever the Houston Astros or the Boston Red Sox are mentioned anywhere
  • Choosing “Who’s Your Tiger”

Whatever your exceptions are for the season, it is good to have baseball back.

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