Detroit Tigers New Year’s Resolution in One Word
What is the one word for the 2021 Detroit Tigers for a New Year’s Resolution they can follow?
Happy Holidays, friends. We can all agree 2020 was unequivocally the worst, but it still managed to bring us a season (albeit a shortened one) of Detroit Tigers baseball, and with that, it’s time we make the one thing we’ve always blown off: A New Year’s Resolution.
It has to do with weight loss for most people, and probably even more so now, given that we’ve collectively been cooped up in our houses for the better part of a year. Maybe you scored a Peloton for the Holidays and have a jump start on the rest of us, but let’s resolve the Detroit Tigers.
There’s no doubt that the Tigers have several boxes that need checking before the team returns to being competitive, but equipped with a farm system that has taken major strides forward, they should be ready to start winning more games beginning in 2021. On the pitching side, the Tigers should have what they need in the rotation. Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd, and Spencer Turnbull will likely occupy Detroit’s typical pitching cycle. Simultaneously, Matt Manning should be headed to Comerica Park soon with wildcards like Joey Wentz and Franklin Perez possibly making a play for a 2021 roster spot.
The area the Tigers have the biggest holes is in their lineup. Thankfully, the Tigers have spent each of the last two seasons investing significant draft capital in their offense using their first six draft choices on position players each of the previous two years. With that, there’s hope that a few of them will become big league regulars, with a few elevating to impact player status. Regardless, the players that occupy the spots in the everyday lineup will need to make it a point to focus on improving one specific area of their game in 2021, which brings us to the Tigers’ 2021 New Year’s Resolution.
I simply want the Tigers to come to the plate and swing less often. Here’s a clip of me trying to convince the Tigers to do less. Playing me is Paul Rudd’s character from the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, while Jason Segel plays the part of the Tigers lineup.
The Tigers walked in just 7.1% of their plate appearances last season while striking out 27.3% of the time – both marks ranked dead last in Major League Baseball. Teams with hitters that work the strike zone win games. Of the 15 MLB teams that ranked in the top-half of walk rate in 2020, only three teams (Angels, Phillies, and Mariners) missed the playoffs.
The lack of walks might be less important if the walk rate felt like a fluke of a statistic, but the problem runs deeper than you’d think. The Tigers rank in walk rate has fallen drastically over the past five seasons compared to the rest of the teams in Major League Baseball:
There are a few ways this can improve. MCB’s Chris Brown detailed one of the biggest ones in new hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh, who is known as a calm, honest evaluator of his hitters. A fresh eye never hurts coming into a situation like this, and Coolbaugh will have his work cut out for him.
Among the players currently in the fold, a few took steps forward in this department last season. Niko Goodrum has elevated his walk rate each of his past four seasons in the big leagues. Meanwhile, the terrific 2020 season for Jeimer Candelario means he’ll likely see fewer pitches in the strike zone in 2021 and a full season of Isaac Paredes. The latter boasted a walk rate close to 10% (the ideal number for most hitters) during his three seasons in the Tigers minor league system.
A few free agents might help the Tigers draw a few more free passes. Among the remaining players looking for a 2021 home include infielders Cesar Hernandez and Tommy La Stella, who Jon Erkkila told us all about a few days ago. Outfielders include Kyle Schwarber and Joc Pederson, who I’ve been trying to make happen all offseason.
Meanwhile, the Tigers top two position prospects have encouraging walk rates in their profiles. Riley Greene posted an 11% walk rate to earn a chance to play in West Michigan to close 2019, and Spencer Torkelson walked 110 times in 129 games at Arizona State before being taken with the top pick in the 2020 MLB Draft.
There’s a big hole in the Tigers lineup, but there’s help available and more on the way. More importantly, I think the right people are in place to help get it straightened out. That’s a New Year’s Resolution I can get behind.
That, and whatever gets me a Peloton.
What New Year’s Resolution would you give the Tigers? Leave a comment below and find Dan on Twitter at @ThatDanHasty!