Detroit Tigers: What have we learned after 30% of the Season

Sep 20, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Tigers Bernal manger Al Avila during the game against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Tigers Bernal manger Al Avila during the game against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Tigers are 19-30 after 48 games or 30% of the season. It begs the question of what have we learned and where are we going.

After one of the most dismal starts in Detroit Tigers history, The Flying Avilas have recovered to a 10-11 record -4 run differential in May. What’s important is those good things, definable things, have begun to emerge. The emergence of an AJ Hinch performance standard, as defined by the demotions of past roster icons as Jimenez, Farmer, JaCoby, and Reyes. Being put on double-secret probation has also applied to Wilson Ramos (defense) Willi Castro (everything) Niko Goodrum (defense).

Massive improvements have been registered by every member of their Stating Pitching staff and defined hierarchy and roles in their previous disaster of a bullpen. To sum it up, this is what the other 29 teams refer to as actual player development. It’s been refreshing, especially since it’s been 5 years since we have seen anything like it. The improved command and pitch selection of Casey Mize, the change of pitch mix and enhanced execution of Mattew Boyd, the upgrade in strike-throwing from Spencer Turnbull and Jose Urena, and the polishing of Tarik Skubal’s offspeed pitches.

In the bullpen, the power of Michael Fulmer has allowed Cisneros and Soto to slot into better-fitting roles. We have even seen Kyle Funkhouser look like a polished reliable pitcher rather than an erratic walk machine..and damn if we didn’t see Joe Jimenez, recently seen as a pinata, throw multiple great change-ups in a scoreless outing. All of this together means Chris Fetter with some help from Juan Nieves and AJ Hinch is having a profound positive impact on the Tigers pitching staff.

Detroit Tigers offensive progress

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On the offensive side, Detroit has noticeably improved the quality of their at-bats evidenced by a jump in their walk rate from 7% in April to 9.6% in May the increased traffic has upped their run-scoring to 99 runs in the first 21 games in May and a 103 wRC+.

One of the most surprising benefits of the Hinch style of play has come with the increased aggressiveness on the bases as evidenced by their 17 SB in May, 3rd in baseball, we have also seen a lot more runners taking extra bases and going first to third.

What hasn’t improved is the defense, DET currently ranks 27th in DRS with a -18 DRS and 39th with a -22.8 UZR. It’s difficult to find one position on the field you can say is playing major league defense, subtle things like DP conversion rate is the lowest in MLB.

So what can we expect in the next 50 games, hopefully, the continued trend of solid starting pitching with maybe a more consistent bullpen, closer to what we’ve seen in May?

The offense is likely to see some changes in the outfield. Expect Akil Baddoo to continue to play a prominent role with the demotion of JaCoby Jones and if Nomar Mazara doesn’t perk up immediately I doubt Hinch will tolerate giving at-bats to a player that has no future in Detroit, expect to see both Derek Hill and Daz Cameron getting some AB’s if they continue to play well in Toledo, they can’t hit worse than Jones, Reyes, and Mazara have and add both upgraded defense and speed.

There’s not much infield help yet at TOL..besides Isaac Paredes who hasn’t hit much and Zach Short, a wizard with the glove who has hit less than .200 all year. So any improvement to what has been a disaster up the middle will likely have to come from what’s already in Detroit.

Next. Tarik Skubal's strong month of May. dark

The first 50 games have been a rollercoaster, but a good roller coaster with improvement and a defined style of play, I would be happy if the next 50 games mimicked the month of May.