2021 Detroit Tigers after 60 games…where do we go from here?

Tigers manager AJ Hinch takes out pitcher Casey Mize during the Tigers' 6-2 loss to the Royals on Friday, April 23, 2021, at Comerica Park.Tigers Kc1
Tigers manager AJ Hinch takes out pitcher Casey Mize during the Tigers' 6-2 loss to the Royals on Friday, April 23, 2021, at Comerica Park.Tigers Kc1 /
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Our old friend Ernie Harwell once called Detroit Tigers closer Todd Jones “The Roller Coaster” for his up and down theatrics that regularly occurred before celebrating Tigers victories, or at times agonizing over tough defeats.

If Ernie were still behind the microphone he may have resurrected the phrase which embodies what we have seen with the 2021 Detroit Tigers through 60 games.

At a record of 25-35, a .417 winning percentage that equates to a 67-68 win pace, here were my preseason thoughts and prediction, but more importantly, where do we go from here?

The Detroit Tigers Starting Pitching after 60 games:

Detroit Tigers
CHICAGO – Tarik Skubal pitches against the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /

Casey Mize seems to be figuring how the major league level just fine and might just be that top of rotation arm the Tigers so desperately need him to become. Let’s take a look at his monthly splits courtesy of Baseball-Reference. 

In April, Casey Mize had 5 starts with opponents slashing  .267/.351/.485, which led to a 1-3 record with a 5.06 ERA, 1.38 WHIP,  6.8 K/9, and a BABIP of .289.

Contrast that with May’s 5 starts that featured a huge reduction on the slash line to .162/.252/.238, which led to a 2-0 record with a 1.74 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, and a BABIP of.195. The magic of adjusting to life in the big leagues and the wizardry of pitching coach Chris Fetter is on full display.

I’m watching to see if Casey can continue to dominate as the weather warms up and move that K/9 closer to the 9 levels. He will likely never be a huge strikeout guy but getting to the 1 per inning level will bode well as he strides further towards his goal of developing into true Ace level material.

Tarik Skubal has made some strides as well, his 11K 4 hit performance in 5 innings against Chicago was a nice preview of things to come, though he does need to cut the walks down in order to make a bigger jump forward. We are holding our breath as we see how long Spencer Turnbull remains out, can Matthew Boyd not fall off the map as we have seen several times before and if Jose Urena can be what he was to start this season and not morph back towards just an innings eater. This will have a large impact on whether we have more than 8-19 months like April or 14-13 months like May.

The elephant in the room is what do the innings limits look like for Skubal and Mize. It is hard to put a number on them as we don’t know have a true innings number from last year from the Toledo practice squad time or any other work that was being done during the downtime of the pandemic to simply add 20 to 30 percent and have at least a reasonable ballpark estimate.

AJ Hinch recently has spoken about giving Skubal a little extra rest already and some bullpen days could be part of the equation going forward to lengthen Mize and Skubal’s seasons but at some point a total shutdown would appear likely.

The rotation then becomes quite questionable. Julio Tehran still isn’t throwing, Matt Manning is struggling in Toledo and will have an innings limit as well, and the only veteran starter down in Toledo throwing real innings to fill the Matt Carpenter role of the past couple of seasons is Drew Hutchinson. Wily Peralta has also started 5 games but has only thrown a total of 16 innings so he is not exactly stretched out yet. Enjoy the rotation now because it’s likely to look quite different and the road to the finish line worse than any Michigan Freeway.

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