Detroit Tigers: 2021 first half grades. There is progress

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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Detroit Tigers
May 12, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Jake Rogers (34) makes a throw to first base for an out during the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Tigers Catchers: B-

Detroit Tigers Infield: C-

Let’s start with catching. Since Jake Rogers and Eric Haase have been behind the plate, the combo has a DRS of 4 with Rogers at 3 and Haase at 1. Greiner (-3) and Ramos (-4) were a -7. If you noticed when Rogers and Haase were called up back in May, the pitching staff seem to perform better under those two. It is no coincidence that the Tigers back to back months of over .500 baseball were due to the small part these two played in pitching framing, defense, and timely hitting.

Since June 30th, Rogers has been hitting .269 with 2 home runs and six RBI, four of which, came on a grand slam on Sunday against the Twins but its the wRC+ during that stretch (153) that stands out and overall on the season, he is over 100 at 112.  His ISO is over .200 and he has been making hard-hit contact, averaging 38.5%. Now compare that to his 2019 season of 20.6%, Rogers seems much more comfortable behind the plate.

Haase caught Turnbull’s no-hitter and while known for having a good arm, he has been a better defender than advertised. He does get into slumps but he has an impressive wRC+ of 121.

As far as the infield is concerned, the rotation at first base of Schoop and Cabrera offensively speaking, have been solid. Cabrera is marching towards 500 home runs at a better pace than perhaps people thought and Schoop carried the Tigers in the month of June, hitting 10 home runs and batting .340 while also splitting time at second base.

They are combined a -7 DRS but considering that Schoop has never played the position until this season, it could be a lot worse.

Now, as far as second base is concerned, the experiment with Willi Castro should be over. He struggled at the plate but his defense at second got him a DRS of -10 and sometimes extending innings for Tigers pitchers. Harold Castro and Niko Goodrum, who saw the rest of the lions share at second outside of Schoop, were serviceable.

The Tigers’ biggest weakness was exposed and that was at shortstop. Detroit should address that this off-season as outside of Zack Short, who in 136 innings produced a DRS of 1, everyone who played the position was negative. Goodrum was -6 in 345 innings of work. Harold Castro in 116.2 innings of work was -7 and Willi Castro was -2 in 149.2 innings of work. (Paredes saw time, just 38 innings of work)

Short has shown some power and perhaps Hinch will give him more innings there in the second half to see what he is capable of.

Jeimer Candelario offensively speaking is hitting better after a bad June in which he hit just .194. He is still walking at a 10% clip and has a wRC+ of 102. He has had some defensive lapses but then he has some fantastic moments, including this one to preserve the no-hitter.

The Detroit Tigers are fun to watch again

Overall, the expectations for this team heading into the season because of lack of spending, etc, etc, were not promising. But A.J Hinch has pulled together a squad that has a lot of the same elements from last year and made them a nightly watch.

Even when they are down, like in Sunday’s game against the Twins, they come back and surprise you. The second half of the schedule while favorable, there is cause for concern. The lack of depth is coming back to haunt the pitching staff and with the trade deadline looming, they may trade Schoop and Grossman but the return may not be to the liking of Tigers fans.

Hinch has said the Tigers will not settle for a bad return so that is a positive sign to see. The start of the season was absolutely brutal. But credit to Hinch and his staff for sticking to the plan and trusting his rookies in Mize and Skubal and being patient with various parts of the bullpen.  His use of the bullpen alone deserves major kudos.

Detroit still has ways to go but at least the feeling heading into the second half is that with Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson representing the Tigers at the Futures Game, you can at least possibly have something to watch come September to look forward to.

Tigers fans are running out of patience but at least, there is something to watch for a change.

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