Casey Mize feels some are thinking too small, but the Detroit Tigers need to crawl before they can run
In an interview with the Freep’s Evan Petzold ($), Casey Mize told the beat writer that he feels that the playoffs are “too low of a goal” for the Detroit Tigers. Mize, 24, will be entering his third season in the big leagues and has established himself as an anchor of the rotation for years to come.
This quote should come as no surprise to those who have paid attention to Mize’s development back at his time at Auburn. Mize is highly regarded for his leadership attributes and the Detroit Tigers brass went to some incredible lengths before deciding Mize was their guy. Everything from interviewing past coaches to psychological and performance testing all led the Tigers to the conclusion to draft Mize; a pick that was cemented by fans’ and analysts’ sentiment all along.
There isn’t a downside for Mize and the Tigers to aim high. The Braves won the World Series in 2021 with 88 wins in the regular season, and it isn’t inconceivable to see the Tigers winning 11 more games than they did last year with the moves they have made thus far.
Parallelly, the roster as it stands doesn’t pass the eye test. They essentially have four starters for 2022 (Mize, Rodriguez, Skubal, Manning) and two rookies approaching the majors that would both need to perform and insert themselves in the middle of the order by June. No pressure, Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson.
Playoff baseball, additionally, is a different animal than the regular season. Specifically, bullpens become an integral part of a postseason run–and while the Detroit Tigers had success with their combination of Soto, Cisnero, Fulmer, and Funkhouser, relief arms can be among the most inconsistent positions in the game. They were all so good, it’s almost impossible to project a similar season for each in 2022. It’s nothing against them, it’s just the way the position works.
The AL Central runs through Chicago and will remain so in 2022 (assuming the current divisional structure remains through the new Collective Bargaining Agreement). Expanded playoffs will certainly help and that expansion feels all-but-certain for next season, but it would leave the Tigers in a wild card slot up against a league powerhouse.
This isn’t meant to come off as a cynical hate piece from a doubter. The Detroit Tigers, in many respects, are on the right trajectory with their rebuild. It is rare for a team to build that quickly, but it does happen. The last time a team won 77 games and won the World Series the following season? The San Fransisco Giants won exactly 77 games in 2013, then won the World Series in 2014.