Detroit Tigers: 3 early season overreactions

Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Baez (28) receives congratulations from center fielder Akil Baddoo (60) after he hits an walk off RBI single in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Baez (28) receives congratulations from center fielder Akil Baddoo (60) after he hits an walk off RBI single in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Tigers season is four games old. Let’s overreact to stuff.

All things considered, this has been a pretty fun start to the season for the Detroit Tigers. Opening Day featured a stunning game-tying home run from Eric Haase and then a historic walk-off hit from Javier Báez. Then Báez came up big again with a late two-run blast last night.

But the two games in between? Not so great. Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal were knocked around a bit, and the offense only managed to scratch across three runs on nine hits against the hated White Sox. So, let’s grit our teeth and complain about this team.

Detroit Tigers Overreaction: Why Can’t Anyone Hit?!?

Detroit Tigers
Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario flies out against White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito during the first inning on Friday, April 8, 2022, at Comerica Park. /

This isn’t true, of course. Javy Báez (5-for-15), Austin Meadows (6-for-13), and Miguel Cabrera (4-for-13) are off to strong starts. But the Detroit Tigers as a whole definitely aren’t clicking on offense right now, with a .203/.303/.317 slash line (83 wRC+) leaving them in the bottom ten in baseball.

And the big culprits for those low numbers are Akil Baddoo (0-for-9, 0BB), Jeimer Candelario (2-for-14, 2BB), and Robbie Grossman (1-for-15, 1BB). That’s a pretty ugly start for Detroit’s three top regulars from 2021.

That’s not going to last. Could Akil Baddoo regress after last year’s stunning rookie campaign? Absolutely, those sorts of things happen all the time. But we made a habit of following along with his adjustments last year, and he always seemed to figure things out eventually.

There’s no need to worry about Jeimer Candelario at all. His 42 doubles last year were tied for the most in the majors, and so far this year he has just been unlucky. His batting average is just .143 and his weighted on-base average (wOBA) is only .225. But his expected stats are much higher, with an xBA of .298 and an xwOBA of .394. He’ll be fine.

And what about Robbie Grossman? He’s 32 and coming off a career year in which he showed more power and speed than ever before. That seems like a recipe for regression, and so far he has only reached base three times through four games. That’s rare for a player who finished fifth in the majors in on-base percentage last year.

But it’s really not THAT rare. Grossman had 17 different four-game stints last year in which he reached base three of fewer times. He probably won’t be as good as he was in 2021, but he’s bound to pick things up soon.

Detroit Tigers Overreaction: The Rotation Looks Bad!

Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez throws the first pitch of the season against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park in Detroit on Friday, April 8, 2022. /

So the first three outings didn’t go great. Eduardo Rodriguez, recipient of a 5-year, $77-million deal to front the Detroit Tigers rotation, could only go four innings on Opening Day, and gave up three runs while generating just five swings-and-misses.

Rodriguez isn’t a huge swing-and-miss pitcher in general, but Detroit’s newest lefty made 31 starts for the Red Sox last year, and managed six or more whiffs in 29 of them. He had an off day against a very good offense in cold temperature. Go ahead and repeat this one with us: He’ll be fine.

The next two outings weren’t terribly good either. That led to an interesting question from our own Jake Boes:

That’s not a great bit of history to relive, but it doesn’t mean much. Mize (5IP, 7H, 4ER, 5 swings and misses) and Skubal (4IP, 7H, 4ER, 9 swings and misses) weren’t great against the White Sox, obviously. But it’s always important to remember that young pitchers take time to establish themselves.

Look no further than former Detroit Tigers aces Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Both showed plenty of promising signs early in their careers, but it took them a few years to figure things out. Verlander was a roughly league-average starter for his first two seasons, regressed badly in his third year, and then became a monster in his fourth.

Scherzer wasn’t much different. He flashed his elite stuff early in his career, but he certainly wasn’t consistent. The Tigers sent him to Toledo early in 2010, and he responded with a 14-strikeout game when he returned to Detroit. But he struggled again in 2011, and didn’t really become the Max Scherzer we recognize until his fourth full season in the majors.

Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal probably aren’t future Hall-of-Famers like Verlander and Scherzer, but if they stay healthy they are going to improve. These growing pains will just make that future success feel much better.

Detroit Tigers Overreaction: What’s Wrong with Spencer Torkelson?!?

Detroit Tigers
Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson reacts after striking out against White Sox pitcher Aaron Bummer during the ninth inning of the Tigers’ 5-2 loss on Saturday, April 9, 2022, at Comerica Park. /

Most fans probably understand that there’s no reason to worry about Detroit’s prized first baseman. They know Major League Baseball is incredibly hard. They realize four games is a very small sample. And they understand Spencer Torkelson is far from a finished product.

Still…it would be nice if he got a hit. No reasonable fans are hitting the panic button, but there does seem to be a bit of unease about Torkelson’s passive approach at the plate. And it doesn’t help when certain blog agitators post unflattering stats like this:

Perhaps it would help to look at Spencer Torkelson’s early performances last year. This is what he did in his first four games with the West Michigan Whitecaps, the Erie SeaWolves, and the Toledo Mud Hens.

These are all small samples, so we can’t draw too many conclusions. But, historically speaking, Spencer Torkelson is just kind of a slow starter. It’s probably safe to say he’s being too passive right now, but Detroit Tigers fans have spent most of the last five years watching hitters who swing at anything that moves, so a little selectivity isn’t the worst thing.

Spencer Torkelson will be fine. He’s probably not going to set the world on fire this year, and we still don’t think he has quite as much upside as Riley Greene, but he’ll get his first knock soon, and then he’ll settle in as a productive member of the lineup.

Next. MCB Staff Predictions for the 2022 Detroit Tigers. dark