Can the Detroit Tigers outperform expectations in 2023?

Los Angeles Angels v Detroit Tigers
Los Angeles Angels v Detroit Tigers / Duane Burleson/GettyImages

Is it possible the Detroit Tigers are better than expected this season?

The Detroit Tigers had some high expectations for the first time in a while heading into the 2022 season. Chris Ilitch had finally opened the wallet a bit and signed some actual major league talent. Combine that with a young pitching staff and the debuts of top prospects Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson, and it seemed like the Tigers were primed to compete for a playoff spot.

As we all know, that didn't happen. Just about anything that could have went wrong, did go wrong. Green got hurt in spring training, Torkelson struggled for pretty much the entire season, and every member of the starting rotation missed significant time with injuries or personal issues. It was a disaster all around.

Al Avila was let go, and Scott Harris was brought in to try to right the ship. Harris has brought sweeping changes to the organization, completely overhauling both the roster and the front office.

The Tigers haven't made a lot of outside additions to the roster whether via free agency or trade. Michael Lorenzen and Matthew Boyd were signed as one-year rentals for the pitching staff, and Nick Maton and Matt Vierling were brought in from the Phillies in the Gregory Soto trade. Other than that, the Tigers have done virtually nothing to improve to league's worst offense in 2022.

For that reason alone, many fans think this team will lose 100 games in 2023. That's easy to understand, especially since again, the roster is largely the same as it was in 2022. Ilitch closed up his wallet again this offseason and that really hamstrung Harris' ability to make additions to the roster.

But there are a couple things to remember here. One is that we've seen this team exceed expectations in the past under a new regime. Look at the 2004 team. They were coming a 43-win season the previous year and were almost 30 games better. Of course, there were significant additions made to the roster with the signing of Pudge Rodriguez and trading for Carlos Guillen, but still, that's an impressive turnaround.

A much more recent example would in 2021, when A.J. Hinch was brought in to manage the team. They won 77 games under his watch with a roster that was far worse on paper than 2022's roster. He got the most out of his players that year. There multiple stretches in which the Tigers were fun to watch. There was hope for this team.

Another thing to remember is that this team had an ungodly amount of injuries in 2022. Austin Meadows had virtually no injury history when he was in Tampa Bay, and then he was cursed last season. I already touched on the injuries to the pitching staff. There's no way that'll happen again. The injuries will even out.

I expect rebounds from all injuried players from last season, especially Meadows. I think people forget how good he was in Tampa. He was an All-Star in 2019 and was pretty good in 2021 as well. He's a legit big-league hitter.

Additionally, the Tigers have made steps to ensure that those injuries don't happen again. They have a new head athletic trainer as well as new pitching coaches to help mitigate arm injuries to pitchers. It's hard to predict the future, but there's reason to believe this team will be much healthier in 2023.

On top of that, one would expect many players who struggled offensively last year to return to their career norms or just simply improve. Jonathan Schoop was putrid at the plate last year, so any improvement we get out of him would be a plus. Javier Baez should be better in his second year in Detroit. Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene both of have close to a full year of experience under their belts, so they should be better too.

With all this mind, it's entirely possible the Detroit Tigers outperform expectations this season. Best-case scenario is probably a .500 record, but something like the 77-85 team from 2021 is certainly not out of the question and could satisfy some fans.

The Detroit Tigers may not have a lot of new faces on the roster, but they have a new coaching staff and a new front office with a new philospophy. They could very well be better than people expect in 2023.

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