Predicting the Tigers' record in 2024: can they finally finish above .500?

Detroit Tigers chairman and CEO Chris Ilitch and president of baseball operations Scott Harris talk
Detroit Tigers chairman and CEO Chris Ilitch and president of baseball operations Scott Harris talk / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Baseball season is almost here. In just a little more than 24 hours, Detroit Tigers regular season baseball will be back on our televisions. It's been a long offseason, but we've finally made it.

Now that we know what the Tigers Opening Day roster looks like, it's time to ponder the age-old question: how many games will the Tigers win this season? Can they finally get over the .500 mark?

Just going off last season's 78-84 mark — their best since 2016 — and the improvements made this offseason, that seems like a question we should be able to answer pretty confidently. Yes. The Tigers should be able to cross the .500 mark for the first time in eight years.

However, we have to look a little deeper than that. After all, what would be the point of an article like this if we didn't provide anyadditional analysis?

Starting off, I'm going to be very honest: I think the Tigers' pitching staff has a chance to be top five in the league this year. They've looked that strong in spring training. I'm completely ignoring stats when I make this claim. I'm going simply based on how they've looked.

Nearly everyone has seen a velocity bump of some kind. Jack Flaherty is hitting 97. Casey Mize is painting 98 coming off Tommy John surgery. Tarik Skubal is hitting 99.

Not only has the velocity increased, but so has the movement on their fastballs. Again, virtually everyone has seen an increase in the amount of induced verticle break (IVB) on their fastballs. Not to get too nerdy on everyone, but just to get an idea of what IVB, it is defined by Baseball America as a "measurement that removes gravity from the equation and looks at how much a pitch moves up or down from a point of zero." Essentially, everyone's fastball has a ton more ride it than it did before. Chris Fetter and Robin Lund have been doing the lord's work.

This is just in the starting rotation. I've mentioned before how I love the way the bullpen was constructed this offseason, and I think it has the chance to get back to that top 10 ERA it had in 2022. Imagine the high-ride fastball of Shelby Miller, followed by the bowling ball sinker of Jason Foley. Or Tyler Holton's cutter followed by Alex Lange's fastball/knuckle curve combo. They just have so many different pitch shapes in that bullpen now. A.J. Hinch has to be excited about that.

So we've established that the pitching should be very, very good on this team. But now, it's time to address the elephant in the room: the offense.

It's no secret that the offense has been terrible, really for almost a decade, but especially the last two seasons. Last year we saw some signs of progress, but it hard to go anywhere but up after the historically bad 2022. This season, there's an opportunity for more growth.

Offseason additions include Mark Canha and Gio Urshela as free agents, and Colt Keith from within. We'll also get a full season of Parker Meadows, who had a monster spring. Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson each have another year under their belts. Kerry Carpenter enters his second full season. We know what Jake Rogers can do.

Yes, Javier Baez is still here. I'm going to keep saying, since it keeps flying over people's heads: we're stuck with him. They're going to ride it out with him. The sooner people realize that, the better.

We also have reworked swings from Zach McKinstry and Matt Vierling. Both of them looked pretty solid in the Grapefruit League, but we have to see it translate over to the regular season.

This lineup's ceiling is probably middle of the pack, simply because of how young it is. Realistically, this offense is probably still in the bottom third in baseball. Expect the Tigers to struggle scoring runs once again in 2024.

With all of that being said, it's time to cut to the chase. How many games can this team win?

First off, I'm not expecting a division title this year. I know some fans think that's a possibility, and technically, they're not wrong. They play the games for a reason. But I personally just don't see it. The offense just won't be good enough.

However, I do think this is the year they cross the .500 plateau. In fact, I'm expecting the Tigers to compete for a wild card spot, but just miss the playoffs. Think of the 2024 Tigers in a similar vein as the 2022 Detroit Lions. This team will be on the verge of taking that next step, but will fall just short of the postseason.

I'm going with 83-79 this season. It may seem a bit optimistic to some. It may seem a bit too low for others. Predictions are all over the place for this team. But that's how I'm feeling.

Last time I was this optimistic about the Tigers, they were wildly disappointing and finished with just 66 wins. Hopefully, this year will be different. Please, let this year be different.