Tigers’ manager AJ Hinch staying humble as playoff expectations grow

Oakland Athletics v Detroit Tigers
Oakland Athletics v Detroit Tigers / Mark Cunningham/GettyImages

No matter what happens through the rest of the season, the Detroit Tigers will always have the honor of being the last undefeated team in baseball to start the season. Two rain delays in Queens led them to their first double-header of the year, the first of which they won 6-3 and the second of which saw Tigers 27th man Matt Manning take a no-hitter into the sixth and Detroit's bullpen extend it into the eighth before Harrison Bader broke it up. Still, the Tigers clearly set themselves up as battlers, and some MLB insiders even took the leap and called them a postseason team.

However, the Tigers returned to Detroit and won their Home Opener before dropping two to the Athletics, which was certainly a splash of cold water to the face. Only one of their wins before the first home series was won by a margin larger than one run, which carried into over their one win against the A's.

Although the pitching staff has, on the whole, been a standout for the Tigers so far, the bats have clearly struggled to support them. Following the series loss versus the A's, president of baseball operations Scott Harris said of the bats, "It’s going to be a lineup that’s going to be filled with young hitters, [...] sometimes an offense filled with young hitters is a little bit unpredictable." He and manager AJ Hinch have "carefully avoided ever calling the Tigers contenders" (subscription required).

Detroit Tigers' AJ Hinch, Scott Harris are keeping expectations low despite postseason hype

Fans are certainly more excited about these 2024 Tigers than any iteration in recent memory and have good reason to be, and while Hinch has reportedly hammered home the importance of winning in his clubhouse, he clearly has lower expectations for his team than fans do.

It's a bit of a strange message to telegraph to excited fans, but realism probably should be the manager's job. At least it means that both Harris and Hinch will be hyperaware of the ways in which the team might need to build throughout the season and into the future, and may be willing to take the according steps.

The Tigers' offseason frustrated some fans for a lack of aggression on high-powered free agents, but both Harris and Hinch seem like they still have their eyes toward the future and their heads in the right place. The Tigers just really need to start hitting.