At the End of April, Tigers Look Better Than Expected
Just about every preseason prediction had the Tigers as the second worst team in MLB; only ahead of the Miami Marlins. Yet, with the first month of the season behind them, they don’t look all that bad. Their 11-15 record places them in Second Place in the AL Central, only behind the Cleveland Indians.
The bats have been producing. After 26 games, both Nick Castellanos (308. BA / .804 OPS / 2 HRs / 17 RBIs) and Miguel Cabrera (.326 BA / .941 OPS / 3 HRs / 21 RBIs) have led the way. Jemier Candelario, rounding out the Killer Cs, has 4 HRs with 12 RBIs, hitting .282 with a .886 OPS. Perhaps most surprising is Leyons Martin’s 4 HRs and 12 RBIs (.271 BA and .813 OPS). Frankly, the top four hitters in the Tigers lineup look as tough as team in baseball.
The starting rotation has shown some signs of strength, particularly from Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd and Francisco Liriano. Fulmer is proving his role as the Ace. Outside of one rough start against Cleveland on April 12 (6 ERs in 3 innings), Fulmer has only allowed 3 ERs in 26.1 innings. Boyd’s early season is a similar story, with one rough start against Pittsburgh (4 ERs in 3.2 innings), he’s only allowed 3 ERs in 20.1 innings in his other three starts. Since Boyd’s near no-hitter in late September, he seems to have turned a corner in his career; he’s he’s finding success with speed variance and movement. Francisco Liriano has held his own as well. The veteran lefty is a product of Gardenhire’s years with the Twins and seems to have regained some confidence in his 13th season. Liriano is 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA with 21 Ks in 29.1 innings.
In the bullpen, both Daniel Stumpf and Joe Jimenez have been impressive. Stumpf looks like a formidable force to pitch the team out of a jam, only giving up 2 ERs in one appearance against the Orioles. He’s posted a 1.74 ERA and 7 Ks in 10.1 innings of work. Similarly, Jimenez only struggled in his April 25th appearance against Pittsburgh (3 ERs in 1 inning), whereas he has only allowed 1 ER on 9 hits amd 11 Ks in his other 12.1 innings of work.
What does this mean for the next five months of Tigers baseball? Of course, it’s hard to say. Still, one could imagine the 2018 season could have started much worse. Perhaps one of the greatest contributors to the the early season competitiveness is lack of expectations placed on this team. While 7 of the next 10 games are on the road, they are also against teams with losing records (Rays, Royals and Rangers), so there’s an opportunity to get ahead early in the month of May.