With the end of MLB's regular season coming this week, Bally Sports will review the performance of each club with a look at what happened in 2021 and what could happen next season. Our next Exit Interview is with the Detroit Tigers.
What went right
• The Tigers have gone 66-58 since May 8. In that span, they are 15th in runs scored (18th in wOBA) and 18th in ERA. For comparison sake, the AL Central-leading White Sox are 73-55 since May 8. So the Tigers definitely have improved since going 47-114 in 2019 and losing 98 games in each of the two seasons before that. They have more talent this year than in previous seasons, but their better record also reflects well on manager A.J. Hinch, who has raised expectations.
• Akil Baddoo has been one of the better Rule 5 draftees in history already. Most of those picks either fail with the new team or get returned to the former. At age 23, Baddoo is a keeper who is slashing .258/.324/.442 with 13 home runs, 14 stolen bases while being a neutral player on defense in the outfield. But he appears to be improving there.
• Eric Haase got a chance to play every day at age 28 and is slashing .230/.286/.466 with 22 homers in 364 plate appearances. His defense is a little below average overall, mostly because of pitch framing, but skills there can be sharpened.
• Right-hander Spencer Turnbull pitched a no-hitter May 18, the fifth of the MLB season at the time.
• The bullpen showed improvement over the second half, posting the third-best ERA in MLB in its first 286 innings since the break. Michael Fulmer looks like he’ll be able to transition to high-leverage relief after posting a 3.06 ERA and 72 strikeouts in his first 50 appearances.
• Legendary slugger Miguel Cabrera hit his 500th career home run.
In his past 80 games, Cabrera is batting .303/.354/.454 with 10 homers. At age 38, he’s 13 hits shy of 3,000 for his career. He’ll probably get it next April, as he’s under contract through at least 2023.
What went wrong
• The Tigers brought up the rear in the American League in defensive runs saved. In outs above average over at Baseball Savant, they are 20th and much closer to the middle than the back of the line.
• Turnbull had Tommy John surgery in July.
• Left-hander Matthew Boyd needs surgery to repair his flexor tendon. He said he expects to pitch in 2022.
• Overall, the Tigers rank 23rd in runs scored, home runs and walks. They’re about as bad in isolated power and wOBA, so they’re not merely unlucky. Their BABIP ranks fifth.
• Jeimer Candelario is batting .273/.352/.449 with 16 homers, 42 doubles and 63 walks.
• Right-hander Casey Mize produced a little more than Baddoo, possibly because he had MLB experience coming into this season.
Reasons for optimism
• Mize (3.63 ERA in 29 starts) and Tarik Skubal (4.13 ERA in 28 starts) show real promise, and while Matt Manning has an ugly ERA, his peripheral stats indicate he’s pitching closer to the level of Skubal and Mize.
• The Tigers have a top-10 farm system, including two individuals in the top 10 of baseball's best prospects — slugger Spencer Torkelson and outfielder Riley Greene — and the No. 50 prospect, right-hander Jackson Jobe. Torkelson figures to be ready by early next season. The lineup needs him.
What needs work
• No team of hitters have a lower composite fWAR than the Tigers. Adding Torkelson will help, as would free-agent spending on a shortstop, an outfielder and a starting pitcher.