So long, 2015. It's been a rough season. The Detroit Tigers were gunning for their fifth straight American League Central Division title. They finished far short of those goals and ended with their worst record since 2008 -- a 74-87 record that was worse than the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, and Mariners. So, then, begins the offseason, and with it, the grades that come with a disappointing season.
Not every spot on the team was a dark and foreboding place, but even the brightest lights were dimmed at times. Miguel Cabrera captured his fourth batting title in five years but was missed for six weeks with an injury. Justin Verlander started on the disabled list and took a long time to regain his form. Anibal Sanchez and Victor Martinez both dealt with injuries on and off throughout the year -- injuries that remained behind closed doors at times.
It never truly came together for the Tigers. Between the injuries, instabilities across the board, and having to rely on the use of minor league players far too often as a result of the former two problems, a promising 11-2 start quickly catapulted into a tumultuous season.
With that in mind, to the grades we must go. And remember, individual pitching wins don't mean a darn thing and will not factor into these grades. Also, some of the advanced stats don't update daily as do traditional stats, so stats like DRS and ARM are current as of Oct. 4.
James McCann: A-
Only a month into his rookie season, McCann was asked to take on full-time catching duties as Avila went on the disabled list. His first home run was an inside-the-parker and he dazzled defensively. There were some slumps at the plate as the league adjusted to McCann and visa versa. His pitch framing needs work and at the end of the season his caught stealing dropped off a bit. He finished the season without an error. McCann is just the sixth catcher in MLB history to go a full season (min. 100 games) without an error, and the first since Chris Iannetta did it in 2008. Not a bad start.
Alex Avila: C
Avila missed nearly two months of the year for a loose body in his left knee. He was never able to play fully to his abilities, and lost his duties as primary catcher. He posted the lowest average and slugging numbers of his career and lost some of what made him so special behind the plate because of his injury. With that said, Avila still contributed to the team -- both behind the dish and at first base -- and helped develop McCann, knowing full-well that McCann was replacing him. In the end, Avila stabilized somewhat and he enters free agency this offseason. He may not be back with the Tigers.
Miguel Cabrera: A-
In some ways, this was not Cabrera's best year. His power wasn't the same and he was on the DL for six weeks. He posted his lowest HR total (18) since his rookie season. He still won a batting title and raked for the first two weeks back from the DL. His offense also dropped like a stone in September and went 29 games without a home run. Defensively, though, he was stellar. He posted a 4 DRS, the best of his career at first base, and second-best overall since having a 6 DRS with the Marlins in 2004 -- tied with Orioles Chris Davis for second-best in the AL. His 76 assists were the fourth-most in the AL and he started 10 double plays -- most in the AL.
Ian Kinsler: B
He started out slow offensively. He went through a period of time where he wasn't playing solid defense. That said, he turned it around as the season wore on and got rid of whatever defensive bugs were ailing him. He finished strong and was one of the few players who wasn't injured at any time. Were the first half of the season better for him, and it didn't seem like nearly every other game his attention was elsewhere, he'd likely have finished with a B+ or an A-, but what ifs don't count. His baserunning was also exasperating at times and it led to far too many outs and ruined opportunities.
Jose Iglesias: B-
He made the AL All-Star team for the first time in his career. That said, the question still remains whether Iglesias is truly a .300-hitter. He tailed off greatly in the second half, had some injury bugs -- thankfully his shins weren't a concern, these were just fluky in nature -- and his defense showed lapses in judgement. Iglesias has a flair for the dramatic but often times that flair got him in trouble with silly errors. He ended the year in limbo when he suffered a freak right middle finger non-displaced fracture.
Nick Castellanos: B-
This will likely get some disagreement. Consider how last year went, though. Castellanos was the worst third baseman in all of baseball and his offense struggled at times. He's no longer the worst third baseman in the league and his offense picked up after sitting June 20-22 because of a frustrating and prolonged slump where he'd hit just four homers. He quit trying too hard and went on a tear for much of the rest of the year. Eleven of his 15 homers came after that date. He made several plays defensively that he would've never made before and has showed continuous signs of improvement both on defense and at the plate.
Yoenis Cespedes: A
Contributed heavily to the Tigers in the first half of the season. He made a couple of defensive slips and had a couple of mini-slumps but that was about it. He should have made the All-Star team. He hit five home runs in his last 10 games as a Tiger and hit .293 until he was traded to the Mets. For the short time he was with Detroit, fans fell in love with him and his cannon for an arm in left field.
Rajai Davis: C
He saw his playing time drop significantly this year because of the platoon situation. His first half wasn't pretty and it was later revealed that Davis had not only been playing with a bad finger that affected his hitting, but Davis admitted to getting frustrated with the lack of playing time -- and thus playing worse. After the first half, that changed. Davis made some improvements defensively thanks to working with Gose and he stopped trying so hard. He enters the 2015 offseason as a free agent and would be an inexpensive player if the Tigers were to retain his services next year.
Anthony Gose: C+
Gose needs to hit both left- and right-handed pitching if he's going to be a full-time center fielder. Right now, he needs a platoon. But as poorly as he's rated on defensive metrics -- which is wildly bizarre -- he dazzled with the glove and has shown signs of adjusting to pitching all around. But compared to what he was touted to be, the 2015 season has been somewhat of a disappointment. One thing that stood out with Gose was his baserunning -- or lack of ability to run the bases well. For someone with so much speed, he squandered so many opportunities and that led to a lot of the Tigers' baserunning issues overall.
J.D. Martinez: A
Missed 40 home runs by just two. He started out in a major slump after a strong spring training that left a lot of people wondering if the carriage had turned back into a pumpkin. But J.D. made the adjustments and quietly became one of the best defensive outfielders in the AL. He finished with 4 DRS (ninth-best in the AL) and 15 assists (third-best in the AL). His 8.6 ARM rating is second-best in MLB only to the Orioles' Adam Jones. In all, a solid second year with the Tigers.
Victor Martinez: C-
He was never healthy. Spent large portions of the year on the DL and his power didn't truly begin to show until the last 4-5 weeks of the season. Even then Martinez was only a shadow of his career-best 2014 self. He was, however, healthy enough to play first base when needed down the stretch and smacked a few powerful home runs at the end. But it just wasn't a good year for Martinez overall. He needs a good offseason to recover.
Tyler Collins: C+
He wasn't supposed to play as much as he did. Cespedes was supposed to be the solidified left fielder. But considering Collins essentially got thrown into the fire, he did quite well. He went on a tear in Sept. and hit .297/.381/.486. He wasn't great defensively but he wasn't awful in the last month. The question going into 2016 is: Was that Collins adjusting to MLB pitching, or a product of facing more than just MLB hitting, aka call-ups and replacement pitching? Wait and see ...
Andrew Romine: C
He was what you'd expect out of a utility bench player. Romine was useful more for his glove than he was for his bat. Asked to play several positions throughout the year, Romine did what was asked while providing solid defense at third most often as a late-game replacement or when Cabrera needed a day off. He won't be an everyday player but he was solid as a bench player.
David Price: A+
Outside of the poor start vs. the Yankees during a blizzard, Price was outstanding. For much of the first half he carried the team all by himself, often with little to no help offensively. For it, he was traded to the Blue Jays and has continued his stellar season. But while with the Tigers, he made the AL All-Star team and was a consummate player/teammate to not just his team but Tigers fans. He took responsibility for his actions and never made an excuse for a poor start or lack of defense.
Justin Verlander: A-
He started the season on the DL. Many wondered if the Verlander of Olde was a thing of the past. It was clear when he came back that the season was an extended spring training. But as he started, his outings got better. After six up and down starts, Verlander put up a 2.27 ERA in 14 games started. Opposing batters were hitting just .207 off of him and he topped 100 mph. His curveball was wicked again and the fastball had life. Verlander returned and erased all doubt that he hasn't gone anywhere. The injury gremlins were just getting in the way.
Anibal Sanchez: C-
He had his moments of strength, but it was clear Sanchez wasn't himself, even during his quality starts. At the end of the year Ausmus revealed that Sanchez had been dealing with a rotator cuff injury approximately two months before he told anyone. Sanchez finished his season on the DL with a rotator cuff strain -- just the latest of an ongoing series of shoulder issues throughout his career. He gave up a career-high (and MLB-high) 29 home runs after allowing just 21 the three years prior combined.
Shane Greene: D-
Started out with three straight stellar starts. Then he collapsed and landed on the DL. He was never the same and bounced back and forth between Triple-A and Detroit before undergoing season-ending surgery on Aug. 26 to repair a pseudoaneurysm in the circumflex artery in his right shoulder. He'll be ready for spring training but it was a disappointing season when he was expected to contribute heavily to the team.
Kyle Lobstein: D+
Started out well enough but he went on the DL on May 24 for shoulder soreness. He struggled to make it back to the team until September, where he pitched out of the bullpen after a start. He struggled while there but being gone most of the year for injury doesn't help.
Alfredo Simon: D
Going into the year you didn't need a genie to predict that the season-long Simon experiment wasn't going to go well. And true to his metrics, Simon was not good. But, he also had a couple of good starts, including his last one. The thing is, he got extremely lucky on a lot of his starts and a ton of run support masked his poor outings. He waited until after his last start to then reveal he'd been dealing with a knee injury. The Tigers had signed him knowing his history, but refuted that had he been injured the team would never have allowed him to start. He is a free agent this offseason and not likely to return.
Daniel Norris: B+
Norris was the pride and joy of the Price trade. He's lived up to the billing, putting forth a solid record in his time with the Tigers. He landed on the DL on Aug. 19 with a right oblique injury that was initially thought to be season-ending. He was back in less than a month and tossed five innings of perfect ball. He nearly did the same thing on the last day of the season. But being on a pitch count since coming back from injury, Norris was unable to showcase his true potential and it limited what the Tigers could do with him.
Matt Boyd: C+
Another trade acquisition, Boyd has shown flashes of strength. That being said, he could use some more time in the minors to develop and solidify his instabilities on the mound. When he gets the ball down his pitches are deadly. But when left up as has been the case a lot, Boyd has paid for it. In his time with the Tigers he's given the rotation some hope for the future but those should be tempered after he can iron out the kinks. If the Tigers' rotation hadn't been so strapped for pitching, he likely would have gone to Toledo instead of the rotation upon being acquired.
Alex Wilson: A-
A throw-in in the initial Cespedes trade, Wilson surprised in the best way possible. He didn't make the team out of spring training but was called up when the bullpen began imploding. He remained with the Tigers for the rest of the season serving in every capacity needed. For large portions of the year, Wilson was used in a long relief role, much to the chagrin of many who rightfully thought his talents were being wasted once he proved he could hold his own. Wilson made a spot start and even served as the team's closer for a time. He was one of the bright spots in the midst of a flaming bullpen.
Drew VerHagen: B
Because of injury issues with his back, the Tigers made an ineffectual starting VerHagen into a strength in the bullpen. There are still consistency issues and he's still getting used to pitching out of the bullpen, but making VerHagen a reliever was the best thing the Tigers could have done for him, and them. Down the stretch he saved the 'pen repeatedly and eased questions regarding his future.
Al Alburquerque: C-
When he was on, he was unhittable. But those outings were few and far between, especially in the first half of the year. When he left the ball up in the strike zone, the damage done was difficult to watch and Alburquerque found ways to defensively throw away any chance of a good outing -- or he'd make it worse. Towards the end he had some more stable appearances and the destructive nature died down, but for most of the year Alburquerque's season was a disappointment.
Buck Farmer: D
Farmer spent most of the first half in the minors but when he was called up, he was awful. Farmer gave up at least one run in nine of his 12 outings from July 11 through the end of the season and only one of those three scoreless outings resulted in a 1-2-3 appearance. Of the five games he started, all resulted in a loss. He also had some forearm tightness in Sept. and missed time for that.
Neftali Feliz: D-
When the Tigers got overly desperate for bullpen arms just before the All-Star break, they got Feliz. What he gave them was more instability with momentary flashes of doing kind of alright. When Rondon was sent home, Ausmus said that Wilson and Feliz would share closing duties, but it was Feliz who ended up in the closer's role. If you've watched the season until the bitter end you would see that it didn't go well and Feliz performed about as he was expected to -- which is to say he wasn't good at all.
Tom Gorzelanny: C+
The season started out well enough and through May went alright. But Gorzelanny's career was in danger of being over after a brutal outing on May 28 that snowballed through June, causing his ERA to jump from 2.93 to 6.38. It was that bad. The Tigers made a last resort move to salvage his career and sent him to Triple-A Toledo with a new arm slot to work on. After tinkering with that new slot for a little over a month, the Tigers recalled him. The return didn't go well for a month but the Tigers stuck with it. After a two-run, three-hit inning on Sept. 3, something clicked for Gorzelanny. From Sept. 6 through the remainder of the year he posted a 1.23 ERA across seven outings and walked only two batters my striking out eight.
Joakim Soria: B
Until he was traded at the July 31 deadline, Soria was the Tigers' bona fide closer. While with the team, Soria posted a 2.85 ERA but his 4.87 FIP showed obvious signs of degrading with the progressing season. His strikeouts dropped but he was able to maintain strength for the most part. In retrospect, Soria would have been one of the best, if not the best after the deadline as he went on to 2.03 ERA and 1.93 FIP for the Pirates.
Joba Chamberlain: C+
Looking back, the Tigers had worse problems than Chamberlain. But when he was on the mound he played with danger until it caught up with him. For a while his numbers stated that he was doing well, but also showed that he was getting lucky thanks to defense. At the time, Chamberlain's issues were a big problem. At the end of the year his performance would have been an improvement in the 'pen, and that speaks to just how bad the bullpen became.
Blaine Hardy: B+
He gave up just two home runs all year and held the active record for a homerless streak of any pitcher. But he had his moments of instability, too. Hardy struggled to start the year, posting a 5.23 ERA with only four strikeouts in his first nine games across 10 1/3 innings of work. And down the stretch he had outings where he was more hittable. But he limited the damage and after his rough start, Hardy maintained a 2.65 ERA with only 17 walks and 16 runs allowed across 61 games in 51 innings of work.
Ian Krol: C-
Krol had this issue where he'd go stretches without giving up a darn thing, then he'd implode fantastically. Then he'd go back to being solid in relief again. Those inconsistencies aren't a new phenomenon, unfortunately. In Sept., Krol did do rather well, giving up just two runs on seven outings of six innings, but the problem he had this year just like last, was that you just never knew when he was going to go off and even during his more solid stretches those instabilities showed. If anything, he needs more time in the minors.
Bruce Rondon: D-
when you get sent home due to your "effort level" and a history of not doing your job, as well as serving up stinkers on the mound when you're expected to fill the closer's role as the anointed one ... Well, that about sums up Rondon's season. If he's going to be effective next year then he's going to need an adjustment beyond what's on the mound. His return to the Tigers will likely not be anytime soon and his lack of contribution in the bullpen spoke for itself. Even when he did well, it was short-lived.
Kyle Ryan: C
It's difficult to say whether Ryan is best used out of the bullpen or as a starter. He's shown the ability to do both. Of his 16 outings for the Tigers, Ryan started six of those games. Only one of those starts ended in a team win, but that was primarily because of the lack of run support. He held opposing teams to three runs or less in all but one start, and showed the ability to go deep into a game. Whether he can develop in the future to make that a reality, or become a strength out of the bullpen has yet to be seen. But give the right time to develop, Ryan could go either way.
Bryan Holaday, Dixon Machado, Hernan Perez, Jefry Marte, Josh Wilson, Daniel Fields, Steven Moya, Joe Nathan, Jeff Ferrell, Guido Knudson, Angel Nesbitt, Randy Wolf, Jose Valdez, Marc Krauss.
Holaday was called up to help with Avila out of commission and continued to struggle defensively and at the plate. Machado sparkled in his short time at the MLB level. He has the ability to be in serious conversations for Detroit in the future if Iglesias doesn't pan out. Perez was put on waivers and snatched up by the Brewers. Marte filled in when Cabrera went in the DL and was only adequate defensively both at first and third base. Wilson served as fill-in material for defensive infield support with no offensive expectations.
Fields was also DFA'd and claimed by the Brewers. Moya's strikeout issues were magnified at the MLB level, reinforcing the fact he should not be on the team. Nathan was lost to Tommy John surgery after Opening Day. Ferrell displayed some promise in the final delays but there's no way to know right now whether that was a fluke or a sign of things to come. Knutson gave up dingers in each of his outings but was dominant before and after those he gave up -- Hulk syndrome.
Nesbitt made the team out of spring (surprising many) and started out strong, but quickly faded. He stayed in Toledo for the rest of the season. Wolf is 39 years old and possibly on his last career leg, but he helped out at times ... sometimes, though, not so much. Valdez contributed to the bullpen mess. He's young and will either use the experience to develop or go nowhere fast. Krauss was forgettable. I actually nearly forgot he was on the team. He wasn't awful, just, right in the middle-forgettable.