Here’s a riddle: if the MLB playoffs are underway but the Detroit Tigers aren’t involved, are they really happening? Well, yes, technically. The Tigers have only made the playoffs 16 times in their 116-year history, and Major League Baseball has done its best to crown a champion in most of those seasons. Barring some major catastrophe, 2016 will be no different.
The lack of crisp, white, Olde English D uniforms in these playoffs may not phase some of you. Baseball is baseball, after all, and the postseason can be exciting no matter who is involved.
It’s more fun to have a dog in the fight, though, and that’s where we come in. Rather than point out the various pros and cons of rooting for each team — we’re all adults here, we can make our own determinations — we’re just going to point out which of your favorite former Tigers are on each team’s roster. After all, who else are you going to root for than the players you loved when they were here in Detroit?
Poor Prince Fielder won’t be on the Rangers’ playoff roster after a debilitating neck injury prematurely ended his career. He struggled during his healthy-ish portion of 2016, hitting just .212/.292/.334 with eight home runs in 89 plate appearances. The 32-year-old slugger finished his career with 319 home runs, the same exact number as his father. Still, many fans will be rooting for the Rangers to win a ring for Prince.
Starter Colby Lewis didn’t spend much time in Detroit after the Tigers selected him off waivers in October 2004. He missed all of 2005 after having shoulder surgery and spent most of the 2006 season in Triple-A Toledo. Lewis did make a cameo in Detroit, though, pitching three innings across two games in late August. He has returned from a number of injuries to provide 116 1⁄3 solid innings for the Rangers this year, limiting opponents to a 3.71 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. Rangers pundits believe he will start Game 3 of the ALDS against the Blue Jays.
Speedy outfielder Rajai Davis led the American League with 43 stolen bases this season, leading to a lot of buyer’s remorse around the Tigers fanbase. Davis wasn’t quite that prolific of a base stealer in his two seasons in Detroit, but he did hit better than the .249/.306/.388 line he posted with the Tribe this year. The Indians’ outfield is deep, but with at least one lefty in Boston’s rotation — David Price starts on Friday — Davis will get his chance to make an impact this week.
Lefty Andrew Miller wasn’t nearly this dominant when he pitched in Detroit a decade ago, but most Tigers fans are happy with how things worked out. After failing to find his way as a starter, Miller has evolved into one of the most electrifying relievers in baseball. Keep your eyes peeled whenever the Red Sox get runners on base this week, because Indians manager Terry Francona has used Miller very liberally since he arrived in Cleveland. Things got a little more predictable as the Tribe coasted down the stretch, but Miller has come in as early as the sixth inning before.
Boston Red Sox
Hey, Bryan Holaday is here! That’s cool. He only appeared in 14 games with the Red Sox in August and September, and likely won’t see any playoff action unless there’s an injury or two.
Rick Porcello, on the other hand, will see a bit of playoff action. He is scheduled to start Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday after a career year in the regular season. The likely AL Cy Young winner (for better or worse) went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 33 starts. While one of his teammates pitched more innings and tallied more strikeouts, Porcello was Boston’s best starter all season long, and is deserving of the nod in Game 1. He has plenty of experience pitching at Progressive Field, and has limited the Tribe to a .693 OPS in his career.
That teammate with all the strikeouts? Yeah, that’s former Tiger David Price. Boston’s $217 million man led the American League in innings pitched and batters faced this season, but it took him a while to find his footing. His ERA was above 5 at the end of May, and was even above 4 at times in September before a solid outing on the final day of the regular season pushed him just under that threshold. The 31-year-old has struggled in the postseason at times, though Tigers fans should be grateful for the gem he twirled in a losing effort during the 2014 ALDS.
Toronto Blue Jays
Man, there are some sore subjects here. Ezequiel Carrera has come into his own since arriving in Toronto, and even started in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday. Carrera’s glove has played up nicely in the corners alongside defensive wunderkind Kevin Pillar, and he has upped his walk rate to a career-high 8.7 percent in 2016. He could potentially lead off, but that honor has been bestowed upon former Tigers prospect Devon Travis. The diminutive second baseman hit a robust .300/.332/.454 in 101 plate appearances this year, and has out-WAR’d Anthony Gose 5.4 to 0.5 since the two were traded for one another. Jason Grilli is also here, but we know what Jim Leyland would say about that.
Remember how fired up Max Scherzer was after getting out of his bases-loaded jam during the 2013 ALDS? Expect more of that this season (you know, minus the self-induced high-leverage situations). Scherzer was his usual dominant self in 2016, posting a 20-6 record with a 2.96 ERA and 3.24 FIP in a league-high 228 1⁄3 innings. He made his fourth consecutive All-Star team, and led the majors with a stingy 0.97 WHIP. He may even win his second career Cy Young Award, though I think there are a couple others more deserving of the honor. Scherzer will start a doozy of a Game 1 on Friday in D.C. against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.
While Scherzer was a star in Detroit, Giants outfielder Gorkys Hernandez is known among Tigers fans as yet another failed prospect during the Dave Dombrowski regime. The 29-year-old was signed by the Tigers as an amateur free agent in 2005, but never made a major league appearance with the team. He was part of the trade that brought Edgar Renteria to Detroit for the 2008 season. Since arriving in the majors in 2012, Hernandez has hit .205/.269/.335 in 235 plate appearances.