It has become an annual tradition for the Detroit Tigers to be favored for the American League Central crown at this point in the year. Even in 2015, prior to a last-place finish, most experts felt that the Tigers had the best odds in a tight three- or four-team race.
We all know how that turned out. Losing key players to injury led to losing games that counted, and those losses led to losing even more key players at the trade deadline. Sprinkle a few more injuries and some bad luck on top and after the dust settled, the Tigers won only 74 games and finished in last place in their division.
As a result of that disaster, and, of course, a division rival managing to win the World Series, the Tigers aren't the favorites in the division for the first time in years. In fact, many aren't even expecting the Tigers to compete for the crown.
*FanGraphs' team projections are a combination of ZiPS and Steamer player projections, adjusted to the expected depth charts.
To summarize, most projection systems and experts agree that the Tigers are a .500 team, perhaps a touch below. The one exception -- Atlantis Casino in Reno, Nevada, the only casino to have released their win total odds at this point -- has projected the Tigers for 85 wins, but are offering a larger payout to bettors taking the over. Meaning, they think the Tigers will win 85 but they also recognize that the general public will think that number is a bit too high, and will bet more on the under.
Tigers fans are left scratching their heads. What's with all the doom and gloom?
Doesn't anyone realize the injuries they suffered last year? Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez all spent time on the disabled list, not to mention the trade deadline deals that sent away David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and Joakim Soria. Those 74 wins represented an absolute worst-case scenario, and they should be much healthier in 2016. Plus, they added Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton, and revamped the entire bullpen! Doesn't anyone notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!
But, yeah, those records seem low, right? Or are we just being biased homers? I don't know, maybe. Probably. Nearly every fan feels like their team is being underrated, but they can't all have winning records. Perhaps we should take these numbers to heart and temper our expectations for 2016.
Nah, forget that. That was a terrible idea and I'm sorry I mentioned it. There's no way they win fewer than 100 games. World Series here we come!