Throughout the long winter nights, and after countless evenings driving home from work through a landscape of ice, snow and potholes, illuminated only by a feeble twilight, the cold, wet blanket of winter can feel endless. But today is the payoff. Baseball returns to our lives in full flower today, and it couldn’t happen soon enough.
Okay, it could be better. The Tigers aren’t going to do much of anything on the field this season. But you can’t get back to contending without rebuilding a foundation first, and that work is now underway. Rather than team success, we’ll be rooting for player development, a strong draft, and some deals to enrich the Tigers’ prospect coffers along the way. Frankly, we need baseball back, and we’ll take whatever the greatest game has to offer us this season.
First things first. The Tigers set their Opening Day roster on Wednesday, and made a few cuts as well. Starting pitcher Mike Fiers heads to the disabled list, but he’s not alone there. You can get up to date on who the heck is even playing for this team in 2018 right here.
Our friends over at Curbed Detroit put together a fantastic guide to Comerica Park and how to get the most out of your time downtown. Parking, restaurants, bars; it’s all here. This will serve you well throughout the long season. Curbed Detroit produces a lot of cool content all year long, so keep them in your bookmarks or feeds.
You can prime for the big day with a smorgasbord of preview content we have up on the site. The voice—and fine analyst—of the Detroit Tigers, Dan Dickerson, was gracious enough to write a fanpost here with his thoughts on what he saw from the organization in Spring Training, with a look ahead to the season to come. Thank you Dan!
The BYB podcast welcomed in The Athletic’s lead Tigers prospect reporter, BYB alum Emily Waldon. She joined Ashley and Brandon to talk about her time on the backfields of Joker Marchant Stadium this spring, which prospects raised their stock this spring, and what to look for in the year to come.
Ashley put together a comprehensive schedule of Opening Day baseball so you can gorge until your heart is content. If you’ve tuned out this winter, try a season preview here, and here. Predictions can also be found at any of your friendly, neighborhood baseball sites like FanGraphs, SBNation or Sports Illustrated. If it isn’t going well for the Tigers — or even if it is — many of us will no doubt turn to the Houston Astros game to see Justin Verlander make his first ever Opening Day start in another uniform. He’s looked an absolute monster this spring. I’m telling y’all, the Cy Young is his to lose. Verlander in 2020. We will not forget.
We made our probably wrong predictions here, and our traditional yearly post where BYB’s writers and readers introduce themselves anew to the best Tigers community on the internet can also be found here. Let us know how you became a Tigers fan and how you found the site!
No matter how it goes, this is a sight for sore eyes.
Prediction for 2018? Dingerz
The way things have gone since the 2015 All-Star break, a prediction of even higher home run rates may not surprise you. The ball is juiced, as Justin Verlander and a great many other players and analysts believe, or the lower seams on the ball are inhibiting movement, causing blisters, and limiting drag on the baseball once it’s hit in the air. Probably all of the above. According to Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs, the Spring Training numbers auger for a continued rise in home runs in 2018. Anyway—inserts ear plugs—good luck pitchers!
The art of pitching
FanGraphs writer and BYB podcast guest David Laurila has the first installment of a new series on their site in which he talks to pitchers about how they developed their arsenal. Jeff Hoffman of the Rockies discusses the late development of his slider. T.J. McFarland of the Diamondbacks describes the evolution of his sinker. And finally, our old friend Drew Smyly discusses the strange tale of how he found his cutter.
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Rich Hill is a fascinating case of perseverance winning out over injury. After a decade in the wilderness, Hill has re-emerged to post multiple excellent seasons with his high spin fastball-curve combination. And he has a theory about the difference in aging between spin and velocity. A theory that is promptly debunked.
Finally, Jon Roegele of the Hardball Times investigates how that most mercurial of baseball territories, the strike zone, evolved in 2018. We saw the strike zone expanding at the bottom, almost to the level of the actual rules, around the turn of the decade. Since then, the bottom of the called zone has once again risen, taking away the very bottom of the strike zone from sinkerballers. The so-called, “lefty strike” away off the plate from left-handed hitters, has also all but disappeared recently. The result? Dingers. There are a lot of challenges for a pitcher to face out there. Will the strike zone finally open up a bit this season to combat the long ball? Guess it depends on who’s calling the strikes.
Billy - I met this gentle soul on the streets of Detroit. Walking gingerly, he favored his right leg.. I thought up a couple scenarios that could have played out against him that had given him that limp. Dark ally brawl, hopping a fence or maybe an old football injury that never got the attention it needed. I was curious so I asked him.. "I ain't hurt but I figure if I'm limpin somebody might feel sorry for me & gimme a dollar or 2." - I respected his honesty. Well, the honesty he spoke to me but maybe not his fabricated high ankle sprain. Either way, we got to talkin & walkin.. We made it so far that we reached one of my go-to cafes in downtown Detroit. It was freezing so we stopped in for bite & some hot coffee. Billy, opened up a bit about his past. Losing his wife. Gradually becoming homeless. Etc. but as his body slouched while reciting those memories he all of the sudden lit up. Rummaging through his pockets he pulled out a crumpled post it note & asked me if I could call this number "this number is my ticket off the street.. It's apartments for the homeless." Shocked by his change in demeanor I pulled out my phone & dialed the number... Crickets. Not even a dial tone. I told him they didn't answer & he gave me an optimistic half smile. "Maybe tomorrow" - sometimes perspective changes like the wind. Good, bad, good, bad. But Hope is something you hold tight to & don't let go. I'll end with this..God has a purpose in everything that happens. Don't let your limited perspective cast a shadow over your Faith, Hope or Love. Sometimes it's all you have. #justkeeplivin
Around the horn
The Astros are performing a fascinating experiment. Sig Mejdal, their lead data analyst, has been working with coaches over the past season to help himself transition from the front office to the training field. This season, he’ll be put to the test. The Pitcher List takes a look at Tommy Pham and Whit Merrifield to see just how sustainable their breakouts last season were. They also have some predictions for you. Finally, Anthony Fenech of the Freep sat down with a pro scout to get his take on every Tigers player this season. Pretty interesting, even if his James McCann impressions are somewhat baffling.
Baseball is awesome
If you missed it, the Toronto Blue Jays played the Cardinals in an exhibition game in Montreal to wrap up their Spring Training schedule. With the game on the line, and a raucous crowd on hand, one 19 year old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stepped to the dish in the ninth and lit the baseball world on fire with a titanic walkoff bomb. While wearing his father’s number 27, on March 27th, in Montreal where Vlad the Elder made his bones. Awesome stuff. More awesome if he was a Tigers prospect though!
Bonus: No, Ian Kinsler hasn’t let Los Angeles change him. Ian Kinsler things? Still a thing.