Happy New Years! As the calendar turns over to 2019, we here at Bless You Boys have already vowed to do better than we did last year. We hope we can say the same for the Detroit Tigers, but no promises on that front.
While most websites spent the dying days of 2018 highlighting the best work they produced over the course of the year, we declined to participate on the site. We’re not the best at self-promotion — which probably isn’t the best quality for growing a website, I guess — and have a much easier time poking fun at ourselves than tooting our own horn. Plus, with how bad the Tigers were last year, it only seems right that we point out some of our own lowlights.
So, without further ado, here is what we got wrong in 2018.
(And if you’re really interested in our favorite stuff of the year, we tweeted out a few links on Monday afternoon.)
Oh man, did we start off the year with a bang. I think the title says it all here. Lincecum threw all of 12 2⁄3 innings in the Texas Rangers minor league system in 2018 and did not reach the major leagues.
(It’s worth noting I only suggested it because it was interesting, not because I thought he would be good.)
No amount of free agent dollars would have pushed the 64-98 Tigers into contention. They started the year off decently, but ultimately faded, especially as injuries started to take their toll on the roster.
But where we really screwed up here was in some of the names we picked for the Tigers to sign.
Jonathan Lucroy, catcher: two years, $24 million
Lucroy has been one of the premier catchers in the game over the past several seasons, with a career .281 batting average and .353 on base percentage. Lucroy struggled with the Rangers in 2017, but regained some of his value after being traded to the Rockies. He might be interested in a short term deal to further rebuild his value. Lucroy would compliment James McCann behind the plate and work well with Detroit’s young pitchers.
Lucroy was worth -0.7 rWAR on the year, and is a shell of his former self at this point.
The rest of the list wasn’t any better, either; only reliever Tony Watson posted more than 0.6 rWAR in 2018.
When new manager Ron Gardenhire planted Martin at the top of the Tigers lineup at the start of spring training, we wondered aloud whether this was the best idea for the upcoming season. Martin was coming off an awful 2017 season, and was a few years removed from being remotely productive at the plate.
On paper, there is really only one logical choice to sit atop the batting order for the Tigers. Mikie Mahtook hit .276/.330/.457 in Detroit last season with a decent 3.2 BsR. His 107 wRC+ is above average for a leadoff hitter, and he gets on base enough to benefit the rest of the sluggers behind him. He may not rack up as many steals as a player like Martin, but he more than makes up for it at the plate.
The logic here was sound, but sometimes baseball just doesn’t cooperate. Martin got off to a hot start and was ultimately a nice trade chip for the Tigers, while Mahtook struggled to hit above the Mendoza line.
We got rather angry about Labourt’s unceremonious departure from the organization in early March. He was coming off a good season in 2017, and there were other players on the roster at the time who appeared to be less deserving of their spot than Labourt.
This isn’t about losing Jairo Labourt. It’s about their poor decision-making, hesitance to fully commit to their rebuild, and perhaps even a subpar ability to evaluate talent. Take the waivers process itself, for instance. The Reds, who had the fifth-worst record in baseball last season, had the fourth-highest priority for this particular waiver claim. In a sense, only three teams said no to the 23-year-old lefthander before one said “sure, we’ll take one of those if you’re giving them away.”
While I stand by the above sentiment, this may not have been the right hill to die on. Labourt appeared in just 5 2⁄3 innings in the Chicago White Sox farm system due to injuries. He signed a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays in December.
This was just a disaster of an article, one that requires a lot of squinting to even find one correct prediction. But while you can see the reasoning behind some of them, this one was really bad.
Nick Castellanos is a Gold Glove finalist
That said, I think Castellanos will be better than expected in the outfield this year. He will take the occasional bad route, but will benefit from the greater positioning freedom his new position allows. Also, I think he will rack up a bunch of assists like J.D. Martinez did in 2015 when no one knew how strong his arm was. That, plus a .900 OPS, will put him in the Gold Glove conversation before Mookie Betts wins it again.
Betts won every award in the book, and Castellanos was one of the worst outfielders in baseball.
Key Trend: Matthew Boyd has an opponent BABIP of .194 and a sky-high left-on-base percentage (85.9%), and therefore has a FIP two runs higher than his ERA (4.70 FIP, 2.74 ERA).
There was some early buzz over Boyd’s ERA at the start of this season, but his peripherals do not reflect this stellar performance. Prior to his April 25 start in which he surrendered four earned runs, three walks, and seven hits in 3 2⁄3 innings, Boyd had a sparkling 1.40 ERA through three starts. While his 2.74 ERA through four starts is still impressive, his left-on-base percentage (LOB%) and opponent batting average on balls in play (BABIP) are due to regress. Boyd is walking fewer batters (2.74 per nine innings) than he did in 2017 (3.53), and his strikeouts-per-nine are down, primarily due to his first start in which he only struck out one batter.
We’ll call this one half wrong. Boyd did indeed regress after posting a 2.74 ERA in April (point Zane), but he looked like a legitimate mid-rotation starter for most of the season, holding opponents to two runs or fewer in more than half of his starts. He finished the year with a career-best 4.39 ERA, and career highs in a number of categories, including innings pitched (170.1), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.12), strikeout rate (22.4 percent), and rWAR (2.1).
Some members of our staff think pulled pork and other barbecued meats are overrated. No BYB writer was more wrong this year.
[narrator voice] It was very bad. [/narrator voice]
This was in the middle of a 3-11 stretch for the Tigers in mid-August. We published an article titled “Please, just make the losing stop” later in the series.
This entire thread was an admission of guilt from everyone on the staff.
I was wrong about James McCann becoming a breakout player. No, I did not think he would become one of the best catchers in the league, nor did I think he would become a Gold Glover who suddenly learned how to frame pitches. But I did think he would build upon what he did last year and improve offensively.
There were reasons to believe McCann was trending in the right direction, but his slight improvements from 2017 did not hold last season.