After eight games in as many days, the Detroit Tigers are finally headed into their first off day of the season. While the team is almost certainly happy for the rest, we have plenty to talk about following their surprising 5-3 start to the season. The Tigers offense has yet to heat up, but their pitching has kept them afloat, keying a series win over the New York Yankees earlier this week.
With such a weird stat profile to their name so far, there are a lot of surprising things about the 2019 Tigers at the moment. Let’s see who has stood out the most in the early going.
This week’s question: Which Tigers player has surprised you the most so far this season?
Rob: Please don’t all say Matthew Boyd.
Adam: Jordy Mercer. My expectations were pretty low on him coming into the season, with some concerns about his aging glove. He has made some very Iglesias-esque plays in the field and has simply looked like a very solid shortstop out there. Sure, his bat is slow to warm up, but expectations aren’t really high in the hitting department to begin with.
Jeff: I’m going with Miguel Cabrera. The only stat that looks familiar is the 15 percent walk rate. He is only batting .148 with one RBI and zero extra base hits. Just last year we saw the old Cabrera production (.299/.395/.448) before his injury. Now, it looks like he’s on the downward trend who will probably struggle to hit 20 home runs even if he stays healthy all year.
Patrick: Jordan Zimmermann is the biggest and most pleasant surprise to me thus far. All of the starting pitchers have been great, really, but Zimmermann has been better than anyone could have hoped for. A 0.66 ERA, 1.69 FIP, just one walk between two starts, and no home runs allowed. He is mainly doing it without big strikeout numbers, and he is locating the ball wherever he wants it.
Kenon: Shane Greene is a perfect five-for-five in save chances with just two hits allowed and no walks. The entire bullpen has been really stellar, but Greene leading the league in saves after eight games was very unexpected.
Ashley: Jordan Zimmermann. I suspected he might be slightly improved after a decent spring training showing, but man I could not have expected this for the world. I know it’s only two starts and the small sample size beast looms large, but I have been so impressed with him. He looks sharp, confident, and exactly like the Zimmermann we hoped we were getting when we signed him originally.
Ron: Jeimer Candelario has surprised me in a negative way so far this season. Last year, Candelario had a 25.8 percent strikeout rate and a 10.7 walk rate. Those are good numbers — just a few percentage points above leave average in strikeout rate and in the top 25 in the league in walk rate. This year, he is striking out one-third of the time and only has one walk in over 30 plate appearances. Obviously it’s early, but Candelario usually sees the ball well and doesn’t struggle with walks or strikeouts, so it’s definitely something I’d like to keep an eye on.
Zane: We could not possibly run this article without mentioning Matthew Boyd. His 13 strikeouts were the most by a Tigers left-handed pitcher since Mickey Lolich in 1972. He is the first Tigers lefty to ever post back-to-back double-digit strikeout games. He has a negative FIP and the second-best fWAR in baseball. He smashed his personal-best record of 19 swing-and-misses from his first start with 26 in his second. Between his philanthropic work in the off-season and his brilliant start to the year, I hope Boyd is taking this all in; he has been absolutely sensational on and off the field all year long. Here’s hoping he wins both the Cy Young award and the Heart and Hustle award. If he wins either, he will join Justin Verlander and Don Kelly on my list of all-time personal favorite Tigers.
Brandon: It has only been one start but the player who surprised me the most was Matt Moore. We didn’t get a lot of chances to see him this spring, and the last time I saw him pitch in the majors was with the Giants in 2017. He was sitting around 91-92 mph with a solid curveball and not much else at that point. So while the Blue Jays offense is getting dominated so far, it was impressive to see Moore come out pumping 93-95 mph at the top of the zone with a better cutter than I remember. I’m very curious to see his next few starts and whether or not he can keep it up. He may not have a ton of value in trade as a starter alone, but a lefty who can do a Justin Wilson impression out of the pen with a rising mid-90s heater and solid secondaries could draw some real interest if he keeps it going.
Rob: I can’t publish this article without mentioning Niko Goodrum. He was a solid hitter last season who became a fan favorite in part because he came out of nowhere — he also seems like a wonderful human, which helps — but he only managed 1.1 fWAR in nearly a full season’s worth of at-bats. Most thought he would regress a bit heading into the season, but he has gone full throttle in the other direction. Through the team’s first eight games, Goodrum is batting .318/.483/.591 with six doubles, tied for second in all of baseball. He has more walks than strikeouts at the moment, and is hitting the ball on the screws nearly every time up.
Sign me up for a full season of this.