The 2019 season could not have gone much worse for the Detroit Tigers. They lost 114 games. Their two highest-paid players were below replacement level. Their top starting pitcher had Tommy John surgery in March. Things were OK down in the minors, but just about everyone who donned the Olde English D had a disappointing year (or worse).
Luckily, the 2020 season promises to be better. Statistical projections peg the Tigers for improvements of 20 wins or more, a huge number for a single offseason. Their free agent signings were widely praised by fans and media members alike, and the young guns are a year closer to the major leagues.
How much better will this season be, though? Baseball Prospectus released their Tigers season preview on Wednesday, with outlines of the various percentile projections from their PECOTA system. Naturally, their most interesting is the 90th percentile projection — the best case scenario.
What would it take for the Detroit Tigers to make the playoffs? We’re glad you asked, because PECOTA actually spit out them as a playoff team at the 90th percentile outcome...In this material world, Miguel Cabrera is once again Miguel Cabrera; he hits .338 and runs away with the batting title, relaunching all of the awful Trout vs. Cabrera MVP takes from eight years ago with new and exciting narratives. Jonathan Schoop plays back to his All-Star 2017 form. C.J. Cron hits .300 with 37 homers and might finally get more than a one-year contract next offseason.
Making the playoffs would indeed be wonderful, but, depending on how you get there — fans might not like it if the Tigers start dealing from their prospect stores for a chance at the Wild Card — the answer to today’s question might not be as straightforward as it seems.
Today’s question: Short of winning the World Series (duh), what is the best case scenario for the Tigers in 2020?
My answer: Whether or not they actually make the playoffs, the absolute best case scenario for this Tigers team would be if they moved back over the .500 mark. Specifically, the dream scenario is a winning record spurred by many of their prospects and young players. If guys like Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Isaac Paredes were simply too good to ignore in the minors, then hit the ground running in the major leagues to push the Tigers to contention (or just relevance, even), that would bode very, very well for 2021 and beyond.
Even if the wins don’t come, seeing major strides from the prospect pool (the hitters, especially) would be absolutely huge. Imagine if Riley Greene’s early spring performance isn’t a mirage, and he elevates himself among the top 10 or 15 prospects in all of baseball. Or if Tarik Skubal continues to mow hitters down at the same pace he did last year, and further hones his secondary pitches in the process. Or if all these concerns about Mize’s arm and fastball are overblown, and Franklin Perez makes us forget about the last two injury-plagued seasons, and Paredes hits so much we don’t give a damn where he plays defense. That would be one hell of a year.
And yes, I’d take a healthy, resurgent Miguel Cabrera too.