Spring training is just a bit over halfway finished and as opening day nears many of the narratives of the past few weeks steadily come into focus. However, sometimes the storylines will throw a curveball with an unexpected emergence of a new wrinkle in the events as they unfurl. In this case, it is literally a curveball pitch that is making the latest waves.
Matthew Boyd has unquestionably become the ace of the Detroit Tigers’ pitching staff thanks in large part to hard work and diligence, which has made him the darling of the media this spring. Among the many things that the industrious lefty has done to continue elevating his stock is the reintroduction of his curveball.
After experimenting with a sinker and vacillating with his changeup usage last summer, Boyd went back to the drawing board and resurrected his other breaking ball, which he had all but abandoned the past two seasons. The revamped pitch appears to have more depth and feel than what he offered last season in comparison to a small sample size this spring, but if Boyd can make it work, he could very well take his game to the next level in 2020.
Joe Jiménez gets the nod for closer role
On the topic of pitching, manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed on Tuesday that Joe Jiménez will be the Tigers’ primary closer for this coming season. While the news comes as a surprise to very few with him arriving at Tigertown with the inside track, his performance in Lakeland these first few weeks has done little to hurt his case.
So far this spring, Jiménez has pitched in five games throwing five scoreless innings, giving up three hits, two walks and striking out four in 19 batters faced for an even 1.00 WHIP. Hopefully, he can carry his current success over into the regular season.
Rotochamp’s look at the Tigers’ opening day roster
Taking a more general view of what can be expected on opening day, the website RotoChamp has team projections for the Detroit Tigers posted, including starting lineups and division standings. The bad news is that the Motor City Kitties are picked to finish last in the AL Central with a 67-95 record — one game behind Kansas City.
The less-bad news is that the starting lineup actually looks fairly decent in comparison to last year’s debacle. Cameron Maybin leads off playing outfield, followed by Niko Goodrum at shortstop, Miguel Cabrera in the designated hitter slot, C.J. Cron at first base, Jonathan Schoop at second base, Jeimer Candelario at third base, Christin Stewart in the outfield, Austin Romine at catcher and Victor Reyes batting ninth and playing outfield.
The starting rotation is listed as Matthew Boyd, Jordan Zimmermann, Ivan Nova, Daniel Norris and Spencer Turnbull, with Tyler Alexander as the sixth starter and Michael Fulmer awaiting on the 60-day IL.
The legacy of Legendary Lloyd
One of the greatest weaknesses of Tigers teams of the past few years has been at the plate, which completely bottomed out last year as the team reached historic marks for offensive futility. Many among the fans and the media have looked at now-former hitting coach Lloyd McClendon as a scapegoat for the dearth of production from some of the younger position players coming up from the farm.
For a while, there was little evidence to link McClendon to the failures of many of his pupils, but this article by Jules Posner published at Forbes takes a deeper look into the swings of two players and comes away with some indicting data. Simply put, the approach Lloyd and the organization have taken with hitters like Candelario and Stewart has caused more harm than help, and there is little to suggest that the coaching is effectively customized to each individual. The article is very well worth reading in its entirety, as the analysis is both straightforward and well-researched.
Women’s History Month tidbit
Nicknamed the Flint Flash, Sophie Kurys stole 1,114 bases in her seven-year career in the @AAGPBL.— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) March 10, 2020
A league MVP with the Racine Belles, she stole 201 bases on 203 attempts in a single season — a record still recognized in the @baseballhall. #WomensHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/qhkJ19mSmF
Here's a fun fact: Since 2000, only four MLB teams posted a negative fWAR. The #Tigers have done that three times in 2002 (-1.0), 2003 (-1.2) and 2019 (-2.6). The #Dbacks did it in 2004 (-0.4). How fun!— Julesyboy (@julesposner) March 9, 2020
Major sports clubhouses closed due to coronavirus fears
All four major sports leagues in the U.S. that are currently in season have closed their locker rooms and clubhouses to media over the fear of the spread of coronavirus.— Front Office Sports (@frntofficesport) March 9, 2020
Here's the joint statement from the leagues. pic.twitter.com/ZLRgwiTYdh
- 2020 BYB Tigers Prospect #1: Casey Mize remains top dog on the farm. Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal are breathing down his neck, but Mize remains number one in our rankings.
- Tigers 2020 player preview: Christin Stewart needs to hit the ball harder this season. Stewart’s underlying numbers weren’t bad in 2019, but he didn’t make enough hard contact.
- Tigers 2020 player preview: What can we expect from Miguel Cabrera? Cabrera’s best years are behind him, but is he still capable of pulling his weight in the lineup?
- Tigers interested in Athletics IF Jorge Mateo, per report. Mateo is out of options and part of a crowded A’s infield competition this spring.
- The Tigers have a top-5 farm system in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. Pipeline also ranked the Tigers’ system in the top 10 last year.
- JaCoby Jones might be the Tigers’ all-time strikeout artist. Three current Tigers are whiffing at a blistering pace.
Around the horn
Indians and Francisco Lindor “couldn’t come up with an agreement” on new deal as focus turns to season. Ken Rosenthal discusses why clubhouse access matters to the sports media. Christian Yelich will be paid deferred money by Brewers until 2042. Team finances are always going to be opaque so opening the books won’t make a difference. Ex-Tiger Tyson Ross hopes he’s found an answer to his injury issues. After nearly disappearing from the majors for a quarter-century, three teams have switched from grass to turf in the span of 12 months.
Nippon Professional Baseball postponed the start of its 2020 regular season on Monday. Japanese baseball to play remainder of preseason without spectators due to virus fears. BayStars and Tigers managers react to NPB’s decision to push back start of season.