The Detroit Tigers are coming off their first bye-week in... well, presumably, all of its history after their series with the St. Louis Cardinals was postponed due to a rash of positive COVID-19 tests. Consequently, the boys in the Olde English D will be forced to play a pair of make-up doubleheaders — the first on Thursday August 13th at Comerica Park, the second on Thursday September 10th at Busch Stadium.
While the Tigers gear up for their weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, there are a few noteworthy stories in the recent news, including one weird scenario that fits perfectly in this 2020 narrative we are all wading through.
Could Casey Mize win Rookie of the Year twice?
Jayson Stark poses a question in his latest article at The Athletic: would it be possible for a player to win the Rookie of the Year Award twice due to the truncated 2020 schedule? As it turns out, it is absolutely within the realm of possibility.
Unless some changes in the rules occur between now and when the votes are cast, one could qualify for the honor both in 2020 and 2021 if certain conditions are met. Sure, it is very unlikely this could happen, but what I’m saying here is there is a chance. Here are the conditions that would disqualify a player from earning the award a second time.
• Log 45 days or more on a big-league roster before Sept. 1.
• Pitch 50 innings or more.
• Roll up 130 at-bats or more.
In a 60-game season that could also see further games trimmed due to COVID-19, it is clear how easily a rookie could get hot and still stay below these thresholds. The first bullet point is mathematically impossible, while the second is plausible for a starting pitcher and the last condition being fairly easy to reach, depending on when that player first took the field.
So what about Casey Mize? Here is what Stark had to say on the topic.
If the Tigers were to leave the former No. 1 pick in the draft, Casey Mize, in the minors for, say, even another week and a half, it’s likely he would only get eight starts this season. Then suppose he dominated over those eight starts, had a historic 1.11 ERA and averaged six innings a start? That would make him Rookie of the Year material — but he would only work 48 innings. Uh-oh.
So it is absolutely possible for Mize to dominate in a later call-up and still maintain eligibility for next year — at least in this hypothetical scenario. Considering that the 23-year-old right-handed prospect was overwhelming selected by the Bless You Boys staff to take home the trophy this season, this could be a storyline to keep an eye on.
JaCoby Jones is en fuego
Jules Posner over at Forbes takes a look at the torrid start to JaCoby Jones’ 2020 season at the plate. In response to Jim Bowden’s lack of faith in Jones’ start, which was expressed in this article for The Athletic, Posner rebutted with an analysis of Jones’ numbers since his swing change dating back to May 1, 2019.
The long story short version is that his 162 game averages paint a much different picture from the player he was prior to his adjustment. Jones’ most recent numbers project him to be a 3-plus fWAR player — best among Detroit Tiger position players — and would have also topped career highs in most offensive categories. Fueled by an offensive onslaught to start the season, the mercurial outfielder as of Wednesday sits at fifth in the majors in fWAR with 0.6.
... while Niko is not
The yin to JaCoby Jones’ yang is currently Niko Goodrum, who is mired in the deepest of doldrums, coming into Friday’s game batting .161 while going hitless with eight strikeouts in his last five games. The toolsy shortstop is looking to get things going at the plate after a slow start to the year.
Tigers are tightening up their COVID-19 protocols
The team has been either very good or very lucky when it comes to avoiding the bite of the novel coronavirus, but either way, the Tigers are facing stricter COVID-19 protocols as mandated by Major League Baseball. Manager Ron Gardenhire had the following to say on the matter.
“I’ve read through (the new protocols). It’s a lot about road trips, travel and flights. We have a different situation than a lot of teams because we have our own plane and we only have X amount of seats on that plane. So we have to do the best we can with the number of people we have in that plane, as far as distancing each other.”
In regards to how the team has approached the challenges of social distancing, the grizzled veteran coach added the following.
“We’ve done a really nice job up until this point, and that will continue. It’s all about taking care of ourselves, especially on the road and staying in the hotel as best you possibly can. Order room service rather than going out. It’s not like you’re in jail. You can walk out, let them know where you’re going, and then come back.”
It has been a surprising start to the season for the Motor City Kitties and avoiding a COVID-19 outbreak on the team is undoubtedly a contributing factor. Hopefully, the team stays healthy and safe throughout the course of this troublesome season.
The Jordy Mercer era ends
In a move that emphasizes a commitment to getting the younger players more time on the field, Jordy Mercer was designated for assignment by the Tigers, and after clearing waivers, he elected free agency. Gardenhire had the following to say about the move.
“It’s just unfortunate we had to do that. We all love the guy and he did well while he was here, has helped us. It’s a tough decision but young guys, old guys and not enough playing time basically is what it turns into.”
The 34-year-old infielder signed with the Tigers in 2019 after a lengthy and fruitful career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His departure will open up space for Dawel Lugo to take over as backup at the third and first base positions.
With Jordy Mercer gone, Tigers active roster is down to four players older than 30: Miguel Cabrera (37), Ivan Nova (33), Austin Romine (31) and Jose Cisnero (31). Cameron Maybin and Jordan Zimmermann are currently on IL.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) August 6, 2020
Congrats to Alex Avila
Around the horn
A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson apologizes after displaying ‘unintentional’ Nazi salute. Astros minor leaguer Kent Emanuel gets 80-game suspension for PEDs. Mark Grace is not good when it comes to announcing baseball. Facts refute claims that the St. Louis Cardinals picked up COVID-19 at a casino. This season’s first month may not be all that weird, according to Baseball Prospectus. Baseball according to ‘airport rules’: Are the 2020 rule modifications working?
Baseball is awesome
Along with our friends at @ComericaBank, we've got a #SummerSlugger challenge in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues.— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) August 7, 2020
All you have to do is research Norman "Turkey" Stearnes & send us a video of what you found at https://t.co/FtWmViWiG4. pic.twitter.com/jiFJ5m81pZ