Detroit Tigers

Any Better?

So last week I hinted at a few questions I wanted to discuss this week. I also threw out a big question: Are the 2016 Tigers any better than the 2015 Opening Day Tigers?

The Tigers have made a slew of deals this year, not just the big signings of Zimmerman and Upton, but also Pelfry, K-Rod, Justin Wilson, Mark Lowe, Saltalamacchia, Aviles, and Maybin.

But they also lost a ton of talent in Price, Cespedes, and Soria.

So where exactly do the big moves put them in terms of better or worse than last year?

Let’s break it down really easy with players and their actual WAR from last year. I am not going by ZIPS projections (well, actually I will twice) but simply what we know happened last year. Of course this means that some players, especially older ones, are going to get worse, and hopefully some of the younger players will get better. I will not discuss players that are holdovers from last year, unless there is reason to believe their WAR will significantly change from last year.

Here we go:

Rotation:

Verlander pitched pretty much as well as Price pitched for Detroit after the big trade. If Verlander can do that all season I will call this change, from Price to Verlander as the ace as a push.

Zimmerman will be replacing Verlander’s spot from last year, and even with Verlander’s incredible 2nd half, Zimmerman bested him by 1.5 wins.

Pelfrey was worth 2.0 wins over Simon.

And if they get 0 wins out of the rest of the bunch to start for the Tigers, that will be worth 1.5 more than the terrible job everyone else did last year.

That’s 5 wins just from the rotation.

The infield has not changed a soul. Can we reasonably expect Iglesias and Castellanos to improve? Can we expect Cabrera and Kinlser to decline? Yes to all, but I’m not going to get into it.

In the outfield the only move is Cespedes for Upton. They both had a 3.5 WAR last year. Wash.

Now the bench. For years everyone, including myself, has complained about the bench. And this year the Tigers moved 75% of their bench! However, Aviles was worth an entire win less than Perez last year. And Maybin was worth half a win less than Rajai. Saltalamacchia was worth one win more than Avila, but got a tremendous amount more playing time, so in reality that is probably a wash too. But, to be nice I will say they dropped a win on their bench by moving these players. Nothing like making moves and spending money to get worse, right?

So now we are down to 4.0 wins more than last year.

There was one guy I didn’t mention… Victor Martinez. Victor was worth a whopping -1.6 WAR last year. He had the 10th worst DH offensive season of all time! He had the worst offensive season of any player with 450 at bats in all of MLB in 2015! He was not good!

His ZIPS projection for next year is 2.0 WAR. His average season WAR is over 3, but he is getting old, so let’s be conservative here: he is still a 3.5 win improvement!

Now we are up to 7.5 wins over 2015.

And here we come to the bullpen. This seemed to be the area of the most torment to the team and probably the reason they were sellers at the deadline. They have done a lot to improve and here is where the chips fall in terms of 2015 WAR.

The Tigers basically got rid of Chamberlain, Alburquerque, Gorzelany and Krol, who combined for -1.8 WAR last year.

The Tigers went out and got Justin Wilson, K-Rod, and Mark Lowe, and their combined 4.5 WAR. Making a staggering improvement of roughly 6 wins!

That brings the total improvement of this team up to an impossible 13.5 wins!

That would put the Tigers in with something like 87 wins, in playoff contention for sure.

The only area that we needed to see improvement and didn’t was the bench. So why these players? Why these moves?

On a team so right handed, why would you pick up a right handed Cameron Maybin? He doesn’t hit lefties that well even, so you would want to play him mostly against RHP, but those games go to Gose. I guess now that they have Upton who crushes LHP, maybe Maybin will get in LF on a number of days.

If you liked Maybin’s defense over Rajai, you shouldn’t. Maybin was profoundly worse than Davis last year with the glove, posting a full 10 runs less. Maybin can play center better than Davis, but they certainly didn’t seem to mind having Rajai out there last year. Was there no other $6M player out there that can play defense in all three outfield spots? Just a weird move I don’t understand. Not to mention Maybin is a starter. How well will he do off the bench? Even if he gets half the at bats?

The passing on Avila and grabbing of Saltalamacchia seemed to basically be a father saying goodbye to his son. Avila is the better defender, has more power, and walks more. Salty is the better hitter, but these are pretty much the same player, expect one is young and one is old. Guess which the Tigers kept?

And this one is the doozy: INF/ OF Mike Aviles. Bats right, plays sub-par defense pretty much everywhere, cannot hit anymore. Did they have a spot on their wishlist that said “Older Don Kelly type”? Romine is the guy who will see the most at bats and innings off the bench this year, and he is a better player. I get that they wanted another infielder, that is not uncommon, but why not a kid from Toledo?

It is not for sure that these four make the bench. I am still pulling for Tyler Collins who played well after the trade deadline, is lefty, good power. Collins could make it over Maybin or Aviles and I would be happy.

A lot of talking heads are still picking this team to finish behind KC, Minnesota and Cleveland. I think that is not very rationalized thinking. This is a super deep lineup that has a lot more in front of it then behind. Pretty much every indicator is that this team will be a heavy contending team next year, unless a Miggy or Verlander injury derails everything.

I’m excited for this team, more excited than I have been in years!

I think this team is going to surprise people and come out of the gates hard.

Next week I will talk about JD Martinez. Hopefully by then he has a new huge contract to discuss.