The Detroit Tigers open their season on March 29 at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Following that three game series, the Tiger’s schedule is pretty weak. Expect a hot start from Detroit.
The Detroit Tigers will not be a good baseball team this year. I get it. I fully understand the expectations that fans and experts have for this team. People are picking the Tigers to finish in either last or second to last in a fairly weak AL Central. Honestly, that is about where I see them too.
But even bad teams are capable of winning a few games throughout the season. I just think that the Tigers’ run will be to start the season. Mostly because of Detroit’s history of starting off hot at the beginning of the season.
The Tigers started off 2015 going 11-2 before finishing the season 69-92 which was last place in the AL Central. A year later, Detroit started a solid 7-3 and had a good season, missing the playoffs by just a game at a record of 83-78. Last season the club also won 7 of their first 10 before taking a nose dive into cement and ending with the worst record in baseball.
Because of these trends, I see the Tigers doing a very similar thing in 2018. The only reason for this is because they play three of the worst teams in baseball in their first 10 games.
Opening Day Series: Tigers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
They start off with the aforementioned three game home series against the Pirates. Pittsburgh will more than likely be the worst team in the NL Central this season.
The Tigers will probably see Chad Kuhl, Jameson Tallion, and Ivan Nova in this series. These three will be tasked to out pitch Opening Day Starter (AKA trying to build confidence in a washed up pitcher) Jordan Zimmermann, Michael Fulmer (who should be the Opening Day Starter), and possibly Daniel Norris. Here the Tigers have a slight disadvantage against the Pirates.
While that is a decent pitching staff, the Pirates have major offense problems. They have no real big bat in the middle of their lineup outside of Josh Bell struggled mightily throughout the season last year. Bell hit only .255 last season while batting in 90 RBI’s. Bell reminds me a lot of Nicholas Castellanos because of his hot and cold streaks.
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ offense is also in a rebuilding stage, but they have a good mix of young and veteran hitters throughout their lineup who will be hungry to start the season. Miguel Cabrera has started to heat up in Spring Training hitting .352 with 54 at-bats. Expect him to come out resurgent after the worst season of his career last year.
I will give the advantage to the Tigers in this series. I think the veteran leadership of Miguel Cabrera and the hungry young kids in the lineup will be itching to win their Opening Day series.
Next up: A three game home series against the Kansas City Royals.
The Royals lost a ton of offensive depth this off season as both Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer left the team. While they did retain Mike Moustakas, he won’t be enough to make up for the offensive output they lost in Hosmer and Cain.
While the Royals might not have much of an offense, the Tigers’ back end of their rotation will struggle throughout the season. Matt Boyd, injured Mike Fiers, and Francisco Liriano will all be vying for the last two spots in the Tigers’ rotation.
The three combined for a 20-28 record in 2017 with a 5.83 combined ERA. All three of them struggle with consistently hitting the strike zone.
What is hilarious is the Royals can match this incredible level of suck in the back of their own rotation. It is kind of like comparing scream-o and yodeling music: nobody really likes either of them.
The Royals will either throw Nate Karns, Wily Peralta, or Eric Skogland against Detroit in this series. None of these guys have really seen success in the major leagues in the past two season and are kind of really terrible to watch pitch.
So the Royals vs. Tigers series will be so bad to watch from a starting pitching perspective, that it might almost be fun to see whose back end of the rotation is worse. Again I give the advantage to Detroit simply because it is a home series. But man this one will be really tough to watch.
The third series of the season: Detroit at Chicago White Sox.
The final of the Tigers’ first three series of the season will be against the Windy City Sox. The White Sox are loaded with young prospects and will quite possibly dominate the AL Central for an entire decade. However, it just quite isn’t their time yet. They still have a ton of whole at the major league level that aren’t quite ready to be filled by these studs.
The good news for this series is that the top of the rotation will be back up for the Tigers which means Michael Fulmer will be on the mound. He is about the only true hope that Detroit has for consistent pitching so whenever he is on the docket it will be a game you want to watch.
The bad news for the Tigers is that the White Sox will be at the top of their rotation too. The White Sox don’t boast a ton of talent in their starting pitching, but they have some real up-and-comers who will cause a lot of problems in the future. Mainly the guy to watch for will be Carlos Rodon who was injured for most of 2017 but is set for a bounce back year in 2018. The 25-year-old was formerly the White Sox number one prospect.
Chicago’s offense will also be the toughest one they have seen up to this point in the year. Jose Abreu has traditionally beat up the Tigers, and they have some other talented bats in Avisail Garcia, Tim Anderson, Wellington Castillo, and Yoan Moncada. While their is a lot of youth to this team, it could end up being one of the most underrated offenses coming into the league this season.
It is also going to be Chicago home opener which will create a lot of buzz in the city especially with a rival like Detroit coming to town.
In the end, Detroit will probably come out of this three game series with only one win.
A hot start could actually be a bad thing.
It’s ironic because these games so early in the season could do serious damage to the Tigers’ draft position by the end of the year. These three teams will at best be middle of the pack in the MLB and the Tigers kind of need to tally losses to them to get better positioning for a high pick.
It could also bring a sense of false hope into the season that fans aren’t expecting. We could get caught up in an idea that Detroit may actually be formidable this year. The great part about that is that the Tigers will get absolutely squashed the next few weeks as they play the Yankees, Indians, and Orioles next. So any hope that may be there early will be squandered just days later.
Overall, expect the Tigers to come out guns a blazing and maybe go on their best winning streak of the season in the first week. But, don’t expect it to be anything more than it is: a few wins against some of the crappiest teams in baseball.