Part 4 Baseball – Mitch Lutzke Preview of the Detroit Tigers

Written by Mitch Lutzke

February 14, 2022

My first take on this season’s forecast for the Detroit Tigers, was I wish they would have taken from about 1990 to about 2005 from our collective memory. During that time frame the Tigers had exactly one year season above the .500 mark. For good measure little positive has happened since their last winning season in 2016. But I digress, we are now talking about the 2022 version.

                The exciting 2021 season of the Motor City crew saw rookie outfielder Akil Badoo cranking out a solo home run, as the first pitch he saw in the big leagues left Comerica Park and plopped down about ten rows from where I was sitting with one of my sons in left field. The Tigers’ lost to Cleveland; but it was an exciting game. A few days later with daughter in tow, we saw Badoo come through with a tenth inning hit to seal the win over Minnesota. Again, another exciting game. That seemed to be the theme of the 2021 season- exciting.

                We had Miguel Cabrera surpass the 500 Homerun mark, Robbie Grossman joins the 20 HR/20 SB club, the trio of young arms of Mize, Manning and Skubal make plenty of appearances on the mound, Dearborn phenom Eric Hasse blasting homers in the middle of the summer and the electric Badoo doing his baddest. Manager A.J. Hinch seemed to be a few steps ahead of the game, as opposed to the previous regime, who rode the game wherever it took them. With all of this in mind, where does 2022 lead the Tigers?

                First, they finished in third place, under .500 at 77-85. They were terrible in April, while May, June and July brought winning records, excitement, and fans to the stands. However, those three months placed the team only four games above the even mark, while September was under the break- even point and they limped to the finish line to place behind the White Sox and Cleveland. To put it in perspective, two of Brad Ausmus’ four seasons had the club finish with a better winning percentage. In short, the Tigers were way better than they had been, but have a way to go before printing post season tickets.

                How can it go south this year? If the pitching wizards have a sophomore slump and Badoo shares their experience, too. Grossman’s career year by any stretch of metrics has him stumbling back to reality. Miggy is a year older. The outfield doesn’t have a set starting line-up. And can anybody play second base around here? The much-improved bullpen was still middle of the pack, statistically, and relievers effectiveness seem to fade in and out from year to year. So, last year’s version could show-up again and possibly perform a bit worse.

                How can the Tigers show improvement this year? Well, the trio of aces skip the sophomore slump phase and take another step toward being top notch tossers. Badoo builds on his first year, Jeimer Candelario (the season leader in WAR) continues to get better, Grossman proves last year wasn’t a fluke and Tyler Alexander is given the opportunity to pitch in the rotation all season. One of the Castro’s or Kody Clemens grabs the second base position to settle down the infield. The signing of Javier Baez the hitting stud at shortstop will be a big positive for the Tigers, as will Tucker Barnhart, a two-time gold glover behind the plate. Signing Eduardo Rodriguez just adds to the talented pitching rotation. And if you thought those three new line-up additions were exciting, just wait until two of the top prospects in all of baseball, Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson make their appearance at Comerica Park.

Greene is the projected centerfielder of the future, with decent speed and well above average hit tools. Torkelson is a hitting machine who is pegged for first base and designated hitter. He has elite power according to the scouts and will have no trouble driving the ball out of any part of Comerica Park. Combine these new and returning players with a second year Hinch knowing his team a bit better, and this season is looking up. However, the Tigers finished 16 games out of the American League Central race and 15 back in the Wild Card, so the climb to improve is still a steep journey.

                With the labor strife in full swing, whenever the white orb begins being chucked around major league ballparks is anybody’s guess. But the Tigers will eventually don the old English D in downtown Detroit, as they have since 1901. Here’s hoping that soon, a Tigers club will join the 1935, 1945, 1968 and 1984 squads in hoisting a fifth World Series banner atop the flagpole of Comerica Park.

About our Author Mitch Lutzke

Among Mitch’s claim to fame is that he is a board member of the Southern Michigan chapter of SABR- Society of American Baseball Research; wrote an award-winning book on the Page Fence Giants 1890s championship Black baseball team, whose organizer, Bud Fowler, was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame for a 2022 induction. Lutzke also played tee-ball in Albion and later led his Albion High School junior varsity baseball team in stolen bases (7), as the team posted a 0-22 record in that glorious spring of 1977 around the Twin Valley league diamonds.

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