Gutenberg: So you’re saying there’s a chance? The Top 4 Reasons the Tigers Will Win It All

I’ll be honest. I still don’t think sports should be resuming. But if there’s going to be baseball in 2020, then the Tigers might as well win the World Series.

Now I know what you’re thinking, Dear Reader: Shoot, they are going to win the World Series for the first time since 1984 the one year I can’t go see them play??? WHAT IN THE NAME OF DON KELLY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? THIS TEAM LOST 114 GAMES LAST YEAR AND HAD THE WORST RECORD IN BASEBALL!

Well, first of all, please stop shouting at me. I didn’t force you to open this page. But here are the top 4 reasons[1] this year’s Tigers will add one more reason to rewrite the history books after 2020.

Reason #1: This Team Will Pitch

The Tigers probably should have traded Matthew Boyd last year, but they didn’t. Not great for their long-term future, but certainly helps for this year. While he finished with a 4.56 ERA, his xFIP, which tries to strip away factors for luck on batted balls and defense (here’s looking at you Nick Castellanos first half of last season…) was a respectable 3.88, and he chipped in about 3 WAR. He’s not the Second Coming of Justin Verlander, but he’s good enough to headline this group of over-achievers on Opening Day.  

Group? Yes! If the Tigers probably should have traded Matthew Boyd last year, they definitely should have traded Michael Fulmer a couple years ago. But repeat it with me: not great for their long-term future, but certainly helps for this year! He’s returning to the mound for the first time in almost two years, and, while he did not have a stellar 2018, in his healthy years of 2016 and 2017, he showed flashes of brilliance—or as of at least being as good as Matthew Boyd.

I could talk all day about the virtues of Daniel Norris or Ivan Nova, but I’d be lying to you and myself. The Tigers have been buried in the ground the last few years, but this sprout is finally about to bear fruit, and his name is Spencer Turnbull. Did he lose seventeen games last year? Yes. But let’s be honest: he was pitching for the Tigers. Turnbull is just entering his prime with outstanding minor league numbers and, for what it’s worth, he looked good in his most recent intra-squad start. I expect him to take a big step forward this year.

Reason #2: The Tigers are paying Miguel Cabrera $31 million: he might as well hit.

This is probably the reason on my list I feel worst about. For what it’s worth, most of the projection systems are not high on the possibility of a Miguel Cabrera renaissance. And for good reason: the guy is 37. Age is chasing down the Tigers’ superstar, and he’s never been known for his footspeed. In 2019, believe it or not, Cabrera produced below replacement value. What that means is that theoretically you could call up a Pete Kozma-type from AAA, and he’d perform about as well.

Cabrera hit twelve home runs last year; not great for a pure slugger. But is it possible that he could hit twelve home runs in this shortened season? I wouldn’t bet on it, but sure, why not?

Reason #3: The Schedule!

In order to appear to be taking personnel safety seriously, MLB has put forward a geographically based 60-game schedule. That means, the Tigers will play entirely against the AL Central (40 games) and NL Central (20 games)—until they make the playoffs, of course.

According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations (best administered with a grain of salt), the NL Central was a respectable but hardly overpowering .506 vs. other divisions last year. But the AL Central (minus the Tigers) played .459 ball against others. In other words, the only reason the Twins and Indians were good was beating up on AL Central bottom-dwellers like the Royals!…and the Tigers. This is a winnable schedule if the Tigers can get hot. And speaking of which…

Reason #4: The Schedule! No, literally, The Schedule!

The biggest reason the Tigers have a chance to win it all this year is that they are playing only sixty games. Why is baseball historically so tough on bad teams? The law of large numbers. The more games you play (such as 162), the more you strip out luck and randomness and get a true representation of the quality of the teams. Meanwhile, the NFL’s vaunted parity[2] is based largely around the fact that they only play 16 games during which anything could happen.[3] Anyone remember the Green Bay Packers stumbling their way into the NFC Championship game last year?

Sixty games is still a lot more than 16, and you should expect talent to separate some (bad news), but if you want proof that things can change, the Washington Nationals were in 4th place after 60 games last year (check out those full 60-game standings here). Over the course of 162 games, talent prevailed, but the Tigers won’t have that problem this year.

A quick look at the FanGraphs playoff odds bears this out. Everyone has at least some shot![4] The Tigers have a 2.6 percent chance this year to make the playoffs. It’s not great. But a whole lot better than it normally would be. And based on what you’ve read here, you may just want to double that all the way up to 5.2 percent. Time to figure out the socially-distanced championship parade down Woodward.

James E. Smith is a pastor serving at Trinity Episcopal and St. John’s Lutheran Churches. For comments, questions, or rebuttals, fire off an e-mail at Prosit!

[1] Of course I wanted to find a Top 5 for reasons of Clickbait®, but I’m working with the 2020 Tigers here.

[2] …which, by the way, always seems to ignore the NFL’s permanent underclass of the Lions, Bills, and Bengals.

[3] And have you ever noticed anything always. seems. to happen. to the Lions?

[4] Other than the poor Orioles—who have 60 games against the two toughest divisions in baseball and don’t even get to play themselves. :-/

Any views or opinions expressed in “Gutenberg” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Watershed Voice staff or its board of directors. FOR THE RECORD: The board doesn’t believe the Tigers will win the World Series but James is James and we let him do his thing.