Detroit Tigers: Three Things That Spoiled 2016 Playoff Hopes

Oct 2, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias (1) reacts after being thrown out at second by Atlanta Braves second baseman Jace Peterson (8) in the eighth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias (1) reacts after being thrown out at second by Atlanta Braves second baseman Jace Peterson (8) in the eighth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Inconsistent play, unfortunate Injuries and poor bullpen management cost the Detroit Tigers a ticket to the 2016 postseason.


Inconsistency was the bane of the 2016 Detroit Tigers. In spite of all of the team’s high end talent, they could never put it all together as one cohesive unit.  Craig Edwards of FanGraphs shows us that, going in to September, the Detroit Tigers were one of the streakiest teams in all of baseball. When the team was on, they were practically unbeatable. When they were off, they would be rag dolled by nearly any opponent.

Their performance against the division rival Kansas City Royals an Cleveland Indians was especially poor with an 11-26 combined record. Team performance wasn’t the only thing that was inconsistent this season; individual performances were inconsistent as well. Justin Upton’s erratic performance (First Half: .235/.289/.381 , Second Half: .260/.337/.579) is a microcosm of the team’s performance as a whole.


Injuries took definitely took their toll on this year’s squad. The Tigers spent an extended period of time without two of their most prolific players in J.D. Martinez and Cameron Maybin. Jordan Zimmermann, despite setting Tigers records in April, fell from grace after suffering nagging groin and neck injuries. Breakout star Nick Castellanos also went down with a broken hand on August 6, and didn’t return until the last week of the season.

While all teams deal with injuries over the course of the season, few teams handled as many major injuries to key players as the Tigers. With a farm system widely regarded as one of the bottom five in the league, the Tigers lack the depth to replace injured players effectively.


Management has been a very hot button issue for Tiger fans since the beginning of the Brad Ausmus era. In a poll conducted earlier this season, 83% of our readers believed that Ausmus would be fired within the year. Instead the Tigers decided to pick up his option for the 2017 season.

Ausmus this season was admittedly better than the Ausmus of old, and he finally showed some fire when he gave us one of the greatest meltdowns in baseball history. However he still made errors that likely cost the Tigers a shot at the postseason. The most egregious error being his handling of the bullpen.

For the most part, the Tigers bullpen performed well, though there were exceptions. The most noticeable of these was former Blue Jay Mark Lowe; who was brought in on a two year deal during the off-season. Lowe was expected to be a key cog in the bullpen, serving as the set-up man for newly acquired pitcher Francisco Rodriguez.

Unfortunately things did not go as planned. In 54 appearances, Lowe managed to produce an astoundingly bad 7.11 ERA to go along with a 1.581 WHIP, and a 58 ERA+.

Lowe struggled all season, and many fans wanted to see him pack his bags for Toledo as early as June. Somehow, he was able to spend the whole season with the big club. Not only that, but Ausmus kept going to Lowe in key situations, even when much better options were available.

Wanting to allow a guy to redeem himself is understandable, but the fact of the matter is that Mark Lowe cost the Tigers games. The Tigers fell just short of making the postseason, and Brad’s loyalty to Lowe might have been the difference.

What about 2017?

Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila has been telling fans to expect big changes to the organization this off-season. JD Martinez’s name has been swirling around the rumor mill lately; and his future as a Detroit Tiger is up in the air. Cameron Maybin, for some inexplicable reason, still hasn’t had his $9 million club option picked up yet.

In my opinion, moving J.D. or letting Maybin go would be a costly mistake. Both players made contributions to the team this year that the Tigers would be unable to replace in 2017. If 87-year-old Tigers owner Mike Illitch is serious about watching the Tigers win a World Series before he passes, he cannot afford to let either of these two go.

The 2016 Detroit Tigers had some bad breaks and unfortunate injuries during the season that cost them dearly. A more healthy 2017 season with this same lineup can still be an AL Central champion and World Series contender.  Major moves should only be made if the Tigers are well out of contention by the trade deadline next season.

Next: Detroit Tigers: Cameron Maybin Crucial to Success in 2017

Until that day comes however, the team should stand pat with what they have. The pieces are all still in place to be a World Series contender. As long as Ausmus better manages his bullpen, and the team stays healthy, the Tigers have still have a legitimate shot at the pennant.