At least one baseball analytics expert has picked the Detroit Tigers to make the playoffs in 2017.
Detroit Tigers fans should be encouraged by one pick made by Eno Sarris of FanGraphs. He posted his Ten Bold Predictions for the 2017 season on Tuesday afternoon one of which was the Tigers making the playoff.
Sarris admits that the Tigers aren’t necessarily loved by the projection systems — the system at FanGraphs pegs the Tigers as an 81-81 team — but he sees them as having the potential to out-perform those projections.
I’ll highlight one of his paragraphs on the Tigers:
"They’re projected to have about the seventh-best starting pitching depth in the big leagues this coming year. Mike Pelfrey, Anibal Sanchez, and Shane Greene are actually a decent trio when you’ve got them slotted in after your front five. And, given his new changeup, I like Michael Fulmer to repeat. Given his new slider and healthy-looking approach, I like Daniel Norris to break out. That’s three really good starters, two question marks, and some depth — I’d take that if I were the Tigers, with their offense."
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A couple of qualms I have off the bat: Mike Pelfrey and Anibal Sanchez are likely to be competing for the fifth rotation spot with Matt Boyd. I’d actually wager on Sanchez winning the rotation spot and Boyd beginning the season in AAA.
Sanchez might end up being a fine number five starter in 2017, but I the Tigers will enter the season with a question mark at the back of the rotation.
Either way, Pelfrey will be a fine contributor as a long reliever and occasional spot starter and Boyd offers solid depth along the way as well. The starting rotation could indeed prove to be a strength for the Tigers this year.
The second nitpick I have with Sarris’ assessment is that Shane Greene probably won’t be in the rotation mix. That’s fine, however, as he could still prove to be a reliable mid-to-back-end bullpen piece. He was one of five Tigers players I highlighted as needing to have a bounce back season in 2017. Despite an elevated ERA in 2016, he showed signs of a possible breakout.
All of this is really around the periphery of the point Sarris was trying to make. The Tigers are set up well with a bulldog at the front of the rotation and two hot youngsters on the rise. They have an offense that should put up some runs. If things click, they’re certainly talented enough to make a run at the postseason.