30 in 30: The Detroit Tigers
2016 Record: 86-75
2016 Finish: 11th in MLB, 6th in AL
2016 in Review
What do you get when you trade Yoenis Cespedes to the New York Mets? You get a 2016 Rookie of the Year. I'll be very honest with you guys, I knew about Michael Fulmer before he was traded. I knew about Michael Fulmer and his 1.88 ERA for the Binghamton Mets/RumblePonies, and I was sad to see him go at the deadline in 2015. Fulmer was the last guy in after the log jam of young pitchers hit the Mets system. We all knew he was good, but ROOKIE OF THE YEAR GOOD? Nah. This kid is something else.
Michael Fulmer burst onto the scene in a big way during the 2016 season, but we know that now since he won the Rookie of the Year. But Fulmer's 1.119 WHIP, his 3.06 ERA and his 7.5 k/9 ratio were good enough to keep him in the top pitcher conversation all year. In fact, if Fulmer pitched 3 more innings there's a strong possibility he would have been a finalist for the Cy Young. Fulmer also miraculously picked up the pieces of Jordan Zimmermann's rough 2016, allowing the star pitcher a bit of leeway while he tried to find his groove and stay healthy. Fulmer wasn't the star Detroit was waiting for, but he's going to be a big part of this team moving forward.
Justin Upton on the other hand… well... Upton left A LOT to be desired. Upton’s 2016 was his worst statistical year since his rookie season. Hindsight is 20/20 and at the time his signing was a good one. So what went wrong? Nothing. I’m looking at this downturn in performance being caused by one thing: the other Tigers in the lineup. Justin Upton has always been the best player on the teams he’s played for, except this one. Upton was never going to hit in a position he was comfortable in. He’s not the biggest threat in the lineup and he’ll be treated like a non-threat. Pitchers went after him and he struck out more than he ever has. HOWEVER, Upton has an opt-out clause in his contract after 2017. Whether or not he takes it will 100% depend on what happens this year. Upton, much like Yoenis Cespedes, has bounced around the league these past few years, never staying in the same place for more than 2 years. If Upton has another bad year, he probably won't want to stay in a place that is extremely disappointed in his play or sees him as a player who couldn't play up to his contract value. But if he's got his wits about him, I'd look to Upton having a breakout year and proving his worth to the good people of Detroit.
The Tigers had all of the pieces for a successful 2016 campaign, but couldn't get all of them firing at the same time. There's no way in hell they let that happen again. There's no way that can happen. The other thing to think about here is that the Tigers, as messy as they were, were very close to a wildcard spot, but instead they ran into the hot second half Atlanta Braves the last weekend of the season. The Tigers were not a team built to play from behind both in games and in the standings. Coming out of the gate in 2016, the Tigers immediately tripped and fell, and by the time thy got back on their feet, it was too late. The Tigers spent 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 in the top spot in the AL Central, they have now spent 2015 and 2016 out of it. I don't think this is a trend that continues. I'm looking at the Tigers to reclaim the top spot. It's what Mr. I would have wanted.