In this season’s final edition of My Tigers Weekly, the Tigers got to say goodbye to some familiar friends and foes while trying to play spoiler in the Central races.
This entire season was a continuation of the process that began late in the summer of 2017. After an incredible stretch of AL Central dominance, it was time to rebuild and try to reach the World Series again with the next generation of players. It’s a painful process that involves losing a large number of games by giving young players playing time. The goal is to figure out who on the roster can play at the major league level when given a chance and also give those players the opportunity to gain experience. That’s why Ron Gardenhire was brought on board for the 2018 season. While losses are part of the rebuilding process, bad baseball shouldn’t be.
Uninspired play and bad habits prolong the process and create a losing culture. In that sense, we can qualify the 2018 season as a success. The Tigers were competitive in the majority of the games and there are players on the roster that you can point to as candidates for being part of the next Detroit playoff team. Nick Castellanos finished 5th in the AL in total hits while bumping his OPS up 43 points. Jeimer Candelario (19 home runs) and Niko Goodrum (29 doubles as a super utility player) also distinguished themselves in their first season playing every day. Joe Jimenez got off to a strong start and got an All-Star nod, while Spencer Turnbull’s 0-2 record and 6 ERA hid a callup who struck out 15 in 16 and 1/3 innings of work.
It’s also a success in terms of wins and losses. 3rd place in the division yet also 5th worst in baseball. That means Casey Mize will not be the only high draft pick in the Tigers farm system. If you can’t be one of the AL’s 3 100 win teams, at least avoid being one of the 100 loss teams. With that in mind, there are things to point to where you could call the season a win.
On the field the past 2 weeks, wins were harder to come by. The Tigers were able to delay the Indians clinching the AL Central for one night, winning the opener by a score of 5-4.
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) September 15, 2018
But sadly, the next day Cleveland’s offense awoke and with a 15-0 victory officially eliminated the 4 other teams in the division. After that, the season became more about the call ups getting an opportunity to play and watching September baseball at Comerica Park. After winning on getaway day in Cleveland, the Tigers came home for 7 games at Comerica Park. The Twins series was fans last chance to see long time rival Joe Mauer. While he hasn’t officially announced his retirement, taking the field one last time as a catcher makes it seem like he believes he won’t be in uniform next season. The Twins were able to take all 3 games in his last trip to Detroit. At least fans got to enjoy the last night of the popular promotion “Bark in the Park,” where fans can take their dogs to a game. The Tigers then played an emotional series against the Royals. Kansas City, who finished 5th in the Central, split the series with the Tigers. It was fan appreciation weekend, but the biggest moment was the last game of Victor Martinez. He chose to play his last game in front of the fans at home. On Saturday he took the field for the last time, manning 1st base for the first time since 2016. In his last career at bat he laced a double and was lifted for pinch runner Ronny Rodriguez. Some hugs and an ovation later, he returned to the bench to serve as a veteran voice for the remaining games of the season. The Tigers went on to win the game 5-4 in a fitting send off for a player who was an All-Star, silver slugger, runner up for MVP, and part of a World Series team as a reliable middle of the order hitter during the Tigers aforementioned period of contention this decade. After losing the next day, the Detroit finished the season with a 38-43 home record.
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) September 22, 2018
After losing 2 of 3 to Minnesota, the Tigers got a chance to play spoiler in the NL Central race. The Cubs needed the Tigers to win some games off the Brewers to help them secure the NL Central division title. Christian Yelich had other ideas, a 2 home run game was the start of a 3 game stretch where he tortured Tigers pitchers. The Tigers lost two close games 6-5 before succumbing in an 11-0 defeat on the last game of the season. Sorry Chicago! The 1-6 final road trip put the Tigers at 26-55 away from Comerica and 64-98 overall. A month of playoff baseball and the World Series will give way to annual awards, general manager meetings and hot stove action, and a short time later 2019 Spring Training …
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) September 30, 2018
Special shout out to our My Detroit Sports: My Tigers Weekly, ‘Fans of the Week’ winner, Ray Ainsworth! He represented the D, visiting all the way from Georgia and won an autographed, James McCann photo!