5 scenarios for the Tigers in the 2nd half: “I don’t see the players giving in”
DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers enter the second half of the 2022 season a little earlier than most teams, playing a doubleheader Thursday in Oakland against the Athletics.
The All-Star break didn’t offer much of a break, and this team could use one.
Only a miracle turnaround will save the Tigers (37-55) from their sixth consecutive losing and second season under manager AJ Hinch.
“I don’t see any resignation. I don’t see the players giving in. I see a frustrated group that’s been mired in a lack of a win for a while,” Hinch said Sunday before heading north to the beach for a few days off. “The players who have been here the longest feel it for several seasons. That’s what we have to change.
The Tigers were beset by throwing injuries in the first half of the season, but offense was the real culprit. Eight projected starters – Tucker Barnhart, Spencer Torkelson, Jonathan Schoop, Javier Baez, Jeimer Candelario, Robbie Grossman, Akil Baddoo and Austin Meadows – have exceeded expectations in 2022, some dramatically.
The Tigers opted for Torkelson in Toledo; Hinch gave Candelario an extended break to try and reload his bat; and Grossman and Barnhart are on expiring contracts and will be dealt if the Tigers can find a taker.
But otherwise, the Tigers’ options are limited.
Hinch said the best way to salvage the season was to simply win more games. The Tigers did it in 2021, going 37-34 after the All-Star break.
“Winning. Winning streaks, winning weeks, winning months will help steer this group in the right direction,” Hinch said. “It can start in Oakland. It doesn’t have to start in 2023.”
Here are five things to watch from Thursday.
1. Start Jeimer
Of the Tigers’ underachieving eight, Candelario might be the most disappointing. Arguably the Tigers’ best offensive player in each of the past two seasons, Candelario has never been able to get on track in 2022. That’s not just a disappointment for the Tigers. As free agency looms, this miserable season could potentially cost Candelario tens of millions of dollars.
Candelario is under the control of the team for one more season. Trading it now, when its value is at rock bottom, wouldn’t make much sense. But if he doesn’t get on track in the second half, the Tigers will have to seriously consider not offering him in the offseason.
“He’s really been on and off all season,” Hinch said. “I can just see from the body language that the struggles are weighing on him. He cares so much.
Hinch gave Candelario the whole weekend in Cleveland in the hope that Thursday in Oakland could be a “fresh start.”
2. How will the outfield be organized?
The Tigers have a bit of an outfield crisis. Riley Greene plays center every day, leaving two spots for Robbie Grossman, Akil Baddoo, Victor Reyes and Willi Castro.
That’s not even counting Austin Meadows, who the Tigers hope can be taken off the injured list at some point in August, or players like Derek Hill and Daz Cameron, who were pushed to the periphery of the roster in Toledo. (That also doesn’t include Kerry Carpenter, who may have been the Tigers’ highest-scoring minor leaguer in 2022.)
Trading Grossman could ease the stalemate and ensure Baddoo gets the nearly daily beats it should. But with just two weeks to rehabilitate his trade worth, it’s unclear whether dealing with Grossman is realistic.
“(Grossman) is not going to improve sitting on the bench. I have to balance that with the reality of where we are,” Hinch said. “But if I just give it up and don’t play it, I don’t think it benefits anyone.”
As for Meadows, who has been beset by injuries, Hinch said, “I would love to get him back as soon as possible and I think that’s the trend. He had a miserable first few months.
Meadows is absolutely listed as a starting corner fielder in 2023. Finishing 2022 strong would be a big boost for his morale — and that of the Tigers.
3. Time to shake up the technical staff?
Being a batting coach is one of the toughest jobs in baseball. In addition to long hours and hard physical labor, you are often the scapegoat when things go wrong.
It seems almost certain to get to hit coach Scott Coolbaugh after the season is over. After a historically poor offensive season, someone will have to take the fall and firing the hitting coach is usually easier than firing the entire team.
But that doesn’t seem to happen during the season.
“The personnel issue is just because we are all responsible for what happens on the pitch,” Hinch said. “As coaches, we have to challenge ourselves to continually try to reach these guys in different ways and get the best performance out of them.
“The issue of staff job security is very sensitive. It’s not easy to see the dedication from the outside… I fully support my staff because I know the work they have done.
Hinch said making a change now would fuel the news cycle for 24 hours but not make the team any better. Yet, he repeated, “we are all responsible”.
4. What will the pitch look like in the second half?
If you had been told in spring training that Tarik Skubal, Beau Brieske, Alex Faedo, Rony Garcia and Drew Hutchison would lead the team in innings pitched, what would you think?
Hinch asked himself this question.
“I would have said, ‘No kidding, of course Skubal will be there!’ Hinch said.
Skubal is the only Tigers starter to survive this season unscathed, but most of the substitutes have actually held up better than anyone expected.
“On the one hand, I’m obviously very disappointed with the injuries,” Hinch said. “But it’s not their fault that they have an opportunity. I don’t want to deny their contribution. I am proud of their efforts. There are guys who had to step in and take rounds that weren’t even in the conversation (at spring training)>
Brieske is set to hit a career high in innings pitched, while Faedo is coming off Tommy John surgery, so both will be limited to some degree in the second half.
Who else is in the cards?
The Tigers were pleasantly surprised by Rony Garcia and would like to continue seeing him this summer.
The healthy return of Matt Manning, who has only made two starts this year, will be key.
“Matt was one of the guys that we expected to step up from this year, and we couldn’t even take a step in any direction,” Hinch said. “It’s something we look forward to in the second half. We have to put him in a routine and get as many innings as possible for him because of our plans for 2023.”
As for AWOL starter Eduardo Rodriguez, the future is uncertain.
But given he’s not being paid while on the shortlist, it’s worth wondering if the Tigers would rather just start again next spring than pay him big bucks to make insignificant starts. in September.
5. What will happen at the trade deadline?
There are players the Tigers would like to offload and players other teams want to acquire. Unfortunately, the overlap between these two lists might not be very long.
Relievers Michael Fulmer and Andrew Chafin seem like the most logical targets.
“It’s a big boy business,” Hinch said. “The reason we’re talked about trading players is because we haven’t won enough. You don’t talk that way if you hit July and you’re in the (playoff) mix.”