Detroit Tigers 2019 Betting Odds, Preview: Stuck in the Mud

Detroit Tigers 2019 Betting Odds, Preview: Stuck in the Mud article feature image
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Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Miguel Cabrera.

  • The Detroit Tigers struggled mightily last year and help is certainly not on the way in 2019.
  • Other than Miguel Cabrera, who's been unproductive and unhealthy in the past two seasons, and Nicholas Castellanos, who could get traded, their lineup is very unproven.
  • Their pitching staff could be worse than their lineup, though, which is why winning 70 games might be challenging for this rebuilding team.

Original analysis published on Feb. 20. 

Baseball teams have life cycles. They’re born, they mature and reach their potential, then they decline and die. Then, unlike humans, they repeat the process.

The Tigers died in 2017, remained dead last year and will still be dead this year.

Detroit is rebuilding, but is doing so slowly. The Tigers have parted ways with former stars like Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Yoenis Cespedes, David Price, J.D. Martinez and so on. Yet, their former MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera lives on and must play a father figure to the young players that will be coming up over the next few seasons.

This team will not win in 2019 and they don’t want to, either.

2018 Results

  • Record: 64-92 (-9.4 units), 82-80 ATS (-5.1 units)
  • Over/Under Record: 71-83-8
  • Preseason World Series Odds: 300-1
  • Win Total: 67
  • Most Profitable Starter: Mike Fiers (13-8, +10.9 units)

At just 67, the Tigers had one of the lowest win totals in the league last year, but fell short of even those expectations. Compared to some other bad teams, they weren’t terribly unprofitable for bettors, but lie most, were definitely not a popular choice.

Those who took the over on Detroit’s win total last year probably realized they were in trouble when Miguel Cabrera played his final game of the season on June 10th after already having missed practically all of May. Tough to trust an offense headlined by Nicholas Castellanos and … basically nobody else.

2019 Odds

  • World Series Odds: +100000
  • Division Odds: +6000
  • Win Total O/U: 69
  • Playoff Odds: Make +2000, Miss -10000

The Tigers are expected to improve a bit, but that’s the case with every really bad team. Oddsmakers don’t often set win totals below 65 games, and have only done so for the Orioles and Marlins this year.

This team is not worth taking on any of its longshot futures. It’ll probably be selling off pieces to get worse, in fact. I don’t see any scenario in which the Tigers could reach the playoffs.

Roster Notes

  • Additions: Matt Moore, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Tyson Ross, Kaleb Cowart, Cameron Rupp, Gordon Beckham, Pete Kozma (minors)
  • Subtractions: Jose Iglesias, Francisco Liriano, Victor Martinez, James McCann, Alex Wilson
  • Potential Lineup
    1. Josh Harrison – 2B
    2. Nicholas Castellanos – RF
    3. Miguel Cabrera – DH
    4. Jeimer Candelario – 3B
    5. Niko Goodrum/John Hicks – 1B
    6. Christin Stewart – LF
    7. Jordy Mercer – SS
    8. Grayson Grenier/John Hicks – C
    9. Mikie Mahtook/Niko Goodrum – CF
  • Projected Rotation
    1. Matt Boyd
    2. Jordan Zimmermann
    3. Tyson Ross
    4. Matt Moore
    5. Daniel Norris
  • Prospect Watch: Christin Stewart (Unranked, LF), Beau Burrows (Unranked, RHP), Kyle Funkhouser (Unranked, RHP)
  • Key Injuries: Michael Fulmer (Tommy John, out for season), JaCoby Jones (Shoulder, early 2019), Drew VerHagen (Shoulder, early 2019)
  • MVP Candidates: Nicholas Castellanos (+4000), Miguel Cabrera (+10000),
  • Cy Young Candidates: Michael Fulmer (+6000)

Analysis

Player to Watch: Miguel Cabrera

Back when the Tigers were bangin’, Miguel Cabrera was the heart of the lineup and best hitter in baseball.

From 2010 to 2016, his .996 OPS was the best in baseball by 25 points. Not too shabby.

In 2017, he posted his first career sub-100 wRC+ — AKA below league average — season at the plate. Last year, he started out with some solid production, but played just 38 games before rupturing his left bicep and missing the remainder of the season.

He’ll be 36 in April and is what I would call “not thin.” His best baseball is behind him.

Can he still be productive, though? Last year, Nicholas Castellanos had to carry the lineup on his shoulders and was the only bat that pitchers really had to think about when working their way through the order. At 3.89 runs per game, the Tigers had the second worst offense in the American League behind the Orioles — not a team with which you’d want to be mentioned in the same sentence.

Cabrera returning to form, to at least some degree, will be vitally important to the Tigers’ success. I’d be shocked if this team can even flirt with a .500 record, but to eclipse their win total and be somewhat competitive in the league’s worst division, Cabrera has to stay healthy and hit.

Pitcher to Watch: Michael Fulmer (Now out for the season)

Michael Fulmer is an important player to the Tigers on two levels. The first is that he’s effectively their ace, and although he’s nowhere close to an elite arm, he can help them go over their win total and be a somewhat respectable ballclub.

The other reason why he’s important to the franchise is that he could be a valuable trade chip. That value, however, is certainly lower now than it was a year ago.

Here’s a look at his ERA compared to FIP and xFIP — advanced pitching metrics that attempt to better capture how well a pitcher performed by taking out batted ball luck.

  • 2016: 3.06 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 3.95 xFIP
  • 2017: 3.83 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 4.24 xFIP
  • 2018: 4.69 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 4.29 xFIP

That Rookie-of-the-Year season is starting to look like a lucky outlier, as Fulmer’s ERA has caught up to what FIP thinks it should be, and then some. 2018 was the worst season of his career in all three categories, largely in part to a walk rate of 3.13 per nine — nearly one more than he averaged in the two seasons prior.

Right now, Fulmer doesn’t really have an identity. He throws hard, but unlike a typical power pitcher, has only struck out an underwhelming seven batters per nine in his career. He doesn’t induce ground balls at an especially impressive rate, and he strayed away from one of his best qualities last year, which had been solid control.


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Summary

The Tigers’ winning days from earlier in the decade are long gone. They won’t be back anytime soon, either.

While the White Sox are on the upturn, with several high-ceiling young players and prospects under their control for years to come, the Tigers aren’t quite there yet.

Obviously, their major league roster is not much to look at. Cabrera is their biggest star, but also their biggest albatross. He’s still owed over $150 million over the next five seasons, which could become very troublesome if he can’t stay healthy and keep hitting.

The Jordan Zimmermann contract is also looking pretty ugly, but at least that only has two seasons remaining.

They do have a couple of intriguing young bats, including Jeimer Candelario and Christin Stewart. Candelario was able to walk at a high rate for a 24-year-old last year and showed some pop, but strikeouts hurt his production. Stewart had a nice cup of coffee at the end of last season, and has shown throughout his minor league career that he can hit bombs. Certainly has 30-homer raw power if major league pitching doesn’t find a way to exploit him.

With Castellanos on his final year of control, you should fully expect him to be dealt some time before the trade deadline. Maybe even before the season. They don’t have a ton of especially valuable trade assets, but would be wise to get rid of anyone that they can to bolster their farm system.

Led by Casey Mize at No. 17, the Tigers do have three pitching prospects in the MLB Top 100, but none are expected to reach the majors this season. Hopefully for their sake, they can get more young help and be able to start contending again a few years down the road.

None of the Tigers’ futures intrigue me whatsoever.

All odds via Westgate SuperBook as of Feb. 20

Transactions accurate as of Mar. 4. Free agents deemed subtractions until they re-sign

Advanced data via Fangraphs.com, prospect ratings via MLB.com, prospects in prospect watch expected to be MLB-ready in 2019

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