In the early 2010s, the Detroit Tigers were the cream of the crop in the American League. Led by manager Jim Leyland, a young Miguel Cabrera and ace pitchers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, the Tigers reached the playoffs four consecutive years from 2011 to 2014, including two ALCS appearances and a World Series loss to the Cardinals in 2012. Unfortunately, it has been a disaster ever since.
Since 2014, the Tigers have only had one winning season. Over the past three seasons, Detroit has averaged only 58.3 wins. The Tigers hit rock bottom in 2019, going an MLB worst 47-114. Detroit finished a whopping 53.5 games back of the Twins in the AL Central and 48.5 games back in the Wild Card.
One of the only bright spots for Detroit's nightmare 2019 season was being able to select phenom Spencer Torkelson first overall in the 2020 draft. The 20-year-old third baseman showed prolific power at Arizona State, where he hit 53 homers. Torkelson gives Detroit fans a reason to be optimistic.
This offseason, Detroit loaded up on cheap, high-upside veteran free agents, especially on the offensive side. One of the biggest problems Detroit suffered in 2019 was its anemic offense. The Tigers scored only 582 runs last season, by far the lowest in baseball. To boost its offense and add more pop, Detroit signed first baseman C.J. Cron (.253, 25 homers, 78 RBIs in 2019), second baseman Jonathan Schoop (.256, 23 homers, 59 RBIs), outfielder Cameron Mabyin (.285, 11 homers, 32 RBIs) and catcher Austin Romine (.281, 8 homers, 35 RBIs). Detroit also inked Ivan Nova (11-12, 4.72 ERA) to supplement the starting rotation.
With all the offseason additions, Detroit's lineup looks much more representative of an MLB team. Miguel Cabrera, 37, remains the three-hitter and full-time DH. He is coming off a 2019 season in which he .282, 12 homers and 59 RBIs. Cabrera has three more years left on his 8-year, $248 million contract signed back in 2016.
Here is the projected Tigers starting lineup:
1. Cameron Maybin OF
2. Niko Goodrum SS
3. Miguel Cabrera DH
4. C.J. Cron 1B
5. Jonathan Schoop 2B
6. Jeimer Candelario 3B
7. Christin Stewart OF
8. Austin Romine C
9. Victor Reyes OF
Detroit's rotation is anchored by ace lefty Matt Boyd (9-12, 4.56 ERA, 238 strikeouts). The Tigers are also hopeful that former Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer will return to the rotation at some point this season. He missed all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Jordan Zimmerman (1-13, 6.91 ERA) is entering the final year of his 5-year, $110 million deal.
1. Matt Boyd
2. Jordan Zimmerman
3. Ivan Nova
4. Daniel Norris
5. Spencer Turnbull
The Detroit bullpen is led by closer Joe Jimenez (4.37 ERA, 9 saves) and setup men Buck Farmer and Jose Cisnero.
So what do the oddsmakers think of the Tigers this season?
At BetMGM, Detroit's 2020 win total is 20.5, tied with the Orioles for the lowest of any MLB team. This translates to 55.35 wins based on a regular 162-game schedule. The juice on the win total is -105 over and -115 under. This signals some sharp action and liability on Detroit winning 20 or fewer games.
However, one of the most trusted sites for advanced baseball analytics is much more bullish on the Tigers. FanGraphs is projecting Detroit to go 25-35. This represents a massive discrepancy with the sportsbooks and a 4.5-game edge to the over 20.5 win total.
One of the public hallmarks of betting season win totals is Average Joes betting overs for good teams and under for bad teams. With the Tigers posting the worst record in baseball last season, it's same to assume the public is on the under. The books knew the public bias toward the under and likely shaded the win total. As a result, Detroit offers unique buy-low contrarian value to go against the grain and take a deflated over.
While value exists on the over win total, don't expect Detroit to make the playoffs. The Tigers are -10000 to miss the postseason and + 3500 to make the postseason. This translates to a 99% implied probability that Detroit misses the playoffs.
The Tigers are + 8000 to win the AL Central, tied with the Royals for the worst odds in the division. The Twins are the favorite at -159, followed by the Indians + 300 and White Sox + 320.
Detroit is + 25000 to win the American League, tied with the Royals and Mariners for the 2nd-worst odds. Only the Orioles (+ 50000) are lower.
The Tigers are + 50000 to win the World Series, tied with the Royals, Mariners and Marlins for the 2nd-worst odds. The Orioles are dead last at + 100000.
In terms of player props, Boyd is + 3500 to lead the AL in strikeouts, tied for the 10th best odds. Gerrit Cole is the favorite at + 130.
Jimenez is + 2500 to lead the AL in saves. Aroldis Chapman is the favorite at + 400.
Pitcher Casey Mize, selected first overall in 2018, is + 1300 to win AL Rookie of the Year.