DETROIT – Who should represent the Detroit Tigers in this year’s All-Star game? The team will probably only get one representative, but there are a handful of players competing for the spot.
Major League Baseball will announce the All-Star starters Thursday, and the Tigers won’t have any. Nobody from Detroit is even in contention. But MLB rules say every team has to have at least one representative -- so who don the Old English D?
The way I see it, the Tigers have eight players with any inkling of an argument for the honor. Here’s how I rank them.
8. Spencer Turnbull
Season stats: 2.88 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 0.980 WHIP, 44 strikeouts, 12 walks in 50 innings.
Inning-for-inning, Turnbull has been the most effective starter for the Tigers this season.
His no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners certainly helped the overall stats, but Turnbull has been fairly consistent whenever he’s taken the mound.
The problem, obviously, is that he hasn’t taken the mound enough.
Turnbull has made just nine starts this season due to injuries, and 50 innings isn’t enough of a workload to earn an All-Star nod. The 28-year-old has had a strong first half, but he’s not as worthy as others.
7. Matt Boyd
Season stats: 3.44 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 1.203 WHIP, 56 strikeouts, 19 walks in 70.2 innings.
Boyd hasn’t been quite as effective as Turnbull, but he’s logged 20 more innings and given the Tigers more length when he takes the mound.
In his 11 starts that weren’t cut short by injury, Boyd lasted six or more innings seven times, including six quality starts.
The strikeout numbers are down, but Boyd’s underlying stats support his strong first half. Unfortunately, he’s also on the injured list and very unlikely to garner serious consideration.
6. Akil Baddoo
Season stats: .279/.370/.488 -- .858 OPS, 13 doubles, 4 triples, 5 home runs, 10 stolen bases, 26 walks, 59 strikeouts.
There are two reasons Baddoo isn’t the clear and obvious choice to represent the Tigers in the All-Star game: He doesn’t play against left-handed starting pitchers and his 17-game slump cratered his overall numbers.
From April 15 through May 8, Baddoo went just 5-for-50 with 27 strikeouts and three walks. That’s a .391 OPS across 53 plate appearances.
It’s shocking how well Baddoo has recovered, and his excellent season-long numbers are even more impressive considering the severity of that slump.
Baddoo has 22 extra-base hits and 10 stolen bases in 200 plate appearances, and since that brutal slump, he’s drawn 22 walks compared to 24 strikeouts.
Even though he’s the second-highest ranked offensive player on this list, Baddoo has been the team’s best hitter on a per-game basis. His all-around development is borderline unheard of for someone who skipped straight from Single-A to MLB.
If Baddoo can figure out how to stay afloat against lefties -- he’s 4-for-28 with four walks, 12 strikeouts and a .385 OPS against them this season -- then there could certainly be All-Star consideration in his future.
5. Tarik Skubal
Season stats: 4.06 ERA, 5.00 FIP, 1.365 WHIP, 94 strikeouts, 36 walks in 77.2 innings.
Fans don’t want to include Skubal in this conversation because he has an ERA north of 4.00 and the underlying numbers are still battling his early-season struggles. But I believe he is the most dominant pitcher in the rotation right now.
Skubal is coming off an incredible start against the best offense in baseball. He allowed just one run and one hit in seven innings against the Houston Astros, with nine strikeouts and 21 swinging strikes.
Skubal had a rough April, but in 10 starts since, he’s posted a 3.23 ERA while allowing just 47 hits and 22 walks in 55.2 innings (1.25 WHIP). He’s struck out 76 batters and held hitters to a .700 OPS during that span.
In those 10 starts, Skubal has allowed four runs once, three runs twice and two or fewer runs seven times. He was pulled after 4.2 innings once, but otherwise has lasted at least five innings every time.
Skubal won’t make the All-Star team because his ratios haven’t recovered from April, but he’s been one of the team’s best players since then.
4. Jonathan Schoop
Season stats: .277/.325/.476 -- .801 OPS, 12 doubles, 15 home runs, 20 walks, 66 strikeouts.
As you can see, Baddoo’s numbers are better than Schoop’s almost across the board, but there’s definitely something to be said for Schoop playing every day. If he only started against opposite-handed pitchers, his slash line would probably be much better, too.
Schoop got off to an awful start this season, hitting .180 with a .462 OPS through 31 games. He had just two home runs and one double while striking out in 27.7% of his plate appearances.
Since then, Schoop has slashed .335/.387/.616 -- an OPS of 1.003 across 46 games. That hot streak includes 11 doubles and 13 home runs. He’s been the team’s best everyday hitter.
If it works out that the American League roster needs the Tigers’ representative to be a hitter, Schoop will probably be the choice. That’s usually the opposite of how the roster construction works out, but it’s possible.
3. Gregory Soto
Season stats: 2.18 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 1.242 WHIP, 38 strikeouts, 19 walks in 33 innings.
Going by WAR (wins above replacement), Soto is the team’s most valuable reliever. But there’s one weakness in his profile that drops him down on my list: wildness.
Soto leads baseball with eight wild pitches -- a remarkable feat for someone with only 33 innings pitched. He’s also walking 5.2 batters per nine innings, which is far too high.
Other than that, Soto is electric, and dominant. His 100 mph fastball is simply overpowering most of the time, and when he’s throwing the ball in the zone, there’s basically no hope for opposing teams to do much damage. It’s not an exaggeration to compare the good version of Soto to the likes of Josh Hader and Aroldis Chapman.
Take his last 17 outings, for example. Soto has allowed one run on four hits and six walks across 17 innings while striking out 20 batters. That’s good for a 0.53 ERA and .315 opponent OPS. His swinging strike rate is 14% during that span, and he’s induced nearly as many grounders as fly balls.
Soto can be -- and has been -- one of the best relievers in baseball this season. He definitely deserves to be considered as the Tigers’ representative.
2. Jose Cisnero
Season stats: 2.83 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 1.171 WHIP, 44 strikeouts, 12 walks in 35 innings.
As impressive as Soto has been, Cisnero has worked more innings, struck out more batters and issued fewer walks while maintaining a lower FIP. His 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings is the best on the team.
Cisnero is on a similar stretch of elite production, this time spanning across 21 outings. In 21 innings, he’s allowed 10 hits, five walks and one earned run while striking out 23 batters. His ERA is 0.43 in that span, and opponents own a .370 OPS.
He’s not quite as overpowering as Soto, but Cisnero has been even more reliable this season because of superior control. It’s basically a tossup between these two if the bullpen gets the All-Star nod.
1. Casey Mize
Season stats: 3.46 ERA, 4.65 FIP, 1.132 WHIP, 71 strikeouts, 26 walks in 88.1 innings.
Has Mize been a bit lucky? Yes. Would the Tigers like to see a little more dominance? Sure. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been the clear most valuable player on the roster this season.
Mize has a comfortable team lead in WAR at 2.7, and even though the underlying numbers forecast regression, his profile suggests he could outperform those metrics.
Despite turning 24 years old just two months ago, Mize has taken the reins for the rotation while Boyd and Turnbull work their way back from injury. He’s pitched a team-high 88.1 innings, including 10 outings of six or more innings.
Since the start of May, Mize hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any start. His 2.77 ERA during that span is backed up by a .627 opponent OPS and a high ground ball rate.
Mize isn’t missing bats at an elite level, but his 11% swinging strike rate across his last 10 games is good enough for a pitcher with great command and an ability to induce ground balls. The former No. 1 overall pick was thought to have a high floor, and he appears to be validating that scouting report at a young age.
Barring a disaster Friday against the White Sox in his last start before rosters are finalized, Mize will likely be named to his first All-Star game. That’s another positive sign for a team playing winning baseball and trending in the right direction.