Detroit Tigers 2020 schedule: Predicting their record for the 60-game season
While there are a lot of uncertainties about the 2020 MLB season — the still-surging coronavirus pandemic could shut everything down well before October — one piece of the season came into focus Monday for the Detroit Tigers and their fans with the release of the 60-game schedule.
It’s a slate of games designed to limit travel, with 40 games within the division and 20 games against the geographic-rival division; in the Tigers’ case, that means matchups with the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.
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Unfortunately for the Tigers, it’s an unbalanced schedule that features eight games against the two playoff teams from the division (Cardinals, Brewers), six against a team attempting to make a playoff push (Reds) and three games — on the road, no less — against the bottom-dwelling Pirates.
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Still, with a schedule 37% of the normal length, anything can happen — even a playoff spot for the Tigers? (Well, maybe not; we’re assuming the Tigers follow their stated plan and get minimal contributions from Matt Manning, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Spencer Torkelson.)
Let’s break down the schedule, series by series, and see how many wins the Tigers might end up with.
July 24-26: at Reds
The buzz: It won’t take long for the Tigers to get a reunion with Nicholas Castellanos, who signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Reds in the offseason. The Reds went all-in over the winter, also adding slugger Mike Moustakas and lefty starter Wade Miley to go with a rotation of Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer (perpetually in a contract year).
Tigers’ record: 0-3 (0-3 overall).
July 27-30: vs. Royals
The buzz: The Royals were the only team with a losing record against the Tigers last season, providing 10 of the Tigers’ 44 wins. Seven of those came at Comerica Park. Still, the team with the fourth-worst record in 2019 gets a slight edge over the team with the worst record.
Record: 1-3 (1-6).
July 31-Aug. 2: vs. Reds
The buzz: Castellanos has done his share of complaining about Comerica Park’s dimensions, but Bauer — who might pitch on short rest all season — likes them just fine, allowing five runs in 30⅔ innings at the CoPa in the past two seasons.
Record: 1-2 (2-8).
Aug. 3-4: vs. Cardinals
The buzz: The Cards’ biggest offseason move after winning 91 games in 2019 was signing former All-Star catcher Matt Wieters to back up Yadier Molina. They’re good enough to sweep in Detroit, but we’ll give the Tigers a win with a couple of late runs off ex-prospect Andrew Miller.
Record: 1-1 (3-9).
Aug. 5-6: at Cardinals
The buzz: A home-and-home series with St. Louis brings to mind the days of the Norris Division in the NHL, or the 2006 World Series — neither went well for the Detroit teams.
Record: 0-2 (3-11).
Aug. 7-9: at Pirates
The buzz: The annual Jim Leyland Memorial Series is a best-of-three this year; the Pirates appear to be starting their rebuild Tigers-style, with 93 losses last season and little improvement on the immediate horizon. Finally, a series win!
Record: 2-1 (5-12).
Aug. 10-12: vs. White Sox
The buzz: This is the White Sox’s only trip to Detroit, no doubt to the chagrin of ex-Tiger James McCann, who went 11-for-27 in six games at Comerica Park last year in his All-Star season. This year, he may not see the field, as the Sox signed Yasmani Grandal to start at catcher and Edwin Encarnacion to start at DH.
Record: 1-2 (6-14).
Aug. 14-16: vs. Indians
The buzz: The Tigers went 1-18 against the Indians last season. Even Cleveland’s miserly approach — including trading ace Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers in the offseason — won't change its ownership of the Tigers as long as the Indians have Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez healthy on the left side of their infield.
Record: 1-2 (7-16).
Aug. 17-20: at White Sox
The buzz: Grandal and Encarnacion (62 combined homers in 2019) weren’t the only big moves the ChiSox made; they also signed former All-Star lefties Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez, and traded for outfielder Nomar Mazara to flesh out their outfield — we’ll get to that in a bit.
Record: 1-3 (8-19).
Aug. 21-23: at Indians
The buzz: Before trading Kluber in December, the Indians signaled their penny-pinching ways at July’s trade deadline, sending Bauer to Cincy in a three-team trade (with San Diego) that brought outfielder (and current free agent) Yasiel Puig to the shores of Lake Erie. Puig wasn’t the big reward, though. That would be 24-year-old slugger Franmil Reyes, who hit 37 homers in 494 at-bats — with two homers in four games against the Tigers after the trade — with the Indians and Padres.
Record: 1-2 (9-21).
Aug. 24-26: vs. Cubs
The buzz: The shortened season could be a good thing for the Cubs’ rotation — Yu Darvish leads a staff with five starters 31 or older. Or the stop-and-start nature of the past few months could spell disaster right around the 30-game mark.
Record: 2-1 (11-22).
Aug. 27-30: vs. Twins
The buzz: Waiting 34 games into a 60-game season to face the defending AL Central champs is the equivalent of waiting until Game 92 — mid-July, basically — in a 162-game schedule. That’s a long time to wait for the semi-annual Avila Family Reunion. (Ex-Tigers catcher Alex continued his trek around the division with a one-year deal in December.)
Record: 1-3 (12-25).
Sept. 1-2: at Brewers
The buzz: The Tigers’ most recent win in Milwaukee came June 20, 2006; Zach Miner was the winning pitcher and Magglio Ordonez, Craig Monroe and Pudge Rodriguez each homered in a 10-1 rout. (Thanks to unbalanced interleague scheduling, the teams have played in Wisconsin just four times since then, including a sweep by the Brewers in September 2018.)
Record: 0-2 (12-27).
Sept. 4-7: at Twins
The buzz: Though it’s not on the scale of the biggest deals, the Twins opened their wallet with the second-biggest contract of the offseason for a position player, signing third baseman Josh Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million deal. The 34-year-old has a career slash line of .290/.364/.524 against the Tigers.
Record: 1-3 (13-30).
Sept. 8-9: vs. Brewers
The buzz: The money for free-agent hitters dried up quick beyond the contracts of Donaldson, Castellanos and Moustakas. The Brewers’ big signing was outfielder/DH (and former Tigers prospect) Avisail Garcia (.282/.332/.464), whose two-year, $20 million deal was seventh among position players.
Record: 1-1 (14-31).
Sept. 11-13: at White Sox
The buzz: We went over the big signings earlier; the Sox are also adding talent from their farm system. In the infield, it’s second baseman Nick Madrigal, the No. 4 overall pick in 2018 out of Oregon State. In the outfield, it’s center fielder Luis Robert, a 22-year-old Cuban considered baseball’s second- or third-best prospect.
Robert, who signed a six-year, $50 million contract extension in January despite zero major-league at-bats, posted a .328/.376/.624 line with 32 homers and 36 steals in the minors in 2019. (In other words, Tigers fans should be ready to hate him for the better part of a decade.)
Record: 1-2 (15-33).
Sept. 15-16: vs. Royals
The buzz: For the first time in a decade, the Royals have a new manager; Michigan alum Mike Matheny was hired to replace the retiring Ned Yost. Matheny went 591-474 as the manager in St. Louis from 2012 to 2018 with no losing seasons. His new team finished 44 games under .500 in 2019, meaning that streak may already be over when this series rolls around.
Record: 2-1 (17-34).
Sept. 17-20: vs. Indians
The buzz: Manager Terry Francona is on record saying he thinks the team should change its name. To what? Nobody’s quite sure. “Spiders” is a possibility, though my favorite suggestion was “Colonizers,” via the AMC show “Brockmire.”
“Rockers” is out there, too, though the only Rocker of concern to Tigers fans at this point of the season should be Vanderbilt’s Kumar.
Record: 1-2 (18-36).
Sept. 22-23: at Twins
The buzz: The back three-fifths of the Minnesota rotation got an offseason makeover, with Kenta Maeda (169 strikeouts in 153⅔ innings in 2019) arriving from the Dodgers via trade and Rich Hill (U-M) and Homer Bailey signing as free agents. Hill and Bailey are part of a crowded field that includes former Uber driver — and former Utica Unicorn (from the USPBL) Randy Dobnak, who had a 1.59 ERA in 28⅓ innings last season.
Record: 0-2 (18-38).
Sept. 24-27: at Royals
The buzz: The Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles and Pirates likely will have something to say about it, but considering the Royals and Tigers combined for 217 losses in 2019, this could be a four-game “playoff” for the No. 1 pick in 2021 — start printing the #GetRockedForRocker shirts now.
Record: 2-2 (20-40).
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