Are Detroit Tigers ‘Playing for Next Season’?

What percent chance do you give the Detroit Tigers to win their division?

The All-Star break has passed, and our Detroit Tigers have started off the second portion of their season by taking two of three games on the road against the Seattle Mariners. On July 14, ESPN released their Second-Half Preview for the 2023 MLB season, where they included projected final record, division title odds, playoff odds, and championship odds. The Tigers were placed in the ‘Playing for Next Season' tier.

Detroit Tigers spring training

Detroit Tigers included in ‘Playing for Next Season' Tier

Here is what ESPN has to say about the Detroit Tigers' chances for the remainder of the season:

Record: 39-50 | Projected final record: 70-92

Division title odds: 1% | Playoff odds: 1% | Championship odds: 0%

Unexpected score: 100.8 (13th)

What nobody saw coming: Insofar as a team that is 39-50 and has outplayed its run profile by more than all but one other AL team is a contender … the Tigers are the 2023 AL Central version of a fringe contender. If the words stick in your throat as you try to say them out loud, that's understandable. But the Tigers enter the break only 5½ games out of first place. In some ways, the best thing that could happen to GM Scott Harris would be a fat losing streak coming out of the break, one that might fend off any suggestions that his roster deserves to add at the trade deadline.

What to expect from here: A fat losing streak? The Twins and Guardians are both better teams than Detroit. The Tigers have shown a penchant for hanging around, so perhaps a collapse won't happen. At the same time, given the team's run differential and a lack of many obvious positive regression candidates, Detroit will most likely end up tussling with the White Sox for third place. Still, with the Tigers posting a no-hitter before the break and getting healthier than they've been, there is at least a two-week window after the break for Tigers fans to root for a storybook finale for Miguel Cabrera. Then we can return to our previously scheduled programming. — Doolittle

Key Points

  • Detroit Tigers' projected final record and odds: ESPN's Second-Half Preview places the Tigers in the ‘Playing for Next Season' tier, projecting a final record of 70-92. Their division title odds are 1%, playoff odds are 1%, and championship odds are 0%.
  • Fringe contender status: Despite their record of 39-50, the Tigers are considered a fringe contender in the AL Central. They are 5½ games out of first place and have outperformed their run profile. A losing streak after the break could deter trade deadline additions and reinforce the notion of playing for the future.
  • Expectations and trade deadline: While the Tigers are unlikely to win the division, they have shown resilience and a no-hitter performance before the break. They may compete with the White Sox for third place, and the team's performance leading up to the trade deadline will reveal their approach—whether they prioritize winning now or preparing for the next season.
Miguel Cabrera Miguel Cabrera ejected

Bottom Line: Are Detroit Tigers ‘Playing for Next Season'?

First of all, to say the Tigers only have a 1% chance of winning their division makes me wonder where ESPN gets their numbers from. I mean, they have to have at least a 2% chance, right?!?! That being said, I don't think the Tigers are playing or next season quite yet. Should they be playing for next season? Probably, but it is clear that they are still doing whatever they can to win baseball games. What happens at the trade deadline will reveal exactly what Scott Harris believes the Tigers are playing for.