Inside the Article:
How do you create a winning culture when your team hasn't won in years? The Detroit Tigers have struggled for a long time, losing at least 96 games four times in the past six years. In fact, they haven't had a winning season since their youngest camp attendee Colt Keith was in high school. In a word, the culture of the Tigers has been a losing culture.
Though, the ship seems to be turning on its moorings.
Why it matters:
- During their “decade of dominance” the Tigers regularly hosted over 2 million fans, eclipsing 3 million four times (2007, 2008, 2012, and 2013).
- Since 2017, the Tigers have not had 2 million fans attend games in a single season.
- In 2022, the Tigers were the worst offensive team and had the third-worst starting rotation in the MLB.
- Scott Harris has put a plan together that includes acquiring and retaining young talent, developing young talent, and controlling the strike zone on both sides of the ball — something he's stuck to consistently in the offseason.
2017-2022 Detroit Tigers By the Numbers
- In 2022 (66-96):
- 30th offensively: .231 team average, 81 wRC+, -8.6 BsR, 2.5 WAR
- 15th defensively: 25 DRS, 12 OAA, 8 RAA
- 24th in pitching: 4.04 team ERA, 1.30 team WHIP, 4.16 team FIP, 7.58 K/9, 3.24 BB/9
- In 2021 (77-85):
- 28th offensively: .242 team average, 94 wRC+, -6.2 BsR, 10.5 WAR
- 26th defensively: -35 DRS, -17 OAA, -14 RAA
- 23rd in pitching: 4.32 team ERA, 1.37 team WHIP, 4.60 team FIP, 7.98 K/9, 3.62 BB/9
- In 2020 (23-35; COVID season, 60 games):
- 21st offensively: .245 team batting average, 92 wRC+, -2.3 BsR, 5.4 WAR
- 18th defensively: -12 DRS, 7 OAA, 6 RAA
- 29th in pitching: 5.63 team ERA, 1.43 team WHIP, 5.17 team FIP, 8.12 K/9, 3.51 BB/9
- In 2019 (47-114):
- 30th offensively: .240 team batting average, 77 wRC+, -6.8 BsR, -2.0 WAR
- 29th defensively: -116 DRS, -19 OAA, -17 RAA
- 20th in pitching: 5.26 team ERA, 1.46 team WHIP, 4.84 team FIP, 8.59 K/9, 3.37 BB/9
- In 2018 (64-98):
- 30th offensively: .241 team average, 83 wRC+, 6.4 BsR, 4.2 WAR
- 27th defensively: -23 DRS, -21 OAA, -18 RAA
- 24th in pitching: 4.60 team ERA, 1.34 team WHIP, 4.59 team FIP, 7.67 K/9, 2.47 BB/9
- In 2017 (64-98):
- 26th offensively: .258 team average, 98 wRC+, 19.8 BsR, 10.4 WAR
- 30th defensively: -115 DRS, -13 oAA, -11 RAA
- 26th in pitching: 5.36 team ERA, 1.50 team WHIP, 4.73 team FIP, 7.62 K/9, 3.41 BB/9
The Big Picture: Clubhouse culture matters
Before winning on the field, teams win within the clubhouse. Scott Harris commented earlier this week, “Coming off 96 losses, there are no shortcuts back to contention. It starts with putting together a team and an environment that can play competitive baseball every day.”
Matt Vierling, newly acquired for Gregory Soto, says that he learned this last season from his time with the Phillies, who had a close-knit team that challenged the Houston Astros for the World Series. Winning helped to create a great vibe, to be sure, but he noted the players genuinely liked each other and pulled for the guy next to them.
“I see a bunch of young guys who are hungry to win,” said Vierling about the Tigers. The feelings shared by players around Lakeland this Spring seem different than in years past. The amount of young talent that is in camp, 22 non-roster invitees, including Keith–shows the commitment to the young players within the organization. Yes, solid free agent pieces are good and necessary when the time is right, but these young players are who will be carrying the torch forward and need to be the ones that establish the culture.
You can see it paying off too. The young players are in camp, putting in the work, and ready to get the 2023 campaign underway.
The Bottom Line – Winning Culture is Built from Within
The Detroit Tigers have laid the groundwork for building that winning culture. Were the moves flashy? No, they weren't. Does it have some fans irritated and “fed up”? Yes, yes it does. But the groundwork is laid. The collection of talent within the organization should not be defined by last year's ill will and should stand on its own merits. It's already happening within the clubhouse, and soon, we'll see it happening on the field.