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Fantasy Baseball: The 2022 Detroit Tigers finally show up

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It’s been a frustrating and disappointing real-life and fantasy season for the Detroit Tigers. You know this. We talk about this. We dream of streaming against the Tigers offense, which has been dead last in scoring all year. And so many Detroit fantasy plays have been a mess from the start — look at those springtime ADPs of Javier Baez, Eduardo Rodriguez, Austin Meadows and Akil Baddoo, the top four Michigan players off the page.

It’s gotten so depressing in Detroit, the city now looks to the Lions as the team of optimism. Dan Campbell, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jared Goff, please take this sad song and make it better.

All that said, the Tigers are on a nifty little binge right now, and if I don’t discuss it in today’s column, I might never get another window. Detroit now has a tidy five-game winning streak, including Thursday’s 2-1 victory over Dylan Cease and the White Sox. If you back up a little further, the Tigers are 9-4 in their last 13 games. Heck, they’re only five runs behind the Athletics now, and the Tigers have two games in hand. We can do this, English D.

Could the Tigers turn their fantasy fortunes around?

Cutting up samples can be a misleading game at times, but bear with me. Over the past 15 days, Detroit’s the No. 8 offense in baseball by runs scored. They’re sixth in average, ninth in OBP. The slugging still lags a bit — 19th in slugging percentage — but it’s a start.

And to the joy of fantasy managers, Motown has become "Gotown" on the bases. Detroit wasn’t running at all earlier in the year, but we’ve seen seven swipes in the last two weeks. Keep them coming. Give us something to watch.

The stunning Detroit spark plug this week has been veteran Jonathan Schoop, who’s on a 9-for-19 tear with six runs scored. Schoop hasn’t struck out in this stretch. And perhaps the biggest shocker is Schoop’s interest on the bases — he’s stolen a bag in each of the past four days. Sure, that only gives him a modest five on the year, a new career-high. But we know when it comes to stealing, usually it’s a matter of will more than skill. If a player wants to run, bags are generally there for the taking.

Jonathan Schoop #7 of the Detroit Tigers is increasing his fantasy value
Jonathan Schoop could be making an impact in the fantasy steals column. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

I’m not going to list Schoop’s seasonal stats, they’re too depressing. But the guy did conk 22 homers last year, and his slash over the two prior seasons was a playable .278/.321/.443. Statcast data suggests Schoop should be batting .256 this year; he’s been comically unlucky. Perhaps he can be useful for us going forward. Schoop is ready to go in over 80 percent of Yahoo leagues.

We mentioned Eric Haase earlier in the week, the head of the team’s catching committee. He’s at .360 for two weeks, with four homers. Auto-add in dual-backstop formats.

And while Riley Greene’s .218 average the last two weeks isn’t much to look at, he’s getting run in the leadoff spot and taking advantage. He’s scored eight runs and driven in eight, drawn six walks. The pop has yet to arrive, but he’s posted a .254 average and .354 OBP since his recall. The fifth overall pick in the 2019 draft, Greene could be a fun guy to watch the rest of the year. He’s crept over 50 percent rostered in Yahoo.

With Baez, just give me something, anything to believe in. He’s hit five homers and stolen two bags over the past month. The run production is fine — 13 runs, 14 RBIs. We know he’s always going to swing at pretty much anything; six walks against 24 strikeouts.

The Tigers are never going to bench him, of course. You have to consider the contract, follow the money. Baez will slot second, third, or fourth almost every day. He did hit his eighth homer Thursday, for what it’s worth.

The Statcast page doesn’t completely absolve Baez, but it does offer a tiny glimmer of hope. The metrics say his average should be 18 points higher, and his slugging 46 points better. At least the arrow is ever-so-slightly pointed upward.

For all the anxiety tied to the offense, Detroit’s pitching has been around league average. Let’s give these guys some props. Three pitchers, in particular, have out-kicked their ADP — Gregory Soto has 17 saves and solid ratios (2.70/1.20), Tarik Skubal has 90 strikeouts and borderline ratios (4.06/1.20) and Michael Fulmer has been a reliable bridge to Soto all year (2.03/1.03). If the Tigers get into the trade market, either of their relievers could interest a contending club. And it’s possible Skubal, just 25, could be a future star.

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If Detroit’s going to keep this run going, it will happen on the road. The next 13 games come out of a suitcase, with divisional matches against the White Sox, Royals and Guardians. A two-game dance at Oakland finishes the trip.

I don’t need a pennant race in the city. I don’t need March ADPs to be validated. I just want a reason to turn the game on, a reason to feel good about the local nine. For a few days, at least, that’s been a realistic goal.

Second base awaits you, Mr. Schoop. Go take it.