As we sit here today, the Detroit Tigers sit two and a half games behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. Now, whether you anticipated the Men from Motown to be in second place this deep into the season or not, the reality is the Tigers, having landed the largest free-agent fish of the offseason (allegedly) are grasping for the division crown from behind the eight ball and there are a number of reasons for this.
At 4.56 runs per game, the offense has been an overall disappointment, one of the reasons that they haven’t been better than a good White Sox team. But that’s simply a blanket response to an in-depth and complicated game.
So we’ll dig a bit deeper. We’ll take a look at why the team, which still has scored the sixth-most runs in the American League, has scored less than expected. Is it just because expectations were too high? Or when we dig deeper will we find a glaring reason?
Tigers have two glaring weaknesses
They may have quality production coming from the first four spots in the lineup as well as the last three, but in the fifth and sixth spots in the lineup, they are less than pedestrian.
Fifth Spot In Lineup
Stats through Friday:
Sixth Spot In Lineup
Stats through Friday:
In the two charts, we see how the entire American League has batted from the fifth and sixth spots in the batting order this season.
We see that the Tigers don’t actually have the worst production out of the fifth spot, owned almost exclusively by Delmon Young. That honor belongs to the Kansas City Royals, but they have a very respectable amount of production out of the sixth spot, and the Tigers certainly don’t. Here we use simple math. If X is smaller than Y but much greater than Y in the next problem, and the two combinations of X are overall greater than the combinations of Y than X is greater. That’s how you use simple math, right?
The same can be said for the sixth spot in the lineup. The Tigers are bad, the bulk of which is courtesy of Brennan Boesch and Alex Avila, but they aren’t the least productive. That’s the Seattle Mariners. But the Mariners are not exactly dead at the fifth spot in the lineup, as we see. Math, again! The Mariners, who play in an offensive black hole for half the time still produce better from two of the more important spots in the lineup than the Tigers do.
In fact, the team that lacks as much production as the Tigers do from both those spots are the Toronto Blue Jays, who have experienced a very disappointing season from their offense.
But even the Blue Jays haven’t been as bad as the Tigers have been from the fifth and sixth spots in the lineup. We can’t assume we know the number of wins that the ineffectiveness of Young, Boesch, and Avila have denied the Tigers, but it certainly looked like the Tigers would see at least league average-production from each player. Two and a half wins certainly doesn’t seem to be out of reach given the fact that they’ve already played three-quarters of the season.
There is currently very little the team can change.
The problem the Tigers now face is overcoming these inefficiencies. Where do you take production from? A team can’t exactly pull it from the seventh and eighth spots in the lineup, can they?
The Tigers have actually tried. Recently, they’ve begun moving Jhonny Peralta around with the aforementioned names in hopes that something, anything, can be sparked. So far the results have been mixed. The month of August has seen the worst production of the year out of the fifth spot and the very best out of the sixth spot.
The solution is an impact corner outfield bat that general manager Dave Dombrowski can pick up on waivers. That’s obviously an easy answer, so we should all expect that to happen in the very near future.
No, the solution is the players have to produce. The issue is they haven’t all year.
It may keep the team out of the playoffs, it may not, but the lack of production certainly isn’t making life any easier for anyone involved.
Josh Worn writes about the Tigers at Walkoff Woodward.