I should clarify that title right away. There’s no debunking the crapitude of the week for Detroit, but just some of the complaints and theories. Regardless, I present a statistical tour of the week that left Tigers fan confused, irritated, and pissed off.
The Tigers are too impatient
This one is partially true. The Tigers are in the upper half of team walks with 21, and none have been intentional so there is some element of patience. But 15 of those walks have come from the trio of Gary Sheffield, Carlos Guillen, and Brandon Inge (yes, Inge).
As a whole the team is seeing 3.64 pitches per plate appearance when the league average is 3.75. Magglio Ordonez is really dragging down the average. If it seems like he’s swinging at a lot of first pitches, it’s because he is. He’s offered at the first pitch in 56% of his at bats which is well above the 36% he’s averaged in his career and part of the reason he’s only seen 2.6 pitches per PA. If there’s a silver lining it’s that he’s making contact with 89% of the pitches he’s offered at so he’s not being fooled badly.
The Tigers offense is suffering because Granderson is out
Curtis Granderson is my Tiger and Detroit is a better team when he’s playing. But center field the position and the lead-off spot in the order haven’t been major problems.
From the lead-off spot the Tigers have had a .407 OBP which is 5th best in the AL. Now every hit has been a single so the extra base power is missing but it’s not like the lead-off hitter isn’t creating opportunities for the rest of the order.
As for center field, they’ve had a .318 batting average from the position but it’s been an Alex Sanchez-ian .318 with little else. The .711 OPS is in the lower half of the AL. I’m not going to pretend it’s not an issue at all, but I’m confident it has little bearing on Polanco’s struggles and no bearing on Miguel Cabrera’s problems.
The Tigers have been unlucky
Again, elements of truth abound here. The Tigers have a slightly below average on base percentage, a below average rate of hitting ground balls, and yet they are tied for the league lead in grounding into double plays.
The offense is hitting .149 with runners in scoring position which just won’t continue to happen (the Yankees are actually at .146 if it makes anybody else feel better).
The Tigers FIP ERA (an ERA estimator using walks, strikeouts, and homers as the main inputs because those are the only elements the pitcher has complete control over) is 4.66 but their actual ERA is 5.30. Often you’ll see the disparity and it can be explained by variation in DER (Defensive efficiency ratio or the rate at which defenses convert balls in play into outs). But the Tigers DER of .706 is right at the league average. The problem is that Tigers pitchers have stranded a league low 62% of runners despite having a better than average line drive rate and better than average pop up rate.
That’s the bad luck part. But there is also a bad play component. Tigers pitchers are walking 4 batters per game which is 3rd worst. And they’re balancing it out by striking out 5.2 batters per game which is 3rd worst.
Jacque Jones has fanned in a third of his plate appearances and Pudge Rodriguez has struck out in a quarter of his. And then there are the base running errors which were sprinkled through out.
This is no myth for the infield. Carlos Guillen has been extremely disappointing at first base. Miguel Cabrera doesn’t move well to his left. Placido Polanco hasn’t been quite as sure handed and everything seems to be a step away from everything. Revised Zone Rating has the Tigers infield at .689 which is dead last by a large margin. For every ten balls in the infield the Tigers are missing one more than an average team. That’s a couple plays a game and part of the reason why Tigers starters aren’t making it to the 7th inning.
But at least the outfield defense has been above average.
It’s a slump
Like any extended losing streak, this one can’t be pinned on any one thing. The team hasn’t played well. Things aren’t working out for them. They aren’t pitching particularly well. The hitting is awful and the defense has been poor. Throw in some questionable managerial calls and mounting pressure and it’s a recipe for failure.