Tigers Monday recap: Pulling their weight
DETROIT -- For a lot of fans, the problem with the Detroit Tigers offense seems obvious – they don't take advantages of the runners they put on base.
There's some truth to this — the Tigers are among the major-league leaders in grounding into double plays and leaving runners on base — but some of that is offset by the fact that they simply put more runners on base than most teams. So is there a big problem, and if so, where?
To do this, we will use baseball-reference.com, which lists every player's RBIs along with how many runners on base they have had during their at-bats this season. It also gives the same numbers for an average major-league player. For example, Prince Fielder has batted with 351 runners on base this season, and has 88 RBIs. That gives him a conversion total of 25 percent, well ahead of the major-league average of 18 percent. Simply put, Fielder is doing an outstanding job of driving in runs.
As a whole, though, the Tigers aren't. Despite an offense that looks threatening on paper, they are no better than the league average at taking advantage of their chances. As a team, they have driven in just nine more runs than expected — and that's with Miguel Cabrera (41) and Fielder (23) starting them out at a plus-64. The only other player who has had a positive impact is, not surprisingly, Austin Jackson.
From there, it gets pretty ugly in a hurry. Jhonny Peralta, Alex Avila, and Omar Infante are around average, with Andy Dirks, Quintin Berry, Brennan Boesch and Delmon Young all below average. Young and Boesch are the biggest problems in this group, because they were supposed to be key run-producers in this year's lineup, and haven't even been able to provide an average performance.
Lagging well behind are players that were counted on to help off the bench or, in one case, help fill a key position. Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn have cost the team 24 runs between them, and fellow second baseman Danny Worth has subtracted six more. So, if the Tigers had traded for Infante before the season, they might have scored as many as 30 more runs this season. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it would probably give them 2-3 more wins – a huge swing in the current AL Central and wildcard standings.
Gerald Laird and Don Kelly have also been disasters, falling a combined 17 runs below average.
So, at the end of the day, the problem is as obvious as it seems. Miguel Cabrera is having an MVP-caliber season, and Prince Fielder has adjusted quite well to the American League. With some key help from Austin Jackson, they have been able to drag a poor offense up to the league average. That says a lot about their seasons, but just as much about their lack of help.
Monday: TWINS 9, Tigers 3. Anibal Sanchez continued to struggle as a Tiger, allowing five runs on 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings, and Duane Below was demoted to Triple-A Toledo after a bad long-relief outing.
Tuesday: Tigers 8, TWINS 4. Doug Fister blew an early four-run lead, thanks to two Tigers errors, but Andy Dirks broke the tie with a sixth-inning homer and the Tigers pulled away late.
Wednesday: Tigers 5, TWINS 1. Max Scherzer pitched out of his blue eye all day, throwing seven shutout innings while striking out 10. Delmon Young and Miguel Cabrera homered to give Detroit more than enough offense.
Thursday: No game.
Friday: TIGERS 5, Orioles 3. Prince Fielder homered twice and Cabrera added another home run as the Tigers overcame a sluggish performance by Justin Verlander. The win moved the Tigers into a tie with Baltimore in the AL wildcard race.
Saturday: Orioles 3, TIGERS 2. The Tigers couldn't do anything against little-known Zach Britton, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and hitting into three double plays.
Sunday: Orioles 7, TIGERS 5. Detroit scored five runs with one out in the first inning, then never crossed home plate again. For the second time in the week, Doug Fister blew a big early lead, allowing seven runs without getting out of the fourth inning.
Max Scherzer: Scherzer is 6-1 in his last nine starts, striking out 71 batters in 56 1/3 innings. His seven shutout innings in Minnesota were the best outing by a Tigers pitcher all week.
Miguel Cabrera: I know, it is stunning to see him in this section. All he did this week was hit .476 with two homers.
Quintin Berry: Berry saw a little more action, starting two of Detroit's six games, but he still remains mainly a defensive replacement. He has only started three of Detroit's last 14 games, and hasn't adjusted to his new role – hitting .118 during that span.
Doug Fister: While he certainly didn't get any help from his defense in Minnesota, the fact remains that he blew a 4-0 lead and a 5-0 lead in his two starts this week. Fister had been the AL's hottest pitcher, and the Tigers need better execution from him if they want to stay in the postseason hunt.
Monday: No game.
Tuesday: Blue Jays (Ricky Romero) at Tigers (Max Scherzer), 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Blue Jays (Aaron Laffey) at Tigers (Anibal Sanchez), 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) at Tigers (Justin Verlander), 1:05 p.m.
Friday: Angels (C.J. Wilson) at Tigers (Rick Porcello), 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Angels (Zack Greinke) at Tigers (Doug Fister), 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Angels (Ervin Santana) at Tigers (Max Scherzer), 1:05 p.m.