Few surprises with Detroit Tigers current offensive pace


Surprisingly enough, Ty Cobb was not a member the Detroit ball club that holds the record for the most runs scored in a season despite leading the league in runs scored five times during his tenure. The 1934 Detroit Tigers played a 154 game regular season schedule that year and scored 958 times. Five Tigers scored more than a hundred that season, with second baseman Charlie Gehringer leading the pack having touched home plate safely 135 times.

Including Gehringer, four Hall of Famers emerged from that lineup. C Mickey Cochrane, 1B Hank Greenberg and OF Goose Goslin are the other three. The Sporting News named all but Goslin to the Tigers’ Franchise All-Time Team in a commemorative print edition looking back on 125 years of baseball. If it weren’t for the likes of Cobb, Al Kaline and Harry Heilmann that Goslin was pitted against for an outfield spot, he definitely would have made the cut.

After the established year of 1919 that ended the dead-ball era of MLB, the 1931 New York Yankees hold the single season record for most runs scored at 1067. That historic lineup of course featured ‘Murderers’ Row’ and lives on in infamy for anyone who found themselves not being a supporter of the Bronx Bombers in the Dirty Thirties.

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What makes lineups like the ’34 Tigers and the ’31 Yankees even more special is that a designated hitter did not exist during that time. While it would be a bold assertion to suggest the 2015 Tigers can or will approach either the franchise or all-time records for runs scored, it’s not brash to simply examine the possibility of it. Well, maybe it is after only three games. But let’s have a go anyway.

The ’31 Yankees averaged 6.9 runs per game and the ’34 Tigers 6.2. With Detroit’s hot start in the opening series versus the Twins, the Tigers did two things: Confirmed to most onlookers that this offense has the potential to rival any of the top lineups in the league. Secondly, it has scored an average of 7.3 runs per game.

It appears two-through-six in the lineup, there are few question marks if everyone stays mostly healthy. Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes probably deserve a nickname similar to the one headlined by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the 1930s. The biggest question mark for this Tigers lineup is can they get over 100-plus runs out of either Anthony Gose or Rajai Davis? One of them will end up being the primary leadoff hitter. Davis’ best run producing season saw hime score only 66 times in 2010. The 24-year-old Gose is barely beyond prospect status. He has a higher ceiling.

Like most of the lineup, Gose’s strong spring is carrying over into April. He’s hitting .545 and has safely touched home plate four times. There is breakout potential there. Gose showed above average plate discipline in the minors with a lifetime OBP of .334 there.

Kinsler, Cabrera and V. Martinez all have career OBPs north of .340. J.D. broke out last season and clearly benefited from his surroundings. He posted a .358 OBP and scored 57 runs in only 123 games played. Slotting Cespedes behind him in the batting order should help J.D. surpass his base running numbers from 2014.

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If hitters two-through-six in the offense average ten runs below the 162 game averages of their careers, that would account for 461 runs, or 48 percent of the 1934 Tigers total. An extension of a breakout season by Gose would mean he bests everyone else in the lineup as the leadoff hitter and scores the most runs — call it 100 even. But that’s being somewhat conservative in a lineup for a team whose next three hitters combine to have a career batting average of .300. Gose can help that cause by cutting back on the times he is caught stealing in 2015.

If Gose scores 100, that accounts for 59 percent of the target to tie. Asking the No. 7 -9 hitters and bench players to make up the remaining 41 percent is asking a lot. Also, the Tigers will play 10 games on the road in inter-league play this season. That should diminish their scoring production some. While the 1931 mark of 1067 is probably out of reach, it’s worth noting that the 2007 Tigers roster approached the 1934 Tigers mark when they scored 887 for the second highest franchise total after World War II.

There was no M-Cab, no V-Mart or even Prince Fielder on that team. Players topping the 100 runs mark were Curtis Granderson (122), Magglio Ordonez (117), Gary Sheffield (107) and Placido Polanco (105). Ordonez’s and Polanco’s marks were personal bests and the other twos weren’t far off from that.

There’s no reason to think in a healthy lineup of such potency that many of the Tigers hitters can’t approach their personal bests for runs scored in a season. This is a team with big contact and power potentials.

The ’34 Tigers ultimately lost the World Series that year, to surprise, the Cardinals. The ’06 Tigers squad faced the exact same fate. But neither that Tigers team or the ’07 one (who missed playoffs but still won 88 games) featured a rotation with two Cy Young winning pitchers boasting career ERAs around 3.50 or lower in David Price and Justin Verlander.

In fact, the ’07 rotation was so atrocious, they found themselves with a .543 WPCT only because of the lineups propensity for plating runs. That rotation had a collective ERA of 4.68, ranking 18th in all of MLB.

With Anibal Sanchez and the potential of Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon to replace some of Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello‘s efficiencies from 2014, the team shouldn’t need to average 7.2 runs per game to make the postseason.

While I wouldn’t bet on the Detroit Tigers to beat the mark the Yankees set in 1931 or even the 1934 mark of the Motown men who came before them, I like them to win the big dance if they get there. So much so, that I may even have placed a fairly substantial preseason wager in Vegas on the Tigers winning their first championship since 1984 at 16/1 odds… knock on wood.

Next: Anthony Gose poised to breakout for Tigers?