Detroit Tigers fans don’t need to be told how futile their team’s offense has been this year. They’ve seen it in every situation. The hitting has been bad, completely lacking any power and rarely walking, key acquisitions have suffered injuries and been subpar when healthy enough to play, and, in the relatively rare case where players reach base safely, even the baserunning has let the team down.
Perception isn’t always reality but in this case, the evidence backs it up.
Not only are the Detroit Tigers the lowest-scoring team in baseball, but they are also below-average to bad at nearly everything offensive.
The Detroit Tigers are averaging a paltry 2.8 runs per game while the rest of the league is averaging over 4.3 runs. The average team in baseball is scoring 50 percent more often than the Tigers. How far behind the rest of the league are the Tigers? The fourth-worst team in run production, the Chicago White Sox, average 3.7 runs per game. Chicago is closer to the 10th-best team, Minnesota and their 4.5 runs per game, than they are to the Tigers. Since World War II, there have only been seven teams to score less than three runs per game in a season, none since 1972.
So what has led to the Tigers’ inability to score runs? Let’s start with the most traditional statistics. Detroit’s team batting average of .221 ranks 28th, ahead of only the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Oakland Athletics. Their .279 OBP ranks 29th and their .321 SLG is last. It should come as no surprise that a team in the bottom three in each of these categories has trouble scoring runs. But Oakland is also in the bottom three in each of these categories and scores nearly half a run more per game.
However bad Detroit has been at hitting they’ve been equally bad, if not worse, when on the basepaths. The Tigers are last in baseball with 12 stolen bases and only the Colorado Rockies have a worse success rate when trying to swipe a bag. According to Baseball-Reference’s RS% (run-scoring percentage), when someone reaches base in 2022, they score 31% of the time across the league. Yet again, the Tigers are worst in the league as only 25% of their baserunners have come around to score. Their hitters that reach base score about 80% as often as an average team.
While the Tigers don’t lead the league in times grounded into a double play, they have done it 43 times, or about 10% more frequently than average. That’s not that much but they have reached base safely less than any other team in baseball. So, they’ve had fewer opportunities to ground into double plays. According to FanGraphs’ wGDP, a stat that measures how often a player hits into a double play in situations where it’s possible, only Washington and Oakland have been doubled off more frequently than Detroit.
If you would have told a Tigers fan in March that Harold Castro would be their best offensive player this season, that fan probably would have laughed you off and then gone home and cried for a while. Castro has been one of the few bright spots and his .281/.297/.456 batting line leads the team with a 119 OPS+. That .753 OPS and 119 OPS+ is in line with what the Yankees are hitting as a team this season. Yet, for the Tigers, that’s the cream of the crop.
Javier Baez, Jeimer Candelario, Robbie Grossman, Jonathan Schoop, and Spencer Torkelson have all been to the plate at least 167 times and have an AVG of .200 or lower. All of those players plus Tucker Barnhart have an OPS of .605 or lower.
If there’s a hint of optimism for the Tigers, it’s that the pitching has kept the team relatively afloat. Detroit is 14-10 over the last four weeks, despite not hitting any better, and the American League Central is possibly the worst division in baseball. Austin Meadows is back from a bout with vertigo, Javier Baez has typically been at his best in June and July, and Spencer Torkelson wasn’t a consensus top-five prospect for nothing.
If the Tigers can figure it out at the plate and on the bases, they aren’t out of contention in the division.