Ranking the Tigers: April numbers

Manager Jim Leyland #10 of the Detroit Tigers watches his team from the dugout (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

It’s just one month into the 2012 season, 22 games to be exact, and there is a lot of baseball to be played. Let’s remember that the 2011 Tigers, who wound up winning their division by 15 games, finished the month of April with a 12-15 record, and were in the midst of a seven game losing streak when "April in the D" came to a merciful end. Still, I’d like to take a look at where the Tigers rank in the American League statistically and see if there are any trends worth noting.

Right off the bat, we can see from the rankings that the Tigers are in the middle of the pack in total offense, as measured by runs scored, and that is inexplicably higher than where they rank in most other offensive categories. Last year’s Tigers were fourth in runs scored, and among the top five consistently in most other offensive categories one year ago. Chalk that up to some timely -- or lucky -- hitting if you like. Both average and slugging for extra bases needs to pick up, and we have every reason to expect that it will.

On the pitching side, the Tigers are struggling across the mound. The rotation is 10th in the league in ERA, slightly better than where last year’s pre- Fister rotation ranked. They’re still striking out a decent number and the rotation at least is keeping the walk rate down. The starters are just giving up too many hits, some portion of which are grounders through a not so rangey infield. Of course, Detroit has faced three of the top four offenses in the AL, in Texas, New York and Boston -- and the Rays aren't far behind.

The bullpen has only had seven save opportunities -- and blew three of those for a measly 57 pct save percentage. Compare that with last year’s league leading 84 percent. Valverde and Benoit each have a blown save in the early going. Overall, the 'pen which ranked consistently in the bottom third in ERA and WHIP last year despite the solid save percentage, is once again putting runners on base with a league leading BB total, but the ERA is in the middle of the pack.

Defensively, the Tigers have already assumed their expected place at the bottom of the heap, ranking last in the AL in UZR and DRS, and second-to-last in both out of zone plays and defensive efficiency. If there is one area where small samples should be read with extreme caution, it is defensive statistics. While the number of plays adds up much more quickly for an entire team than they would for one position, we’re still looking at one eighth of a season. Suffice it to say that Tiger pitchers shouldn’t expect much help from their defense in terms of their AL ranking.

Again, it’s early, so don’t read too much into these numbers. Just look for trends to develop as the season progresses and the team marches toward an inevitable division crown for the second consecutive season. Just for fun, and as a starting point to the stats of the season, following are the Tigers' end of April team statistics and rankings among the 14 AL teams.

TEAM BATTING

Stat name AL rank Number
Runs 7 94
Hits 11 180
Batting Avg 10 .243
Home Runs 8 23
On Base Pct 10 .305
Slugging Pct 10 .391
On base plus slugging 10 .686
Doubles 14 29

STARTING PITCHING

Stat name AL rank Number
Rotation ERA 10 4.48
Opponents Batting Avg 12 .277
Bases on balls 10 37
Strikeouts 5 106
Rotation Wins T 12 5
Walks + Hits per Inning 10 1.40



RELIEF PITCHING

Stat name AL rank Number
Bullpen ERA 8 3.94
Opponents Batting Avg 12 .264
Bases on balls 14 39
Strikeouts 3 67
Save Percentage T 11 57 percent
W.H.I.P. 12 1.52



TEAM DEFENSE

Stat name AL rank Number
Revised Zone Rating 12 .979
Out of Zone Plays 13 58
Ultimate Zone Rating 14 - 11.7
Defensive Runs Saved 14 - 19
Fielding Percentage 8 .984
Defensive efficiency 13 .685
Caught stealing pct 5 35 percent
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