We knew that the Tigers were giving up a bunch of offense when they let Jhonny Peralta leave as a free agent. Even if Jose Iglesias remained healthy as the every day shorstop as planned, there was a conscious decision to go with "defense first", and perhaps defense only at the shortstop position. When Iglesias was lost for the season, replaced by Andrew Romine, any chance of a significant offensive contribution there was gone.
We also know that Alex Avila has been awful at the plate more often than not. While he has shown hot flashes with the bat- including hitting over .300 after the All Star break last season, he goes for months on end, battling to stay above .200 at the plate. Many of us were even encouraged when he added a 15 percent walk rate to bring his on base percentage up to .350. Hey, at least he was getting on base more than some others. A lot of others, lately. But production was nowhere to be found in Avila's bat.
We know that Nick Castellanos is a rookie and it’s not wise, nor fair to expect that he’ll hit the cover off the ball right out of the gate in his first season. He could hardly be expected to replace the offensive production of Prince Fielder immediately, and he certainly isn't even in that arena. So far, Castellanos is a promising young rookie, but another hole in the lineup.
We’ve seen the streakiness of Austin Jackson, batting .293 one year, then .249 the next, then .300, then .272. But this is an even year, so he’s due to hit, right? Not necessarily.
What we’ve witnessed is that all of the above have failed to produce at the plate. Jackson leads that pack with a .244 batting average, and none of the above have even slugged .390. Avila gets on base one third of the time, and Castellanos has an on base percentage that is actually up- to .281. Those numbers just don’t cut it in the major leagues. Especially not when all of them are tanking at the same time.
The trio of Romine, Jackson, and Castellanos hit a collective .190 for the month of May. That's three near automatic outs.
There were early signs of encouragement as Jackson hit .307 .391 .520 for an OPS of .911 with a wOBA of .389 in April, but that didn’t last. In May, he hit just .200 .239 .295 for an OPS of .534 and a wOBA of .237. That is the lowest in the entire league among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances for the month. Another hole.
Torii Hunter and Rajai Davis also got off to a great start. Davis hit .333 with a .374 wOBA in April. Hunter hit .300/ .360. Both of the corner outfielders cooled off considerably in May, with Davis hitting .263 and Hunter .255, each of them with a wOBA of just .318. Two more holes over the month of May.
The Tigers’ starting outfielders, who hit a combined .313 during the month of April, dropped to just .237 in May. When combined with the other three, they had six spots in the lineup batting a collective .226 for the month.
Removing the production of the three outfielders from the equation leaves the Tigers with only Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Ian Kinsler producing at the plate. While that’s a formidable trio, six non performers in the lineup at one time is a bit much to overcome.
And yet, the Tiger offense, powered by the three stars, ranked third in the American league in runs scored, third in batting average, and second in slugging percentage for the month of May. That is how absolutely amazing their offensive stars have been. Cabrera, Martinez, and Kinsler hit .380, .372, and .331 for the month, respectively. They’ve taken the term "carrying the team" to a whole new level!
The Tigers are a team of star performers. Cabrera is a two time reigning MVP with a triple crown on his resume. Martinez and Kinsler both are among the league leaders in hitting. But whether they can continue to rake at that rate for the remainder of the season is problematic. If not, the Tigers will need at least a couple of their team mates to start chipping in at the plate.
Chances are that at least one or two of the sleeping Tigers will wake up and resume hitting the baseball again. Three of them have done so already this season. But if you want to know why the Tigers are still ahead in their division, despite so many hitters not hitting, just thank your stars.