This is the third article in a series, grading the players on the Tigers for their individual performances over the first 81 games of the 2012 season. The rotation and the bullpen were graded in separate articles, posted yesterday.
The Tiger lineup ranks third in the league in on base percentage, fourth in team batting average, but only seventh in the league in runs scored. In summary, they are getting runners on base at a pretty good rate, but they're not driving them in very well. Part of that is a lack of power, the team is seventh in extra base hits, and OPS, but eleventh in home runs. Another part of the reason is base running.
In case you're wondering, the Tigers are second in the league in average with runners in scoring position at .292, which is something that many Tiger fans may find hard to believe. They rank in the middle of the pack in walks and strikeout rate, and a bit below average in isolated power. Only the Indians have fewer stolen bases.
Following is a breakdown of the individual first half performances:
Austin Jackson - A. If the Tigers were to give out an MVP award for the first half, Austin Jackson would get it. Jackson has been the catalyst in the Tigers’ offense this season. Rebounding from a sophomore slump in 2011, Jackson leads the Tigers in batting average, on base percentage, and most surprisingly, OPS. He ranks among the top five in the league in batting average and in OPS, and his defense is as good as any center fielder in the league. His wOBA is an amazing .405, while league average is .319. Jackson missed over three weeks with an abdominal strain, and the Tigers were three games under .500 during that span. Jackson's 3.6 WAR is fourth in the league and tops on the team, despite missing time on the disabled list.
Miguel Cabrera- A minus. While Cabrera is not leading the league in any of the triple crown categories, he has posted very solid numbers across the board offensively, while holding his own at third base where some pundits had predicted he would be a disaster. Cabrera ranks in the top ten in the league in average, slugging, and OPS, and is second in RBI. Sabermetrically speaking, he’s 17.8 runs above average at the plate, which is also top ten, and his wOBA is .378. It’s not an MVP type of season, at least not yet, but a very solid half nonetheless.
Prince Fielder- B plus. The Tigers’ highest paid player has helped to offset the loss of Victor Martinez with a solid slash line of .299 .379 .484 .862 for the first half of the season. Unfortunately, Fielder’s defense at first base has been much worse than expected. Prince will start the All Star game at first base for the American League. His home runs are down this year but still, Fielder brings a big thunderstick that is much needed to the heart of the order, and is a threat to go deep in any at bat. The Tigers will need his bat if they’re going to win the division, because he’s certainly not being paid for his glove work.
Brennan Boesch - F. Boesch has been a failure in the first half of the season. He had previously been red hot during the first half of the season in his two previous major league campaigns, but this season, he has been below replacement level, posting the lowest average, on base percentage, OPS, wOBA, and WAR of any right fielder in the league, while his defense is also well below average. Not surprisingly, the Tigers are dead last in the league in production from the right field position. If they’re looking to make an upgrade for the second half, this would be a good place to start.
Andy Dirks- Incomplete. Dirks was arguably the second best offensive player on the team when he went on the disabled list on May 31st. He had earned a starting job as the Tigers every day left fielder, and No. 2 hitter, with a solid slash line of .328 .379 .515 .894. Losing Dirks and Jackson was a tough one- two punch to the gut for a team that was only getting production out of their first four hitters in the lineup. If the Tigers can get Dirks back healthy and hitting anywhere near where he left off, he should replace Boesch or Young in the lineup most days.
Quintin Berry- B. If there was anything good that came out of the injuries to Jackson and Dirks, it is surely the appearance of Berry, who has hit .300, gotten on base at a .391 clip, played solid defense in the outfield, and leads the team in stolen bases. His presence on the base paths is a menace to opponents and he gives the Tigers another spark that they were missing prior to Berry’s arrival. He won’t continue to hit at the same rate that he has, but his speed isn’t going to disappear, and he has been far better in the lineup than several others that had been getting a lot of playing time.
Jhonny Peralta- C plus. Peralta is not having the type of All Star season that he had in 2011, but his performance at the plate and in the field have been just a bit above the league average for a shortstop. While his power has been down some, and that is reflected in the traditional home run and RBI numbers, he is hitting pretty close to his career stats, and more importantly, he is trending upward as the season progresses. Peralta hit .293 .344 .427 .771 in the month of June, but without any homers and only seven RBI. The decline in RBI can be attributed to far fewer opportunities with runners on base, but also to a decline in home runs and extra bast hits. If the Tigers had hitters getting on base ahead of Peralta, he would logically see better pitches and drive in more runs for them. The club holds a $ 5.5 million option (or $ 500K buyout) for Peralta in 2013.
Alex Avila- C. Avila is another Tigers that has seen a drop off in production at the plate this season, and also another that has been bitten by the injury bug. He takes a beating behind the plate that is seemingly worse than any other catcher. By season’s end in 2011, it was almost painful to watch Avila taking the field to play every day, and they missed his production when the playoffs came around. Despite all that, his numbers are close to league average for a catcher, including an OBP of .338 and wOBA of .324. There is reason to believe that, if he can stay healthy, Avila will be an asset both offensively and defensively down the stretch.
Gerald Laird- C. Laird’s numbers are surprisingly respectable, and include a batting average of .293 and an OBP of .347, while his slugging and overall OPS are very close to Avila’s numbers. Laird has been called into action a bit more than the Tigers would like to have used him, but his signing is looking pretty smart so far, as he has admirably filled in for Avila when called upon.
Ramon Santiago- C minus. Second base has been a black hole in the Tiger lineup, but Santiago has been the best of a bad lot. He should be a utility player, but now finds himself, at least for the moment, getting more starts than any of the others that might be penciled in at second base. After a slow start at the plate, in limited action, Santiago has picked up that pace a bit, and hit .258 .329 .379 .708 in the month of June, which is at least better than they had been getting from Inge, Raburn, or Worth this season. Ideally, the Tigers find a bona fide starting second baseman, but until then, Ramon would be my choice to start most days.
Ryan Raburn- F. Failure doesn’t begin to describe how bad Raburn has been this season, although there are signs that he’s starting to come around like he usually does as the season wears on. The first half saw Raburn finally being optioned to Toledo because he was killing the team in the lineup with literally the worst numbers of any hitter in the league. He did nothing to deserve being recalled, but has been respectable at the plate since his return, hitting .321 .345 .464 .809 in June, mostly against left handed pitchers. He’s not an infielder and should be either a DH or an outfielder when he does play, but if his bat gets anywhere near as hot as it has been in second halves past, it will be tempting to start him every day down the stretch.
Don Kelly- D plus. At the plate, Kelly gets an F. In the field, he gets a C, mostly because of his versatility. A stat line of .186 .293 .244 .537 doesn’t cut it in the majors, although Kelly has only had 86 plate appearances. I have no problem with him as a defensive replacement, but he should only start against ambidextrous pitchers.
Danny Worth- I. Worth has been hitting below the Mendoza line and his fielding hasn’t exactly been stellar either, but he has started only 18 games, all at second base. He doesn’t appear to be the answer there.
Brandon Inge- G. G is for gone, which is inevitably what happens when one spends too much time sitting on F. Other players that spent time on the field for the Tigers this season that have left the organization include Brad Eldred, Omir Santos, Clete Thomas,
and pitcher Collin Balester.
Up and coming- a couple of Tigers made their major league debuts in the first half of the season. Bryan Holoday did a decent job behind the plate and Hernan Perez got a hit and scored a run in a cameo appearance in the infield.
Sabermetrically speaking: Tigers' offense rankings by position