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Tigers offense was good, not great, in 2014

The 2014 Detroit Tigers led the American league in many offensive categories. So why don't they get an A grade for the season?

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers ranked second in the American league in runs scored for the second consecutive season, this time trailing only the Los Angeles Angels. The Tigers led the league in several offensive categories, including batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, and wOBA. The Tigers were the best hitting team in the league by a comfortable margin in some areas.

Year Runs/Game AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA BB% K% ISO Run Score % wRC+
2013 Tigers 4.91 .283 .346 .434 .780 .341 8.3% 16.8% .151 30% 113
2014 Tigers 4.67 .277 .331 .426 .757 .340 7.4% 17.9% .166 33% 114
AL Ranks 2nd 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 10th 3rd best 2nd 2nd 2nd

Offense was down by a significant margin around the league in 2014 from the previous season, and the Tigers were no exception.

The numbers above tell us that the Tigers still had a very good offense. Beyond these basic stats, there were a few areas where production was not at the top of the league. Those areas include home runs, where they ranked fourth, walk percentage where they were 10th, and baserunning (BsR) where they also ranked tenth in the league. The Tigers were actually fourth in stolen bases, up from dead last a year ago, and they were second in the league in percentage hitting into a double play.

If you got the feeling that the Tigers were a "feast or famine" type of lineup, think again. The pythagorean formula has the Tigers with 86 wins, based on the number of runs scored vs. runs allowed. They outperformed that number by four wins for the season, so their run distribution was very efficient. The Tigers’ offense overall was also very efficient. They scored 32 percent of the baserunners that reached base, second in the AL. Only the Angels were more efficient. Leading the league in putting runners on with the second highest run scored percentage is a recipe for a very good offense. Every baseball fan thinks that their team squanders too many scoring opportunities. The Tigers actually capitalize more than most.

When it comes to scoring a runner from third or advancing the runner from second with less than two outs, Detroit is among the league leaders. They had the third lowest strikeout rate, led the league in sacrifice flies, and only had 24 sacrifice bunts. So, if you’re looking for something to complain about with the Tigers in the offense statistics, you’re not going to find very much.

All things considered, the Tigers offense has to get an A, right? Not necessarily. I find one very glaring weakness with this Tigers offense, and it’s not going to show up in the overall numbers. That is their bench. No lineup is perfect. Every lineup has players who are there primarily for their defense, and the Tigers are no exception.

Position wOBA AL Rank
C .292 10th
1B .363 2nd
2B .318 6th
3B .301 11th
SS .264 14th
RF .359 2nd
CF* .318 9th
LF .330 5th
DH .403 2nd

* Detroit ranked 9th (.319) in the first half and 8th (.313) in the second half in CF

As we can see, the Tigers had a few positions where they could have used an upgrade at the plate in a key situation. With a game on the line, runners on base, and a weak hitting shortstop or catcher coming up to the plate, Brad Ausmus has nobody on the bench to hit for them. On the bench were four defensive replacements who can’t hit a lick.

Don Kelly, Eugenio Suarez, Bryan Holaday, Andrew Romine, and Ezequiel Carrera all had a sub-.300 wOBA. Only Carrera was above replacement level overall, and that’s only due to his base running. Even Nick Castellanos was below replacement level when you factor in his defense. The Yankees were worse at shortstop, so there's that.

Runs were squandered. Games were squandered. As good as the Tigers’ offense was, it could easily have been better with one or two relatively inexpensive hitters on the bench. You need only think back to the last play of the Tigers’ season, when Hernan Perez pinch-hit and grounded into a double play to end the season, to see a gaping hole in their roster. Worst of all, this is a self inflicted wound. It’s bad management on the part of Dave Dombrowski, who is otherwise an excellent GM.

For that reason, the Tigers offense gets a grade of B+ for the season.