How often do you watch the Tigers bat and have one of these reactions ...
- When are they going to get a hit?
- These guys strike out too much!
- Weren't we going to play small ball this year?
- Not another runner stranded in scoring position!
It is time to calibrate our expectations.
Remember April, when it seemed every other day was an off day? The Tigers are still last in the league in games played, and have doubleheaders the next two Saturdays to catch up. Yet they are still first in hits and doubles.
The Tigers are fourth in stolen bases, so small ball is taking hold. The Royals are easily leading the league with 110 steals. But the Tigers have been caught stealing second most in the league, and on 30% of attempts. Their efficiency needs to improve. The Royals are only caught 18% of the time.
Small ball is not carrying over to moving runners up by bunting, as the Tigers are fifth from the bottom in sacrifice hits. They do lead in sacrifice flies, a result of so many runners on base.
The Royals also excel at putting the bat on the ball, striking out far less than any other team in the American League. The Tigers are fourth, and even considering fewer games played are still better than average. All those strikeouts are part of the evolving nature of the game.
Most impressively, Detroit still leads the triple slash categories of batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. And yet, night after night, we bemoan the lack of offense. Legendary Lloyd's Mariners are last with a .677 OPS. The 2003 Tigers had a couple players of that caliber, Warren Morris and Alex Sanchez. Their performances would be average this year in Seattle.
And even with all the success at the plate, the Tigers have left the third fewest runners on base.
But if you have ever felt "man, these guys are getting old", it is justified. The only team with older position players is the Yankees. We have met the enemy and he is us. Fortunately, they are also last in reaching base by being hit with the pitch.