The month of May was not so merry for the Tigers. The team wrapped up another 29 games for the season, coming up with a .448 win percentage (13-16), and finishing the month with a -11 run differential. They averaged 3.7 runs scored per game (the league average was 4.1), which was undoubtedly due in part to having a 7.6 left-on-base average per game. Finishing out a month with a sub-.500 win percentage isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's certainly uncharacteristic for the Tigers; the last time this happened was May of 2012, if that's any indication.
Grading the individual and component (starting pitching, bullpen, offense) May performances by RE24 will give us a brief and fairly accurate high-level view of where the trouble spots are. Since RE24 credits or debits runs based on historical data and individual run-scoring situations, we can quickly eliminate some of the noise and static involved in, for instance, the eighth inning of Sunday night's game -- Joba Chamberlain entered the game with the bases loaded and gave up two inherited runs, improving his ERA to 1.26. By RE24 standards, however, he dropped from 0.30 runs saved to -0.96 runs saved.
Collectively, the Tigers were worth -45.3 expected runs in May. How did their individual players and component parts perform?
The starters put on something of a Jekyll and Hyde show this past month. Anibal Sanchez turned in back-to-back implosion starts in which he gave up a combined 14 earned runs, and Shane Greene laid a similar pair of stinkers at the beginning and end of the month that added up to 12 earned runs, while David Price and Alfredo Simon mostly succeeded at keeping their team from going into a free-fall.
RE24 (Expected runs saved)
-4.89 (-0.5 wins)
No one is perhaps more surprised by this fact than I am, but in the month of May, the bullpen was the only piece of the team puzzle that posted a positive RE24 value. With the exception of a couple of arms, the bullpen is performing like they're actually a solid unit. Tip your hat to Dombrowski, I guess? (Also, enough of the "let's have Joba Chamberlain pitch in high-leverage spots" stupidity.)
RE24 (Expected runs saved)
14.95 (+1.5 wins)
We all know the offense is scuffling in all sorts of creative and joy-sucking ways. The Tigers still have the highest on-base percentage in the American League (.338), and in fact, they have the second-highest percentage (27.4 percent) of plate appearances with runners in scoring position (RISP). They're getting more potential run-scoring opportunities than every team in the American League, save for the Cleveland Indians. And yet they have the fourth-worst average of runs scored per RISP opportunity in the league, worse than the last-place White Sox and Oakland A's:
% of PA's with RISP
Avg runs per RISP opportunity
The point of that little side-bar comparison is simply this: obviously, RE24 assigns more value to run-scoring opportunities (which apparently the Tigers have had a lot of this year), so a batter who fails more than his fair share in those "clutch" situations is naturally going to end up with a much lower RE24 score than a player who doesn't get those chances to produce runs.
So how does the Tigers offense grade out for the month of May, on an individual level?
RE24 (Expected runs produced)
-12.2 (-1.2 wins)
Big picture problem? The Tigers only have three batters performing above average right now, while the rest -- Collins on down through Castellanos -- are collectively worth -22.25 expected runs. And the guys performing above the zero line, aside from Cabrera, aren't the sluggers you'd expect to be producing the extra runs.
Oh, and Nick Castellanos? It takes a special kind of awful to rank below Hernan Perez and his .061/.088/.061 triple slashline.
Side-note: since RE24 is calculated based on run-scoring potential, and since Perez has only had 20 plate appearances in May, his incredibly low score confirms that he's been in far more "big spots" than we probably would have liked to see -- which is either bad luck (see his 10th inning appearance against KCR on May 10), or bad planning (see any of his planned starts).
In May, the Tigers were a below-.500 team, partly because half of the starting rotation imploded, and partly because nearly all of the expected run producers in the lineup turned in negative value performances, with special recognition going to Kinsler, Cespedes, and the costing-the-team-half-a-win Castellanos.
The weather is getting warmer. Let's hope the Tigers' offense follows suit.