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Midterm report: Tigers' lineup gets runners on base, but struggles to score runs

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The Detroit Tigers get on base more often than any other team, but don't maximize their opportunities. Here is a look at the numbers half way through the 2015 season.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Halfway through the 2015 season, the Detroit Tigers lead the American League in batting average by 10 points. They lead the league in on-base percentage and are second in weighted on-base average (wOBA) and runs created. The team should be among the leaders in scoring runs, right? Not really.

Despite putting more runners on base than any other team, the Tigers rank sixth in the American League in runs scored. What’s the problem? Two factors bring Detroit down to the middle of the pack: average power and poor base running efficiency.

When it comes to getting base hits, nobody is better than Detroit. When it comes to driving the ball over the fence, the Tigers are well below average, ranking 11th in home runs. They lead the league in triples, with two thirds of their 24 three baggers coming at Comerica Park, and they are seventh in isolated power. With average overall power numbers and more base runners than any other team, the Tigers should be scoring more runs.

Here is how the Tigers compare with the rest of the American League, and with their offensive numbers from 2014.

Year Runs/Game AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA BB% K% ISO Run Scoring % wRC+
2014 Tigers 4.83 .280 .334 .447 .781 .340 7.4% 17.9% .166 33% 114
2015 Tigers 4.42 .278 .337 .423 .760 .330 7.8% 19.9% .145 30% 110
AL Rank 5th
1st 1st 4th
2nd
2nd
8th 7th
7th
7th
2nd

This is where the Tigers rank among American league teams in base running, and how they compare with their numbers from 2014.

Year RS %
SB CS SB% XBT XBT% SH SH% GIDP GIDP% Adv %
2014 Tigers 33%
106
41
72%
161
40%
24
60%
137
12%
60%
2015 Tigers 30%
55
29
65%
56
35%
10
50%
85
14%
55%
AL Rank 7th
3rd
1st
9th
15th
13th
14th
15th
1st
1st
7th

The good news is that the Tigers rank third in the league in stolen bases. Part of the bad news is that they lead the league in being thrown out stealing. As a result, their stolen base percentage is very average. The Tigers score 30 percent of their base runners, which is down from 33 percent in 2014. Part of that comes from a lower percentage of hits being for extra bases, but part of it is base running inefficiency.

If you don't like bunting, the Tigers don't bunt much and aren't very good at it. They're last in the league in "successful" sacrifice percentage, and second last in sac bunts.

When it comes to taking extra bases, the Tigers are dead last. Barely one third of the time do they score the man from second or go from first to third on a single, or score from first on a double. Only 33 of 165 times with a runner on first did the base runner go to third. Just 52 of 91 times they have scored the runner from second on a single. They were also thrown out at home 10 times, which isn’t the worst but isn’t good either.

Situational hitting

The Tigers enjoy the platoon advantage only 38 percent of the time, which is last in the American League. With 70 percent of pitchers being right-handed, and with key injuries to the few left-handed hitters they have, this has put the Tigers at a disadvantage.

"Productive outs" occur when a runner is advanced with no outs, or scored with one out. Whether those are actually productive is debatable, but the Tigers move the runner only 28 percent of the time, ranking 13th in the league.

The Tigers score 14 percent of their base runners in a given at bat, which is league average.

They score a runner from third with less than two outs 50 percent of the time, which is also average.

They advance the runner from second with no outs 55 percent of the time, which is league average.

The Tigers work best by moving runners with base hits, rather than trying to get creative.

The Tigers lead the league in grounding into double plays. One would expect they do this more than their share, since they lead the league in putting runners on first base, but they also lead the league with a 14 percent GIDP rate.  The Tigers don’t hit into a double play 86 percent of the time with a runner on first and less than two outs, but it sure seems worse than that. Eleven percent is league average.

So, the Tigers are a team that gets on base better than any team in the league, but ranks sixth in scoring. The difference is that their power is down from a year ago, and their base running is inefficient, despite a decent volume of stolen bases. They have a winning record despite a negative run differential, so they're not an unlucky club, but improved base running efficiency would help them to capitalize on a potent offense.