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The Tigers' offense hit well, but was limited by poor baserunning

Detroit's run production didn't match their hitting potential in 2016.

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

There was no shortage of hitting in the Detroit Tigers' lineup during the 2016 season, but run production did not match up to the opportunities that they created. The Tigers scored 30 percent of their base runners this year, which was league average. How costly was this? Even a one percent increase would yield another 22 runs over the full season. A combination of poor base running and average power held their run production down.

The Tigers ranked second in the American League as a team in batting average, on-base percentage, weighted on-base average (wOBA), and OPS. They ranked third in slugging percentage, total bases, and wRC+, but only sixth in runs scored. The Tigers ranked second in hits, but ninth in extra-base hits, 13th in doubles, fifth in triples, and sixth in home runs.

Here is how the Tigers' hitting compared with the rest of the American League in 2016.

Detroit 4.66 .267 .331 .438 .330 105 .171
AL Average 4.52 .257 .321 .423 .317 100 .171
Rank 6th 2nd 2nd 3rd 2nd 3rd 6th

The Tigers received above-average production from first base, second base, and the outfield positions. They were roughly league average at the designated hitter position, and near the bottom of the league at shortstop, third base and catcher.

Seven of the Tigers regular starters were above average hitters in 2016, including Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, and even Justin Upton by season's end. Jose Iglesias and James McCann were the Tigers' only regular below average hitters. Andrew Romine, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Tyler Collins provided above-average base running but subpar hitting off the bench.

The Tigers ranked fifth in wOBA at third base in the first half of the season but 14th after the All-Star break, mostly without Nick Castellanos in the lineup. Their lack of depth hurt the team, particularly when Mike Aviles was given a starting assignment, as he was a liability both at the plate and in the field. Kinsler was again a complete ballplayer, posting solid numbers offensively and on the bases.

Despite significant injuries to J.D. Martinez and Maybin, the Tigers’ outfield ranked third in the American League in hitting and led the league with a .354 wOBA after the All-Star break. Martinez was the team’s second most productive hitter after Cabrera.

Here is how the Tigers ranked offensively in hitting and base running at each position in 2016.

Position wOBA BsR Offense Rank
C .273 -3.2 13th
1B .399 -10.3 1st
2B .354 +4.2 4th
SS .285 +2.2 11th
3B .311 -0.2 13th
RF .344 -4.1 5th
CF .322 3.0 4th
LF .323 1.7 8th
OF .333 0.6 5th
DH .354 -11.1 9th
Team .330 -19.2 4th

Base Running

BsR (Base Running Runs Above Average) is the number of runs above or below average a player is worth on the bases. It is a metric based on stolen bases, caught stealing, extra bases taken (XBT), outs on the bases, and avoiding double plays. The Tigers ranked 14th of 15 teams in base running (BsR) for the season, and last in the American League in a stat called Ultimate Base Running (UBR).

Detroit 30% 58 67% -12.6 -19.2 34% 55
AL Avg 30% 77 72% 0 0 40% 55
Rank 6th 11th 12th 15th 14th 15th 7th

Detroit ranked near the bottom in stolen bases and stolen base percentage, being thrown out every third attempt. They were dead last in extra bases taken (when a runner scores from second base, goes from first to third on a single, or scores from first on a double). They failed to score a runner from third base with less than two outs more than half the time, and scored a runner from second base with no outs just 53 percent of the time.

Ian Kinsler, Cameron Maybin, and Iglesias were the only regulars above average in base running. The outfield as a whole was above average on the bases, with Upton and Maybin both performing well.

Losing Maybin for a substantial period certainly didn’t help the Tigers run efficiency. Maybin led the team in stolen bases and took the extra base 50 percent of the time. Getting a full season out of Nick Castellanos or J.D. Martinez wouldn’t help their base running, but should improve run production overall. Victor Martinez was easily the league's worst base runner with a -9.2 UBR, and Miguel Cabrera was third worst at -6.6. David Ortiz ranked between them at -7.2.

Situational hitting

RE24 measures the impact that a player's plate appearances had in the context of their hitting situation (base runners and outs). Detroit ranked sixth in win probability added (WPA) and fifth in run expectancy (RE24). These context dependent metrics show the impact of the Tigers' plate appearances on their run production.

AL 2016 WPA RE24 Clutch K% BB% XBH% GIDP%
Detroit +5.14 59.05 -2.5 21.8% 8.1% 8.1% 12%
AL Avg 0 0 0 20.3% 8.0% 8.1% 11%
Rank 6th 5th 9th 6th 6th 8th 6th

The Tigers had a double play percentage (GIDP) just above league average. They hit right and left-handed pitching equally well despite a lineup that was heavily stacked with right-handed hitters. They ranked sixth in the league in strikeouts and walks, while their number of pitches per plate appearance and contact percentage were exactly league average, so plate discipline wasn't an issue.

Clutch hitting is a statistic that measures how well players hit in high leverage situations. The Tigers ranked ninth in the league at -2.5. They hit .271 with runners in scoring position, but only .221 with the bases loaded. Their regular No. 3, 4, and 5 hitters went 9-for-49 (.183) with the bases full.