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Tigers' lineup ranks among American League's best in early 2016 season

The Tigers are a top-five offense, but have been inconsistent over the first quarter of the season.

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

More than 40 games are in the books for the Detroit Tigers' 2016 season. So, if you buy into the famous quote by former manager Sparky Anderson, it's time to take stock of how the team looks thus far compared to the other teams in the American League, as well as how they looked a year ago.

To compare this team to last year, we're going to use the 2015 Tigers' first half numbers. Not only do we get a bigger sample size of 88 games, but we can also discard the pile of hot garbage that the team became after the trade deadline. The Tigers were the worst team in the league after the All-Star break in just about every aspect of the game, but were a shell of themselves after trading away David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and Joakim Soria.

The Tigers had the second-most productive offense in the AL in the first half of 2015. They led the league in batting average and on-base percentage, and ranked second in slugging and OPS. They were average in hitting home runs, but third in runs scored. Their greatest weakness was base running, where they ranked dead last in the league. Defensively, the Tigers had shown their greatest improvement over the previous season, ranking second in the league in defensive runs saved as a team (DRS).

Here is how the 2016 Tigers lineup ranks among American League teams, and how they compare with the 2015 Tigers.

Season Runs/Game AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA BB% K% DRS
2015 4.52 .281 .337 .434 .771 .333 7.5% 20.0% +18 -13.1 14.7
2016 4.60 .265 .323 .435 .748 .328 7.4% 23.1% -21 -6.5 5.5
AL rank
4th 2nd
5th 3rd
3rd 3rd
12th 12th 14th 14th 7th

Through 43 games, as of May 22, 2016.

The numbers here show that the 2016 Tigers rank fourth in the American League in run production, and they continue to hit well above the league average. Base running continues to be awful and the team's defense has dropped off sharply.

Here is a position-by-position break down of the Tigers, using weighted on base average (wOBA) and FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which includes defense and base running components.

Position wOBA Rank fWAR Rank
Catcher .274 10th 0.3 6th
First base .394 1st
1.4 1st
Second base .383 2nd 1.8 4th
Shortstop .227 15th -0.6 15th
Third Base .342 5th 0.4 12th
Right Field .352 6th 0.0 15th
Center Field .307 8th 0.7 9th
Left Field .253 15th -0.4 15th
Outfield .308 11th 0.5 14th
DH .387 2nd 1.0
Team .328 3rd

A number of items jump out from this chart.

  • Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martinez are doing their part, offensively.
  • The Tigers' outfield is badly under-performing as a group, both offensively and defensively.
  • Justin Upton is a mere shadow of the player that the Tigers believed they were getting when they signed him.
  • J.D. Martinez is not only less productive at the plate, but has gone from a big plus to a negative defensively.
  • Jose Iglesias has sharply dropped off both at the plate and in the field through the first quarter
  • Nick Castellanos has been red hot at the plate, but is a big liability on defense
  • The catching position leaves much to be desired.
  • One item not shown above is that the Tigers are hitting only .234 with a .289 wOBA against left handed pitchers,which is down from .281/ .347 a year ago.

Despite all those issues, there is reason to be optimistic that the offense can be sorted out. Cameron Maybin is off to a hot start with Anthony Gose now in the minor leagues. Upton and J.D. Martinez are better players than they have shown thus far, and there are signs of them getting back on track.

As was the case in 2015, the Tigers have the weapons to put runs on the board, but they have to be more consistent. Games have been lost due to the lineup being completely shut down, often by average to mediocre pitching. Still, the biggest issues on this team are not in the lineup.