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The Tigers' offense is the reason they are in playoff contention

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The Tigers are scoring more runs and their power numbers are up from a year ago.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers have finished up the first half of the 2016 season with a 46- 43 record, in second place and 6 1/2 games out of first in the AL Central. They are currently four games out of a wild card playoff spot. As they approach the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of July, here is how their offense stack up against other American League clubs, and how they compare to the 2015 Tigers at this time a year ago.

The 2015 Tigers came up short in the first half of the season, ranking tenth in the standings by the end of July, 11.5 games out of first place. They were a .500 team at the all star break. A post-All-Star break swoon led the team to sell off it's pending free agents and restock the roster. This year's team is only slightly ahead of last year's pace, but it may be enough for them to take a run at a playoff spot.

First, a review of the Tigers’ offense, including batting and base running. Here is how the Tigers compare with the rest of the American League, and with their offensive numbers from 2015.

Year R/G OPS wOBA BB% K% ISO wRC+
2016 Tigers 4.83 .768 .329 7.9% 22.2% .170 102
2015 Tigers 4.42 .760 .330 7.8% 19.9% .145 110
AL Rank 7th 5th 5th 9th 4th 8th 5th

The Tigers led the American League in batting average and on-base percentage a year ago, and were second in scoring runs. Detroit is still among the top five in the major batting categories and are scoring at an increased rate this season, but scoring is up around the league and they have fallen among their ranks. Average and on-base percentage are down while the power numbers have risen. Strikeouts are up, walks are up slightly, and they are scoring a slightly higher percentage of runners they put on base.

Now, let's look at where the Tigers rank among American League teams in baserunning, and how they compare with their numbers from 2015.

Year RS% SB SB% BT XBT% GIDP Adv%
2016 Tigers 31% 37 71% 95 35% 67 48%
2015 Tigers 30% 55 65% 56 35% 85 55%
AL Rank 7th 9th 9th 2nd 15th 10th 12th

The Tigers consistently rank in the bottom half of the league in base running numbers, with one notable exception. Detroit ranks second in the league in bases taken, which includes advancing on wild pitches, errors, passed balls, fly balls, and balks. But when it comes to going taking more than one base on a single or more than two bases on a double, the Tigers are last in the AL. Their stolen base totals are just below the league average, the team hits into an average number of double plays, and the club ranks 12th of 15 teams in scoring the runner from third with less than two outs.

The 2016 Tigers are even less efficient on the basepaths than their 2015 counterparts, if that is possible, except when it comes to scoring runs. The increased power stats have something to do with that. This year's Tigers are stealing much less and are even less efficient at advancing runners, which can be frustrating for fans and coaches alike.

Finally, here is a look at how the Tigers rank against other American league teams at each position, using weighted runs created as the ranking metric. A wRC+ of 100 is a league average hitter, but the number is not adjusted by position, so the AL rank may be a better indicator of performance at a given position.

Position wRC+ Rank
C 71 11th
1B 130 1st
2B 122 4th
SS 72 13th
3B 119 5th
LF 78 12th
CF 92 8th
RF 105 8th
DH 131 4th
OF 93 8th

These numbers show that the Tigers are getting solid production from the first base, second base, third base and designated hitter positions. Detroit is getting average production from center field and right field, and they're lagging behind league average at catcher, left field, and shortstop. Justin Upton and Jose Iglesias have been better recently, with Upton ranking in the top third of the league over the past month.

The Tigers are scoring runs ahead of last year's pace, despite even poorer base running, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Detroit has been shut out seven times and scored just one run another seven times. It stands to reason that an offense reliant upon power will have outages, and that has been the case with the 2016 Tigers. More to the point is the fact that the Tigers have not been able to out score the Cleveland Indians when they play them.

With J.D. Martinez due to return in about two weeks, and with Iglesias and Upton on the rise, the team should have enough offense to keep them in contention for the remainder of the season, barring any unforeseen injuries or trades.