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The 2018 Tigers were the American League’s worst lineup

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Detroit’s offensive production was down across the board from 2017.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers finished the 2017 with the worst record in the major leagues. That was with J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Alex Avila, and Ian Kinsler contributing to their offense. It stood to reason that offensive production would be down in 2018.

Well, it was.

With six weeks left in the 2018 season, we examined how the Tigers ranked among other clubs in the American League, and found them dwelling at the bottom of the list in most major hitting statistics. Not just that, but the team was trending downward. So, it comes as no surprise to find the Tigers at the bottom of the heap when the numbers for 2018 are tallied up.

The Tigers scored just 630 runs for the season, which ranks 14th of 15 teams in the American League, and 105 fewer runs than they plated in 2017. That represents a 14 percent drop in runs scored while they managed the same win-loss record, with 98 losses for the season.

Tigers offense statistical rankings (AL only)

Category 2018 AL Rank 2017 Rank
Category 2018 AL Rank 2017 Rank
wOBA 15th 8th
Runs 14th 10th
Avg 12th 8th
OBP 14th 7th
SLG 15th 8th
BB% 15th 10th
K % 1st 7th
BsR 4th 15th
RS % 8th 9th
SB 11th 12th
HR 15th 12th

The Tigers posted a weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .321 in 2017, which ranked tied for sixth in the league, but that was down to .295 (dead last) in 2018. If a team had one or two hitters with a wOBA of .295 in their lineup, they would be looking to replace them. To have an entire lineup producing so little gives a picture of how far the Tigers have to go just to get back to respectability.

Power outage

Contributing to the offensive decline was a 44 point drop in slugging percentage, from .422 to .380, and a whopping loss of 52 home runs, from 187 to 135. Nicholas Castellanos led the team with 22 home runs, which was tied for 32nd in the American League. No other Tiger hit 20 homers, nor cracked the top 50 in the AL. Their miserable on-base percentage of .300 was topped for futility only by the Baltimore Orioles.

Castellanos was arguably the only regular player in the Tigers lineup who produced above-average offensive numbers at his position. He ranked ninth in batting average among qualified hitters, 17th in on-base percentage and 13th with an even .500 slugging percentage. His 89 RBI ranked 14th, which is more impressive considering how few of his teammates reached base. The Tigers ranked third in the league among right fielders with a solid .363 wOBA.

If there is another ray of hope in this lineup, it’s at third base where Detroit ranked eighth in the league with a .311 wOBA. This group was led by Jeimer Candelario, despite a .224 batting average at the position in his first full season in the majors.

The team also ranked eighth at first base, where Miguel Cabrera posted a solid .360 wOBA, but made just 157 trips to the plate. Niko Goodrum, John Hicks, and Jim Adduci chipped in to give the team average production at the position. Still, the lack of power from Cabrera, who hit just three home runs, and the others is a cause for concern at a key power position.

The Tigers’ production ranked dead last in the league at second base, shortstop, and left field. They ranked 10th in center field, but last after Leonys Martin was traded, and 12th at the catcher position. They also ranked last at the designated hitter spot, more than 50 points below the second worst team. The DH position netted 2.8 wins below replacement level. Addition by subtraction would be in order there.

The Tigers ranked dead last with a 5.2 percent walk rate, but were also last with a strikeout rate of just 13.5 percent. Unfortunately, much of that was due to departing players Jose Iglesias and Victor Martinez ranking among the league’s top five.

On the basepaths

Finally, baserunning was a mixed bag for the Tigers in 2018. The team ranked fourth in Fangraphs’ BsR statistic, with 6.4 runs above average. They stole 70 bases with a 70 percent success rate, both just below league average. They scored 30 percent of their base runners, just under the league average of 31 percent. This would suggest better base running made up for part of the hitting deficit.

You can take it position by position, or stat by stat, or any way you like. There is no escaping the fact that the Tigers offense was the worst in the American League, and significantly worse than it was in 2017. While Daz Cameron and Isaac Paredes loom as the two best bats in the Tigers’ farm system, neither is likely to contribute much in 2019. Beyond them, there is little in the way of offensive help in the pipeline, although the team seems determined to prove that before investing serious financial resources to add punch to their lineup.