At the midpoint of the 2018 season, we took a look at where the Detroit Tigers ranked among American League teams in various offensive categories. It was not a pretty picture, as the team ranked in the middle of the pack in batting average, and among the bottom five teams across the board using other metrics.
Well, it has gotten worse. Much worse. We are now 118 games into the season, and the Tigers find themselves dead last in the most popularly used metrics.
- Detroit ranks 30th of 30 MLB teams in weighted on-base average (wOBA) and in wRC+, with just 80 runs against a major league average of 100.
- The Tigers are last in the American League in batting average (.238), last in the majors with a .295 on-base percentage, and only the Miami Marlins have a lower OPS than the Tigers’ .670.
- The Tigers have scored fewer runs than any other American League team except the Kansas City Royals, and have hit fewer home runs than any team in the majors, including those that don’t have the benefit of a designated hitter.
- Detroit ranks 29th in walks, and 18th in strikeouts despite Victor Martinez and Jose Iglesias being among the major league leaders in avoiding strikeouts. Both of them will be free agents after this season.
- The Tigers’ improved baserunning only has them 24th in wSB and 18th in stolen bases.
What’s worse is that there are few, if any, players in the Tigers lineup who figure to play a role on the next playoff contender to take the field in Detroit. Nicholas Castellanos is easily the team’s best hitter, and he is just one season away from free agency. Jeimer Candelario was off to a promising start, but he is now batting .226 with a .316 on-base percentage.
Miguel Cabrera, the face of the franchise, is out for the season after having biceps surgery. Before departing for the season, he hit .299 with just three home runs in 157 plate appearances. Cabrera figures to be around for another five seasons, if only because of a contract that pays $30 to $32 million per season. After that, the Tigers have a bunch of fourth outfielders and utility infielders who can either field or hit some, but not both.
Is there help on the way?
The Tigers’ future appears to be rich in pitching, with their five top prospects all starting pitchers. But for position players, the farm is very thin. Christin Stewart has promising raw power, but looks like a defensive liability in the outfield. He and Jake Robson are the only Tigers’ top position prospects who have reached the Triple-A level.
Isaac Paredes, Willi Castro, and Sergio Alcantara make up the Tigers’ infield roulette trio at Double-A Erie. Daz Cameron, and Parker Meadows are the next outfielders on the list, but all of these players are in the 18 to 22 year old range and still at least a year away from the major leagues.
The odds are against all but the very top prospects in the nation ever achieving more than 2.0 career WAR in the major leagues. Inevitably, some of them will, and there is strength in numbers. That is where the Tigers are lacking position prospects, which is problematic given the sheer number of positions of need in Detroit. Detroit has not developed a position player worth more than 3.1 WAR since Alex Avila, who was drafted in 2008. The next J.D. Martinez is likely nowhere to be found in this organization.
If the Tigers are waiting for their farm system to fill out their lineup, Detroit fans will probably be waiting a while for the next winning season. The organization will produce some major league players, but there simply is not the top-end talent in the system to form a core group of players to build a winning lineup around. Run production for the next Tigers’ contender will have to come from elsewhere.
The Tigers should not be expected to spend their way into contention by filling the roster with free agents, but neither can they unload every decent player who is not nailed down and then wait for the kids to grow up. Every team that made it to the divisional series round of playoffs last season had more players on their roster acquired by trades than by any other method. They also had an average of eight players who were drafted. Each team had a couple of international free agents, and a number of free agents.
Granted the Tigers are early in their rebuilding process, having begun in earnest just over a year ago. The tear down is almost complete, but the major league roster has yet to show signs of promise, and help from within is not arriving anytime soon.