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2019 midseason offense report: Detroit Tigers’ lineup is worst in the AL

Offensive production is below replacement level

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With the first half of the season in the books, the Detroit Tigers find themselves with the second-worst record in the major leagues, having lost more than twice as many games as they have won. The Tigers’ lineup has produced at below replacement level up to the All-Star break, with just one hitter performing above league average at his position, and that player is likely to be traded in the next few weeks.

Here is how the Tigers rank in the American League in the major offensive categories at the midpoint of the season:

Runs per game: last (3.62)
Batting average: 14th (.233)
On base percentage: last (.294)
Slugging percentage: last (.383)
On base plus slugging (OPS): last (.677)
Weighted on base average (wOBA): last (.288)
Home runs: last (76)

So the Tigers’ lineup is last in every major hitting category, except batting average. As a group, they are the only team in the major leagues that are below replacement level at -0.5 fWAR. Worse yet for a rebuilding team, the Detroit offense is producing at a lower pace than they were at the same time a year ago, when they were scoring 3.99 runs per game and they carried a wOBA of .301.

The Tigers have been outscored by 157 runs in 85 games. They have hit 31 fewer home runs than the second worst team in the American League, the Kansas City Royals. Their offensive production is the lowest in the major leagues, including the 15 National League teams that do not use a designated hitter.

On the hunt for any bright spots, we’ll go position by position and compare Detroit’s offensive numbers to the rest of the American League. For purposes of this exercise, the offensive stat line is Batting Average/ On Base Percentage/ Slugging/ wOBA, and the league ranking is based on wOBA.

For reference, the league average offense is .251/.322/.432/.755, with 118 home runs. League average wOBA is typically around .320.


Offensive line: .177/.227/.294/.225

Rank: last of 15 teams

If it’s any consolation, former Tiger James McCann, who was released in December, is in the All-Star Game, batting .319 with a wOBA of .375. [Editor’s note: I’m not sure Patrick knows what “consolation” means.]

First Base:

Offensive line: .258/.306/.398/.299

Rank: 13th

Miguel Cabrera’s move to designated hitter leaves a void at first, where John Hicks has posted a -0.9 fWAR. But hey, Brandon Dixon leads the team in slugging percentage.

Second Base:

Offensive line: .222/.265/.378/.271

Rank: 14th

Josh Harrison has missed much of the season, and Niko Goodrum has been alright at the plate as a fill in, but the revolving door at the keystone position isn’t getting the job done.


Offensive line: .224/.290/.397/.292

Rank: 14th

Jordy Mercer has missed most of the season on the injured list. The scary part is that defense at this position has been even worse than the offense.

Third Base:

Offensive line: .215/.289/.353/.277

Rank: last

Jeimer Candelario’s breakout season in 2018 didn’t carry forward into this season, and he was demoted to Toledo. He is back up now, holding one of the few positions where Detroit hopes to get some offensive production, and he has hit well since being recalled.

Right field:

Offensive line: .280/.340/.465/.339

Rank: 7th

Finally, a position where Nick Castellanos gives the Tigers a player who is hitting above league average. Unfortunately, he will be a free agent after the season and the Tigers are almost certain to try to unload his contract before the trade deadline.

Center field:

Offensive line: .225/.292/.399/.292

Rank: 11th

JaCoby Jones seemed to reinvent himself this season, so there might be some hope for the future. For the month of June, the Tigers have a .360 wOBA at this position, which is fifth in the league. By himself, Jones has a .322 wOBA and a league average 100 wRC+ and is trending up.

Left field:

Offensive line: .232/.310/.379/.294

Rank: 14th

Christin Stewart is struggling in his rookie season with just three home runs, but he is keeping the strikeouts down to 22 percent. Some growing pains are more painful than others.

Designated Hitter:

Offensive line: .305/.369/.401/.332

Rank: 10th

Miguel Cabrera leads the team in batting average, on base percentage, and RBI’s with 34. He is still below the league average DH, though, with just four home runs, and a near total power outage.

Team Fielding

The samples are too small over just half a season to get into individual fielding metrics, but we can see that the team has a net -26 DRS, and -13.6 UZR. They rank 12th of the 15 teams in both columns.


Stolen bases: 10th
Stolen base percentage: 4th
Run scoring percentage: last
Extra bases taken (XBT) percentage: 9th

The Tigers have scored only 26 percent of their base runners, which is not surprising since they lack the hitters to drive them in. Running the bases once they get on, they are closer to league average.

Detroit has just two hitters who have accumulated at least 1.0 wins above replacement this far. Niko Goodrum leads the team with 1.2 fWAR and Castellanos has 1.0 fWAR. Five Tigers who have at least 100 plate appearances have posted negative fWAR, The rest are hovering just above replacement level.