Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tigers Offense by Position

Most Tigers fans are painfully aware that the Tigers offense was sub-par in 2009 and that improvements are needed during the off-season. The question is which positions should be upgraded? The answer to that question depends on how well they play defense at each position but let's start with the offense.

The wRAA column in Table 1 below tells us how many runs the Tigers created at each position compared to the MLB average. Overall, they were 8 runs below average (including the less offensive NL) without regard to position. Thanks to Miguel Cabrera, they were +38 runs above average at first base. They were also above average at each of the outfield positions: +7 in left field, +10 in center field and +5 in right field. They were below average everywhere else with the biggest deficits being at catcher (-25) and shortstop (-21). I'm sure it comes to no surprise that Gerald Laird and Adam Everett helped them fall so far below average at those two spots.

Based on the above, it would appear that their biggest needs would be more offense from their catchers and shortstops and that they are OK at first base and the out field. However, we all know that catcher's and shortstops don't generally hit as well as first basemen and corner out fielders. The Lg wRAA column shows us the American League averages by position. From that we can see that the most productive positions in the American League were rirst base (+16), right field (+13) and left field (+9). The least productive were catcher (-7) and shortstop (-6).

The final column of the table tells us how far above league average the Tigers were at each position only for players playing that position. Based on that, the Tigers were +22 at first base and +13 in center field. They were below average everywhere else: catcher (-18), designated hitter(-16), shortstop (-15), third base (-11), second base (-9), right field (-8) and left field (-2).

Table 1:Tigers Runs Above Average by Position in 2009




wRAA – Lg wRAA









































What can we conclude from this? First, it confirms that Cabrera was the hub of the entire offense and that they would have been lost without him. It also says that Granderson, while not up to his usual standards, had a good year offensively (The Tigers had the second highest wRAA in the AL at the center field position).

The other thing we learn from this is that the Tigers can stand to improve at a lot of positions. The number one position where they need more production is designated hitter. Whether they have one primary batter or a rotating DH, they can't afford to be so far below average offensively at a position which provides no defense. They also need to improve at the two corner outfield positions as those are two other positions which are problematic defensively.

My solution would be to put Carlos Guillen at designated hitter most days. I believe he can hit if he stays healthy and it seems like DH would be the position where he could most easily do that. Anything close to a .800 OPS from Guillen would be an upgrade. Acquiring a left-handed hitting left fielder to split time with Ryan Raburn would help too. Adding a right-handed hitting center fielder fielder who could spell Granderson versus some left-handers would be useful too. Casper Wells could be the answer there. They also need a full season of production from Magglio Ordonez.

In the infield, it appears that Scott Sizemore may take over at second base for Polanco. That will likely be a defensive downgrade but it could possibly give them better offense. At third, we can hope that a healthier Inge give will them a little boost. Giving more at bats to Alex Avila could get them more runs from the catcher position as well. I would be great if they could get more offense at shortstop as well but I think that will difficult to accomplish. More at bats for Ramon Santiago could be beneficial.

If all that happens, they could live with the defense oriented Laird and Everett in the line-up most days again next year.


  1. Like you know, Lee, this is just part of the equation. While we were below-average offensively at a position like 2nd base, Polanco's defense there made up for that lack of offense. I think Sizemore will probably be a lateral move in the end. He just brings a different skill set -- likely decline in defense at 2B, but upgrade in offense from 2009.

    So while upgrading the offense is important, I don't think it can come at the expense of the defense or else you're just chasing your tail this time next year trying to replace the runs you lost by getting worse in the field.

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  3. I agree Mike and the WAR post will be coming soon. Their defense was the biggest reason for their improved run prevention last year and they need to try to improve the offense without hurting the defense much. They need better seasons from Ordonez, Guillen and Granderson, Another LH hitter at DH or LF would help as would a RH hitting CF.



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