The Tigers had another rough week going 2-3 versus the Yankees and Royals. They now are now tied for second place at 12-12, one game behind whoever wins tonight's Indians/White Sox game. It's a somewhat disappointing start, but it's the same record they had last year after 24 games. In fact, the 2011 team fell to 12-17 and eight games behind before they turned their season around. They ended up with 95 wins and a 15 game lead. So, let's not panic yet.
Since I wrote about pitching and defense earlier in the week, this week's summary will focus on the offense. Not many people expected the offense to be a problem when the season started, but so far it's been a little sluggish. They have scored 4.4 runs per game which places them sixth in the American League. A look at their offensive ranks among the 14 American League teams shows that it could be worse:
They rank in the bottom half of the league in just about every offensive category, yet they are sixth in run scoring. The reason is because they are fifth in the league in batting average with runners in scoring position. They also lead the league in the Clutch Statistic which looks at how they do in high leverage situations versus normal situations. So, they haven't been good, but they've been clutch! Being clutch is not something that can be assured with any certainty going forward though, so they need to start hitting better in lower leverage situations.
The biggest problem is they have four positions with sub-.650 OPS:
Delmon Young .644
Jhonny Peralta .624
Brennan Boesch .622
Second Base (Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago, etc.) .418
All of them need to do significantly better. Boesch seems to be slowly coming out of it with a nine-game hitting streak including three home runs. Another under performer is first baseman Prince Fielder. His .767 OPS is not horrible, but it's very bad for someone with a career .930 OPS. That also needs to change soon.
I'll close out with the one player who is exceeding expectations. Center fielder Austin Jackson is batting .311/.392/.511 and playing his usual excellent defense. How good has he been? As of this morning, he was leading not just the Tigers but the entire AL with 1.9 WAR.
AJax is not likely to keep up his torrid pace for the whole season, but there are a couple of key statistics which suggest real improvement. His base on balls percentage has increased from 8.4 in 2011 to 12.1 this year. Also, his isolated power has jumped from .125 to .209. If he can maintain portions of those gains in patience and power, he could be on his way to being an all-star caliber outfielder.
So, maybe the Tigers didn't need to acquire a lead-off man after all. It's the rest of the line-up which needs fixing.