Friday, May 25, 2012

Week 7 Report: Tigers Offense Inefficient in May

After getting swept by the Indians this week, the Tigers have reached the low point of their campaign.  They have gone 11-21 since the second week of the season and have fallen to third place, six games behind  first-place Cleveland.   If they do not get going pretty soon, the team which was supposed to run away with the division may find themselves double-digit games behind before summer officially begins.

The Tigers shortcomings this year have remained pretty much the same in recent weeks.  The offense has been surprisingly sluggish scoring just 4.2 runs per game which is only tenth in the American Lerague.  They are last in the league on almost every advanced fielding metric and their bullpen has been shaky.

The only bright spot has been a starting rotation which leads the league in strikeout/walk ratio, XFIP and SIERA.  Unfortunately, this one strong point has been masked by the team's awful defense and inconsistent bullpen.  The result is that they are in the bottom half of the league in overall run prevention.

I was going to write a post about how the fielding has helped to ruin the good work of the starters, but I'll save that for another time.  Today, I want to address a different issue which many Detroit fans are talking about: the inability of the offense to score base runners.  In the Cleveland series alone, the Tigers left 30 runners on base.  You would think with all those base runners that the Tigers would have scored more than six runs.  

The Cleveland series was just three games though and fans have been talking about the inefficiency of the Tigers offense for a while.  Is this a real problem or is it one of those things that frustrated fans of losing teams just talk about?  One way to investigate this is to compare the Tigers actual runs scored (R) to the Runs Created (RC).

The RC statistic (called wRC on FanGraphs) tells us how many runs a team should have scored based on their numbers of singles, doubles, triples, home runs, walks and other offensive events including outs made.  Table 1 below shows that most teams have a relatively small differential between runs and RC (R-RC). The Blue Jays have the largest gap with 215 runs scored versus 192 RC.  The 23-point or 12% run differential  is due largely to the Blue Jays .818 OPS with runners in scoring position (against only .718 overall).

What about the Tigers?  They have 186 RC on the season.  If they were not making the most of their hits, walks and extra base hits, you would expect them to have fewer runs than RC.  Instead they have the same number of runs scored as RC.  So, they have scored exactly as many runs as you would have expected given their offensive events.


Table 1: Runs Versus Runs Created for American League Teams

Team
R
RC
R-RC
%
Texas
242
245
-3
-1
Boston
236
230
6
3
Toronto
215
192
23
12
Baltimore
208
206
2
1
New York
200
220
-20
-9
Tampa Bay
197
207
-10
-5
Chicago
193
192
1
1
Cleveland
190
200
-10
-5
Detroit
186
186
0
0
Seattle
176
156
20
13
Minnesota
172
174
-2
-1
Kansas City
171
180
-9
-5
Los Angeles
165
167
-2
-1
Oakland
153
142
11
8

Let's take this analysis one step further by looking at monthly splits.  In April, the Tigers scored 94 runs versus 85 RC.  So, rather than wasting base runners, they actually scored nine more runs than they should have given their raw offensive performance.  On the other hand, They have 92 runs scored in May versus 101 RC.  Thus, they have scored nine fewer runs than expected this month.

The conclusion is that the fans perception of wasted base runners has been correct in May.  The good news though is that they showed in April that they are capable of making the most of their opportunities.  So, their trouble this month is probably a fluke that will soon correct itself.

Of course, inefficient offense and lack of timely hitting is not the only weakness this team need to correct.  The bigger issue is that the simply aren't getting enough hits or extra base hits to produce runs regardless of timing.    

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