Saturday, December 28, 2013

Steamer Projects Tigers As Number One Offense in AL

 The Tigers should have a strong offense in 2014 even without Prince Fielder
(Photo credit: Detroit Athletic Club)

There has been a lot of concern among Tigers fans this winter over the Tigers 2014 offensive production minus the bats of Prince Fielder and Jhonny Peralta.  Fans acknowledge the upgrades in speed and defense with the additions of outfielder Rajai Davis, shortstop Jose Iglesias and second baseman Ian Kinsler and the shift of two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera from third base to first base, but they still fear the loss of power once provided by Fielder and Peralta.

Despite the loss of offense, the Steamer System (an advanced algorithm with a good reputation) projects that the Tigers will lead the American League in runs scored with 786 (Table 1).  The first question some might have is how a team that scored 796 runs last year is only going to drop 10 runs in the absence of Fielder and Peralta with no replacement in power.  This seems too optimistic, so let's look more closely at what happened last year and what they added this off-season.   

Table 1: AL Projected Runs Scored in 2014 According to Steamer

Team
Runs
Detroit
786
Toronto
777
Los Angeles
773
Texas
757
Boston
756
Kansas City
752
Seattle
720
Oakland
719
Houston
714
Baltimore
706
Cleveland
692
New York
675
Tampa Bay
665
Chicago
653
Minnesota
616
Data Source: FanGraphs.com

One issue is that that their run total last year was not indicative of their hitting ability.  According to the Runs Created statistic at FanGraphs, the Tigers hit well enough to score 836 runs last year which is 40 more than they actually scored.  Half of the difference is explained by base running as they were 20 base running runs below average.  The other half is probably bad luck such as hitting just .267 (ninth in the AL) with the bases loaded versus a league average of .271.

So, the Tigers were capable of producing 50 more runs with their hitting last year than they theoretically can right now.  However, the additional speed should give the Tigers an average base running team and allow the Tigers to score about 20 more runs next year with their feet.  That's still a 30-run difference but remember they underperformed by about 20 runs last year with inefficient situational hitting.  So, there's our ten-run difference between 2013 and 2014.

The off-season is not over and this is just one projection system and there are five teams within 35 runs, so I'm not ready to say that the Tigers have the best offense in the league  You also might agree or disagree with some of their individual projections (more on that later as other projections come in).  However, there is evidence that the Tigers offense is still among the best in the league and not that far away from last year's run total.

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