Inside the Article:
When your team is 12 games under .500 and has lost ground in the American League Central, with no apparent chance to contend you have to start looking for silver linings on the season. And, for the Detroit Tigers, there have been a few so far in 2023. Spencer Torkelson seems to be coming into his own and Riley Greene is him. But, there's a smaller silver lining that we can look to and think there's something there: Nick Maton.
Why it matters
The first half of Maton's season was B-R-U-T-A-L. He had some nice moments, like the walk-off against the San Francisco Giants, but it was mostly a bunch of strikeouts and errors in the field, culminating in a demotion to Toledo following a game-losing error on June 25th. For a roster that is deficient in positional talent, and having traded Gregory Soto to acquire Maton, the Tigers need him to at least be solid. Since he's returned from Toledo, solid is a pretty good description for Maton's performance.
Nick Maton by the numbers
To show the progress, it'll be helpful to look at his numbers pre- and post-demotion. Nick Maton has made some swing changes and even adjust his setup in the box, which now is much more closed than originally this season.
- 239 plate appearances, 33 hits, seven doubles, six home runs, and 23 RBI.
- 13.8% walk rate and a 25.5% strikeout rate
- He slashed .163/.289/.287 with a .199 BABIP
- He was 34% below league average in run creation with a 66 wRC+ and a .264 wOBA
It's easy to see why he was demoted. He struck out every fourth at-bat and simply couldn't get the job done.
- 36 plate appearances, eight hits, two doubles, one home run, six RBI, and one stolen base
- 11.1% walk rate and a 13.9% strikeout rate
- He's slashing .267/.343/.433 with a .280 BABIP
- He's 15% above league average in run creation with a 115 wRC+ and a .335 wOBA
It is obviously a much smaller sample size, but one that at least seems to be trending in the right direction.
The bottom line
The Tigers really will benefit if Maton can ever figure it out completely at the plate. Having a lefty-swinging infielder, that can play across the infield will help serve them well in the future — even if he's only a utility guy. Again, it's a small sample size since the return, but as long as the trend continues upward things will continue looking that way for the Tigers in 2024 and beyond.