Section 313, Seat No. 9: A breakdown of the Detroit Tigers offense

Section 313 –  seat no. 9

Welcome to Section 313, I’m glad you’re here. If you’ve been around the Section the last couple of weeks you know we’ve been hammering the pitching pretty hard. So this week we’re going to take a different approach. Over the weekend, stretching from Sunday night to Tuesday evening, the Tigers went through a stretch of 22 innings straight where they failed to score a run. So that begs the question, is there something wrong with the offense?

Coming into the season the Tigers had eight positions that were already spoken for. The only question was their centerfielder, a position that has seen four different players playing it already so far this season. Those eight solid positions boasted names like Kinsler, Castellanos, Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, Upton, McCann, and Iglesias. A formidable lineup regardless of who was playing centerfield. The problem though is that they have only had that lineup for seven out of their 46 games. So the fact that they sit where they do, record and statics wise, is a good thing.

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Detroit Tigers offense by the numbers –

If one were to look into the numbers, the story told there is not all too bad. In fact, they boast of an offense that ranks toward the middle to the top in nearly every category.

Tigers Offensive Ranks:

Runs Hits Home Runs Average BABIP OBP Contact % BB % K % Hard Hit %
Total 214 361 54 .240 .287 .324 76.1 10.3 22.7 42.7
MLB Rank 14th 28th 16th T-21st 19th 16th 24th T-2nd 7th 1st
AL Rank 6th 14th 8th 10th 9th 7th 11th 2nd 4th 1st

All stats courtesy of; stats as of 5-25 before the last game against Houston. 

There are a few observations you can make when looking at those numbers. First, the hard hit percentage is a good sign. Second, based on the hard hit balls the overall average will come up. Third, the strikeout percentage means there will be good times and bad times — we just must be patient.

The Detroit Tigers hit the ball hard –

Name me the team that hits the ball the hardest in the entire Major Leagues? Ok, so you looked at the chart above, and it’s not a misprint. The Detroit Tigers lead the majors in hard-hit balls in play. If you want to read up on the hard hit stat, you can do so here. The name of the game with a bat in your hand is to hit the ball hard. The Tigers do just that.

Yet, based on these stats, in a game known for its failure at the plate, they fail less that 75% of the time. However, when they are hitting the ball they are batting nearly .300. The Tigers are going to hit and when they do they’re going to hit the ball hard, eventually they will drop and their fortunes will turn around. Hell, they are 6th in the American League in runs scored per game, scoring nearly five runs a game. If, and it’s a big if, the starters can be better, this team will win games. No doubt about it.

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The Tigers team average should come up –

Sep 25, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) hits a grand slam home run in the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers are hitting .240 as a club. That’s not great. It lands them in the bottom third of both the American League and the Major Leagues as a whole. But, one thing that Tigers fans can hang their hats on is this, the Tigers along with leading the league in hard hit balls, also lead the entire majors in line drive percentage (22.7%).

Now, if the name of the game with a bat in your hand is to hit the ball hard, it also is to make those hits be line drives. What that tells us is this — the approach the hitters have at the plate is good. Thinking “line drive, line drive, line drive,” eventually, you believe that by hitting those line drives your hits will eventually fall. And fall they will.

What hitting line drives do is put pressure on the defense. If we fail to move runners up on the bath paths, due to our station to station base running, then by hitting line drives we are placing a pressure on the defense that they must cover. I firmly believe that if the Tigers can maintain this rate at which they are hitting the ball hard and hitting line drives, they’re overall average as a team will come up.

Patience is required due to the free swingers –

There is no doubt that the Tigers strikeout a lot. They are seventh in the majors and fourth in the American League in their percentage of strikeouts. This team is a free swinging team, which will lead to a lot of strikeouts and also to a lot of production. If you feel like you’re on a ride at “America’s Roller Coast”, Cedar Point, then I’d advise you to keep you seat belts fashioned and arms and legs inside the ride at all times.

It can be bumpy at times, and we’ve recently experienced a valley of sorts, yet there has to be a mountain top in view. The Tigers are primed for an explosion, and that, coupled with some good starts from the pitchers, it will lead to a run. When that will happen is the only question that begs to be answered.

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Hopping on the soap box for a minute –

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals
Sep 4, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez (28) hits a solo home run against the Kansas City Royals during the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Last week I had the privilege of talking to Buster Olney from ESPN. One of the burning questions I asked Buster was about J.D. Martinez. Basically, should the Tigers re-sign him? Or, better yet, do they have a chance to sign him?

Buster doesn’t think so. I, respectfully, hope he’s wrong.

Now, I may get crucified for my opinion on this, and that’s fine, but I believe it is in the best interest of the Tigers to re-sign the right-handed slugger.

We have seen over the last few years that the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder or power hitter isn’t as fruitful as it had been in the past. Some names that come to mind are Jose BautistaEdwin EncarnacionYoenis Cespedes, and Mark Trumbo. Each of the aforementioned guys went deep into free agency without getting the deal they felt they desired. And, even though he may deserve it, J.D. is probably in the same boat.

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The Tigers do not have a right field option, that has proved themselves if J.D. were to walk. Going into next season Martinez will only be 30-years-old and has been a stalwart of the Tigers lineup from the day he came up. Having battled through injuries, a saturated market, and a need the Tigers would be better off to re-sign our guy.

It’s time they learn from past mistakes (Max Scherzer) and pay for the production J.D. has given to this team over the last few years.

So, there you have it. I’m glad we could meet again in this Section 313, I look forward to it every week. The Tigers, after their loss to the Astros on Thursday, sit at 22-24, with three games in Chicago in less than 24-hours. It’s going to be a rough stretch for the club, given their travel schedule, but regardless we tip our caps and say, Go Tigers.

Written by AJ Reilly

A.J. is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid storyteller. His debut novel, The Askren Boys, won the Literary Classics Gold Medal and Seal of Approval in November of 2018. When not writing, he is spending time with his wife Jessica, son Jack, daughter Nora, and new arrival Teddy. A.J. lives in Metro Detroit.

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