The Tigers possess MLB’s first Triple Crown winner in 45 years in Miguel Cabrera and a second premium bat in Prince Fielder, but the offense as a whole is really quite average. And even average seems kind given its performance so far against the A’s in the ALDS.
Shut out in Tuesday’s loss, the Tigers have totaled eight runs in three games while amassing a 2-1 series lead over the A’s. That’s overselling it, though. Three of those runs were the direct result of errors. In three games, the Tigers haven’t had a single hit that knocked in a baserunner. They did get Alex Avila’s solo homer in Game 1. The rest of the runs have scored on Oakland’s miscues, groundouts and Don Kelly’s Game 2-winning sac fly.
But the Tigers weren’t so great offensively during the regular season, either. Particularly not late in the year. They were tied for seventh in the AL in runs during the second half. Their 339 runs scored put them right about at the midpoint between the top-ranked A’s (394 runs) and the Indians and Mariners (282) at the bottom. For the full year, they were sixth in runs scored.
And that’s because while Cabrera, Fielder and Austin Jackson were great, the bottom half of the lineup was dreadful. Going by OPS, Tigers No. 5 hitters ranked 13th in the AL and their No. 6 hitters were dead last.
With the A’s throwing right-handers in both Games 4 and 5 now, Delmon Young could well be key for Detroit. Fielder did his best to come up big for the Tigers tonight, only to be robbed of a homer by Coco Crisp and a double by Yoenis Cespedes. Now that the A’s are going back to right-handers after starting lefties the last two games, it’s going to make tons of sense to pitch around Fielder in big situations and go after Young in the five-hole. The slumping Young hasn’t come through with a hit in an RBI situation in 11 games, and he’s delivered one homer in a month. He’s lucky he’s still in the lineup at all, much less in such prime real estate behind Cabrera and Fielder.
Of course, Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander could make Detroit’s offensive problem moot by hurling a shutout one of the next two days. Those two are certainly capable. That said, the Tigers’ offense is quite obviously overrated, and it figures to catch up with them soon if it hasn’t already.