Saturday, 23 August 2014

Summer of Discontent

Yesterday's ugly game between the Tigers and the Twins is, one hopes, that moment when the Tigers hit rock bottom. I'm thankful that it is the Royals who have chased down the Tigers this season, because they are the only AL Central team that I don't feel some Tigers-inspired animosity towards.

When one looks at the season overall, the Tigers have not been what we would be led to believe they were since the All-Star break. The last time they put together a winning streak of more than three games was one of five games 8-12 July (which included beating the Royals a couple of times). Since the All-Star game, the Tigers have only the one three-game winning streak, the beating up of the poor Colorado Rockies at home in the beginning of August. By contrast, the Tigers have suffered three four-game losing streaks in that time, if one includes the pre-break loss on 13 July against the Royals.

After last night, it is easy to blame the bullpen for the woes, but I don't see it like that. In 34 games starting 18 July, the Tigers have scored four or fewer runs 22 times. That is two-thirds of their games. Their record in those games is 5-17. They scored 119 runs and allowed 251, for a Pythagorean winning percentage of .207 against an actual one of .227. By contrast, in the 91 games before the break, the Tigers scored four or fewer runs 50 times, or just over half of their games. Their record in those games was 16-34. They scored 171 runs in those games, and allowed 300. That's an actual .320 winning percentage against a Pythagorean .265 winning percentage.

The Tigers are still beating their Pythagorean winning percentage in these low-scoring games. The big problem is a greater proportion of their games fall into this category, which is a fault of the hitting, not the pitching. (Don't forget, this excludes yesterday's game, because the Tigers scored six.

This picture, created using Bill Petti's spray chart tool sums up a serious problem for the Tigers, one that I think needs to be addressed in constructing the lineup. It compares Miguel Cabrera's batted-ball hits and outs for 2014 (right) versus 2013 (left). Note how this season the batted balls don't seem to fly as far, and how many fall just short of the seats. This power outage is killing the Tigers. The Big Man needs to adjust his approach, and maybe needs to be protection for Victor Martinez. Something must be done, because time is running out.

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