Oct 8, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson breaks his bat on a RBI single against the Oakland Athletics in the seventh inning in game four of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
This is the second in a series of three articles breaking down the 2013 regular season Detroit Tigers. Last Friday’s article examined the defense. Next Friday will focus on pitching.
It was very good.
But it could have been better.
By most measures, the Detroit Tigers had a stellar offensive year in 2013. They led all 30 MLB teams in batting average (BA) at .283 and were 2nd (to Boston) in OPS at .780. (OPS represents on base percentage plus slugging percentage).
They also had the 3rd fewest strikeouts and 8th most walks in MLB.
On the other hand, they stole a mere 35 bases, by far the lowest number in MLB. In addition, they suffered from below average offensive output at catcher and left field.
Overall, despite the noted deficiencies, the Tigers sent a robust lineup to the plate in 2013.
Here’s a breakdown of the offense by position:
Unfortunately Alex Avila’s year reinforced the fact that his breakout first half tear in 2011, which resulted in an All Star berth, was an anomaly.
In 330 at bats, he hit only .227. He walked a respectable 44 times to elevate his OBP to .317, but struck out 112 times, which is a high whiff rate. He did provide spot power with 11 home runs and had an OPS of .693.
Brayan Pena, now an ex-Tiger, provided solid offense in a relief role with a .297 BA and .315 OBP.
Reserve Bryan Holaday hit .297 in 27 at bats.
Though Prince Fielder had a down year by his standards (especially hitting behind Miguel Cabrera and in front of Victor Martinez), he still had a productive season.
He hit.279 with 25 HR’s and 106 RBI’s, and also collected 75 walks, which stretched his OBP to a respectable .362.
Fielder’s OPS was .819, which was strong but far short of the superlative years he put together while a Milwaukee Brewer.
Nonetheless, Fielder’s regular season numbers were respectable, as he continued to provide “protection” for Cabrera. In doing so he finished comfortably in the top half of MLB first basemen.
Omar Infante, despite a mid-season injury which cost him 150 AB’s or so, performed very well with the bat in 2013.
With a .318 BA and an OPS of .795, he finished among the top offensive second basemen in baseball. He drove in 51 runs in 453 AB’s, which projected over a full season would have netted him 75-80 RBI’s, a very strong number for a middle infielder.
It was obvious Infante’s offense was a tonic for the bottom third of the order in a powerful line-up that sometimes scratched for runs, as all teams do over the course of a season.
In a substitute role, Ramon Santiago (.224 BA/.298 OBP) in 80 games and Hernan Perez (.197/.217) in 34 offerred minimal production from the position.
What can you say that hasn’t already been said about Miguel Cabrera’s offensive performance in 2013?
For weeks at a time he was the talk if baseball. The buzz around MLB in March was that it was Prince Fielder’s year, that maybe the Prince would have that special year of which he’s capable and win the MVP.
Well, someone forgot to tell Cabrera, merely the planet’s best hitter. For extended stretches he dazzled the baseball world on a daily basis. Despite his late season power outage due to injury, which may have cost the Tigers the World Series, he constructed another year of eye-popping numbers: .348 BA, .442 OBP, and an OPS of 1.078.
Obviously Mr. Cabrera’s historic bat masked some of the deficiencies which existed on the Tigers. Unfortunately those shortcomings were laid bare once the crack of that mighty bat was muffled due to an untimely injury.
Jhonny Peralta excelled as a hitter in 2013.
In the two-thirds of a season he played preceding his 50 game suspension, Peralta hit .303, with an OPS of .815.
He slugged 11 HR’s, drove in 55 runs, and stroked 30 doubles.
His production placed him in the top tier of MLB shortstops.
Defensive wizard Jose Iglesias came to Detroit in a late July trade and posted respectable numbers as a Tiger rookie, with a .259 BA and a .654 OPS.
Overall, the Tiger regular season offense was well-served with the combined contributions of their shortstops in 2013.
Offensively Detroit suffered a sub-par year in left field throughout 2013, largely due to the low production of Andy Dirks.
Dirks, playing primarily against right-handed pitching, failed to validate a strong 2012 season at the plate with a .256 BA, .323 OBP and .363 slugging percentage. His OPS was .686.
Matt Tuiasosopo provided substantial right-handed punch in the season’s first half but nosedived after the All-Star break. He had a BA of .244, with a .351 OBP and .415 slugging percentage, despite his sour second half. He checked in with a .765 OPS.
Don Kelly played left intermittently and sported a .222 BA, .309 OBP, and .343 slugging percentage.
As a group the Tiger left fielders were significantly below average on the year, playing a position where strong offense is expected.
Austin Jackson hit .272 with an OPS of .754, landing him in the middle tier of MLB center fielders.
He hit 12 HR’s and had 52 RBI’s in 129 games, while striking out 129 times. Despite playing a “speed” position, he had a disappointing total of 8 stolen bases, far fewer than most center fielders.
The Tigers’ ability to score runs was often predicated on Jackson’s success in getting on base. When he was slumping or out of the line-up, runs could get scarce. When he was making solid contact and getting on base, the lumber men behind him generally drove him and the offense flourished.
Overall the offensive production from the center field position was average by MLB standards in 2013.
The Tigers’ main offseason free agent signee paid off handsomely in 2013.
Torii Hunter stabilized the number two spot in manager Jim Leyland’s lineup and hit .304 with an .OPS of .800. He chipped in with 17 HR’s and 84 RBI’s, placing him in the top echelon of MLB right fielders.
Hunter consistently gave the Tigers quality at bats, frequently sacrificing his power stroke in order to get on base in any fashion in front of Miguel Cabrera.
As a result, the offensive production from right field in 2013 was significantly above average.
Victor Martinez’s torrid second half placed him among the top three DH’s in the American League, along with Boston’s David Ortiz and Kansas City’s Billy Butler.
Martinez started slowly after missing all of 2012, but once he re-discovered his hitting stroke early in the summer he raked opposing pitchers for the rest of the year.
His final line was a .301 BA with a .785 OPS, with 36 doubles, 14 HR’s, and 83 RBI’s.
Though a liability on the bases, Martinez’s bat more than compensated for his lack of speed.
The offensive production of the DH position in 2013 was substantial and among the best in the AL.
The Tigers had a banner offensive year during the 2013 regular season.
Like all MLB teams they had their run scoring droughts, but on the whole they crossed the plate at an impressive clip and finished second among MLB teams in runs scored.
This statistic is even more impressive when measured against their deficient running game, which was among the worst in baseball.
All in all, though, the object of baseball is to score runs, and thanks to another historic year by Miguel Cabrera and support from his mates, the 2013 Detroit Tigers accomplished that in high style.