Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The 2014 Detroit Tigers are widely acknowledged as a different kind of baseball team than the team that we’ve been used to seeing in recent seasons past. The obvious difference, speed and smart base running, is both visible and measurable. In 2013, the Tigers stole 35 bases total for the entire season. In 2014, 30 games into the season, the Tigers have already tallied 29 stolen bases. The improvement in this area is obvious to see and easy to account for. One area of improvement that isn’t quite so obvious is the decrease in strikeouts for the Tigers’s team as a whole.
It’s very easy, as a fan, to become frustrated when the offense struggles; to see a rally end without a run scored, especially when the rally killer goes down on a strikeout, is no fun for anyone. It’s also easy when this happens, to assume the worst. For whatever reason, strikeouts seem to hang in the memory, and many times they also seem to multiply. Without looking at the statistics, the assumption that the Tigers are striking out more than in the past, or more than the average American League team, seems plausible. Fortunately, after researching the data, this is not the case. All signs point to the 2014 Tigers being more patient than they were last season.
At the end of April 2013, the Tigers’ batters had struck out a total of 232 times. Prior to the start of Saturday’s game against the Twins, the Tigers had been put down on strikeouts only 195 times. 37 fewer strikeouts doesn’t seem like much, but, in my opinion, it’s a tell tale sign that Wally Joyner has the Tigers’ batters more willing to take a look at a pitch than they were last season.
Comparing the Tigers’ hitters to the rest of the American League, the news is equally, if not more positive. At this point in the season(as of Friday, May 9th), the American League is averaging 265 strikeouts. Taking a look at splits, with runners in scoring position, the AL average is 72. The Tigers have struck out 60 times in this situation. The only split that has the Tigers sitting at the average, as opposed to below it, is with runners in scoring position and two outs, where the AL average is 35 and the Tigers have 35 strikeouts in this situation.
Only three Tigers’ hitters have more than 20 strikeouts so far this season, Alex Avila has 29, Miguel Cabrera has 25 and Nick Castellanos has 23. Austin Jackson, who has consistently had trouble with the K, has struck out 18 times through May 9th, whereas last season he had struck out 21 times in the month of April alone.
So, what does this mean for the Detroit Tigers hitters? Well, it would sure seem that Brad Ausmus and Joyner are towing the old adage that patience is a virtue, especially when at the plate. The Tigers’ hitters seem to be biting, and so far, so good.