The talk of the Detroit Tigers 2016 spring training has been the home run.
Starters Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Miguel Cabrera have provided some interesting offense in the first full week of play in the Grapefruit League. Along with these three, Bryan Holaday, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, JaCoby Jones, and Steven Moya have provided the other home runs. Despite the multiple home runs, offense in the form of basic hits and RBIs have been lacking in the Spring Training games. According to the statistics provided by Fox Sports, what’s been missing are the basic hits.
When it comes to plate appearances and hits (not including home runs), there has not been much in the way of basic offense. Victor Martinez has had the most plate appearances so far; along with his two home runs, he has three more hits. But, the only time he has crossed the plate were with those two home runs. That’s because the men who follow him in the lineup have not been seeing the ball well.
For example, J.D. Martinez, who had his first home run today, had only one hit in his first 10 plate appearances. Nick Castellanos has only had two hits in his first 10 plate appearances. Mike Aviles has only had one hit in 10 plate appearances. John Mayberry, Jr., who has the second-most plate appearances after V-Mart, has one hit and three strikeouts. Jose Iglesias has two hits in his ten at-bat; one was a double.
Some Tigers have yet to even reach a base on a hit. They include Justin Upton, who has five strikeouts in seven plate appearances, and Andrew Romine, who has been walked three times in his seven plate appearances. Thomas Field, a minor leaguer who has played in five games and had ten plate appearances, also has yet to get a hit.
On a positive note, there are a few players who have delivered hits other than home runs. Anthony Gose, who is batting .429, has only scored one run. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has reached first base on hits in three out of his six plate appearances. Minor league player Miguel Gonzalez has had two hits in four at-bats, but has yet to cross home plate.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully enjoy watching a home run and as a woman, I completely agreed with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine when they announced in 1998 that “Chicks dig the long ball.” But, in today’s baseball game, teams need more than the home run. It is important to be able to move the runners. Of Romine’s three walks, he only scored on one of them. This means that the hitters who came after him were unable to move him – so the team could not capitalize on those free bases. In the immortal words of Roz Focker: “Neesh geete.”
Hitting a baseball is not an easy thing to do, which is why most baseball players only hit two or three out of every ten at-bats. But, right now, the majority of the Detroit Tigers are having difficulty reaching those numbers. Is it time for fans to worry? No. Is it worth paying attention to? Yes.
The Kansas City Royals won the World Series not just because of their bullpen. Kendrys Morales and Mike Moustakas each hit 22 home runs during the 2015 season; two other players had over 18 home runs. They also had five players who had over 150 hits. On the flip side, the Tigers had only two players who had over 150 hits – Kinsler and J.D. Martinez. The Tigers had three players hit over 18 home runs. Pitching is vital to winning championships, but no one won a World Series without offense, too.
Now that the first week of spring training is over, it is clear that the Tigers need to work on moving the runners and not just with home runs. Once the players get to the big ballparks, the reality of relying on home runs could hit home.