The offense struggles of the Detroit Tigers have been well documented in the last week. While it was good to see the offense score more than two runs for the first time last night since the series opener in Oakland, there are some major cracks in the offense Detroit still needs to fix.
The rest of April does not get any easier for the Tigers as the Kansas City Royals come into town this weekend before they head to Chicago to take on the White Sox. Despite Chicago’s streaky play, their offense is fourth-best in all of baseball in terms of WAR.
The strength so far for the Tigers has been the starting pitching. Spencer Turnbull’s first start in 2021 was ace material as he fanned six in his return. Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd, and Casey Mize have kept the Tigers in most of the games this season. Even Jose Urena is coming around with a strong start against the A’s last weekend.
If Detroit is to stay near .500 after the month of April is over, here the three things they will need to fix immediately. Why is this so important if the Tigers have given the impression that they are still rebuilding?
Simply put, while the Detroit Pistons have struggled, there is a core of players that general manager Troy Weaver has put together that are immensely talented and fun to watch. So far, a few players have emerged but it is enough to keep fans tuned in day in and day out when the team is this inconsistent without fixing these three core issues.
1. Fix the bullpen
This seems to be the most obvious, granted, with throwing out the idea of signing Shane Greene but outside of Gregory Soto, who seems to find his groove lately, manager A.J. Hinch has to rely on the hot hand method. The bullpen ERA is 6.56, a full run higher than the 29th ranked team, the Texas Rangers.
The emergence of Alex Lange has given the Tigers another right-handed option with strikeout potential. But on the left-hand side, Tyler Alexander has not been effective. He is posting an ERA of 8.53 through four appearances and he has not appeared since April 15. Derek Holland’s spring training performance against right-handers has been a different story in the regular season. Right-handers are producing a slash line of .476/.500/.857 with an OPS of 1.357.
So, how to fix it? The Tigers may look to Triple-A Toledo for help as the season starts May 4. As much as fans would like the Tigers to spend to fix the issue, they will look to the internal arms for a solution.
2. The Detroit Tigers outfield could use some assistance
As a collective, the Tigers outfield is ranked 27th in baseball, producing a slash line of .206/.278/.381. Akil Baddoo and Robbie Grossman have been producing a decent wRC+ of 164 or and 96 respectfully but Victor Reyes and JaCoby Jones have been struggling to be consistent. Jones’s wRC+ is -12 at the moment.
They are what they are, which is batters who strike out and do not draw walks. Grossman’s 18.3% walk rate leads the team but everyone else, including the injured Nomar Mazara, is walking below 5%. Baddoo, Reyes, and Jones are all striking out over 30%.
As far as free-agents who are still out there, there is not much that would be much more effective. If you are looking for an internal option, Derek Hill and Daz Cameron await in Toledo for their opportunity and Riley Greene may not be too far behind. Whether or not they will be in Detroit soon really depends on how these first two months go but it should be just a matter of time before a move is made.
3. The DH has been an issue.
The Tigers designed Renato Nunez for assignment to make room for Zack Short. From what it appears to be on the surface, once Miguel Cabrera comes back, there was not going to be any room for Nunez. But as a collective, Hinch has been using a carousel of players to DH lately.
The Tigers are 15th in WAR among DHs with a -0.6 and this issue goes back several seasons. Since 2018, the Tigers have hit just 37 home runs from the DH role. The second closest team? The Cleveland baseball team with 73.
Edwin Encarnacion is still out there but looking at his stats from last season in Chicago, there is a reason why perhaps he is still on the market. At this point, there seems to be no internal option available. The Detroit Tigers could be an interesting watch while staying competitive but unless they can find solutions to these fixes internally, which as Jake discussed in his farm system article, it will take free agency to really put a team that can be near .500.