Detroit Tigers: Is the band breaking up?
The Detroit Tigers woeful offense is dotted by a handful hitters most deemed vital to their success in ‘22 but instead have lived beneath the ol’ Mendoza line for weeks.
Indeed, since their respective batting averages start with a 1 it’s been easy to think of a little band from an old movie you see on cable.
It was a fun little movie with a good cast headlined by a famous actor making his directorial debut. It’s a movie that will play thousands of times on cable and streaming services. One you can easily drop in on when you see it and enjoy any random 15 minutes.
”That Thing You Do” was released in 1996, ostensibly as a Tom Hanks vehicle. In reality it was Hanks mostly behind the camera but playing a small, pivotal role. The film mostly focused on the members of a small garage band out of Erie, PA.
“The One-ders” had a bad name (people would mistakenly use the phonetic “OH-Nee-ders” and miss the real name) but they penned a damn catchy tune which would eventually start them on an amazing but ultimately short-lived rocket ride to stardom as “The Wonders.”
The New One-ders
Unfortunately, on the second day of June, after 51 games played, the Detroit Tigers have plenty of players batting under the aforementioned .200 mark. The number 1 leads the way at critical points on the roster, to the point they could form their own One-ders band! Sadly they go beyond the core four in the group. They have plenty of players to fill backup dancers and roadie positions.
The Tigers have simply been below water in run scoring the entire way thus far. Record low run scoring is possible, unless several players start to climb the ladder to get back to mediocrity and then hopefully league average. Baby steps.
The main members of this not-so-merry little band of One-ders include Javier Baez (.197), Jeimer Candelario (.189), Jonathan Schoop (.198) and Robbie Grossman (.199). As a group these represent four of the twelve batters in MLB hitting at a sub-.200 clip. The two leagues are hitting a combined .240, if you were wondering where they could go if they simply made it to league average.
Joining the Fantastic Four under the Mendoza Line but with far fewer at bats are the band’s backup singers Eric Haase, the demoted Akil Baddoo, and Daz Cameron.
“Ain’t no way to keep a band together. Bands come and go. You got to keep on playin’, no matter with who.”— Del Paxton
The Detroit Tigers need to break up the band. It’s as simple as that. The Detroit pitching staff has done incredible work by surviving multiple injuries to key arms by plugging holes in the dike with some new faces, and some old ones too. Pitching coach Chris Fetter might wonder why his main arms are falling by the wayside, but his work has kept most new guys productive.
It’s the Tigers offense that has to continue to search for signs of life. Despite recently going 6-2 on the homestand and 12-7 since May 13th, they have not mashed and bashed their way to any victories.
Wednesday night in Detroit actually saw the Tigers string together some hits in one big four-run inning…but even then it was merely a five-run night with not much else mustered after the big frame.
Leaving The Band
Rookie first baseman Spencer Torkelson has had a very uneven first couple of months in the majors. There have been a few flashes of his power. He’s shown a commitment overall to working counts, showing patience, and working a few walks. It does appear he has a plan. Defensively you could almost say he’s sparkled in total.
However it hasn’t been a whirlwind of success yet for Torkelson. He’s been in the below .200 club most of the way as well. Chalk it up to rookie growing pains. There have been calls for a demotion from some fans at various points. The Tigers have hung with him though.
Now Torkelson has taken a few steps and he’s left the Mendoza club, like he’s Lionel Ritchie leaving The Commodores. Two 3-hit games as part of a 13-for-42 stretch raised his average to .203. It’s not a red hot streak, but it’s certainly a sign of what the team knows Torkelson is capable of producing. Torkelson is clinging to the Mendoza line with his fingernails, but it feels like he’ll maintain it over the long haul.
Who Leaves Next?
Jonathan Schoop signed a two year extension with the Detroit Tigers last summer based primarily off an insane month of June where every ball he hit seemed to leave the park or dent a wall.
It’s June once again and, wouldn’t you know it, he spent the final days of May starting to heat up as though another June assault is possible. Schoop has gone 13-49 over the last two weeks. It’s nothing sexy, but it’s a big improvement after having spent the early weeks flailing helplessly at outside pitches. Now his timing seems better and he’s not opening up too early.
Javier Baez killed it in the second half in 2021 after being dealt to the Mets. We know he’s capable of an extended stretch of productivity. As of right now the Detroit Tigers would gladly accept a stretch of mere competence at the plate from the former Cubs star. Baez showing a bit more power and getting his BA to around league average with an OBP closer to .300 would make him an asset moving forward instead of the offensive minus he’s been so far.
To round out the main part of the group who are healthy there is Candelario. He’s been an enigma thus far. Only sporadically showing the power and discipline that propelled him to a productive season in ‘21, where he led the league in doubles and was a relative model of consistency.
Grossman is mired on the 10-Day IL with a neck issue. He’ll be a One-der until he recovers. The career year he flashed in ‘21 was exciting. A complete contrast to the dull powerless showing in ‘22.
The Tigers are performing better lately. That’s undeniable. They also will be adding Riley Greene in due course which will add some spices to the stew. Austin Meadows has started a rehab stint alongside Greene in Toledo. Victor Reyes should return eventually.
However, it’s the One-ders who need to find it. They’re the guts of the lineup. The rookies can only be expected to contribute so much. Schoop, Candelario, Grossman and Baez must rise to the occasion if the Tigers are going to pass Cleveland and Chicago to then take aim at the Twins.
We can ruminate on why each individual is struggling. We all have access to the same stats for the most part. It’s just down to those guys performing close to their career norms. Its about hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and manager A.J. Hinch putting them in a position to succeed via adjustments and finding good matchups.
Detroit needs to get healthy, get their lineup sorted out, and then slowly work back to .500. If they can do that it’ll be time to assess how much time is left and if a real run at the division is possible.
This week has shown the Twins aren’t a wrecking crew. The White Sox have ugly warts. Cleveland isn’t bad, but they aren’t great either. For as ugly and downright boring as the first six weeks were for Detroit with the maddening run of injuries, they have a small chance to get into the race this summer.
The Tigers are being carried on offense by the Righteous Brothers, Willi & Harold Castro, and the timely hitting of fading legend Miguel Cabrera. They’re going to need help.
Therefore, the band must break up. Everybody batting “a buck something” won’t work. Those bats must find a sustained groove moving ahead. Schoop, Candelario, Baez and Grossman hold the club’s offensive success in their hands.