Detroit Tigers: Hard to stay positive with such an abysmal start to 2023
By Tyler Kotila
Detroit Tigers season is off to a lackluster start.
The Detroit Tigers came out of the gates hard & fast in 2023. That is if you're talking about the standings for best lottery odds in the 2024 MLB Draft. The Tigers and Athletics are duking it out at the bottom of the league standings to land University of Florida's two-way star Jac Caglianone in 2024.
Lottery talk less than 15 games into the season? Yep. That's one of the things to be optimistic about with the Detroit Tigers. Lately, they have not given much to be excited about. The team squeaked out a win against the Blue Jays, which was better than a sweep, again, trying to be positive.
But overall, the 2023 season has just been extremely frustrating. Not many were expecting the team to win a World Series or even sniff a .500 record in 2023, but this on-field product has been downright atrocious.
I'm not here calling for Scott Harris's head or trying to slander the new regime. It's been 12 games, and I've tried to stay even-keeled on this new regime and thew direction of this team, but watching some of these games has been tough.
The team's bullpen has reverted. For years during the early parts of the rebuild, a call to the bullpen was waving the white flag of surrender. In 2022, the Tigers actually pieced something together and had "reliable" arms to call upon.
This year they're bringing out Alex Lange in the eighth inning and letting Trey Wingenter take the ninth inning to "play the match-ups right," as the Bally Sports broadcast suggested. It's abysmal. It's not even the lack of a bullpen that is the only concern.
The team's bats are cold, so cold. The Tigers have scored 36 runs in 2023. The next lowest in the American League is the 3-10 Oakland Athletics, who have managed 51 runs scored. League-wide, the only team under 50 besides the Tigers is the Washington Nationals, with 48 runs scored.
That's a 12-run gap, pretty sizable and substantial for a team just clawing and scratching at every win they can get. The Tigers have allowed 76 runs, giving them an outstanding negative-40 run differential. Quite impressive to be that deep in the hole this early into the season. For the math majors, that's a shade over three runs per game that the Tigers are being outscored by to start 2023.
For those wondering, only the Oakland Athletics have a worse run differential at negative-50. The next closest to the Tigers moving up the standings is negative-26 from the Miami Marlins, who are sitting third in the National League East.
It's abysmal. It's hard to watch, and the sad part is it could very well get worse before it gets better. The Tigers have managed a .261 BABIP, which is the average on balls put in play. That's third-worst in the league, meaning that even when the Tigers do make contact, they're struggling to do much to produce baserunners, let alone runs.
The Tigers also are averaging ten punchouts a game with 120 over 12 games. That's the third-highest in the league. Once again, hard to produce runs when you cannot put the bat on the ball. Then again, when they put the bat on the ball, it's not producing super well, either--so much for dominating the strike zone.
It's not just the pitching. As touched upon, the pitching staff needs to be better as well. The team's ERA is 6.24. Only Oakland has a worse ERA in the 2023 season. The sad part is the Tigers' pitching is not struggling to throw strikes, making every game a walk-a-thon. They're not giving up a billion hits.
The issue is that they walk a guy, then give up a 2-run bomb, or an error gets followed up by a barreled-up double into the gap, scoring another run. It's just tough to see the pitchers going out and getting beat so often. Some of the pitchers have looked better than others, and decision-making on "match-ups" has been confusing at times; one thing is certain, the on-field product is not great.
The Detroit Tigers are about to get underway in a three-game set against the San Francisco Giants, a chance for Harris to get the best of his old franchise. In reality, the Tigers must be happy to come out on the other side of this series with a win and hopefully score a few runs. That's no cap tip to San Francisco, either.