Tigers offense woes have been even worse than we could have expected

Entering the year we knew two things: the pitching would be good and the lineup would be bad.
Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Báez (28) reacts after strikeout against Oakland Athletics during
Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Báez (28) reacts after strikeout against Oakland Athletics during / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Detroit Tigers' gaudy win-loss record after their first road trip of the season hid the struggles lurking in the background of the 2024 season: an inconsistent and at times inept offense. All three of the wins against the Chicago White Sox were decided by one run. Three of the first five games went into extra innings.

You do that too much and it's bound to turn out poorly in the long run. That means taxing the best pitchers in the bullpen or using them up and putting others into higher-leverage situations than they should be.

It all came to a head in the opening home series against the Oakland Athletics. The Tigers needed a run in the eighth inning to eke out a 5-4 victory on Friday after blowing a 4-0 lead. They were outscored 11-1 on Saturday and Sunday in a pair of losses.

The AL Central is bad, and somehow the Tigers were still in the middle of the pack in runs scored per game in the first three series with 3.22. The Twins followed at 3.0 and the White Sox bring up the tail a 1.78. The inconsistency is a big problem, with five games already where the Tigers scored three or fewer runs and three games where they scored either one or no runs.

As a team they've hit .209 with .622 OPS. Finding bright spots is hard. Third baseman Gio Urshela has hit .275 with .800 OPS. Mark Canha has hit two home runs and Riley Greene three.

The dark spots? Spencer Torkelson is providing absolutely nothing in the middle of the lineup with few hits and no home runs.

Javier Baez is somehow actually worse than expected, hitting .154 with all singles and the rare OBP that is actually worse than his batting average. On the OPS+ scale where 100 is average, he's managed to check in at -11.

Everyone else in the lineup checks in somewhere in between Greene and Baez, but there are far too many close to Baez and not nearly enough close to Greene. The Tigers have a .683 OPS with runners in scoring position. Not awful but not great either.

Detroit Tigers' lineup likely to improve ... somewhat

If you're looking for some reason to find hope that all is not lost, it's important to remember the Tigers opened in rather chilly conditions with games in Chicago, New York, and Detroit. The Tigers have been getting a bit unlucky with their contact and opposing fielders have made some nice plays, robbing Torkelson more than once.

Wading deep into the sabermetric weeds, the Tigers have been one of the unluckiest lineups in MLB to start the year. Taking quality of contact into consideration along with strikeouts and walks, the Tigers have a weighted On Base Average of .282 and an expected wOBA of .317, giving them a decifit of .035. Only three teams (the Mets, Orioles, and Marlins) have a bigger gap.

That said, we knew going into the season this would be a team that thrived on its pitching staff and struggled at the plate, and it's hard not to look up and down the lineup and belive it's going to get much better. It will improve from where it is today, yes, but until the Tigers find a way around the Baez problem and a few other weak spots, the likelihood of feeling comfortable in a game remains pretty low.