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Detroit’s Hitting Woes

After generating quite a bit of hype this preseason with the addition of Prince Fielder, Detroit looked to have a fairly potent offense this year. That offense has not materialized yet. Here are some of my thoughts on their struggling lineup.

Overall team offensive production is down.

In 2011, Detroit was fourth in the league with 5.3 runs per game and a 0.277/0.340/0.434 triple slash line. The same team is basically the same as the 2011 version with the exceptions of the addition of Prince Fielder and the loss of Victor Martinez. This season the Tigers are averaging one less R/G and have a triple slash line of 0.265/0.328/0.414. Most of the drop can be attributed to Jhonny Peralta, Ryan Raburn, Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch under-performing their career averages. The Tigers have sent Raburn back to the minors, but they will have to keep playing the other three and hope their seasons turn around.

Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera are not the problems in Detroit.

The pair have performed nicely compared to what they were supposed to at the beginning of the season. Here are their projections (ZiPS) and 2012 stats so far:

Miguel Cabrera
2012 ZiPS: 0.310/0.406/0.548
2012 season: 0.318/0.371/0.536

Prince Fielder
2012 ZiPS: 0.275/0.394/0.504
2012 season: 0.319/0.382/0.517

Brennan Boesch has been a disappointment.

Boesch was given the ideal position of hitting in front of two of the game’s best hitters. Boesch, who has okay plate discipline (7% career BB%), would have expected to see more strikes at the beginning of the season. That is basically what he got with just over 50% of the pitches he saw were in the strike zone. Historically, the percentage of pitches he saw in the strike zone was closer to 43%.

He struggled in the the #2 hole. He hit just 0.213/0.234/0.343 with a somewhat expected 2% BB%. On May 6th, he was moved from the #2 spot and replaced with Andy Dirks.

Since moving down in the lineup, he has hit anywhere from 5th to 8th in the batting order and he has hit 0.247/0.295/0.351. Pitchers are only pitching strikes to him 43% of the time and his BB% is back up to 7%.

Andy Dirks was strangely thriving in the #2 spot.

On May 6th, Dirks was moved to be the everyday #2 hitter. Before that point, he hit 0.302/0.318/0.535. During those 44 PA before the move he recorded 0 walks. Pitcher were throwing him strikes 43% of the time. After moving to the #2 spot, pitchers threw him strikes 41% of the time and he has walked 9 times for a 9% BB%. I have no explanation at all why pitchers now feel compelled to walk him with two of the best hitters in the game due up. Besides the extra walks, his triple slash line has improved to 0.341/0.406/0.505. To bad he just went on the DL with Achilles’ tendinitis and his return is currently unknown.

Alex Avila is performing as expected.

In 2011, Avila nearly hit 0.300 while being supported by a 0.366 BABIP (0.329 xBABIP). This season his average is down to 0.254 with a BABIP down to 0.313 (0.339 xBABIP). While his AVG is down, he still looks like he is good for double digit HR again.

Jhonny Peralta has been unlucky.

Peralta is third (of 164) in the league among qualified batters with a 30% LD%. He is 103rd in the league with a 0.289 BABIP. His xBABIP says his BABIP should be 0.368. He looks like a nice rebound candidate for the rest of the season.