When the Detroit Tigers set course for their 2012 season out of spring training many experts thought the powerful lineup could challenge 200 home runs on the season. At present, the Tigers are on their weakest home run pace in 10 years.
Through 76 games the Tigers have clubbed just 68 homers. Now consider that of those 68, a startling 46 of them have been of the solo variety. Miguel Cabrera was the latest to add a solo shot in last night’s win v. Tampa Bay.
Translation: the Tigers simply aren’t doing the kind of damage that was expected of this lineup. The result is that a roster once appearing set in stone back in April is in desperate search for a second baseman and a right-handed, power-hitting outfielder.
Blame Ryan Raburn, Brennan Boesch, and Delmon Young all you want. They certainly deserve their fair share. This trio of under-performers has combined for just 13 long balls on the season. Reasonable projections could have had them around 20-25 at this point in the year.
It’s hard to fault Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder who have combined for 28 homers and 112 RBI’s thus far. Their surface numbers are outstanding. Despite their lofty stats they both have shown career worst trends in terms of plate discipline.
Miguel Cabrera has never swung at a higher percentage of pitches. He is hacking 51.7% of the time and also taking aim at 36.1% of pitches located outside the strike zone, far and away the worst number of his career. Cabrera’s 8% walk rate is a career low. A season ago when he won his first batting title he walked at a rate of 15.7%.
This year his mission seems to be reaching the 200-hit club in a season. He’s never done it before and is well on pace for it in 2012.
Prince Fielder hasn’t walked this seldom since his rookie year in Milwaukee. In 2011, he walked 15.5% of the time. This year he sits at 9.7%.
The difference between Cabrera/Fielder and the rest of the roster is that they are skilled enough to overcome their impatience. This is evidenced by their strikeout ratios remaining at career levels despite the free-swinging tendencies they’ve displayed.
Miguel Cabrera has found himself in a lot of 0-2 counts of late, something he has overcome with regularity. Interestingly, you can almost see the look on his face when he gets a 3-ball count. He wants nothing to do with that walk. Some will applaud that tenacity and others will see it as a potential problem.
Regardless of their excellence, there is something to be said for setting an example for your lesser-talented teammates.
Brennan Boesch is a mess and one need not look further than his 53.6% swing rate. Delmon Young? That wild man swings at 60.2% of the pitches he sees including 4 out of every 9 that miss the strike zone.
Could the fact that he hits 5th be influencing Cabrera and Fielder to swing early and often? After all, DY has just 28 RBI’s on the year, hitting behind 2 guys who have combined for 182 hits. That is an embarrassment. Victor Martinez might have double that if he were in the 5-hole.
The Tigers need to ditch Delmon and they know it. The problem is right now they still have him. To make matters worse, Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila haven’t shown enough to justify a look in that spot either. At 37-39 and 4 games out of 1st place, the Tigers are hanging around, but for how long?
Watching the Texas Rangers have their way with Tigers pitching this week was something to see. The Tigers can’t touch Texas right now. They’re not even close.
Until the free-swinging Tigers suddenly start squaring up the baseball or make some fairly major roster moves, don’t expect much to change offensively.