Poster TigersFanATL observed that the Tigers don’t really work the count and this is the reason why the Tigers are having a terrible time having a consistent offense. There are a few advantages in working the count. For one, it could lead to more walks (when there’s more men on base, there’s a better chance that they’ll score). Only the Orioles (7.5%) and Royals (6.7%) have a lower walk rate in the American League than the Tigers (7.6%). There’s also a better chance that the pitcher will make a mistake that the batter can take advantage on. Finally, it drives up the starter’s pitch count and they can get into the bullpen earlier (for example, the Tigers couldn’t touch Paul Maholm last night, but scored 3 runs after he was replaced).
I decided to look at the numbers to see how the Tigers look on plate discipline.
In pitches/PA, the Tigers are dead last in the American League. In all of baseball, they are tied with the Phillies at 3.72 pitches/PA and only the Cardinals are slightly lower at 3.71 pitches/PA. Delmon Young is the worst everyday player at working the count as he only sees 3.28 pitches/PA. Brennan Boesch isn’t too far behind; he’s 7th lowest at 3.38 pitches/PA. The White Sox are the only other team to have 2 players in the bottom 10 (Alex Rios is 2nd at 3.31 pitches/PA and A.J. Pierzynski is 10th at 3.40 pitches/PA). The league average is 3.85 pitches/PA. Here’s how some of the other Tigers look:
Alex Avila – 4.17
Austin Jackson – 4.12
Danny Worth – 3.95
Jhonny Peralta – 3.94
Ryan Raburn – 3.85
Don Kelly – 3.88
Prince Fielder – 3.80
Miguel Cabrera – 3.68
Andy Dirks – 3.68
Quintin Berry – 3.65
Ramon Santiago – 3.57
Brennan Boesch – 3.38
Delmon Young – 3.28
The Tigers have been very aggressive; they swing 30% of the time at the first pitch, which is tops in the American League. Only Washington (33%), Cincinnati (32%), St. Louis and San Diego (31%) are higher. Surprisingly, it’s Josh Hamilton and Freddie Freeman who are tops in baseball in this stat; swinging at the first pitch exactly half of the time (50%). Delmon Young is at 44%, the highest on the Tigers.
The one stat that doesn’t make much sense is that the Tigers are leading all of baseball in the amount of foul balls per strikes seen at 29%. If the Tigers are fouling off that many pitches, it would seem that they are working the count and thus their pitches/PA should be high. Unless, of course, the amount of strikes seen is low.
According to FanGraphs, the Tigers are swinging at more pitches in the strike zone than any other team in baseball at 67.7% of the time. And according to Baseball-Reference, they are putting the ball in play 31% of the time, tied for 2nd with the Royals, Giants, Angels, Yankees and Rangers. Only the Phillies are higher at 32%. This should be a good thing, as it prevents the Tigers from striking out (which it is, the Tigers are only striking out 17.8% of the time; league average is 18.8%) and also forces the other team’s defense to make a play.
The Tigers are hitting line drives 21.6% of the time, which is quite good; only the Red Sox (22.7%), Rangers (22%), Royals (21.8%) and White Sox (21.7%) are better in the American League. They are also hitting ground balls only 42% of the time (only the Red Sox are lower at 40.8%). So, the Tigers have put a lot of balls in play, but they are also hitting the ball fairly well too; line drives are good because they have the best chance at falling in for a base hit (about 70-72% of the time) and avoiding ground balls is good because it’s hard to hit for power when hitting the ball on the ground (and you generally need speed to get an infield hit).
So, the Tigers should have a high rate on which balls fall in for hits – and they do, a .300 BABIP. Only the Rangers (.319) and Red Sox (.310) are higher in the American League.
The Tigers have a very aggressive approach when it comes to hitting. It prevents them from striking out, but it also prevents them from walking. They don’t see a lot of pitches, but when they do put the ball in play, good things are happening. What they lack is balance. The Tigers have a lot of the same type of hitters, who swing early and often – and this has led to an inconsistent offense. What they need are a few players who can work the count and can draw walks. This is why Austin Jackson and Alex Avila are so important to this Tigers offense. They are both averaging over 4 pitches/ PA and have walk rates over 11.5%. Unfortunately, both have missed time on the DL. Jackson is now back; let’s hope for a speedy recovery for Avila.