The Tigers Offense’s Sequencing Problem

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

This will be short and sweet. The Tigers offense probably frustrates you! Not as much as the pitching, because the pitching is bad, but the offense annoys you because they don’t seem to be scoring as many runs as they should. You’re right about that.

The Tigers currently have a 108 wRC+, which is 4th in all of baseball. That’s quite good. Using something called BaseRuns, which is really just a fancy formula that takes individual stats and turns them into an expected number of runs scored for a team, the Tigers should be scoring 4.80 runs per game. They are actually scoring 4.45 runs per game!

A lot of it is double plays, but there’s a really easy way to visualize the problem. Why the offense frustrates you in one chart:

Screenshot 2015-08-09 at 10.25.37 PM

What does this chart mean? The first column is RE24, which tells you the amount of runs (relative to average) each player has contributed as a result of their plate appearances’ influence on team run expectancy. Or, in English, RE24 gives you credit for how much you increase your team’s chance of scoring in each PA. If you come to the plate with a man on first and you hit a single, you get credit for the difference between the run expectancy with a man on first (situation when you came to the plate) and the run expectancy with a man on first and second (situation when your PA ended). This varies based on the game situation when you come to the plate.

The second column is batting runs and stolen base runs added together, which is another way of measuring the same actions, but this time, we only care about their average value. A single is worth the same if the bases are loaded or if they are empty. The first column is a measure of context adjusted runs and the second column is context neutral runs.

In other words, if you could pick when you got your hits, you’d want them with men on base because they lead to more runs that way. Over a large enough sample, they two columns will converge. You would expect a few runs in either direction just do to random variation, but if you had to pick, you want RE24 > BAT + wSB (i.e. positive numbers in column 3). Look at a couple of those Tigers (min 100 PA).

Davis, Kinsler, Iglesias, and McCann (who are all having fine offensive years) are timing their hits really poorly. They are getting hits with no one on and they are making outs with men on base. Add up the four worst guys on this list and that accounts for roughly four wins lost to bad offensive timing.

Now, players can’t control this. There is no such thing as a player who can magically dole out his hits at certain times. It’s all basically luck, but it’s a clear example of how bad the Tigers luck has been in this department.

The pitching is the problem, but you aren’t imagining the fact that the offense isn’t helping. This isn’t a predictive problem, but it’s one more annoyance to add to the 2015 season.

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3 responses

  1. It’s just luck? I don’t think so. Throughout the history of baseball, there have always been hitters who come through in the clutch and others who do not. The obscure stats are a nice touch, but I could have picked these 4 players without them just having watched the games. I love Rajai Davis, But if he comes up with a man on third and 2 outs, you might as well go to the kitchen for that beer. J.D. Martinez, on the other hand, will often come up with the big hit in the late innings – and luck has nothing to do with it.

    1. Show me evidence that “clutch” is a skill. Good hitters are good hitters and bad hitters are bad hitters. The timing is random.

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