On April 23rd, the Detroit Tigers offense went nuts in the first game of a doubleheader. They scored 13 runs and shut out the Colorado Rockies, advancing their record to 6-7 on the same day Miguel Cabrera collected hit number 3,000. I shiver at the idea that we may look back on that game as the highlight of the Tigers season.
I'm writing this in an attempt that I reverse jinx this somehow. It would be neat to have my expectations subverted for once and watch the Tigers offense break out. But right now, it's a dumpster fire. In the 12 games that Detroit has played since that 13-0 affair against the Rockies on April 23rd, Detroit has scored more than three runs twice (one win, one loss), and they have not scored more than five runs in any game over the last two weeks. You would think just by the sheer laws of baseball probability that even the worst offenses would fall into an eight-run performance every two weeks, but not in Detroit, apparently. As of right now, Harold Castro leads the Tigers in OPS. His OPS sits at .754. I like Hittin' Harold, but if Harold Castro is leading your team in .OPS, you have a problem. Detroit as a team is currently 27th in .OPS, 25th in batting average, 29th in RBI, 29th in runs scored, and dead last in home runs. They've hit 11 home runs ALL SEASON!!!! I'm not saying that last year's Tigers were some generational offense because they weren't, but at least they did have three players who hit 20 home runs or more. Those three players, Jonathan Schoop, Eric Haase, and Robbie Grossman, have a combined 3 three home runs through 25 games this year.
The saddest part of this whole thing is that the pitching, especially the bullpen, has been great for Detroit. They've had blowup games here and there, but they remain in the top five in bullpen ERA. This is a baseball team that has lost four games in which they've given up three runs or fewer this season. If the offense were slightly below average, we'd be talking about a team that's right around .500 through what has admittedly been a challenging schedule of games. Fans have understandably been pointing fingers at Chris Ilitch and Al Avila for once again assembling an office that's decided to go on vacation for the first month and a half of the season (they started last year 8-24), and while they deserve a heavy amount of blame, at a certain point, you have to hold the players' feet to the fire. This would never be an offense of world-beaters, but Jonathan Schoop, Javier Baez, and Jeimer Candelario have all put up rock-solid numbers at different points in their careers and haven't so far for the Tigers this season.
Despite my frustration, I still believe that the Tigers offense will experience a turnaround at some point this season. I don't think this will ever be a feared offensive unit, but we will see some ascension. And while we're still very early in the season, we are reaching a point in which that ascension might not matter to many people. The average fan doesn't go to the Ballpark to watch teams improve. They go to the Ballpark to watch their teams win, and that's something that the Tigers have not been able to do over the last six years. This was a team that the organization promised would be different from the groups we've seen over the previous several years, but nothing seems different offensively. The issues plaguing this offense are the same issues that plagued them three years ago when Jordy Mercer was batting cleanup. It's time to wake up.