Toronto at Detroit, June 10-12

Friday, June 10 2022 @ 11:30 AM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

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Strange stuff is going on in the Motor City, I tell ya.

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that the dropoff in offense in the AL this year was well-nigh unprecedented. Historic, in fact! At the time, AL teams were scoring about 85% as many runs as they scored last season. That would represent the biggest single season decrease in offense since they added the DH in 1973. It's even larger than the decrease between 1962 and 1963, when they basically expanded the strike zone so that it went from the shoes to the caps. How did this happen? Was it a bad batch of baseballs? Who knows.

It may even prove to simply be a Cold Days of Spring phenomena - AL offense has been increasing in recent weeks, and overall has now risen to about 89% of last season's figure. And here's the thing - all of this is strictly an AL phenomenon. Offense hasn't declined like this in the Other League. Au contraire, mon frere. NL offense has actually been slightly higher than it was in 2021.

No comprende. It's a riddle.
But it brings us to the Detroit Tigers. Almost all of the AL teams are scoring fewer runs than they did last season (everyone but the Yankees and Rangers, in fact) but no team's offense has cratered as much as Detroit's. They are the only team in the majors scoring fewer than 3 runs per game. The Tigers are scoring just 65% as often as they did last season. In other words, their hitting has absolutely collapsed.

This was not supposed to happen. The Tigers were supposed to be a team on the upswing. After successive 64-98 seasons, Detroit hit rock bottom in 2019, losing 114 games, the second worst mark in their long history. They had bounced back to the same old 64-98 pace in the shortened 2020 season. And then they showed signs of actual progress a year ago, winning 77 games. So for 2022, they opened their wallets for some free agents - shortstop Javier Baez, pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Michael Pineda. They hoped to see their prized prospect Spencer Torkelson, the first player chosen in the 2020 draft, step into the lineup. And just before the season began, they were able to get RF Austin Meadows (eligible for arbitration next off-season) from Tampa Bay in exchange for a utility infielder. All of this should  surely get the Detroiters back above .500 for the first time since 2016.

What's gone wrong? Many, many things. Some of it's been on the mound. Rodriguez and Pineda are both on the IL - the good news is that neither suffered an arm injury (Rodriguez had a rib cage sprain, Pineda broke a finger) and both should be back within the next couple of weeks. There is no date for the return of Casey Mize, who has been shut down with a sprained elbow after making just 2 starts. Still, the pitching is the least of their worries right now, and Tarik Skubal and Alex Faedo are two young starters who seem to have taken a significant step forward.

But mostly, it's the bats! Torkelson is hitting .190/.295/.310, with 4 HRs after hitting 30 of them a year ago as he shot through three levels of minor league ball. His arrival moved Jonathan Schoop over to second base. Schoop, who hit .278/.320/.435 with 22 HRs a year ago  is hitting .198/.237/329 this time around. Also stuck below the Mendoza Line is third baseman Jeimer Candelario (.181/.236/.319) - last year he hit .271/.351/.443. Candelario has just gone on the IL; at least RF Robbie Grossman is almost ready to return (he's started a rehab assignment.) Unfortunately, Grossman too has caught whatever is going around (.199/.311/.241) while also suffering a total power outage - he's still looking for his first homer of 2022 after leading the team in dingers a year ago. Meadows is still looking for his first HR as a Tiger as well, and while he's been hitting just fine despite his power outage, he also just missed three weeks with a case of vertigo. Baez himself is hitting just .200/.235/.309. The arrival of Tucker Barnhart pushed Eric Haase and his 22 HRs to the bench, where his hitting has dried up completely. Young centre fielder Akil Baddoo got off to a poor start (.140/.218/.220) and was banished to Toledo. The Tigers recently called up Kody Clemens, son of the Rocket, to see if he could help out in the outfield. Kody is already 26 years old, and after his first 15 at bats in the majors is still looking for his first hit. So he probably won't.

You know who's been okay? Miguel Cabrera. The power seems to have disappeared (there's an awful lot of that going around in Detroit) but the old fellow is hitting .297/.339/.384 - yeah, it's probably not worth $32 million but does make him one of the better hitters on the team.

And the Castro brothers have been very useful. Okay, they're not really brothers - one is from Puerto Rico and the other from Venezuela - but they both fill similar roles on the team, playing a whole bunch of different positions and chipping in with the bat. Harold (LH batter from Venezuela) is nominally a shortstop - he's appeared at every position this season except catcher and right field. (Yes, he's made 4 appearances on the mound in his career, and sports a pretty decent 2.45 ERA.) Harold has also been the team's best hitter this season, and will probably get most of the action at third base with Candelario out. Willi (switch-hitter from Puerto Rico) who also came up as a shortstop, was Detroit's main second baseman last season - this year he's been seen most often in the outfield, where he's appeared in all three positions, plus shortstop and third base. You're probably not too impressed with his hitting line - .258/.300/.333 for an OPS+ of 88, but that pretty clearly makes him the fourth best hitter on the team, behind Meadows, Miggy, and brother Harold.


Fri 10 June - Berrios (4-2, 5.24) vs Elvin Rodriguez (0-1, 10.13)
Sat 11 June - Gausman (5-4, 2.78) vs Brieske (0-5, 4.93)
Sun 12 June - Stripling (2-1, 3.65) vs Skubal (5-2, 2.33)