On the Detroit Tigers Ugly First Half

For the first time in a while, the Detroit Tigers entered the 2022 MLB season with expectations. After an abysmal 9-24 start to the 2021 MLB season, the Detroit Tigers saw a resurgence under first year manager A.J. Hinch and finished 68-61 to end the season with a much more respectable overall record of 77-85.

The Detroit Tigers were even aggressive in the offseason for the first time in many years. While Javier Báez, Eduardo Rodriguez, Michael Pineda and Andrew Chafin were signed in free agency, the team also acquired Tucker Barnhart and Austin Meadows in offseason trades.

To say the first half of the 2022 MLB season has been a disappointment, would be an understatement. While they have battled a rash of injuries, teams all across baseball have been dealing with injuries and many of the position players that have managed to stay healthy have severely underperformed expectations. While they currently sit with a record of 37-51 and 10.5 games out of first place in the American League Central, the season has essentially been over since May.

White Sox42-45.48353.5
American League Central Standings as of July 13th, 2022

Despite the rotation getting decimated by injuries and the additions made in the offseason, the driving force behind the Tigers struggles in the first half has been the offense. While the recently recalled Riley Greene has provided the Tigers with a nice boost, he is not nearly enough to fix the issues with an offense that currently ranks second to last in terms of both wRC+ and wOBA.

While many fans were calling for the team to sign Carlos Correa over the offseason, the Detroit Tigers instead decided to sign an extremely flawed and declining player in Javier Báez. Báez was brought in on a six-year, $140 million deal during the offseason with the hope he would provide the Tigers with an immediate upgrade on both sides of the ball compared to the other in-house shortstop alternatives.

While Báez has at times provided the Tigers with a solid defensive shortstop, the likes of which they haven’t had in years, he has been nothing short of horrific at the plate for much of this season and has even had plenty of lapses in the field.

Entering play on July 13th, Báez has been among the worst qualified hitters in all of baseball with his 75 wRC+ and a .273 wOBA.

While plate discipline has always been an issue with Báez, this season he has swung at pitchers outside the strike zone at the highest rate of his career and has even started swinging at pitches inside the strike zone less.

Javier Báez Plate Discipline by Season

While the strikeouts are surprisingly down for Báez this season, he has the highest Chase% and the 3rd highest Whiff% among all qualified hitters in baseball. Even when he has been able to make contact, Báez ranks in only the 22nd percentile in average exit velocity and 19th percentile in Hard Hit%.

Another major disappointment for the Detroit Tigers this season on the offensive side has been Jonathan Schoop. Schoop, who is in his 3rd season with the Tigers, had a solid first two years in the Motor City but has struggled mightily at the plate since signing a contract extension early last August. This season, Schoop has also been among the worst qualified hitters in baseball in terms of both wRC+ (60) and wOBA (.251) and is drawing so few walks that Dawel Lugo would be impressed.

2020 MLB draft # 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson entered the season viewed as one of baseball’s top prospects and as the future of the first base position for the Detroit Tigers.

Torkelson, who entered play on July 13th hitting for just a 72 wRC+ over his first 288 plate appearances, has severely underperformed the expectations many had for him and has even had one of the worst debut seasons ever for a number 1 overall pick.

While Torkelson has mostly provided the Tigers with a very solid defender at first early in his Major League career, a trip to Triple-A would do little at this point and he needs to figure it out at the Major League level. One of the most remarkable statistics that captures Torkelson’s struggles at the plate this year is the fact he is hitting .103 on pitches located middle-middle in the strike zone and .149 against 4-seam fastballs.

Austin Meadows, who was acquired in an offseason trade with Tampa Bay, has battled a wide range of injuries/illnesses this season and has only appeared in 36 games. Even when Meadows has been on the field, he has only been about a league average hitter and has yet to hit his first homerun after hitting 27 last season.

Meanwhile, the guy Meadows was traded for, Isaac Paredes, leads Tampa Bay in homeruns and has a 146 wRC+ on the year.

Surprisingly, this is just the start of the issues for the Tigers on the positional side. Over the past few seasons, Jeimer Candelario had established himself as a solid everyday player for the Detroit Tigers at third base but entered play on July 13th worth -0.4 fWAR on the season. Candelario has started chasing pitches out of the strike zone much more this season, walking much less, striking out more and has seen disturbing declines in his batted ball data.

Veteran Robbie Grossman, who provided Detroit with a much-needed solid approach at the plate and 23 homeruns at the top of the lineup during the 2021 season, entered play on July 13th with a 73 wRC+ and worth -0.8 fWAR. While Grossman is still elite at laying off pitches off the plate, the strikeouts are way up this season, the walks are down and he ranks in only the 16th percentile in average exit velocity, the 23rd percentile in max exit velocity and the 21st percentile in hard hit rate.

2021 Rule 5 pick Akil Baddoo, who burst onto the scene during his rookie year, was awful in 55 plate appearances before demoted to Triple-A Toledo in April. Baddoo was recently recalled by the Tigers on July 11th.

As previously mentioned, the Detroit Tigers rotation, once the shiny glimmer of hope for the franchise, has gotten some nice and surprising contributions, but has been completely decimated by injuries and has underperformed preseason expectations as a result. Four out of the five projected members of the opening day rotation have missed significant portions or even the entirety of this season and former number 1 overall pick Casey Mize is out until 2024 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in June.

After an ugly rookie season, former top prospect Matt Manning appeared in only 2 games early this season before being shut down due to shoulder inflammation. Manning is finally working his way back and appears set to begin a rehab assignment this week.

Offseason free agent acquisition Eduardo Rodiguez started 8 games before going on the restricted list for personal reasons in June. Rodriguez is currently viewed as out indefinitely and the team reportedly hasn’t had any contact with him in weeks.

As the Detroit Tigers have endured many ugly seasons since Al Avila became General Manager during the 2015 season, the first half of this season has been extremely frustrating for a number of reasons.

All statistics as of July 13th, 2022

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