- Paul Swydan, ESPN Insider
The Detroit Tigers have a top-heavy offense that is capable of producing big innings, and they demonstrated that ability in the opening weekend of the season by posting 23 runs in two games against the Boston Red Sox. But while the Tigers are off to a 10-6 start that has seen them ranked in the top four of the ESPN.com Power Rankings in each of the first four weeks -- including second this week -- their pitching, not their hitting, has been responsible for the bulk of their success.
Since that opening series against Boston, Detroit has averaged just 3.38 runs per game. Detroit's team wOBA of .304 ranks just 21st in baseball despite strong starts from Alex Avila, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Austin Jackson. The team has received almost zero offensive production from its second-base triumvirate of Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago, and shortstop Jhonny Peralta is slumping as well.
The Tigers also are receiving very little from the two players who surround Cabrera and Fielder in Brennan Boesch and Delmon Young. Boesch, in particular, has struggled mightily out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Although he homered Sunday, he was just 1-for-5, and his .538 OPS is among the worst in baseball among qualifiers.
Fortunately, the pitching, led by the Teflon-like Justin Verlander, has been stalwart.
Paul Swydan of FanGraphs writes that the Detroit Tigers were expected to mash their way to victories while the Tampa Bay Rays were supposed to bury opponents with pitching. So far, it's been the opposite for both teams.