Something about the last three innings of games is bringing out the worst in the Detroit Tigers. They rank 28th in runs scored after the sixth inning with 60.
The Tigers’ offense ranks 27th in the league in batting average after the sixth inning. Their .308 clip in innings 1-6 is tops in the league, but they fall off the face of the earth when crunch time arrives. Their .222 batting average from the seventh inning on is making it nearly impossible to put pressure on opponent’s bullpens.
That includes the almighty Miguel Cabrera, who is hitting .236 in the seventh inning or later, so it’s not as if the Tigers’ top hitter has done much better than anyone else.
It’s expected that a hitter’s average might drop a little the later the game gets because coaches are going to play matchups and try to get individual hitters out by making pitching changes, but the Tigers are clearly not making the adjustments they need to to keep their high-powered offense rolling.
It also may have something to do with their lack of late-game substitutions.
The Tigers have only six pinch hits in 32 pinch-hit at-bats, good for a .188 average. Both numbers have the Tigers ranked in the middle of the pack in the American League.
The fact that they have had trouble scoring may have more to do with Jim Leyland‘s willingness to use pinch-runners, or lack thereof. Only two teams in MLB have fewer stolen bases after the sixth inning, which shows Leyland is unwilling to make lineup changes late in games for the sake of igniting the offense. It also has something to do with the fact the Tigers don’t have a lot of base-stealing options on their bench.
The Tigers top two base-stealing threats are Austin Jackson and Avisail Garcia. Jackson is about to return from a rehab assignment after being placed on the disabled list for a pulled hamstring, and Garcia is rumored to be going back to the minors when Jackson returns. Jackson may be able to get from first to third on singles, but he’ll be even less likely than usual to attempt to steal bases when he returns.
Assuming Garcia is sent down, the Tigers’ best pinch-runner will be Don Kelly, who is known for his defense more than his speed.
Coupled with their not-so-stellar bullpen, the Tigers are looking like a late-game mess. They’re going to need to figure something out if they want to come from behind. Their current formula simply isn’t working.