Our quizzically titled series examining the comparative stature of the 2023 Detroit Tigers continues today with a quick look at the offense. The above-referenced prompt for this focal selection is the sort of remarkable occurrence that follows a remarkable team record; in this case, the Tampa Bay Rays’ 25-6 mark to start the season. (That sixth loss, which came on Sunday to the Chicago White Sox, itself is noteworthy to Detroit fans, who surely have been recalling the 1984 Tigers’ record-setting 35-5 opening pace.) Detroit’s sub-middling 12-17 record portends lower offensive rankings for their players, and that’s exactly what we find.
As with the overall player-performance leaderboard, the results here are fairly grim. While the Rays’ roster includes six of the top twenty-five batters according to weighted runs created plus (wRC+), the Tigers don’t even have a single hitter in the current top one hundred hitters by that metric.* If you read last month’s article, you probably will guess, correctly, it’s Matt Vierling leading the way. His 112 wRC+ is good enough for 106th place on the list. Eric Haase (108 wRC+, 114th) and Kerry Carpenter (104 wRC+, 127th) are the only other Tigers who have hit at an above-average level so far in 2023, and it’s a big dropoff after Carpenter, with Riley Greene checking in at 205th place with his 78 wRC+.
Viewed as a whole, the Tigers actually are not the worst team by wRC+, with the Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Royals managing to get lower than Detroit’s 80 wRC+ team mark. Mitigating whatever silver lining of marginal upside that status might thus far provide, however, is the fact that the Tigers have scored the fewest runs of any MLB team, albeit in fewer games played than any other team.
We clearly are scraping the barrel here, so I’m going to stop now. At this moment, the Tigers are just underway against the visiting New York Mets and their new starter, Justin Verlander. Detroit is hoping for a repeat of yesterday’s modest drubbing of the Mets’ Max Scherzer, and early returns– a 2-0 lead thanks to back-to-back homers from Greene and Javier Baez– look promising.
* MLB Network, which created the Rays graphic reproduced at top, failed to disclose therein that these rankings only hold using a lower-than-expected threshold for minimum plate appearances. For comparison, limiting the list to qualified batters places just three Rays in the top twenty-five. I was able to replicate MLBN’s results by dropping the minimum plate appearances to seventy.
Do the 2023 Detroit Tigers have the worst MLB players?