Tigers Offensive Production Will Dip in 2014

How much will the Tigers get from Castellanos?

While much was made of the Tigers' offensive inconsistency last season, the reality is that the Tigers scored the second most runs in baseball, and in the final month had their top hitter hampered by injuries. With all the lineup changes happening, the big question becomes; is this group better offensively than 2013? It's subjective, but looking at the numbers, it's hard to say that it is.

First off, let's get 2013 out of the way for those that claim last year's offense wasn't that good. The Tigers scored 796 runs, good for second in Major League Baseball, behind the Red Sox. Factoring in their 12 biggest contributors, the Tigers posted a cumulative wRC of 790, very close in line with the team's overall run production.

There was some day to day inconsistency. They were shut out 12 times in fact. Of course four of those shutouts came in September, when Miguel Cabrera was already hobbled. And being shut out happens in baseball, especially in 2013. Those same Red Sox, that scored over 50 more runs than the Tigers, were shut out 11 times. They went on to win the World Series.

So, for whatever case you'd like to make about the offense, the simple fact is the offense was one of the best in baseball, and the inconsistencies weren't that uncommon. Losing Cabrera down the stretch was a huge blow to the team's postseason chances, far more than any perceived flaws with the offense.

Since then, the Tigers have made some big changes, shipping out Prince Fielder (for Ian Kinsler), letting Brayan Pena, Omar Infante and Jhonny Peralta walk in free agency (and planning to call up Bryan Holaday for backup catcher while relying on Jose Iglesias all year at short), inserting Nick Castellanos at third base with Cabrera shifting to first, and adding Rajai Davis while removing Matt Tuiasosopo.

Those are a lot of changes, and anyone that can compare them in silos can see that there might be some loss in offense coming the Tigers way. The numbers confirm that's what is expected.

The outfield along with designated hitter overall should likely be a wash – for whatever the Tigers gain from adding Rajai Davis (and it won't be that much, given he's likely to platoon and has never been an above average offensive player anyway), it's a safe bet that they'll lose something from aging in Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez. Even if not, they won't swing things dramatically – anyone predicting a run here or there is likely chasing something unattainable, given the bounces that we know happen in a given season.

It's also unlikely that Holaday can give the Tigers what Pena did this past season. But, the hope is that Alex Avila will have a strong season too, and the possibility of James McCann getting a call-up is present as well. A few runs here or there, won't make all the difference. Kinsler may be an improvement over Omar Infante, but he may not be – for whatever he's done in the past that's better, there are also warning signs (like his .710 career road OPS and .627 lifetime OPS at Comerica Park) that there might be a drop in production for the keystone.

But then we come to the rest of the infield, where the Tigers have essentially traded Peralta and Fielder for Iglesias and Castellanos.

Fielder had a down year, arguably the worst of his career since becoming a full-time big leaguer. But he still posted an .819 OPS with 25 home runs and a .279 average, creating 103 runs, according to wRC.

Castellanos on the other hand hit .276 with a .343 on-base percentage and a .450 slugging percentage. That's an OPS nearly 30 points lower than Fielder's, and he was at a lower level facing inferior competition. It's hard to expect a 22-year old to hold his own against big league pitching, let alone produce at the rate of an All-Star and Home Run Derby champ. According to Steamer's projections, Castellanos will create 58 runs in nearly full-time at-bats. That's a 45 run gap the Tigers have created.

In addition, Peralta was a very productive offensive player, especially for a shortstop. In only about 100 games, he still created 64 runs, with Iglesias filling in over the final two months to give them another 15 or so runs created at the position. For all of 2014, Steamer's projections have Iglesias creating 50 runs. That's 30 more runs to try and make up.

What this all amounts to is an offense that will still be potent (any offense featuring the best hitter in baseball obviously is), and a lineup that is more versatile, with more speed on the base paths and better defense in the field, but one that probably won't produce the same number of runs. Currently, the Steamer projections for the Tigers top 12 total 726, a gap of 70 runs compared to 2013, which would settle the Tigers in as an above average, but no longer elite, offense.

These moves may have done a number of things for the club, many of them mentioned, including benefiting the defense and eliminating some base-cloggers, along with providing more financial flexibility in the future. But when it comes to hitting, you'll be hard pressed to make a case this team will produce more runs in 2014.

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