DETROIT – After struggling offensively in the first four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Detroit Tigers carried their cold bats into one of the friendliest offensive environments in baseball.
The offensive outage continued Monday, as the Tigers managed just two hits and an unearned run against the New York Yankees. Strong pitching once again kept the Tigers in the game, but there were very few scoring opportunities.
The Detroit Tigers have a team OPS of .457 through five games thanks to a 23-164 (.140) mark at the plate and 59 strikeouts compared to 21 walks.
The Tigers have reached base 44 times and failed to put the ball in play 59 times.
Three players hitting
Jeimer Candelario, Nicholas Castellanos and Niko Goodrum have been the lone bright spots on offense -- and that's being generous. They're a combined 15-57 (.263), and the rest of the team is 8-107 (.075).
Candelario, however, has yet to draw a walk while striking out eight times and has only one extra-base hit -- a double. For a guy whose calling card was plate discipline coming into the season, his .591 OPS is far too low. Other than his five-hit game Sunday, Candelario is 1-16 this season, so it's hard to call the first five games a success.
Goodrum and Castellanos have been the only two above average offensive players for the Tigers so far. Castellanos has five hits and three walks, including a double and a triple. He's got a .785 OPS. Goodrum leads the team with an .838 OPS thanks to three doubles and four walks.
The most glaring offensive deficiency, other than the .140 team batting average, is the lack of power. The entire team has just eight extra-base hits and one home run in five games.
Miguel Cabrera and Christin Stewart should be the top power bats in the lineup, but that hasn't yet come to fruition.
Cabrera is 2-17 with a pair of singles, though he's hitting the ball hard and falling victim to some bad batted ball luck. He's had full seasons of bad luck, though, so there's no guarantee those hard-hit balls will start dropping at a normal rate.
Stewart hit the only Tigers home run on Opening Day, but that's his only hit of the season despite starting all five games. He's 1-16, though he's tied for the team lead with four walks.
The Tigers signed two players as starters this offseason -- Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer -- and handed the full-time catching job to Grayson Greiner. So far, they haven't provided any offense.
Mercer finally got into the hits column Monday, going 2-4 with a double against the Yankees. Unfortunately for the Tigers, he was the only player in the entire lineup to record a hit in the game.
Harrison has struggled at the top of the lineup, going 1-15 with a single, two walks and five strikeouts.
Greiner is 2-16 with no walks and five strikeouts. He showed flashes of power and good plate discipline during spring training, but through five games, that hasn't translated to the regular season.
As a trio, Mercer, Harrison and Greiner are 5-44 with four walks and 14 strikeouts.
Ron Gardenhire currently has three position players on his bench and one playing full-time due to injury.
John Hicks, Dustin Peterson and Gordon Beckham are the current bench players, and Mikie Mahtook is starting at center field for the injured JaCoby Jones.
Mahtook has struggled more than any other Tigers hitter. He's 0-16 with one walk and nine strikeouts this season, good for a .059 OPS.
Hicks is hitless in seven at-bats, Peterson is hitless in four at-bats and Beckham is hitless in three at-bats. They've combined for two walks and three strikeouts.
Bench players aren't starters for a reason, but the Tigers have gotten absolutely no production so far this season, as those four are a combined 0-30 with three walks and 12 strikeouts.
The ugly offensive numbers can't simply be attributed to tough pitching matchups. The Tigers have only played against one borderline top-50 starting pitcher.
Marcus Stroman is the only starter with ace potential to pitch against the Tigers this season. He's a solid pitcher, but is coming off an injury-shortened season in which he posted a 1.48 WHIP, 5.54 ERA and 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
Matt Shoemaker is an average starter who's only made 21 appearances in the last two years because of injury. In his first outing, the Tigers managed just two hits in seven innings.
Aaron Sanchez also shut out the Tigers, although he lasted just five innings.
Trent Thornton, the No. 15 prospect in the Blue Jays' organization, baffled the Tigers over five scoreless innings in his MLB debut. The Tigers managed two hits and struck out eight times.
Domingo German is a promising young pitcher for the Yankees, but he finished 2018 with a 1.33 WHIP and 5.57 ERA. The Tigers managed one hit against German and only scored because Gary Sanchez threw a ball into center field on a stolen base attempt.
Some of these pitchers have good stuff, but the Tigers haven't even had to face a true ace yet. That makes the offensive numbers even more glaring.
Yes, it's early
Obviously it's a little early to sound the alarm or make any long-term declarations.
Candelario and Stewart have long minor-league track records that suggest they're much better than what they've shown through five games. Cabrera and Harrison clearly aren't going to hit around .100 for the season.
That doesn't mean there aren't concerns, though. Players such as Mahtook and Greiner who came into the season with major questions about their offensive abilities have done nothing to assuage those concerns.
The Tigers aren't going to be contenders this season, but the organization is hoping to see some positive signs from young players. So far, that certainly hasn't been the case, but there are still 157 games to make this slow start a distant memory.
Tuesday will likely be the toughest assignment so far as the Yankees send out starter Masahiro Tanaka.