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“Medium Ball” Not Working Out For Detroit Tigers

CHICAGO - JUNE 08: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers has words with home plate umpire Bill Miller #26 after striking out against the Chicago White Sox on June 8, 2009 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Tigers defeated the White Sox 5-4. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Matt SCorrespondent IAugust 5, 2009

You’ve probably heard of teams playing small ball. It’s the offensive strategy whereby stolen bases and sacrifice hits advance runners and sacrifice flies drive in runs. Extra base hits are not a requirement in this system.

You’ve definitely heard of long ball. Long ball is a reference to a home run, or an offense that’s centered around home runs and extra base hits.

The Tigers’ offensive strategy cannot be pegged into one of these two holes. It’s stranded somewhere in between. You see, the Tigers offense posses some characteristics of each one. Unfortunately, the run scoring aspect of either one is missing.

Detroit is very good at moving runners along the base paths. Only the Seattle Mariners have recorded more sacrifice hits in the American League this year. But the Tigers are not a small ball team. They struggle mightily with the art of the sacrifice fly, only the Kansas City Royals have fewer.

It just doesn’t do any good to get a runner to third base if you don’t score him.

On the other hand, the Tigers aren’t a bad home run hitting team, they’re very average. In fact, they’re tied for seventh in the American League in homers. But runs aren’t coming this way. Despite relative home run success, the Tigers have failed at stringing together extra base hits; the Tigers rank third to last in that category.

So what is this “medium ball” that the Tigers are playing?

It’s been advancing runners to scoring position, then leaving them marooned. It’s been hitting a solo home run, then whiffing with runners on.

It’s been the worst of both worlds.

But the Tigers are trying to mix things up. Wilkin Ramirez was called up for a game, then sent back down. Dusty Ryan has been sent to Toledo and Alex Avila’s contract has been purchased from Erie. Will we see Scott Sizemore next?

The Tigers are getting a good look at some of their top prospects–searching for that one piece that may spark the offense. I’m not sure that the true answer lies in the Detroit farm system, but I’m equally unsure that a move will be made to bolster the lineup from outside the organization.

The one thing I am sure of is this brand of “medium ball” isn’t working.

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