Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Are These the New, Patient Tigers?

Last night's game against the Royals signified the reawakening of the Tigers' previously dormant bats, as Detroit cruised to a 12-5 victory behind 10 hits and a Pudge Rodriguez first inning grand slam. But the game also showed off a new facet of the Tigers' game this year: plate discipline.

Detroit drew 8 walks in the game, including 3 by new Tiger Gary Sheffield. Curtis Granderson led off the game with a 9 pitch at-bat against Royals starter Zach Greinke before reaching on an infield single. Sheffield and Guillen drew walks off Greinke later in the inning to set up Pudge's 4-run blast to center. Thanks to the Tigers' ability to lay off pitches and work the count, Greinke threw 49 pitches in 2/3 of an inning before being taken out for reliever Jason Standridge. Overall, the Tigers had 4 runs scored by players who reached via walk during the game.

Although the season is still 13 games young, the Tigers have shown great improvement in their plate discipline this season. They are drawing 3.7 walks per game this year, up from 2.7 last season. Their 48 total bases on balls puts them tied for first in the American League. Last year the Tigers finished a dismal 13th. Much of this improvement can be accredited to the acquisition of Sheffield, who has already drawn 11 walks in 59 plate appearances (and has also been hit by a pitch in 3 of those PAs).

If Detroit can continue this new trend while improving on their .234 batting average, look for the Tigers to be even more productive than last year's AL pennant-winning squad.

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