In the first inning of Tuesday night’s ALDS Game 4, Yankees starter A.J. Burnett was on the ropes. He’d walked the bases loaded and with two out Don Kelly ripped what appeared to be a liner over Curtis Granderson’s head in centerfield. (Lord knows we still love Grandy in Detroit, but his reaction to that ball might’ve been one of the reasons the Tigers were willing to deal him in 2009.)
Unfortunately for Kelly and the Tigers, Granderson recovered and made a leaping grab that definitely saved the game for the Yankees and perhaps the series.
It was the second game in a row the Tigers had loaded the bases in the early innings with a chance to blow the game wide open. At least in Game 3 Miguel Cabrera plated a run when he grounded into a double play.
How many times this season have we seen the Tigers load the bases only to come away empty handed?
For the past six months I asked that question only rhetorically. Thanks to some horrific relief work in the eighth, I had time (and good reason to) visit Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index to get the definitive answer.
Using the parameters of bases loaded with zero or one out and a batter making an out, I found out the Tigers were in this situation 65 times in 48 games in 2011. Thirty-three times they scored – but never more than a single run – 16 times they struck out and 15 times they grounded into a double play.
Thirty-nine times the Tigers came up with bases loaded and two out and failed to score. They fanned 11 times. Tonight’s almost hero Kelly faced that situation just twice in 2011. Brennan Boesch was up six times with the bases loaded and two out. Thirty-eight times they had the bases loaded and didn’t put a ball in play — that includes home runs, and the Tigers had three grand slams this season, and eight walks. Even though they scored 20 runs in these situations, they hit just .100 with a .289 OBP.
I was surprised to discover Miguel Cabrera came to the plate with the bases juiced three times this past season, once with no one out, twice with two out. In all three at bats he singled to left driving in one run twice, and two runs one time.
Thinking back to Tuesday night’s first-inning scenario, I looked at how many times this past season the Tigers had:
- bases loaded, with none or one out,
- in the first or second inning; and,
- put a ball in play.
This occurred 14 times. The results: .091 average, .071 OBP and .182 OPS. The most successful at bat for any Tigers hitter in that scenario came on April 8 when Victor Martinez doubled off Kyle Davies to clear the bases. Detroit scored six runs in the other 13 games, three on sacrifice flies, three on groundouts.
For a moment I thought about digging deeper into this but, like when you’re told there’s no Santa Claus, there’s no reason to ask about the Easter Bunny. Nothing good can come of it.
*Thanks for your patience as I revised this post to clarify and correct the information.