Tigers president Scott Harris: ‘Signs of progress’ are evident despite rocky start

Detroit News

Detroit — Tigers president Scott Harris reiterated Tuesday that this is not Chicago or San Francisco.

So despite the team carrying a 27-37 record into the middle part of his first season at the helm, he’s not sweating the general direction coming off a nine-game losing skid.

“Those two organizations were in different spots than this organization is, but the mentality is the exact same,” Harris said Tuesday at the Detroit Economic Club luncheon at Detroit’s MotorCity Casino. “We are focused on what is right in front of us and we are going to try to make incremental progress wherever we can.”

According to Harris, formerly an assistant general manager/director of baseball operations with the Cubs and general manager with the Giants, the signs of progress are pretty blatant — “some of the signs of progress that I saw in Chicago helped us win the World Series,” he said.

“It’s already happening under the hood. When you look at this team, I know we’re in a rough patch right now, but let’s not forget the progress that we’ve already seen in a couple months here. … We had an excellent May. We went 16-11 in May. That’s progress.

“We started to take control of the strike zone in this organization. We went from 20th in pitcher walks last year to fourth right now. We went from 29th in batter walks to eighth right now. That’s progress. We can’t ignore that. What counts is winning games, of course, but those are the seeds of progress that lead to winning games.”

One area where the Tigers have excelled this season is team defense. The team is tied for second in outs above average (11), according to Baseball Savant.

“On the defensive side of the ball, there was some criticism about our defense early in the season. I think what you’re seeing every night is we have some pretty dynamic defenders on the dirt and on the grass,” Harris said.

Harris was speaking on a panel at the DEC luncheon with Tigers manager AJ Hinch. Harris did not take questions from the public.

The month of June has been a gauntlet for the Tigers, who were swept by the Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks to kick things off. That stretch saw the team get shut out three times, score 2.5 runs per game, hit .198 with a .595 OPS and leave a whopping 71 runners left on base.

Harris again reiterated his goals for the team’s ethos to “control the strike zone” on both sides of the game and said it will ultimately be the process that produces results. The Tigers rank last in total bases (763) by a significant margin (Cleveland is next with 801), but he said the team’s batted ball data would suggest things are improving.

“We talk about knowing the pitches that you can drive, knowing the pitches that you can do damage on, swinging at those, getting your A-swing off as many times as possible on those, and shutting it down for the rest,” Harris said. “That’s prior to two strikes.”

According to Baseball Savant, the Tigers rank 22nd league-wide in expected-Weighted On-Base Average (xwOBA).

“Part of how we’re going to hit for more power in this organization and part of how we’re going to score more runs in this organization is, A.) taking our walks, like I talked about … our discipline at the plate is continuing to improve every night,” Harris said.

“And then on the other side of the ball, on the mound, it means pounding the zone as many times as possible. … We want our pitchers to get to two-strike counts as quickly as possible and then use their best shapes to put hitters away. That’s what we talk about with our players and our coaches and our coordinators, all throughout the minor leagues.”

nbianchi@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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