A lot of Detroit Tigers fans keep scratching their heads wondering how this team can be dominating in so many statistical categories yet not thoroughly crushing the competition as a whole.
It’s a fair point. The Tigers are 36-27, which is good enough to place them 5.5 games atop the spotty AL Central. 36-27 isn’t exactly a record that makes you want to hide your eyes. After all, if the Tigers continue to win 57% of their games they’ll finish the season at 92-70, which will be more than enough to send them to their 3rd straight playoff appearance.
However, drop the Tigers as they sit today in the AL East and they’re a 4th place team. The same applies in an NL Central comparison. They’d be 3rd in the AL West. In fact, the only other division they’d be leading besides their own is the NL West as they have the same amount of wins as the D’backs but 2 less losses.
A phrase I’ve heard recently comes to mind when considering how Tigers fans perceive the current season: “I want more.”
Consider these pitching numbers:
- As a starting rotation, the Tigers’ 3.46 ERA is 4th best in MLB
- The rotation has turned in 44 quality starts, 2nd only to the Phillies’ 45
- The pitching staff as a whole has struck out 614 batters, far and away the best in the business
- The staff has surrendered just a .237 batting average against, 3rd best in baseball
- Their 168 walks allowed is the 7th best mark across baseball
How about these offensive stats:
- Detroit has scored 322 runs, the 4th best mark
- Their .282 team batting average is easily the highest in baseball (.277 for St. Louis)
- Their .350 on-base % is 2nd best behind only Boston’s .352 mark
- No team has more hits than Detroit’s 636
- Only 3 teams have taken more than the 230 walks Tigers’ hitters have worked
- Similarly, only 3 teams have struck out less than the 425 whiffs by the Tigers
Here are a few numbers that might explain a thing or two:
- The collective bullpen ERA of 3.78 is ranked just 14th
- The team has combined for 19 stolen bases, tied for 3rd worst
- Detroit ranks 12th in home runs with 68
- The Tigers have blown 8 saves
Even with a few of these shortcomings it is somewhat hard to believe that the team doesn’t have four or five more wins on the ledger. You can subscribe to a few different theories here:
- It’s Jim Leyland’s fault, or Tom Brookens’, or Lloyd McClendon’s…,
- Their record is like Victor Martinez’s batting average. It will rise to the surface. The law of averages will play out. A team can’t dominate statistically like this and still fall short of excellence at the end of the day,
- The bullpen needs to be shored up,
- Manufacturing runs on the road would be easier if the Tigers could run just a little bit, or
- They just don’t have ‘it’, whatever it is.
No matter what side of the fence you sit on, it seems pretty clear here on June 12th that the Tigers are on a collision course with the playoffs for the 3rd time in as many seasons. They have the pieces to dominate most categories, and that should be plenty good enough.
Will their weak division cost them during the playoffs by way of the stiffer competition that comes along with it? Or will a guy like Miguel Cabrera have that one magical postseason that carries this team to its first championship in 30 years?
I have a hunch. What’s yours?
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