Monday, June 26, 2006

A sweep

Over their last 10 games, the Tigers are 9-1. The team has followed form against weak teams -- win after win after win after win. But this past weekend brought the Cardinals, with a semi-recovered Pujols, into Detroit. The Tigers swept the series. What does that mean? It means they were as good as they seemed before. This is a legitimate first-half team. They've played consistently. They emerge from slumps quickly. Measuring the season with a broom over the Cardinals heads is an ephemeral approach. That series is a fading thing already. It's good for building some sort of momentum, but it seems unfair to judge the Tigers by a really good series. They shoud be judged by a really good 77 games. In the context of their season, sweeping the Cardinals is good. It is what this team does...at least so far.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Are They Good?

Jacob Luft at CNNSI breaks down the win-loss record of the Tigers (and other winning teams) against teams on either side of .500. Baseball writers lately have followed this criticism line: because the Tigers didn't dominate the Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox they're not so good. But in criticizing the Tigers -- headlined "The Great Pretenders" -- Luft makes the point that teams just don't beat up on good teams because they're, you know, good. Here are numbers he pulled:

Tigers vs above .500 teams
12-14 (.462)

Other good teams records vs. above .500 teams:
Red Sox, 17-18 (.486)
Yankees, 20-18 (.526)
Rangers, 15-17 (.469)
White Sox 12-6 (.667)
Blue Jays, 15-13 (.536)

The White Sox record is very good; the rest, not so much. No one writes about these teams like they do the Tigers. This is the burden of being the unexpected; no one dares trust your success. I don't either. (As a homer, though, I'm forced to defend the Tigers here. Despite myself, I'm coming to believe my own defense.)

The Red Sox are barely better than the Tigers. The Yankees are a few games up on the Tigers, but nothing a win streak couldn't cure. Like I wrote earlier, the Tigers are a handful of runs from being "really good." I think, at this point, the difference in record is less skill and more luck. If the trend follows for the entire year, I'll buy it.

The Tigers (.757) and the Red Sox (.731) have silly records against bad teams. The White Sox, as the flip, have a mediocre .591 record against teams like the Royals. That is probaby more due to boredom than anything else. The White Sox are good. These records look more like the Tigers and the Red Sox are the two teams playing just as good teams should play -- to about a draw against top teams and dominate bad teams. Everyone gets fat on lean teams; if the Tigers stay fat, they'll stay good.

Luft does point out serious problems with the Tigers. They depend too much on the HR. It's a shakey proposition to go this route -- despite Leyland's obvious misgivings about it -- when one of your leading HR hitters, Inge, is hitting around .220. As long as his batting average stays low his HRs will not stay this high.

The Tigers also strike out way too much. I just read Moneyball by Michael Lewis. I am a late On-Base Percentage convert. The Tigers need more patience at the plate, just a little. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Bad Sign

For me, being in exile means a lot of Yankees games on local TV. This is a little like living in the rest of the country and only having access to ESPN. Yankees-Red Sox is apparently the only series worth much. It'll be a nice day for us (rest of country) and a confusing one for ESPN when those two teams are again mediocre. What to put on TV? Bowling.

Since I'm out of Tigers' tv range, I have to rely on Detroit online newspapers. This is the bad sign part: I went to check on the game at www.freep.com. I got this: Service Unavailable. Well, damn the Free Press website doesn't have to act like Detroit's closers of late.

A Pattern

Maybe I'm wrong, but shouldn't a pattern be more diffiult to figure out than this:

"I figured him out," Cintron said. "He was throwing fastball, changeup, one after another. I was looking for the fastball."

Cintron got the fastball. His three-run HR ended a good night for the Tigers. Todd Jones the other night; Rodney last night. The Tigers can't keep throwing away games at the tail end. The bullpen has been great -- best ERA in baseball -- but if this becomes a trend the Tigers are...screwed. Closers can't throw homeruns this frequently.

Back to the pattern. Rodney is a young guy. Both of Detroit's catchers are vetrans, and so it should be on them what he's throwing. How does vance Wilson let a pattern develop that is that quickly tranparent?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Not So Well

The naysayers were right. The Tigers didn't look great against the Red Sox or Yankees. People are going to use the last week to put doubt into the idea that the Tigers might not be bad. It's a silly thing. Had Todd Jones not given up a HR in the ninth to the Tigers, or had they got one more run (instead of running to extras against the Yankees) they would have been 4 and 3 instead of 2 and 5. Wishful math and all that, but worth remembering. The Tigers were only a couple of runs away from a solid run against these teams.

(By the way, the Red Sox lost by 2,000 runs last night. Season must be over.)

There seems to be an idea that these early games are more important to the Tigers because they don't believe they are good yet. Something like that. This could be true, but I'm not sure it is. Leyland has been around forever. Pudge has won a ring. It isn't all young guys on this team, and I think balance is present. I hope so.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Take One

If the Tigers don't run all over the Yankees and Sox (White and Red), people suggest that their start is all for nothing. This is silly and crazy talk. Last year, the White Sox didn't play the Red Sox until July; the White split the four-game series with the Red. In Chicago. Soon after, on an East Coast swing, the White Sox took 2 wins and 3 losses. The Yankees visited Chicago in August and took 2 of 3. How did the Sox build their amazing early season record? By beating the teams they should beat.

Eric Mack, at Sportsline.com, writes the weekly Power Rankings and he's chomping to drop the Tigers. He wrote this:

"They're off to an 0-1 start, and playing .500 against them won't be enough to stay at this lofty place."

Actually, .500 against Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and White Sox will be just fine. None of these teams sweep each other on the season. If a team plays around .500 (preferably above) against the best team and runs the bad teams, they'll be good.

That said, it'd been nice if the Tigers hadn't blown up in extra innings the other night. The positive (other than a comeback win last night) is that this Tigers team is capable of coming back from a big hole. This is a tough little team. This has to go almost entirely to Leyland.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Poor Bob Dutton

Bob Dutton covers the Royals. Maybe this is his public service for a heinous crime. Whatever the reason, I hope he gets a breather sometime this year. Covering the Royals this year might be a bit like covering the White House -- no real news coming out of either and winning percentage/approval ratings in the shit. But you have to write with verve, try to find a new way to tell the same story.

Here's a look at Poor Bob's work:

Tigers 8, Royals 0
Bob, what've you got to say:
"The answer, maybe, is for the Royals to call more of these players-only, pregame get-togethers. Alcoholics Anonymous, after all, works on a 12-step program. So what could the Royals — Royals Anonymous? — really expect from just one clear-the-air meeting?

"More than this, probably.

"The Detroit Tigers sent the Royals to a 10th straight loss Monday night by delivering an 8-0 thrashing in the opener to a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium."

Tigers 8, Royals 5
Bob's getting pissed:

"It’s 11 straight losses and counting now for the Royals after blowing a four-run lead Tuesday night and wasting a four-homer attack in a miserable 8-5 giveaway to the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium."

No art to this one, just an urge to throw-up.

Then, last night.

Tigers 6, Royals 3
This is getting hard, isn't it Bob:

"The solstice is still roughly four weeks away. So what? The Royals are operating on their own calendar and, already, it’s been one seemingly endless summer.

"Wednesday brought no relief at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals suffered their 12th straight loss in falling 6-3 to the Detroit Tigers. That matches the second-longest skid in club history.

"The countdown is on."

Bob seems to be hoping for the record now. He wants 20 straight. At least, he seems to be saying, there'll be something for us to count towards.

Poor Bob.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Nine Shutouts

The Tigers have nine shutouts now. This is stunning. This is very pre-hat. This sets another team not-really record: the earliest the Tigers had nine shutouts was 52 games into the 1945 season. Justin Verlander -- a rookie -- threw a complete game shutout. The ninth came in the 44th game. That puts them just off another fake stat, which is that they're almost on pace to have more shutouts that victories in 2003.