At the end of June, the Tigers were 2 games under .500, and were in 3rd place in their division. Since July 1st, they’ve gone 37-27, and are within a game of the division-leading White Sox (as of me writing this, anyway – they play the White Sox one last time on Thursday night, which could put them in a tie for the division). The division is definitely Detroit’s best chance at making the playoffs, since they’re 5 games behind the 2nd Wild Card spot, and would have to leap-frog 3 teams to get into that spot. So, assuming they win their division, what are their chances of winning it all?
3 Reasons Why:
- Starting Pitching – despite the concern for most of the year that no one besides Verlander was pitching very well, the Tigers’ starting rotation is tied for 2nd in MLB with 81 quality starts (just 1 behind Oakland for the lead). They’re also 2nd only to Tampa Bay in strikeouts. Between Verlander, Scherzer, and Fister they have 3 guys with 15+ quality starts, ERA’s at 3.77 or better, and with K/BB ratios all above 3.50. That’s a nice 1-2-3 combo come playoff time.
- “He gets on base” – why do we like the Tigers? They get on base. (Watch “Moneyball” today if you don’t get that reference) They are 3rd in all of baseball with a .336 OBP (and only .001 behind Texas & St. Louis). Yes, they have some pop in their lineup (Cabrera, Fielder, etc.), but slugging your way around the bases doesn’t always work in the postseason. Getting on base does.
- Clutch Hitting – the Tigers have the best batting average (.283) and 6th best OPS with runners in scoring position (.790). But, even more important, with runners in scoring position and 2 outs, they possess the 3rd best OPS in baseball (.788). In the playoffs, you need to take advantage of every scoring opportunity out there – and that’s what Detroit does.
3 Why Not:
- Night Games – here’s a weird stat. For much of their lineup (with the exception of Cabrera), they perform better during the day. Fielder, Jackson, Peralta, Infante, Berry – all have better OPS’s during the day. Unfortunately, once you get to the LCS round of the playoffs, almost all of the games are played at night. Could this be a problem for Detroit?
- BABIP – that’s “batting average on balls in play.” The Tigers’ pitching staff has the 3rd worst BABIP in MLB (.308). Only the Rockies and Brewers are worse. What that means is, if a batter manages to put the ball in play against the Tigers, he’s got a much better shot of getting on base than against other teams. And baserunners aren’t your friends in the postseason.
- GIDP – while Detroit may have an excellent rating when there are runners in scoring position, their problem might be getting them to that point. They lead all of baseball in double-plays grounded into (140). That’s the perfect way to kill a rally, and you need those rallies sustained in the playoffs.
Detroit has a great shot at winning their division, with their last 12 games of the season against KC & Minnesota. But, once they get there, how will they fair. Which of these stats do you think will make or break their playoff run?