After the Chicago White Sox swept the Minnesota Twins this past weekend, and the Detroit Tigers failed in their attempts to treat the Cleveland Indians in a similarly hostile manner, the two teams find themselves two games apart in the American League Central. Depending on one’s level of allegiance to the Tigers, the reaction that this fact is likely to cause falls somewhere in the range of mild surprise to a level of shock normally reserved for learning of a tragic death in one’s family.
To explain this simply, the Detroit Tigers were supposed to win the division, the Chicago White Sox were not; and yet with a mere 17 games remaining in their respective schedules the two franchises find themselves in unexpected territory with the Tigers in second place and the White Sox in first.
While the story of Chicago’s triumph to date is largely based in surprise: offense coming from unexpected sources, pitchers performing at their peak, and decidedly good team defense; Detroit’s failings are more difficult to grasp. The team, in terms of individuals, is performing as we might have expected. Yes, Brennan Boesch and Delmon Young have been terrible for most of the year, but that’s hardly as surprising as Austin Jackson’s break out performance or the emergence of Andy Dirks as a reliable member of the lineup.
The team’s starting pitching this season has been wonderful, led once again by an outstanding performance by Justin Verlander, seconded by Max Scherzer’s emergence as a strikeout pitcher not to be trifled with and rounded out by above average performances from Rick Porcello and Doug Fister, as well as newcomer Anibal Sanchez. As for the relief corps, luck has finally caught up to Jose Valverde to a degree, but Octavio Dotel and Bryan Villareal have done more than merely step up their games in making up for any slipping in his game.
I suppose that if there is one chink in the armor, it is in the team’s defense, but such is the price you pay to ensure playing time for both Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, without relegating either to the designated hitter’s role for an extended period.
However, just as the success of the Baltimore Orioles has had talk of run differential and records in one run games attached to it, so should the failings of the 2012 Detroit Tigers. Other than the Toronto Blue Jays, no team in the American League has a poorer winning percentage in one run games than the Tigers. This, despite having a positive run differential on the season of 35. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Tigers, based on runs that the teams should have scored according to underlying statistics, should be anywhere from three to four games ahead of the White Sox.
That’s not meant to trivialize Chicago’s accomplishments this year, they have a very impressive +75 run differential on the season, but it does show that Detroit is better than the results to date have indicated. Of course, that will be of little consolation if the team finds itself on the outside looking in when the post season begins, and it won’t work to completely justify the Prince Fielder off season expenditure when there were several other holes in the roster that needed to be filled.
However, it does offer an excuse that the team hopes it doesn’t have to use; and it offers some hope that luck will balance itself out over the next 17 games, beginning today in the Tigers afternoon makeup game against the White Sox.
And The Rest
Speaking of run differential, and the like, what it means to the competition between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees. [It's All About The Money Stupid]
Cheering for confusion: What needs to happen over the next two plus weeks to ensure a massive tie scenario? [Baseball Musings]
The awesome story of Teddy Kremer. [Cincinnati.com]
How Clayton Kershaw’s injury affects the Los Angeles Dodgers’ playoff chances. [Hit And Run]
Do you like Fangraphs? [The Book Blog]
Why the Washington Nationals should use Stephen Strasburg as a pinch hitter in the playoffs. [Baseball Nation]
The Pittsburgh Pirates have ditched James McDonald from the starting rotation. [Rum Bunter]
The five biggest disappointments of the 2012 season. [Wahoo Sam]
Boston Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine pinch hit for Jose Iglesias in the middle of a plate appearance. [Over The Monster]
Baseball stadium bathroom stall love. [Deadspin]
Tony La Russa is not very fond of Keith Law, nor facts. [Twitter]
On Yadier Molina’s arm cannon. [Baseball Prospectus]
An interview with Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon. [Fangraphs]
Toronto Blue Jays playing bench coach Omar Vizquel almost has as many Major League hits as Babe Ruth. [Leader-Post]
Some guy from television was escorted out of the L.A. Dodgers game on the weekend. [Huffington Post]
Chris Carpenter will make his first start of the year on Friday for the St. Louis Cardinals. [Baseball Nation]