It’s not easy to sweep a major league baseball team. It’s especially difficult to do so on the road. In recent seasons, the Detroit Tigers sealed their fate away from Comerica Park, where they have played a combined 38 games under .500 (2008-2010) and are a total of 16 games under the break even mark since Jim Leyland took the helm. This season, however, the Tigers are a cool 31-31 as the visiting squad.
What’s more, the Tigers, as is well publicized, have never had a winning record post-all-star break under Leyland’s reign. The closest they came was a 38-38 mark in 2009. This season, while still seven weeks to go on the schedule, the Tigers are 15-13 since the Mid-Summer Classic. Detroit also holds the league’s best record in one-run games at 19-13, so they’re finding ways to win games that in previous years they might have lost.
The point really is that very few teams, even the bad teams, play better on the road than they do at home. There seems to be a feeling, judging by our own Chris Czar’s post yesterday, that the Tigers had a bad road trip because they only came home at 5-4. Yes, you’d like to think that the first-place Tigers could have done more than simply win the trip, considering that they had two chances to sweep last-place clubs. But expecting a sweep, even over the likes of Kansas City and Baltimore, is simply asking too much. The Tigers did what they needed to do in winning two of three in those parks, plus they salvaged a game from Cleveland. It wasn’t ideal, but the whole trip only cost them a half game in the standings to the Indians.
Neither the Royals nor the Orioles are good clubs this year, but Kansas City is 31-32 at Kauffman stadium, so asking the Tigers to take all three there is silly. The Royals have played basically .500 at home this year, the odds of a sweep aren’t good at all. The Orioles have played six games under .500 at home, so again, the odds say that they’ll win at least one of those three games. You could look at their previous series where they dropped three of four at home to the White Sox, but that series actually played out very similar to the one with Detroit. Chicago took the first two games, then lost the third. My gut says that if the Tigers had also played four games in Baltimore, Detroit would have taken three games as well.
American League clubs have played to a combined .538 winning percentage at home this year with only four of the 14 members sporting a losing home record so far. Even the bad clubs play reasonably well at home. That the Tigers have played at .500 away from home is a testament to their solid play. The Tigers are one of 8 AL clubs to play at least .500 on the road this year.
It’s interesting to note that the White Sox (currently 60-60) are even more scary when you look at their home/road splits. Chicago has been one of the best teams in the league when away from home, posting a record of 34-27 when wearing the road greys. At home, however, they’ve played seven game below .500. If Chicago can right their ship at US Celluar Field, they’ll be a huge threat. Cleveland and Detroit have identical home records, but the Indians have been five games under .500 on the raod. If this trend holds form the rest of the way, Detroit will have no problem out-pacing the Tribe, as Cleveland has 22 road games remaining to Detroit’s 19.
The Indians have also built their success this year on beating up on bad teams. Coming into today, the Tribe has a 33-16 record against clubs below .500 while playing 14 under the break even mark versus clubs that are .500 or better. The Indians begin a six game road trip through Chicago and Detroit on Tuesday. Given the White Sox lack of home success and Cleveland’s road woes, something has to give in that series. Depending on how those three games play out, we could have a much clearer picture of who might be Detroit’s biggest threat to the division crown this year.