The Detroit Tigers have lost some games recently – if we want to cherry pick endpoints we could say that they’ve won only two of their last seven games – and some of those losses have come in the most soul-crushing ways – Boston hitting all the home runs, not being able to score runs off of Bruce Chen, and starters giving up multi-run homers in the middle innings – but the Tigers still own a 5.5 game lead in the Central which is pretty darn substantial with only 21 days left in the regular season.
Sure, Detroit actually needs to win games down the stretch to close it out – the most magical of numbers is 15 – but that’s going to happen. Almost definitely. Probably. Such proclamations must carry a caveat because baseball is always going to happen, but the major odds outlets, Baseball Prospectus (99.0%) and Cool Standings (97.4%), don’t care much for the alternative possibilities.
Sure, the Tigers have given up on a chance to raise their already commanding lead to an even more commanding level by going only 5-5 in their last ten contests, but what about the Cleveland Indians? They’re also only 5-5 in their last ten. Those pesky Royals? They’re 6-4. The Tigers have floundered here for two weeks or so, but they haven’t actually given up much ground in the divisional standings lately. The biggest bummer of this stretch is that they’ve allowed the Boston Red Sox to mount a lead in the AL standings and have fallen a game behind Oakland to third in the league, but their chances to win their own division haven’t really taken much of a hit.
I agree that it’s super frustrating to watch them go through a cold patch like this (as all teams do multiple times in a season), but what does such a stretch actually mean? Does it mean, as some interweb comment sections would suggest, that the team, much like their manager, lacks a certain killer instinct? Does it mean the club will stumble in the playoffs? We have no way to know for sure, but I think the 30-19 (.612) record that Detroit has put up since the break counts for something. Sometimes good teams win 13-in-a-row, and sometimes good teams win only 5-of-13. We’ve seen both from the Tigers in the second half, and that’s baseball.
Given the schedule the rest of the way (six against the White Sox, four against the Mariners, three against the Twins, three against the Marlins, and three against the Royals), the Tigers are on pace to win 94 games. We would have loved it if they could have found a way to finish with the best record in the league (they still could), but the goal was always to get in as the division winner to advance to the ALDS*.
*Some will say that THE goal and ONLY goal is a World Series, but I disagree. The playoffs are too much of a crapshoot to pin all of one’s hopes and dreams upon. I mean, that would be nice, and a World Series ring has certainly been the motivating factor for the organization these past few years, but it’s not like heads will roll if it doesn’t happen in the end. You can’t run an organization that way.
If the lead ever gets down to a game or two then yeah, panic away, but that’s not where we’re at right now, and it doesn’t even look like we’ll ever get there. The night they finally clinch will certainly be a relief, but let’s all try to stay chill until that day comes.