The Detroit Tigers are 13-2 over their last fifteen games, dating back to Justin Verlander’s Independence Day victory over the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park which set off a six-game winning streak. They’ve used 13 position players and 14 pitchers over the 15-game span. Which ones have been most responsible for this dramatic resurgence; which ones have improved the most?
In relief, Octavio Dotel has been the most notable contributor. He’s thrown 6.2 innings and, with a 1.35 ERA, a 0.75 WHIP, and a .143 opponent batting average, earned the Tigers’ only two bullpen wins to go along with a hold. He has also accumulated 11 strikeouts, two more than Rick Porcello has in nearly triple the innings (17.1). His performance previous to this stretch has been merely passable, as evidenced by a 3.86 ERA. The contributions of Darin Downs and Phil Coke also deserve note; the former has pitched 6.1 innings in four appearances with a 2.84 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, a .182 opponent average, nine strikeouts, and a hold, while the latter has 4.1 innings in six appearances with a 2.08 ERA, a 1.39 WHIP, a .214 batting average against, and three holds. Coke’s season ERA before this was a pedestrian 3.31 and Downs had made just a single major league appearance. The Detroit bullpen as a whole has inherited 15 runners and only Brayan Villarreal has allowed one to cross home plate. Overall, the relief corp has contributed 43 innings over the last 15 games with a 3.56 ERA. Their cumulative ERA before July 4th was 3.68, so, while they’ve been better in that area, particularly when asked to clean up after the pitcher preceding them, they shouldn’t receive the credit for the Tigers’ new winning ways. Here are their numbers over the last 15 (not including Luis Marte, who threw one pitch and got one out before his recent demotion):
In their nine starts since July 4th, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer have combined to go 8-0 with a 2.08 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP over 65 innings of work. Porcello, Jacob Turner, and Drew Smyly have started the remainder of the games, posting a 3-1 record with a 6.16 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP over 30.2 frames. Smyly has since been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained ribcage muscle, while Porcello was excellent and Turner promising in their most recent starts. Overall, six men in the rotation have combined for a 3.39 ERA over 95.2 innings, down from a 4.29 ERA put up by Tiger starters in the 466 innings before. Starting pitching, then, has improved significantly, and the biggest improvements have come from Fister, who has battled injury all year, and Scherzer, maddeningly inconsistent. Fister had a 4.61 ERA before Detroit’s winning streak, Scherzer a 4.98, and those numbers are 2.57 and 2.84 respectively for the pitcher’s three most recent starts. Here are the raw numbers for Detroit starters over the last 15 games:
The Tigers have eight players who, over the past 15 games, have an OPS of .797 or better. Weighting by at bats, the club has an .849 OPS since July 4th. Leading the way has been Miguel Cabrera, who has tacked on seven home runs to bring his season total to 23 and his career to 300—he has a monstrous 15-game OPS of 1.278. In only 14 plate appearances, Danny Worth has also performed well, posting a 1.171 OPS on the strength of four hits and four walks. Brennan Boesch and Prince Fielder each have an OPS above 1.000, while Jhonny Peralta, Gerald Laird, and Delmon Young have each improved from their pre-July OPS by over a hundred points. Overall, Detroit has scored 85 runs in 15 games, good for a pace of about 5.7 runs per game. That’s a vast improvement from their previous rate of 4.4 runs per game. By that token, it seems the offense has improved even more significantly than the starting pitching. Here are the Tigers’ individual position player numbers dating back through the last 15 contests, including the difference between their OPS over that span and that of their season pre-July 4th:
Even the defense has been good, judging by the eye test and the fact that they’ve not allowed an unearned run since the beginning of their 13-2 stretch. That’s especially impressive when you consider that they’ve allowed 46 this year, which is still enough for the second-highest mark in the American League.
In summary, the Tigers have been better in every facet of the game. The bullpen has been the least improved aspect, and even it has seen notable success over the past two weeks. This is all with an injured starting pitcher, a few key players in Austin Jackson, Alex Avila, and Quintin Berry all trending down, facing mostly teams with winning records, and still no second baseman to be found. Maybe Detroit shouldn’t be so desperate to dangle their top prospects as trade bait after all.