Detroit Tigers Not Exceeding Expectations with W-L Record, But Run Differential Tells Another Story


June 7, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter

Victor Martinez

(41) hits a home run in front of Cleveland Indians catcher

Carlos Santana

(41) in the second inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s still early June which means it’s far too early to worry about how exactly the standings are shaping up, but the way the season is going it looks like the Cleveland Indians will be the only team who can provide serious competition for the AL Central crown (if even they can).

The Tigers took the series opener from the Indians on Friday night by a 7-5 score — they’re now 4-2 against the Tribe this season — and now have two chances to secure a series win; a series win that would guarantee at least a 3.5 game lead come Monday.

There’s been some mild internet chatter about the Tigers under performing on the year, but, while it might be slightly true in a pure W-L record vs. expectations sense (Detroit is 33-26 which puts them on 90-91 win pace), it isn’t true in an overall run scoring and run prevention sense. The Tigers lead the American League in runs scored per game at 5.2, are tied for second in runs allowed per game at 3.9, and are tops in run differential at 1.3 runs per game.

Run differential, while not perfect, is generally regarded to be a better indicator of a team’s overall talent level than wins and losses are. The W-L record is obviously the determining factor in who wins the division and who makes the playoffs — so yeah, it’s important in that respect — but run differential is typically a better indicator of future (or rest of season) record than are past wins and losses (at least at this point in the season).

There’s certainly going to be variation in the numbers — Detroit’s unsteady bullpen may cause them to underperform their Pythagorean Expectation for much of the season — but, quite simply, baseball is about scoring more runs than the opponent. And, on the whole, the Detroit Tigers have been the best team in the American League at doing just that.