Detroit Tigers: 2014 Road Warriors

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The Detroit Tigers have reached the final stretch of their 2014 season.  Since the team’s run of three consecutive AL Central titles started in 2011, they have been one of the best home teams in all of baseball, averaging 50 wins per year between 2011 and 2013.  However, the 2014 season has been a different story as they will not make it to 50 wins at home this year.  To make up for their less than stellar play at home this year, the Tigers are vastly improved on the road, currently sporting a 43-35 record away from Comerica Park.  Their 43 wins away from home this season give them the third most road wins in all of baseball, behind only the Dodgers and Angels.

As the Tigers begin a critical road series with the Royals this weekend, they will attempt to finish with their best road record since 2006.  Detroit looks to continue their recent dominance of Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium, winning 6 of 7 games there this season.  After a disappointing series loss earlier this week against the Twins, the Tigers will need to re-group quickly and come together on the road once again to help secure a fourth consecutive AL Central crown.

Winning on the road has not come easy for the Tigers the past couple seasons, however they have taken major strides this year in improving their numbers away from home.  Let’s take a look at some reasons why the Tigers have been a better road club this year and why this may help them if they make the playoffs for a fourth straight season.

Most importantly, the Tigers have been able to produce more hits and score more runs per game on the road this season.  Below is a breakdown of the team’s batting splits.

Batting Splits

  • 4.9 runs per game on the road, compared to 4.6 runs per game at home
  • 9.8 hits per game on the road, compared to 9.5 hits per game at home
  • 176 doubles on the road, compared to 130 at home

The Tigers do boast better numbers in BA, OBP, SLG, and OPS  at home than on the road, but they have not been able to translate that to a higher number of runs at Comerica Park.  Looking at individual players, I was interested to see which players really stand out on the road.

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Two players have been extremely pivotal to the Tigers on the road this season.  Obviously, Victor Martinez is having a career year, crushing most pitching on a nightly basis.  However, Victor has been especially dangerous on the road.  He has 14 more hits, 15 more RBIs, and 18 more runs scored on the road than at home.  In addition, his BA, OBP, SLG, and OPS numbers are much higher on the road.  Ian Kinsler is another example of a player who is performing well in away games.  He is batting .287 on the road, compared to .263 at home.  He also has higher numbers on the road in all of the key statistical categories.

Aug 11, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Victor Martinez (41) singles against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning in an interleague game at PNC Park. The Pirates won 11-6. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers have not only generated more hits and scored more runs on the road, but they have also pitched better away from home.  The team has a 3.85 ERA on the road, compared to a 4.17 ERA at pitcher-friendly Comerica Park.  In addition, the Tigers have 100 more strikeouts on the road and have lower BAA, OBP, SLG, and OPS numbers.  The one pitcher who has been nasty on the road this season is Rick Porcello.  He has thrown two complete game shutouts away from home and has compiled  a 2.42 ERA in 16 road starts, compared to a 4.19 ERA in 13 home starts.  Porcello also has a BAA of .243 on the road, compared to .281 at home.

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  • Detroit has shown the ability to win consistently on the road this season.  They have one more series away from home this year to prove they are true road warriors.  As the Tigers attempt to claim a fourth straight division title, they will also need to finish strong at home in their seven remaining games at Comerica Park.  If the Tigers do make it to the playoffs, they will have to continue do some damage on the road to advance in the postseason as they will most likely not have home-field advantage.  Based on their road success this year, many Tiger fans should feel good about the team’s chances in October.

    Winning on the road in the regular season has been critical for the past three World Series champions. The 2011 Cardinals, the 2012 Giants, and the 2013 Red Sox averaged 45 road wins in their respective championship years.  Will the regular season road success of the 2014 Tigers translate to a World Series appearance?  It did in 2006 and hopefully will again this year.

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