Detroit Tigers: The 2021 Season By The Numbers

Shea Norling
MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 06: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers is congratulated by Magglio Ordonez #30 after hitting a home run during the 3rd inning of the American League Tiebreaker game against the Minnesota Twins on October 6, 2009 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 06: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers is congratulated by Magglio Ordonez #30 after hitting a home run during the 3rd inning of the American League Tiebreaker game against the Minnesota Twins on October 6, 2009 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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The Detroit Tigers have outplayed their expectations from the preseason by a simply massive margin. Coming off a series win against an American League premier team in the Boston Red Sox, here’s a look at a surprising 2021 by the numbers.

Anytime a Major League Baseball team vastly outperforms their preseason expectations, there are typically a bevy of unexpected analytical aspects that point to what happened. That is certainly true of this year’s Detroit Tigers, who were projected my most prognosticators to dwell among the worst teams in all of baseball in 2021.

Instead, into early August, the  Detroit Tigers continue to play competitive baseball with an especially impressive series win over the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park. This is a look at some of the most fascinating numbers of the 2021 campaign.

.422

The combined winning percentage of predictions by Motor City Bengals contributors in the preseason. Detroit has significantly outperformed that expectation deep into the season, posting a .477 win percentage as of August 5th, buoyed by a scorching hot run of competitive baseball since May 8th.

9-23

Speaking of May 8th, this number has been bandied about on nearly every Tigers broadcast since the team picked it up, and it’s their record on that day. Since then, Detroit has found ways to simply continue to win, posting an impressive 44-35 record, good for a .557 win percentage that would have them in the heat of the American League Wild Card race if not for the early-season woes.

89

The number of bases Detroit is on pace to steal this season, which would be the most since the 2014 Tigers swiped 106 bags. Tigers teams have rarely been known for their speed, even when they were contending, relying instead on pure power. To make this number even more impressive is the fact that steals have been down throughout baseball as teams prioritize home run hitting while avoiding running into any outs. AJ Hinch has brought a different mentality to the Motor City, making up for what they lack in power by utilizing speed threats like Derek Hill, Akil Baddoo, and even Robbie Grossman to put pressure on opposing pitchers on the base paths and manufacture runs.

79

Miguel Cabrera’s wRC+ — or weighted runs created plus, a stat that implements ballpark effects and other variables to adjust the runs created stat as a factor of 100, where 100 is league average — through the
All-Star break on July 11th.

120

Miguel Cabrera’s wRC+ in 74 plate appearances since the All-Star break. In a vacuum, it looks like Miggy simply got hot, and will regress back to the mean of his early season soon. However, MCB’s own Jacob Boes wrote about a change in Cabrera’s approach that may signal a bit of a renaissance for the big fella.

.234

Miguel Cabrera’s ISO, a metric that factors a hitters raw power by looking only at extra-base hits, since the All-Star break. Generally, any ISO greater than .200 is considered to be great, and this is another signal that Miggy has finally found a swing that works for him.

71

Detroit’s team wRC+ from Opening Day through May 2nd, a number that over a full season would have been historically awful. Worse, even, than the infamous 2003 Tigers’ wRC+ of 80.

110

Detroit’s team wRC+ since June 14th, good for the sixth-best mark in Major League Baseball, as they’ve found some midsummer magic in the Motor City. The Tigers are middle of the pack in that span in home runs, muscling 53 balls out of the park since the 14th. However, they are 2nd in baseball with a .316 batting average on balls kept in play since that date.

22.6%

Not coincidentally, the Tigers are third in baseball in line drive rate since June 14th, hitting the ball on a line in 22.6 percent of their batted ball scenarios, buyoing their BABIP. Give credit where credit is due, as AJ Hinch and hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh have understood that the Tigers are far from the most powerful team in baseball, and have stressed flattened swing paths to reduce the number of popouts and fly balls. The payoff is evident, as the Tigers offense has been among the best in baseball throughout the summer.

211

The number of combined strikeouts by breakout rookie starters Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, who have buoyed the Tigers’ rotation throughout the injuries to Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull. Skubal’s 121 strikeouts are good for second-most among MLB rookies, tied with Luis Garcia and trailing only Trevor Rogers, who has fanned 129. Skubal is sure to eclipse Justin Verlander’s rookie strikeout tally of 124, as well as Michael Fulmer’s 132 rookie Ks. The Tiger’s future is in the hands of some great arms.

62-49

The Tigers’ record against the run line, typically plus or minus 1.5 runs. Detroit is one of only ten teams across baseball with a winning percentage against the run line high enough to be profitable over the full season, crossing the 52.5 percent threshold with a .559 winning percentage. They trail only San Francisco, Milwaukee, Seattle, and Toronto against the run line.

$2,240

The amount of $100 bettors are up if they bet the Tigers on the money line every game since May 8th. The Tigers have been by far the most profitable team in baseball in that stretch, after being the third least profitable team alongside the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers up until May 8th. The next most profitable team, the Seattle Mariners, would have $100 bettors up $1,127 since May 8th.

What will the numbers hold for the rest of the 2021 season? Will the Tigers continue to win sports gamblers money hand over fist, or will there eventually be some regression to the mean? It will be exciting to revisit some of these at the season’s end, but if one thing is clear, this  Detroit Tigers’ baseball season has been more exciting than anyone could have predicted.

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