Are the Tigers a 4 seed or a 10 seed?

ESPN.com is listing RPI and strength of schedule ratings for the majors on their standings page. The Tigers rank 6th overall (2nd in the AL) due in large part to their strength of schedule. Which once again brings up the question, “How good are the Tigers?”

With the win last night, they have climbed back to a .500 record. They are 4.5 games behind the Twins, 2.5 games behind the White Sox, and a game ahead of Cleveland. As it relates to SOS, the Tigers have played more games (17) against the AL West then their division counterparts. The White Sox and Royals have yet to play them, and the Twins are 6-6. The White Sox have played 6 games against the lowly Devil Rays and 5 games against the struggling Royals. The only poor team the Tigers have played are the Mariners (1-2). I’m not saying the Tigers are better than the White Sox, just that they’ve faced a stiffer test so far.

As for the Twins, they just keep winning, despite not really outscoring their opponents. Their expected pythagorean wins are 20. The Tigers expected pythagorean wins are 19. On the season the Tigers are 3-3 against the Twins. However, the Tigers run production is exceeding what their offensive events would predict due to clutch hitting with runners in scoring position. The Tigers have scored 210 runs, but their runs created (OBP*Total Bases) is actually only 191. Given the sustainability of clutch hitting, the Tigers should regress back towards their expected runs over the course of the season.

So are the Tigers as good as the Twins and White Sox? Probably not, but looking at their play so far this year, they aren’t as far behind as I would have thought. Given the fact we are almost a quarter of the way into the season, and the Tigers are still in contention in the AL Central, I am thrilled with the performance of this team.

The oops, maybe I should reconsider that department
Item 1: Alex Sanchez. Frequent readers know that I haven’t really been a proponent of Sanchez’s. His baserunning mistakes, his misplays in the outfield, and his refusal to take walks were my main ammo. However, the guy is hitting .347 with a .365 on base percentage. He still does all that stuff I don’t like (well, he did take 2 walks last night), and his 7 caught stealings should really reduce the effectiveness of his OBA, but the guy is damn entertaining.

Item 2: Greg Norton vs. Eric Munson: On a regualr basis I question why Norton is playing and Munson is sitting. Well, with Norton’s hits last night his average has surged to .172 while Munson’s dropped below .200. While I think Trammell’s use of Munson may have contributed to his slump, the gap is closing.

Quick Hits
-The Tigers will be on ESPN2 tonight. This is the 3rd time the Tigers have been picked up nationally this year. Tomorrow afternoon’s game will be on Fox Sports Net.
-Finally, this quote from Buck Showalter about Brandon Inge will end today’s post: “”He must be one of the most valuable players in the game today. He’s a catcher who can play center field and anywhere on the infield. I think he has the best release of any catcher in the American League.”

4 Comments

  1. Jeff M

    May 19, 2004 at 7:43 pm

    As a 3+ member of the Brandon Inge Fan Club (I have his original #12 jersey), I’d like to congratulate him on his tremendous progress. We all knew that .450 avg was inflated, but if he can manage to keep it above .250, he’ll have a solid 15 year career.

    I’m not really very knowledgeable when it comes to some of the newer, more advanced stats. Are the Tigers really expected to regress towards their expected runs, or is it true that we simply have some hitters that thrive on the clutch situations. Aren’t there some guys that simply hit better in these situations? Can anyone find some career RISP numbers for our key hitters?

  2. Spaceman

    May 20, 2004 at 5:06 pm

    I think sabre-types dispute clutch hitting. While it certainly exists, I think it is generally fluky (anyone can hit anything given a small enough sample size… see Shane Spencer, 1998), or it is linked to the overall theory that the best hitters are generally going to hit the best in all situations, including clutch ones.

    Here is a Baseball Prospectus article that I believe is free (I can still access it when I log off) by Joe Sheehan:

    http://www.baseballprospectus......cleid=2656

    My (non-baseball) experience/guess is that there are probably people who are more comfortable during “clutch” situations than others, which, to me, means they would maintain their level of performance better than some others who get nervous, rather than raise their level of performance, if that makes any sense.

    I disagree with Sheehan in the article that all major league players are “clutch” because they are major league players. The pressure of a playoff game in the pros is different than the minors or the regular season, though I agree that no one who is a .300 hitter can make himself a .400 hitter just because he’s “clutch”.

  3. Tim D

    May 20, 2004 at 6:52 pm

    Certainly there are players who come through in clutch situations and when they do it in the post-season we remember them as clutch players because their actions are so magnified. But all players go through slumps and leave guys on base. When they do that in the post season we think of them as chokers. I tend to agree with the stats crowd that these things even out over time. Time is relative though. It is possible that the Tigers might continue to thrive with RISP all season, and thus better their “expected” wins significantly. It’s also possible, even probable, that their BA w/RISP (.319 the last I looked) will come down to roughly the level of their team BA. Most teams work that way, even the Yankees.

  4. Jeff M

    May 22, 2004 at 11:48 am

    Excellent article. Thanks guys!