Jacob Luft has written a column at SI.com in which he states that the Tigers are pretenders . The article has already gotten a lot of play on blogs (including commentors here) and sports talk radio. One of his main points, that the Tigers performance against good teams is lacking, is a topic I’ve been meaning to address. So here is the rebuttal.
Luft presents two columns of numbers. The Tigers winning percentage against above 500 and below 500 teams.
Tigers against teams below .500
8-0 vs. Royals
7-2 vs. Twins
7-3 vs. Indians
3-0 vs. Mariners
2-3 vs. Angels
1-1 vs. Orioles
Total: 28-9 (.757)
Tigers against teams above .500
1-5 vs. White Sox
1-2 vs. Red Sox
1-3 vs. Yankees
2-1 vs. A’s
3-1 vs. Rangers
2-1 vs. Blue Jays
2-1 vs. Reds
Total: 12-14 (.462)
He presents this as the chief evidence of the Tigers futility against the top teams. What I see is that of the 7 teams the Tigers have played who have winning records, the Tigers are leading the season series against 4 of them.
And yes, the Tigers went 5-8 in their last 4 series. If you actually saw the games, or at least looked at the box scores, you’d see that the only team that measurably out played the Tigers were the Yankees. Against the collective Sox, 3 of the 4 losses were by one run.
Now what was skimmed over was the Tigers ridiculously strong record against the weak teams. Also what was skimmed over was that the Indians, who have been hovering right around the .500 mark, have had a tough time with Detroit. Now if it is so easy to beat the bad teams, why don’t the elite teams like the Yankees and White Sox beat them more often?
I’ve said it before, but a win is a win no matter who you play. Of course I would have liked the Tigers to fare better over the last stretch. But 5-8 is easier to stomach against the best teams than it would be against the worst teams. I know that in the event the Tigers make the playoffs, their competition will be the better teams. But a couple of series in June haven’t convinced me that all hope is lost against those teams. Get there first, and then see what happens in 7 games.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be skeptical of the Tigers. Luft’s other points about the offenses lack of OBP and propensity for striking out are very real concerns. Throw in the nagging injuries and questions about the sustainability of the pitching and you’ve got several reasons why this team may fade. There’s certainly precedent with Baltimore who was 37-26 one year ago today. But if you’re just looking at the end results, the W’s and L’s, then you have to believe this team is a contender because they have more of the W’s and fewer of the L’s than anyone else.