Not Pretending

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.

14 Comments

  1. Brian McGivern

    June 13, 2006 at 8:57 pm

    I keep hearing that the Tigers are only winning against the bad teams, however , correct me if I am wrong, but if they continue to play around .500 against the elite teams and continue to beat up on the poor teams, we are looking at a playoff contender??? Isn’t that what the GOOD teams do!!

    I am certainly not saying that they will continue at the .757 clip against the poor teams, but if they stay at .600 to .650 against them, while maintaining a break even against the good teams, we are looking at 95 wins. I you told me at the beginning of the season they would come close to that number, I would have laughed in your face.

    GO TIGERS!

  2. PHT

    June 13, 2006 at 11:37 pm

    Don’t forget that one of the reasons that Cleveland and Minnesota are considered “weak teams” is that they have been beaten up by the Tigers. Exclude their record in games againt the Tigers and they are close to .500 teams that most experts thought would be strong this season.

  3. Jeff M

    June 14, 2006 at 12:00 am

    Exclude their record in games againt the Tigers and they are close to .500 teams that most experts thought would be strong this season.

    Your logic is technically sound, but to be fair, you’d have to apply it to the Yankees’ and Red Sox’s numbers as well. Baltimore is probably an above average team, but they’re 6 games under .500 because they play so many games against the Sox, Yankees, and Jays. To truly get a good look at it, you would have to use a complicated Strength of Schedule formula like the BCS uses. If my memory serves me right, it’s based on the W/L record of the teams that beat the teams that you played and the W/L record of the teams that lost to the teams that you played. That would be hell to compute with a 162 game season (I’m sure it’s hard enough with 12) and it would probably yield conclusions similar to the simplified calculations above, but it would be an interesting exercise.

  4. Steve P.

    June 14, 2006 at 12:39 am

    A PaleHoes fan friend of mine was arguing this point with me earlier. I formulated the following argument.

    “Of teams that have a .500 record or better against everyone except the Tigers, the Tigers are 26-19. The White Sox are 14-6 under the same statistic. Note the difference in number of games played against quality opponents.

    “The non-Tiger record of all teams Detroit has faced is 416-415.

    “The non-PaleHoes record of all teams Chicago has faced is 335-333.

    “The Tigers and PaleHoes have faced 9 of the same teams. The Tigers have a better record against 7 of those 9 than the PaleHoes. The two teams that the PaleHoes have a better record against are Anaheim and Oakland.

    “Let’s look at those 9 up close:

    Oppon. Chi Det
    Cleve. 5-7 7-3
    KanCi. 6-3 8-0
    Toron. 3-3 2-1
    Minne. 5-2 7-2
    Seatt. 3-2 3-0
    LosAn. 4-1 2-3
    TampB. 1-2 2-0
    Oakln. 3-0 2-1
    Texas. 3-2 3-1
    Total. 33-22 36-11

    Other. 2-1 6-7 (non-head2head)

    “Note that the “Other” team for Chicago is the Chicago Cubs (11 games under), while the “Other” teams for Detroit are Cincy, Boston, NYY (all at least 6 games over), and Baltimore, which we played 2 games against and went 1-1.

    “So against the teams we’ve both played against, Detroit has performed much better than Chicago has. And of the opponents we don’t have in common, Detroit’s schedule has been much harder than Chicago’s, but we’re still only one game under .500 in that category.

    “I know now that you have a ring you have a sense of entitlement to first place in the division. But you don’t have an entitlement; it has to be earned. Going up against almost the exact same schedule as us and doing much worse does not entitle you to first place.

    “My point is, the way we’ve played, we deserve to be in first place, and you just have the shit luck of being in our division through the first 65 games. That Chicago is even within 5 games of Detroit hinges on two 1-run head-to-head victories. I’m not discounting those wins; they were valid. I’m just stating a fact. But saying we’ve fed off of a weak schedule doesn’t say much, because Chicago and Detroit have had almost identical schedules; you could even argue that Detroit’s has been tougher. We’ve just performed better up to this point. You simply can’t use the schedules as an excuse for your being in second place. ”

    I hate those PaleHoes and their fans. Especially the ones that are my friends.

  5. Steve P.

    June 14, 2006 at 2:12 am

    Correction: Tigers are 5-7 vs. “Other” teams, not 6-7 as I said.

  6. Kyle J

    June 14, 2006 at 7:56 am

    Excellent rebuttals in this thread.

    From Foxsports.com:

    Back to earth for Motown? The schedule toughened up, and the Tigers didn’t. They’ve dropped eight of ten, but things are about to get easier. After they pay a visit to Toronto over the weekend, every single game for the rest of the first half comes against a losing team or against the Pujols-less Cardinals. It’s time to fatten up.

    http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/powerRankings

    [P.S. Someone want to give the less technology-savvy among us a brief tutorial on how to do italics/indenting/etc.?]

  7. Jeff M

    June 14, 2006 at 8:24 am

    [P.S. Someone want to give the less technology-savvy among us a brief tutorial on how to do italics/indenting/etc.?]

    Right above the comment box, you should the following text:
    XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href=”” title=””> <abbr title=””> <acronym title=””> <b> <blockquote cite=””> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>

    You can use these tags to “mark up” all or part of your comment. For example, I indented your comment using the <blockquote> tag like so:

    <blockquote>[P.S. Someone want to give the less technology-savvy among us a brief tutorial on how to do italics/indenting/etc.?]</blockquote>

  8. Paul

    June 14, 2006 at 11:36 am

    PHT, what experts thought the Twins would be anything more than a pitcher and a catcher this season? I didn’t expect Silva and Radke to implode this much, but projecting them fourth in the AL came pretty easily.

    When I read that Jacob Luft wrote about the Tigers, I had the same reaction that Entourage‘s Vincent Chase did after Bob Saget left his house:

    “Who the f*** was that guy?”

  9. Scott

    June 14, 2006 at 11:40 am

    yes, it’s time win a few – here’s the schedule up to the All-Star game: TB (home); 3 v Cubs + 3 v Milwaukee (away); 3 v St. Louis + 3 v Houston (home); 3 v Pittsburgh, 3 v Oakland + 3 v Seattle (all away). If the Cards had Pujols, yes, they’d be tough. I still suspect they won’t be easy. Houston is 1 over .500, Milwaukee 2 under. Cubs 11 under, Pittsburgh 15 under. Back to the AL: Oakland is 2 over and Seattle is 4 under. Except for the Cards, none of them are inspiring. I’ve always hated interleague play; I think it’s total bs. The only good thing: The Rocket may pitch v the Tiges. This stretch is a total of 25 games; a 60% win ratio is 15 wins. There’s the minimum goal: 15-10…..of course, more wins are acceptable…….. 🙂

  10. Jeff M

    June 14, 2006 at 12:32 pm

    Except for the Cards, none of them are inspiring.

    I’m happy to see Houston in town. I have tix to two games and I might pick up the third as well.

    This stretch is a total of 25 games; a 60% win ratio is 15 wins. There’s the minimum goal: 15-10…..of course, more wins are acceptable

    I’ll second that.

  11. Kurt

    June 14, 2006 at 12:36 pm

    The NY Times predicted the Twins to win the Central. I know what you’re thinking. “THE NY TIMES? WHAT DO THEY KNOW?” Yeah, I thought the same. If they ever had it, we have to revoke their expert status for that one.

  12. Ian C.

    June 14, 2006 at 1:36 pm

    This is beginning to drive me crazy. The out-of-town press is climbing over each other, trying to be the first to label the Tigers frauds, acting like the Tigers went 0-25 in the last two weeks, instead of the rather respectable 5-8.

    What do so many of us often say? Man, if the Tigers could only beat the teams they’re supposed to beat, and just compete against the really good teams, they’d be okay.

    And that is exactly what they’re doing right now. Hell, they’re exceeding that formula!

    Some conventional baseball wisdom says every team’s going to win 60, every team’s going to lose 60. It’s what you do with those other 40 games that’s going to matter. And the Tigers are winning those other 40 games – against the teams they should be defeating – right now. Looks like that means they’re a good team, national press.

  13. Brian

    June 14, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    The problem is that the key to being a contender is to beat the bad teams and split with the good ones. I believe the White Sox were 6-7 against the Yankees and Red Sox last season.

    If the Tigers play .462 ball the rest of the season against fellow “contenders” and .757 ball against the teams below .500. They will win 92+ games.

  14. T.

    June 14, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    “Man, if the Tigers could only beat the teams they’re supposed to beat, and just compete against the really good teams, they’d be okay.”

    That is exactly what I said when I first read the article. In the past fewyears the Tigs would go on a stretch where we would take two of three from the Yankees and then turn around and lose three of four to the Royals. This year we are winning the games we are supposed to win and if they want to criticize us for that then so be it. Keep criticizing us right into the playoffs.