The Tigers just got done playing about a week and a half of their worst baseball. They dropped 5 of 6 to the Royals and managed only a split in a 4 game set with the Blue Jays. They struggled against bad teams while the Twins shaved 3 games off of what looked to be a nearly insurmountable lead. Thoughts of a Metrodome sweep and blowing the division are prevalent. But haven’t we been here before?
Don’t we go through this every couple of weeks when the team struggles, and the division lead appears to be in jeopardy? We look at the recent performance and don’t understand how the team can ever win another game. Remember when the White Sox tied things up just ahead of a 4 game set. The Tigers lead was at its most tenuous then, and the Tigers won the next 3 games.
A couple of weeks ago the Twins were charging and the Tigers dropped 2 of 3 in Oakland. Once again the division was surely lost. Except Detroit took 2 of 3 in LA, split a 4 game set with the Rays, swept the Indians and then went on the road to sweep the Rays in Tampa.
But here we are with 90% of season in the books and people are still caught by surprise with this team on a regular basis. The Tigers are essentially a .500 team. They’ll go on little win streaks where people think they are clicking and then little funks where it doesn’t look like they’ll win another game. They are a couple wins above .500 due to some luck or late inning magic, but the team is average to maybe a little above average. That’s why I don’t understand why a 3-7 stretch should forecast doom more than 146 games should predict mediocrity.
With a 4 game lead the Tigers don’t have to play great down the stretch. They just need to be themselves. There are no magical teams chasing them. With the 3 games in the dome a worst case scenario is that on Monday the Tigers are still in first place. That’s not a horrible place to be with what would be just 13 games remaining.
The above paragraphs don’t make me any less nervous, but it is an excited kind of anticipation type nervousness. Nothing is a sure thing and with only 16 games left either the Twins or the Tigers could get hot or cold. But based on what we know about these teams the odds are that both will remain fairly mediocre. In any case, the last 3 weeks of the season should be interesting. Maybe agonizing, maybe exciting. But don’t put too much into the struggles with the Royals. It was just 6 games.