Just how important is this inter league series, you ask? I mean, we all know that AL Central match-ups have a direct effect on the standings; and playing the Yankees and Red Sox allow the boys to see where they stack up against the best. But, Pirates?
Well, this weekend series against the Bucs kicks off a 12 game span that could demonstrate that 2011 could be a banner year for the Tigers, or could mean that the season is virtually over. An article in today’s WSJ (yes, the WSJ, I found it underneath my baseball card magazines and Good Housekeeping) states that since 1996, just 9% of teams with a losing record on June 1 wound up with 90 wins, and the average correlation between a team’s win percentage on June 1 and its final winning percentage is 0.76 (which is high). Before Cleveland’s inexplicable rise, 90 wins would have been a good bet to win the Central, and it still may be, or at least to earn a Wild Card slot. The Tigers thus have 12 days to keep treading above .500, or we can all count on Matt Stafford shoulder updates 24/7 in October.
Who are the Pittsburgh Pirates, you ask? Well, they come in at 20-23, which isn’t bad considering they have failed to finish above .500 since 1992, and have not won more than 68 games in a season since 2004. Jeff Karsten started out in the pen, but now makes his 7th start of the season for Pittsburgh. The righty has a 3.62 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and average 6.99 K/9. He’s been much better in 2011 than the rest of his career, perhaps due to the development of a two-seam fastball which he’s relying on more in 2011 than ever. He’s been decent over his 7 starts, keeping Pittsburgh in the game by not allowing too many runs, but he’s only reached the 6th inning twice all season.
Brad Bad Penny takes the first awkward swings of the year for a Tigers pitcher, as he looks to stop the 3 game slide. Penny was awesome last time out versus Kansas City, allowing only 5 hits with no walks and no runs over 8 innings. Over his last five BBP is 4-1 with a 1.51 ERA and .93 WHIP.
Lineups to come.