The Tigers entered the season with one goal, to win the World Series. That is a tall task, with so many things beyond control in the regular season. Key players can be injured. Bad luck can cost some key one run games. An unexpected team in your division can have a great season. That all happened this year, and yet given the Tigers' high offensive output, and strong pitching, they would have been expected to win 99 games. They only won 93, but it was just enough to make the playoffs.
In the postseason, anything can happen. Wild card teams make it to the World Series, like the Tigers in 2006. Role players can have key hits. Stars can become legends or goats. We have been fortunate in one sense as the Tiger have made the ALCS for three consecutive years. The odds are that they would have been stopped at the ALDS at least once.
But it is easier to take defeat in the ALCS when the team is overwhelmed like in 2011 when the Rangers won games by four runs twice and the finale by ten runs. This series with the Red Sox was very evenly matched. Boston outscored Detroit 19 to 18 overall. Two teams that scored about five runs a game during the season, against average pitching, were held to three runs a game against superior pitching. A game was lost with a four run lead in the eighth inning. Another was lost when Verlander allowed only one run. At many points in either game, a different outcome on one pitch would have led to a Tigers' victory.
So with this result, there is more clear responsibility to be assigned for losing the series:
49% Dumb luck. What can you do, it is only six games. The Tigers had bad six game stretches during the season, and this one came at the worst time. No, this is not comforting.
16% Jim Leyland did not rest Miguel Cabrera nearly long enough when he was injured in August. Miggy had one extra base hit in six games, and made two outs on the bases that were directly related to his injury. Leadership was needed when Cabrera was saying he was healthy enough to play, and the best move for the sake of the team was a trip to the disabled list.
10% Baserunning, shared by Jim Leyland and the team. Austin Jackson was picked off. Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder managed to turn a ground ball into a Little League double play and not even a run. With three one-run losses, a stolen base could have been key to the missing run.
5% Tom Brookens, who did his best Gene Lamont impersonation sending Miguel Cabrera home in game 5. He knew Cabrera was injured and could not score on a play that was remotely close. He knew Cabrera could not stop quickly. The left fielder had the ball in short left field well before the runner was to third base. They lost the game by one run. There is a time to be aggressive, and that was not it.
5% Prince Fielder, hitting .182 with one extra-base hit. Some days he sees the shift and happily slaps an outside pitch down the third base line. But most days he is pull-happy. He picked the wrong time to be stubborn.
5% Torii Hunter, who came to Detroit to win a World Series. But he hit 6 for 26 with two doubles and one walk, leading to only two runs scored. The hitting would have been forgotten had he made a miracle catch in game two. He could have been on highlight reels forever.
5% Jose Veras, who actually pitched well in one sense with six strikeouts and only three hits in three and a third innings pitched. But he was in the middle of the game 2 debacle allowing a hit, and threw three consecutive curveballs to Shane Victorino in allowing the grand slam in game 6.
5% Joaquin Benoit's pitch to David Ortiz in game 2. Every other time he threw that pitch in the game, it dropped much more. Just a fraction of an inch more sink would have turned a grand slam into a ground ball to second base.
Where was Rick Porcello in the seventh inning of game 6? The bases were loaded with one out. The Tigers needed a ground ball double play. This moment was made for Porcello's strengths. Jose Iglesias is a wizard with the glove, except for that inning. Scherzer had Bogaerts struck out, except that the Dan Iassogna did not see it that way. Thoughts like these will keep us up for months.