At the mid point of the 2013 season, the Tigers find themselves in second place, trailing the Cleveland Indians by one half game the AL Central division. At first glance, the reaction has to be "what's wrong"? They're supposed to be better than this. So here is a breakdown of where the Tigers rank in the American league in various statistical categories starting play on July 1, 2013.
|Runs per game
|On Base Pct||.348||2nd
|ISO (Isolated power)||.149||9th||.154||10th|
|Stolen Base Pct||70%||
|Strikeout Pct||16.6%||15th (Best)
|Hit by pitch||23
*To get the pace that the Tigers are on, multiply the 2013 number by 2. For example, 85 Home Runs x 32= 170. The Tigers are on pace for 170 Home Runs. Note that Detroit has played fewer games than some teams in 2013.
So, what do these numbers tell us? The Tigers have a potent offense. They're scoring runs better than any team in the league other than Boston. They're getting on base and scoring runs, although the power is pretty average. What these numbers don't tell you is the consistency of the offense. They have been shut out six times, scored just one run four times, and they've lost all those games. They're 2- 6 in extra inning games.
On the bases, the Tigers are the slowest team in the league, tied for the fewest steals with the Twins, and they've grounded into the most double plays in the league.
The Tigers are ahead of their 2012 pace in all major offensive categories, and are ahead of their pace in the standings also.
Now, let's look at some pitching numbers.
|Category||2013||2013 AL Rank||2012||2012 AL Rank|
|BB/9||2.23||2nd lowest||2.44||3rd lowest of 14|
|HR/9||0.74||First lowest||0.96||3rd lowest of 14|
||2013 AL Rank
||2012 AL Rank
||6th lowest of 14
||8th lowest of 14|
Analysis: The Tigers have the best rotation in the game. They lead the league in ERA, FIP, and Strikeouts. They're striking out more than a batter per inning, which is something that no team has ever done. Using FIP, the Tigers have four starters among the top eleven in the league. Only one team, the Mariners, walks fewer batters per nine innings. The Tigers maximize the value of their rotation by pitching more innings per start than any other rotation. As a unit, the Tigers are performing better than their 2012 pace, and better than any other team in the league.
The bullpen is not nearly so good. What was a mediocre bullpen in 2012 has shown little improvement, if any, with one notable exception. The bullpen's FIP suggests that there might be some bad luck in the traditional statistics. FIP measures pitching performance by looking at results a pitcher can control: strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches, and home runs. A BABIP of .312, which is fourth highest in the league, might tend to support the same conclusion.
A high BABIP or ERA above FIP can be caused by either poor defense, bad luck, or opposing hitters are able to hit the ball harder, resulting in more line drives. Opponents are hitting .240 against the Tiger relievers, sixth highest in the league, and the WHIP shows that they allow the fifth highest number of base runners per inning.
In any case, there is a sunny side and that is that the early troubles with the Tiger bullpen that were caused by poor usage of the pitchers that they have had on the roster can be improved by better management. In other words, use the best relief pitchers in critical situations and shed some of the pitchers that are getting clobbered.
Just win, baby:
The Tigers have a net positive run differential of plus 66 runs, which is second in the American League to the Red Sox. Cleveland has a plus 28 differential, or a difference of 38 runs scored minus runs allowed for the season. Obviously, the Tribe have been able to make better use of the runs that they do score.
On July 1, 2012, the Tigers were a game under .500, in third place, three games out of first place. We all know how that story finished. They have a winning record against the east, losing record against the West, and are six games above .500 vs their own division. 47 of their final 81 games are against AL Central teams, including 18 against Chicago. If they take care of business against the AL Central, the Tigers should be back in the post season, no problem. More consistency in the scoring department, good health in the rotation, and better usage of the bullpen should do the trick.