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Confidence in Tigers jumps after weekend sweep

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The team heated up, and so did the fans during the fourth week of Tigers baseball this year.
The team heated up, and so did the fans during the fourth week of Tigers baseball this year.

I love this graph. I really do. The numbers and graphs geek in me was thrilled when the confidence first plunged, then rebounded, because I knew it would create a cool graph like this one.

Our confidence level is a 73.5, up dramatically since the 57 posted a week prior but down slightly from the 74.5 from preseason poll. Still about 70% of people voted in a manner that says they expect the Tigers will compete for the division all season.

The drastic jump this week confirms the obvious theory. As the team's record improves, confidence goes up. Coming off a sweep of the rival White Sox, the Tigers had their best record of the year. Thoughts turned from bust to boom in seven days. We can tell ourselves all we want that the team had yet to play 14% of the season, it was too soon to change pre-season projections. But human nature is to react, react, react. I mean, how else do we explain the desire to spout off on talk radio, comment on blogs, write blogs, or any of that other stuff? Damn it, we have opinions, and damn it, we're going to share them.

I think that's great. I mean, how boring would it be if the team won some games or lost some games and everyone just said, "Small sample size. Yawn." We live and die on the small sample size! How boring would it be if we just said "the leverage index on this play is low. I'm not going to be too worried about it"? Damn it, every play is important when the outcome is settled in a combined 54 (and sometimes 51) outs.

Now, like I said, I love it for a chart. It's fun to see how the record -- and maybe I should even go back and add the games ahead / games behind to the chart -- affects confidence. But what's not fun is when people try to take a small sample size and make sweeping changes to the team.

Take the case of Phil Coke. For his first two starts of the season, he had an ERA of 1.32 and allowed just six hits and six walks in 13 2/3 innings. Ace. Clearly. How can you argue with those numbers? For his past two starts, 10.13 ERA, the result of 14 hits and four walks in 8 innings. Bum. Get him out of the rotation now! But wait, didn't we just say he's an ace?

Well, guess what: He's probably somewhere inbetween. No one believed he'd have an ERA under 2.00 for the year, and I seriously hope people don't believe he'll have an ERA over 10. So you just can't make a decision about whether to boot him -- or Brad Penny, or Rick Porcello -- based on a shop-teacher's handful of starts.

It's fun to look into the crystal ball and see a mirror image of what we already thought. Let's just be careful about reading too much into stats that are produced by a couple of weeks worth of games.

But by all means, keep drastically swinging your confidence poll around. I do love my charts!