You always think fan confidence will be highest before the season when everyone is full of hope. For most of the lifetime of the Bless You Boys Fan Confidence poll, that remained true. Until now, that is. Coming in a point higher than ever before, the BYB poll hit a record high of 76.4 this week. More than 80 percent of voters believe the Tigers will at least be in the division hunt for the long haul, while many see a long October run in the team's future.
The fans only see the obvious here. The Tigers have been one of the hottest teams in baseball for more than a month. I saw the stat a day or two ago: Dating back to May 2 Detroit had the best winning percentage in the American League. Cleveland, meanwhile, has reverted to the sub-.500 team everyone thought they were. Chicago, as I said on the podcast, still poses a threat because they have a lot of ballplayers with track records who are playing beneath their potential right now.
If you look at some of the simulations out there, you'll find the same. Baseball Prospectus has the most famous one. Today, Detroit has a 62.7% chance of making the playoffs. The White Sox come in second in the division at 24%, while the Indians have dropped to 17.9%. The Royals and Twins are barely a blip.
One thing that helps is the schedule. In the past few years, Detroit has typically had an easier schedule in the first half of the season than the second. Take last year. The Tigers were in first place at the end of June, but a deeper look showed that the picture wasn't quite so rosy because they had several tough series -- mostly on the road -- remaining against the teams of the AL East. It was no surprise when the Tigers stumbled. This year, the Tigers have many of the most difficult series out of the way. For that reason, a glance at CoolStandings.com shows the remaining schedule's winning % currently stands at .477. That will obviously change as some teams heat up or cool off, but it meets the sniff test. (By the way: Chicago's remaining schedule winning percentage is about the same.)
Right now, the only teams Detroit sees on the road with winning percentages above .500 are Tampa (4) and Cleveland (6). And the Indians, as we have seen, are not the same team that compiled the .567 start to the year. Otherwise the toughest series left on the schedule might be the west coast swings to Oakland and Anaheim.
So yes, the fans are right to feel pretty good about the Tigers. Things are going well and there's reason to believe the second half of the season should turn out a bit better than it has in seasons past.