Fox Sports Detroit had an interesting statistic during Sunday's game: The last time the Tigers won 15 games in a season against a team was 1973, against the Red Sox. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Boston was pretty good against everyone else in the AL, and the Tigers weren't. They finished four games behind the Sox in the standings and 12 behind AL East winner, Baltimore.
This year, of course, the Tigers won 15 games in the season series against Cleveland and lost just four. The Tigers lead the division by 7.5 games. It doesn't take a math major to figure out why one team is in first place and the other fighting for the Wild Card. Shift five of those wins from the Tigers to the Indians and suddenly you've got a high-tension pennant race until the end.
This isn't the first year the Tigers punched their own ticket against division rivals. Last season, for instance, Detroit went 12-6 against the White Sox and won the Central by just three games. Shift the season series to a split and the teams would have been forced to a do-or-die added game for the division. Of course the Tigers have been on the other end of things, too. In 2009, the Twins took their fate into their hands by winning 11 of 18 games against Detroit (plus a 12th "regular season" Game 163).
Fifteen wins, as you might guess, isn't extremely rare, though it's not an everyday occurrence. We've seen 14-4 occur almost yearly recently (including Texas with a 14-2 advantage over Houston with three games to go), but you have to go back to 2011, when Texas was 15-4 vs. Seattle, for the last 15-win series. It was, relatively speaking, commonplace in 2010. The Angels topped Seattle, 15-4, and Toronto beat Baltimore, 15-3.
But when's the last time such domination decided a division winner? So far as I can tell, 2009: The Dodgers took the season series from Colorado, 14-4, to win the NL West by three games.
Here are a few more interesting notes i found along the way, looking from 2003 to 2013.
The Red Sox actually had the biggest domination of an opponent in 2009, taking the season series from Baltimore, 16-2. The best team-vs-team season-series record was 17-2, Oakland over Seattle, in 2006, by the way.
In 2005, the White Sox took the AL Central Division from the Indians by six games after winning the season series, 14-5. You might recall those blessed Sox went on to win the World Series, too.
It doesn't fit our season-long domination theme, but here's one worth mentioning: The Angels beat the A's four times out of six games during the final 10 games of the 2004 season to win the division by a game. So that's ownership when it matters. Another fact from that year: the Dodgers won 16 games against the Diamondbacks.
OK, I've looked a lot of numbers and my eyes are crossing now. Hopefully I haven't missed anything. But if I have just let me know in the comments.
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