Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tiger’s Cross The 40 Game Line

Legendary former Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson had a rule to not judge his baseball team until forty games had been played. His thinking was that forty games would give you a good breadth of games to judge where your team really sits. This is the point where you see what kind of team you have.

How does a guy get a nick name like “Sparky” any way?

Yesterday Detroit finally reached the forty-game line.

The Tigers reached the line while playing their second series against the Kansas City Royals. The same team they opened the season against.They have yet to win a game off the Royals. And the Royals are not a very good team at all.

But this year they are better than the Tigers. So far.

Here are the standings as we sit at this point, on the morning of May 15, 2008.

The Detroit Tigers, picked by Sports Illustrated to win the 2008 World Series are sitting in last place in arguably the weakest division in the American League. Five games behind the Cleveland Indians who are also disappointing their home town fans, despite being at the top of the American Central.

The Tigers payroll is second only to the New York Yankees. Note that the Yankees are in fourth place in the AL East and three and a half games behind the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The Devil Rays?

After forty games, the Tigers have scored 182 runs, but have allowed 214 runs. The Tigers have scored only 45% of the 396 runs scored in games involving the Tigers this season. The remaining 55% have been scored by the opposing teams.

In November of 2007, the Tigers made what was considered to be a block buster trade getting Miguel Cabrera – considered to be one of the best sluggers in the game today – and Dontrelle Willis – a solid pitcher who would fill in the final spot in an already strong rotation – for two of our best triple-A players.

Then what the hell is going on?

Simply put, Tiger batters are not living up to their potential.

Simply put, Tiger pitchers are not living up to their potential.

In fact both hitting and pitching have been very disappointing.

The Tigers pitching rotation of Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson, and Dontrelle Willis were poised at years start to be among the strongest in baseball.The Chart below shows every American League teams record against each other. By reading the rows going across the table, you see the wins the team has against the opposing teams. By reading the columns down, you see the losses the team has against the opposing teams.

The Tigers wins this season have been highlighted in blue across the middle row. The Tigers losses are highlighted in yellow going down the center column.

By examining the teams that have done the most damage to the Tigers so far this year, you see that it is those other teams in the Central division (with the exception of Boston) who have beaten the Tigers most often.

These games are the most important.

And so far, at the forty-game line, it looks like every other team in the AL Central want to win more than our boys.

From the fan’s perspective, there is absolutely no reason for such a pitiful start to 2008.

And from the fan’s perspective, there is absolutely no reason to think this course will change.

The entire roster has just recently been signed to fairly long-term big money contracts. The Tiger’s payroll is second only to the Yankees.

But the theories abound all around sports talk radio in Detroit.

“The coaches are not coaching” say one pack, “Fire all the coaches!”.

“The player’s have split into groups”, say another. “The Spanish follow the leadership of Pudge Rodriguez, the rest follow Gary Sheffield”.

“Manager Jim Leyland has given up and doesn’t know how to fix it – and is starting to want to quit like he did in Colorado” say a third pack.

And you know, there are probably little trickles of truth to all three. But most of such talk is all hyperbola.

Errors. Missed throws, sloppy base coverage, missed opportunities. Just complete and utter lack of concentration. Or maybe this slew of mega-millionaires wearing our beloved old-English D are just trying to hard?

Nobody knows. Everybody’s frustrated. And we are starting to give up.

Personally I blame Sports Illustrated. Nothing good has ever come from being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Unless you’re a swimsuit model.

And our boy’s were not wearing swimsuits on that cover.

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