in

Inside The Numbers: Providing context for the Detroit Tigers record after 30 days


Exactly thirty days ago, the Detroit Tigers began their 2017 season. It’s as good a time as any for a review, so, let’s take stock of where the team is currently.

Heading into this afternoon’s (scheduled) matchup with the Cleveland Indians, which as since then been postponed, the Tigers are 14-13 and sitting in 3rd place in the American League Central Division. Over here at Detroit Sports Nation headquarters, we have been updating our T”igers Loss Tracker.” This is a non-scientific way of tracking losses and assigning blame for said losses.

Here is our breakdown of the 13 losses so far:

  • Starting Pitching: 2
  • Bullpen: 4
  • Offense: 4
  • Team: 2
  • Outlier: 1

Assigning the responsibility in a loss is not as easy as it sounds. Nor do the numbers make much sense without some explanation. Let’s take a little closer look at each category for some context.

Starting Pitching

Baseball fans know that solid starting pitching is important to any team. Tigers fans were expecting the starters to be the strength of the pitching staff this year and through the first 27 games, they have been. However, most Detroiters (this blogger included) figured that the team would rely heavily on Justin Verlander to lead the rotation. So far, in the 2 games where we’ve assigned the loss blame to the starting pitching, JV has been the starter.

On April 15, Verlander gave up 11 hits and 9 earned runs (including 3 homers) while lasting only 4.0 innings.

In his next start, on April 21, Verlander had another disappointing outing. While solid through the first 5 innings, JV lost a bit of command in the 6th inning. He finished the day giving up 6 walks, 4 runs, and only 4 strikeouts. By the time JV left the game, Detroit was trailing 4-3. The Tigers ended up losing 6-3.

So far this season, Verlander is 2-2 with a 4.21 ERA.

Bullpen

Sep 14, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann (34) and relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (57) celebrate after the game against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Detroit won 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, the bullpen. The area of the team that receives the most scrutiny from Detroit fans. I’m not going to spend a lot of time defending Francisco Rodriguez in this space. You can read more about that here, if interested.

Of the 4 losses tagged to the bullpen, here’s how they breakdown.

On April 9Bruce Rondon gave up 2 walks, a hit, and 3 runs in the 8th inning. This erased a 1-run Detroit lead. Rondon’s ERA for 2017 is 40.50(!!!).

On April 13 against the Minnesota TwinsAnibal Sanchez entered the game in middle relief with Detroit trailing 5-2.  1.1 innings later, the Twins had added 6 more runs.

Alex Wilson and Joe Jiminez were the culprits on April 28. Those gentlemen gave up 2 runs each in the 8th and 9th inning respectively and the Tigers lost 7-3.

Finally, Justin Wilson was handed the credit for the loss on April 29 after he gave up a 2-run homer in the 10th inning.

None of these bullpen losses came at the expense of KRod. Interesting.

Offense

I’ll keep this section short and sweet.

We credited the Detroit offense with the blame for 4 losses so far. On April 18, 20, 26, and May 3 the Tigers scored 4 total runs.

Team

Baseball is a great example of a team game. There are some losses where nothing really works well. The offense can’t seem to generate runs. The starting pitching leaves a bit to be desired. That’s how we came to these results in the loss tracker.

Sep 13, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matt Boyd (48) pitches in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Boyd did not have his best stuff on April 6. He gave up 5 runs in 2.1 innings. Sanchez added to that with 5 runs (1 earned) in 3.2 innings of middle relief. The offense could only muster 2 runs on 4 hits that day.

The other team loss was on April 27 against the Mariners. K-Rod gave up an earned run when pitching with the game tied in the 9th. That said, the Tigers offense managed only 4 hits and 1 run that game. Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez, Justin Upton, and Nicholas Castellanos were a combined 0-15 on the day as the Tigers squandered a solid 7 inning start by Verlander.

Outlier

Sometimes strange things happen. A bad bounce or a missed opportunity can cost a team a game late. It happens from time to time.

The situation on April 19 against the Rays is a great example. K-Rod loaded the bases in the 9th. However, with Detroit needing 2 outs to win the game, Rodriguez got the ground ball to 2nd base he was looking for. Jose Iglesias inexplicably fell down when making the relay to 1st base for the second have of the double play and his throw went wild. Tampa Bay won the game in strange walk off fashion.

Kinsler and Iglesias are one of the best double play combinations in baseball. They successfully turn double plays all the time – but – not this time. Sure, K-Rod gets some blame here, but, so does the defense. It was a spectacular moment of misfortune for Detroit.

Conclusion

The Tigers have gotten fairly solid starting pitching over the first month of the season. Has Verlander been as sharp as expected? No. Has Jordan Zimmerman repeated his dominance of April 2016? No. But, it’s overall been a very solid effort from the starting rotation.

In terms of offense, yes, they have gone through a slump or two. However, they also do not have J.D. Martinez in the lineup and Miguel Cabrera has only played in 18 games due to a lingering groin injury. Offensively this team will improve with a healthy Cabrera and impending return of Martinez.

While Rodriguez makes things interesting in the 9th, he is still getting the save a majority of the time when called upon. Justin and Alex Wilson have been very good in the 7th and 8th innings. Middle relief has been an issue, as expected.

Outliers are what they are — low percentage plays that sometimes create losses. These types of games happen from time to time and are inside the margin of error over the course of a season.

I think the Detroit Tigers are in a very good spot. Right in the thick of things early on in a competitive AL Central. Also, Detroit is 4-2 against the Indians so far and we know that the Tribe will be there in August and September when the division title is up for grabs.

Middle relief is an issue for the Tigers and has cost them some games. This was expected at the beginning of 2017. With the offense improving as the team gets healthier, I’m looking for Detroit to be on the upswing by the end of May.

Written by Leonard Elmore

3 Players the Detroit Red Wings should consider drafting in the 1st round of the NHL Draft

Detroit Lions Senior Personnel Executive Brian Xanders abruptly steps down