The Detroit Tigers: A Tale of Two Teams

By parmyjr22
Jul. 09, 2016

Pelfrey exits the field after yet another upsetting start
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Watching the Detroit Tigers thus far in 2016 has been a tale of two teams – the Tigers versus the Cleveland Indians and the Tigers versus everybody else. The Tigers have managed only one win in 12 games against the Cleveland Indians (1-11) which is good for a microscopic .083 winning percentage. However, when you look at the remainder of the season, Detroit has gone 44-30, posting a .594 winning percentage against the remainder of the MLB. It truly has been two different teams on the field.

So let’s break down the 12 games Detroit has played against the Indians. Over the season series, Cleveland has outscored Detroit 79-36, including two shutouts of the Tigers. Let’s focus on the starting pitchers to find where the stark contrast might lie. Against the Indians, Tigers starters have given up a total of 55 earned runs over the course of 55 innings pitched, making for a 9.00 ERA. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s starters have thrown 76.1 innings giving up only 22 earned runs, a 2.60 ERA. Detroit’s starting pitching has been absolutely horrendous against their division rivals in 2016.

When you look at games started by Tigers pitchers against non-Indians opponents, the results have been dramatically different. In 74 such games, Detroit starters have thrown 503.2 innings surrendering 253 earned runs, which comes to a 4.53 ERA. Despite an ERA that may be considered a little high for a starting rotation, the offense has exploded at times and the bullpen has dominated at times. Put it all together and Detroit has amassed a winning record and run differential against the remainder of the MLB. Case in point, the offense has outscored its opponents 386-334.

With this in mind, I think the question to ask is this: are the Detroit Tigers more like the 1-11 team or the 44-30 team? I have a hard time answering this because the team has been on such a roller-coaster ride so far this season. I would love to say that Detroit is the 44-30 team, however, I honestly believe they are more along the lines of the 1-11 team. That 44-30 record is simply a mirage put on by the team. Detroit knows how to beat bad teams, but when they take on teams with winning records they do not fare as well. In fact, against teams with a winning record, Detroit is 19-31. If you want to break it down even further, the Tigers are 3-19 against first place teams.

These numbers against teams with winning records are why I believe the Tigers are more like the 1-11 team we’ve seen take the field against the Cleveland Indians. I’m not saying Detroit is going to tank the season and end up as a bottom feeder alongside the Minnesota Twins, but they cannot manage to win the games that are the most important. The first place teams will be what the Tigers would face if they were to earn a playoff berth. Putting up a 3-19 record against those teams proves Detroit does not have what it takes to make a postseason run. I believe Detroit will continue to pull on the heartstrings of the fans and flirt with first place all season only to disappoint once again.