Be honest. Nobody predicted the Tigers to be good in 2020.
Detroit is off to a surprisingly hot start – 9-5 through their first 14. This is good for second place in the weak American League Central.
We knew that one or two Central teams would benefit from a weak schedule this year – we just didn’t think it would be the Tigers.
The Tigers would hold the number four seed in the American League if the season ended today. Their 9-5 record is the best record among second place teams in the American League.
The Tigers have not made the playoffs since 2014. Self-proclaimed tankers, almost no one was expecting the Tigers to make the playoffs this year. Vegas was definitely not on board. The Tigers were predicted to be the second-worst team in the entire MLB behind Baltimore entering the 2020 season.
Though just 14 games in, Tigers fans cannot help but dream of postseason baseball. After selling away our best players for several years it would be nice to finally see the team succeed and play in some meaningful games.
In a season where one game pulls the weight of 2.7, a 9-5 start is like the Tigers holding a 24-13 record through 37 games in a normal season.
37 games is still way too short to get excited about a bad team – but we haven’t had much to get excited about in the last 5 years. Deep down in our hearts we all know this team is going to let us down.
Looking at the metrics, the Tigers do not look like a team that can sustain a long winning streak. They strikeout in nearly 30% of their at bats as a team! 29.9% is the worst team K% in baseball. The Tigers are vying to be strikeout leaders in back-to-back years as they led the MLB in strikeouts in 2019 with a 26.4% rate.
When they’re not striking out, the Tigers do hit the ball pretty well. Their .231 team batting average is good for 16th in the MLB and their .303 on-base percentage is good for 22nd. These numbers by themselves are not great but it tells you that they got a lot of hits when they aren’t striking out.
The Tigers definitely rely on the long ball. Their 23 team homeruns are tied for eighth in the Major Leagues, which is even more impressive considering the Tigers had five games postponed due to COVID.
Detroit does not steal bases at all. They have just three steals in the 2020 season. Of course this number is a little low because they had five games wiped out, but the Tigers have not ran very often or very successfully over the past several years. Detroit is a station-to-station-try-to-win-with-a-three-run-homer kind of team. Life is easy when they get that 3-run homer, but there are plenty of times when you wait all game and it never comes.
Teams that rely on the long ball and can’t hit for a very high average endure long slumps. One or two bad spells in a 60-game season will pretty much knock a team out of contention.
In runs per game, the Tigers rank fourth. Their 5.23 runs per game is exceptional although this number is inflated due to one game in which the Tigers scored 17 in an 11-inning slugfest against Pittsburgh.
To get a true read on a team, take away their best and worst performance. Let’s take away the 17-run outburst in Pittsburgh and also remove the time the Tigers got shut out in the nightcap of a doubleheader against Cincinnati. Removing these two games drops the Tigers runs per game to 4.64 – still good but not elite. It would be tied for 10th in the Major Leagues.
The Tigers have played with an average line of (+125) this year. $100/game bettors would be up over $600 – making the Tigers the third-most profitable team behind the Marlins and Orioles.
Tigers fans – like myself – are excited at the potential of this team. Sports bettors are excited at the potential earnings they can get from long Tigers lines.
Be careful … these numbers don’t look sustainable. Management refuses to call up the young guns. Don’t get burned by an organization looking to lose.