By: Kurt Snyder
Sparky Anderson always said that a team can’t think about future contention until reaching the .500 mark. That is your only goal going forward until you reach it and eclipse it.
But in 2016, the Tigers must be confusing the heck out of themselves when they consider their goals. They have been dancing around break even, never venturing far below or far above. They are the perfect example of an average baseball team.
It’s not the kind of baseball you can play for long and still hang in a race. You can’t count on constant company from the rest of the division.
Things were manageable when the Central remained bunched in mediocrity, but there was always that potential threat that one team would get hot and begin to distance themselves from the rest of the pack. Well, it’s happened. The Indians have ripped off 11 games in a row.
In doing so, the Tigers find themselves 7 games back of Cleveland by playing .500 ball, spinning their wheels and still waiting to beat the Indians even once. It’s a horrible combination.
But remember the line of thinking, no other goals can be considered until you eclipse .500, and the Tigers haven’t reached the break-even point in the most important area – their own division. The Tigers have broken even through 16 games against the East, have broken even through 20 games against the West and are 8-4 against the National League.
If you do the math, the proof is in the pudding. Struggle in your division and you are in trouble. Especially when you haven’t won a single game against the team leading.
The Tigers are not mathematically out of the division race. That’s not something you even calculate in June. But the math thus far does not support a division title for the Tigers. They don’t act like contenders and the numbers support that perception.
But what else contributes? What are the signs that maybe you’re just not equipped to contend? Well, teams that win championships dominate at home and at least break even on the road.
Both Cleveland and Kansas City have played well at home. But the biggest difference between those 2 teams comes down to road records. Cleveland has been solid away from Progressive Field at 22-18, but KC has been awful when they hit the road, sitting painfully at 12 games below .500. Thankfully for them, their 27-10 home record has kept them within sniffing distance (5 GB) of the Indians.
So what about the Tigers? Well, Detroit has been OK at home (22-16), but certainly not dominant. And on the road they currently sit at 5 games below .500. None of this supports a division title. When you break even, you usually win nothing.
This is not the kind of post you would normally expect from me. I am supposed to be pounding my fist on the table and demonstrating a more fire and brimstone type of approach to the struggles of the home team.
But until the numbers start to support a winning atmosphere associated with a contender, then we don’t have a contender. And the excitement? Well, let’s just say it’s tempered.
Ironically, the Tigers have impressed with big offensive numbers. Lots of homers and exciting wins that mostly are supported by the long ball. But on the other side of the ledger, when they lose, they are getting pounded. The 4 homer inning against JV over the weekend was incomprehensible.
So, a lot has to change for this team to generate any excitement or anticipation. Their schedule coming up in July doesn’t really lend itself to future success. The Tigers have 9 home games in July. So they had better get moving and fight the trends.
This is by far the most pivotal month of the season to this point. July will tell a lot about where this team is headed and there probably will not be much debate about what their position should be at the trade deadline, when all is said and done. They will have completed a long, road dominated month. July’s numbers will determine a lot.