The Detroit Tigers have been one of baseball’s most successful teams over the past 2 seasons, winning 183 games and one league championship. This past offseason, they got stronger, adding peak performing Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to their already very strong lineup and pitching staff. Many experts predicted the playoffs for the 2008 Tigers. Instead, the Tigers have started the season 0-6, the Tigers first 6 game losing streak since 2005. Can they turn it around, or are they really this bad a team?
After looking at the evidence, I believe that luck is the major contributor to the Tigers’ poor start, and they can turn it around. Here is the evidence pointing to a possible turnaround:
1) Tigers have slightly outperformed their record. Their expected won/loss based on their run differential is 1-5, rather than 0-6 – and that is skewed by one blowout loss.
2) A team can lost 6 in a row and make the playoffs. Just last season, the Yankees lost 7 in a row at one point – but ended up winning 94 games and making the playoffs.
3) Their runs allowed (39) are due, to a large part, by luck. Only 62% of base runners have been left on base, by far the worst in the league. An average performance could result in 10 fewer runs.
4) Their batting .149 with runners in scoring position (RISP). This also will improve due to regression to the mean.
5) Their underperforming players can reasonably be expected to perform much better over the course of the season. Cabrera and Ordonez have been horrible this season, but were expected to be MVP candidates and have been in th past. Six poor games does not change that. The pitcher’s have been walking too many, also reasonably expected to improve based on anticipated performance.
I fully expect the 2008 Tigers to get back into the pennant race, if they keep their confidence. Six games is too small a number to make a significant conclusion. Don’t write them out just yet.