Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

In Response to Tom Verducci

A couple days ago, Tom Verducci wrote an article about the Detroit Tigers. In it, he mentions that although they have a difficult schedule in the next two weeks (which is absolutely true), he thinks the Tigers are "for real" and can hold on to win about 90 games.

He gives five reasons for this, but in my opinion, he fails to mention the crucial factor which will decide the fate of these Tigers, one which indicates to me at least that it is impossible to predict right now how the AL Central will play out.

First, his reasons the Tigers are "for real" are

1) Pitching (focusing on the bullpen) - this partially is true - Zumaya and Rodney throw hard. They're the best pieces of the pen, and the most likely to be consistent. Jamie Walker is an underrated 35 year old who has served Detroit well for four years now, but he's not going to keep up his 0.63 ERA. Todd Jones just took the loss last night against the Yankees, and even before that, he was giving up a lot of hits. The bottom line is that the bullpen is good, but it's not THIS good.

2) Jim Leyland - the manager is "changing the atmosphere" in the clubhouse and using his relief pitchers and bench players well. I don't really know about that. He has deployed his pitchers well, as far as I know, but his team has also been caught stealing more times than it has been successful. I don't know if Leyland's positive impact is outweighed by the bad baserunning decisions.

3) History - Teams that historically start out well make the playoffs. Well, it makes sense - teams that start the first third of the season well are typically good teams. The Tigers are a good team. This reason doesn't really explain why they're good so much as it indicates that probably won't be sitting at home come October.

4) Defense - The Tigers have a good defense. I don't agree with this at all. They have a good middle infield. But their left fielders (Thames and Monroe) are slow and prone to bad decisions. Chris Shelton is no better than average at first. Inge is probably average to a little above average at third. Pudge is solid. That adds up to an above average defense, although one with a couple of holes in it.

5) Justin Verlander - I'm a huge fan of Verlander. But nevertheless, he's currently having some kind of problem with a blister or a cut on his finger, and furthermore, the Tigers might be tempted to limit his innings. If he has thrown 140 innings and the Tigers are tied with the White Sox in September, will they continue to start him?

Verducci also looks at the strength of schedule by mentioning that six of the Tigers' last nine games are against the Royals. But this is a bit misleading. The Tigers will play the Royals 10 more times. So will the White Sox. Neither team is likely to gain any advantage there, as they're both more than capable of going 8-2 or 7-3 against the hapless Royals.

These reasons don't adequately analyze the Tigers. It's actually very hard to assess the Tigers' chances right now, for one huge reason - they haven't played many games against their biggest division challengers - the White Sox, and their schedule has not been very difficult thus far.

The two teams will meet 16 more times between now and the end of the season. I think it is possible that one of the two teams will pull away during a 4 game series in late August. Head to head matchups are the best way to make up ground against a rival, but they're also the best way to dig yourself in a hole. Both teams will also play several series against teams in the AL East, each team presenting significant obstacles to the Central Division foes.

Let's face it - the season, even though we are about to pass the 1/3 mark, is still young. Both these teams have yet to face their biggest challenges, not to mention each other. There's no telling what this division will look like in August.


Post a Comment

<< Home