By: Jamie Samuelsen
For all the debate about the hit that the Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader delivered to the Ducks’ Toni Lydman, I think we call all agree on one thing. It paled in comparison to the beating that the Tigers put on the woeful Astros down in Houston.
After struggling to eke out wins in the first two games, Detroit outscored Houston 26-2 in the last two games to complete the sweep. Everything clicked for the Tigers down south. Even Alex Avila climbed back on the wagon briefly and delivered the game-winning home run in the ninth on Friday night.
The slaughter caused some cynics to say some variation of, “BIG DEAL. The Astros stink. Do it against a real team.” And while I agree with some of that sentiment, it sells the Tigers short for what’s been a very strong start capped off by nine wins in their last ten. Included in that is a sweep over the Braves who currently reside in first place in the NL East and have the second best record in the NL.
Stats can be used to fit any argument. But it’s hard to deny the starkness of all the following numbers. And rest assured, these weren’t all amassed against the Astros.
In terms of major league statistics, The Tigers are –
Tied for first in team batting average – .285
Tied for first in team On Base Percentage – .352
Tied for second in runs scored – 164
Fourth in total bases – 476
And those are just the offensive numbers. How about the pitching staff? Well, if it’s possible, they’re just as good. The Tiger pitchers are –
Fifth in team ERA – 3.36
Second in starting pitching ERA – 3.04
First in Home Runs allowed – 16
Second in strikeouts – 310
First in bullpen strikeouts – 112
As for the fielding, it’s better than it was last year. The Tigers are actually second in the majors in terms of fielding percentage (.992). But that is a misleading number that doesn’t take into account balls that Tiger fielders don’t have the range to get to. When you look at advanced metrics (UZR), the Tigers are still well down in the pack. But they are better than last year. And the whopping number of strikeouts by their pitching staff keeps defensive chances to a minimum.
These numbers are likely to go down. But they do represent a large chunk of the season. Sparky Anderson always loved to say that you couldn’t judge a baseball team until they’ve played 40 games. Well, the 2013 Tigers are almost there (19-11). And so far, the signs are all pointing up.