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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What exactly are Tigers fans panicking over?

If I told you that there's a contender in the American League Central Division that has — dating back to the day the divisional lead first changed hands, on June 14 — accumulated a 26-28 record, the presumption is that I'm referring to the Detroit Tigers, right? After all, the SECOND-HALF COLLAPSE (which must be typed in all caps, due to its severity) is ON ... or so I've been informed.

I'll give you another hint: The last time the division lead changed hands was on July 21. Since that time, that same team is 10-12. Tigers again, right?

Umm, nope. Both times, that's the record for the Cleveland Indians — the self-styled "WINdians" — who came into Thursday at 61-58, two games behind the Tigers (65-58) in the standings.

Well, there has to be SOME case for a collapse, right? Otherwise it wouldn't be a topic of conversation every 4.5 seconds.

OK, let's try these numbers: 28-26 since June 14 and 14-10 since July 21. WAIT A SECOND — those are both above the .500 mark, so there's no way they can be the Tigers.

Well, actually, those are both the records put forth by the Chicago White Sox (61-61), who've been steadily creeping up behind the Indians to make it a three-team race. So why did it take the Sox this long to get within 3.5 games of the Tigers? Well, in that five-week span between June 14 and July 21, the Sox were the only one of the three contenders with a losing record (14-16). Not really gaining ground — more like treading water.

OK, so now you want the numbers for the Tigers, so you can shout "SEEEEEEE!?!?!?!?!" at the top of your lungs, right?

Since first taking over first place on June 14 — the date that occasioned owner Mike Ilitch's surprise visit to the clubhouse — the Tigers are 28-28.

In the five weeks between June 14 and July 21 — when the divisional lead changed hands five times, and was in a virtual tie seven times — the Tigers went 15-16.

Since taking the lead on July 21 — for good, I'm sure they (and you) hope — they've gone 13-12.

Since the much-maligned contract extensions for manager Jim Leyland and GM Dave Dombrowski — which was supposed to sap the "urgency" out of this team — the Tigers' RSCE (record since contract extensions) is 4-5.

The Tigers had a .533 winning percentage (49-43) before the All-Star break, and have a .516 win percentage (16-15) since. (Note: It was an identical .533 before Wednesday's 6-5 loss).

No. I'll agree. None of those records are impressive — for any of those teams.

[This post says almost the identical thing, just with slightly different marking points.]

That's why it's still a three-horse race. And why there's no "collapsing" going on. (If the Tigers suddenly go 10-29 over their remaining games, I'll give you all a special dispensation to use the terminology. Until then, no dice.)

You can call it a bad division if you want. Shoot, you can call it bad baseball.

I think I can pretty easily swallow both of those.

But a collapse? Not buying it.

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