Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Tiger Can Change Its Stripes

The resemblance is just getting downright scary.

Ranks in MLB
Tigers
White Sox





AL Pennant









Team ERA
1st
4th
Team OPS
11th
16th
Def. Efficiency
2nd
2nd





Next Year








Team ERA
24th
21st
Team OPS
1st
3rd
Def. Efficiency
18th
11th

In 2006, the defending AL Champion White Sox switched things up, morphing from a pitching-and-defense team with a low team OBP to an offensive juggernaut led by the best 3-4-5 in baseball, featuring a huge breakout season from their right fielder and a big bounce-back year from their DH. Meanwhile, their once-dominant rotation and bullpen both took big steps backward.

Sound familiar? Fast forward a year, cut and paste the word "Tigers" in there, and you have a virtual carbon copy with no factual errors. Sure, there are some differences--the Tigers are getting better production from the front and back ends of their batting order, and they have suffered major injuries while the Sox did not--but overall, the song remains the same.

Should we be surprised? To an extent. Certainly, one should have predicted that the Tigers' pitching, defense, and hitting would each regress somewhat from last year's extremes. Their actual performance so far is a massive overcorrection, just as it was for last year's Pale Hose. The Tigers simply do not have MLB's best offense, nor do they have one of its ten worst pitching staffs. But an injury here, a fluke season there, and you get a completely different team, yet one that is still competitive.

Will this year's Tigers get back to the playoffs, unlike the 2006 Sox? Obviously we can't say for certain, but like the Sox, the Tigers are facing intense competition for both the Wild Card and division title. It'll be a fun one to watch.

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