The Tigers’ collapse should come as no surprise

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By H. Jose Bosch

Today I have a splitting headache and I’m not sure if it’s because I might have swine flu or because the Tigers epically failed to seal the division championship over the weekend.

To be honest, I’d rather have the swine flu.

The Tigers 5-3 win yesterday afternoon, a win that forced a one-game playoff tomorrow evening, only proves the point that no Tigers fan should be surprised about this late season collapse.

Detroit has been the most consistent, inconsistent team in baseball all season long. One day they play like the hapless Tigers of the mid to late 90s and the next day they look good enough to beat the Yankees.

What hurt the Tigers is that they never embraced their true identity. Not that a team needs a true identity to play well, but when a team has a certain identity, it’s built in a certain way which helps the team play more consistently.

The Twins have had the same identity for years. They’re low budget, concentrate on developing players, particularly pitchers, and they play small ball well. The team is built for this. They have players up and down the roster who have come up through the farm system. They have players who can make productive outs and they’ve always been amongst the best in the league in pitching.

They’re not always pretty during the regular season, but they’re always good enough to be dangerous in August and September.

Add all those together and it’s no wonder the Twins clawed their way back to force a playoff.

Detroit, on the other hand, hasn’t fully embraced its new identity. Being a slugging team didn’t work last season, so management decided to focus on pitching and defense—a great idea considering the team plays in Comerica Park. Unfortunately the line up still features elements of a slugging team, despite improvements in small ball categories, like sacrifice flies and sacrifice hits.

Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco had off years, hurting the production of Miguel Cabrera, albeit not by much. Magglio Ordonez had zero pop in the bat most of the year as did Carlos Guillen, when he played. Marcus Thames, who was supposed to be a great power hitter, had an awful season and after a fast start, Brandon Inge fell back down to his base level, which is a terrible hitter.

A lot of these guys aren’t small ball type players but sluggers, only none of them slugged. So when the Tigers actually did try to play small ball — 92 sacrifice at bats compared to 74 last season — they couldn’t score runs.
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I think part of that comes from Detroit still relying on the big inning rather than chipping away at the opposing pitcher with a few runs sprinkled throughout the game. This type of mentality essentially breeds hot and cold hitting which, in turn, produces a hot and cold team.

Put that up against a hot team like Minnesota and it’s a recipe for disaster.

This post also appears at Michigan and Trumbull.

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    That’s a great pt. about the Twins organization. I’ve covered games with theeir single A affiliate the Beloit Snappers, and they really do have that whole philosphoy built in.

    great pictures of the Tiger cleaning itself and the sad Tigger. I own a silver tabby, so when I saw the kitties I was like awwwwwww

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