Two weeks ago we were hoping that the Tigers wouldn’t collapse and, instead, manage to hold on to the division lead for one final month.
One twelve game winning streak later, the division has been buried, and we, as Tigers fans, can set our sights even higher. There’s no longer any worry about simply making the playoffs, the magic number is down to two with 13 games remaining (ESPN and Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds both say 100%), what we’re concerned with now is playoff positioning.
Staying ahead of the Texas Rangers is job one. Detroit currently leads that race by two games, but with 13 games left, that’s far from a done deal. Staying ahead of Texas (or the Angels if they somehow win that division) would mean that Detroit is one of the top two division winners, which would mean home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Boston is currently in the wild card position, and their record is just one game worse that Detroit’s. We’re not really concerned with Boston right not because the wild card team cannot earn home field advantage over a division winner. They automatically earn the “fourth seed” in the postseason.
The mostly unrealistic stretch goal at the moment is to try to pass the New York Yankees for the top spot in the American League. Detroit is currently second, but they’re still three and a half games back of the Evil Empire. Looking at the schedules though, the Tigers do get a breath of hope. The average winning percentage of Detroit’s 13 remaining opponents is a paltry .444 (closest comparison: Oakland-). New York has 14 games remaining against teams that average out to a .518 winning percentage (closest comparison: Toronto+). (Oddly enough, Detroit plays Oakland this weekend and New York plays Toronto.) New York also has Tampa Bay and Boston remaining on the schedule.
I wanted to determine what kind of a difference the schedule disparity would have, so I implemented a crude version of the log5 method. This method estimates Detroit’s finish at 8-5, and New York’s finish at 8-6. Obviously the Tigers have some work to do if they want to catch up. If the Yankees can manage a 7-7 finish, Detroit would need to go 10-3 to catch them, but if they hit the estimated 8-6 mark, then the Tigers are looking at 11-2. That doesn’t seem out of the question when we consider the current streak, but it pretty much is.