Monday, June 12, 2006


"Difficult Stretch" Done, Tigers 7-9;
We'll Take It

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 3-3
This Week: (6/12-6/15: TB; 6/16-6/18: at ChiC)

Sixteen game segments hold a special place in these parts. Just ask the Lions. And, in any given sixteen games around Ford Field lately, you'd get a won/lost mark of either 5-11, 4-12, or the like.

The Tigers just finished a 16-game stretch that was supposed to function as some sort of barometer of their worth as a "real" major league team. They were games against the Indians, Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, and Blue Jays -- teams that are, some would say, more "real" than the Tigers. Hence their importance.

The Bengals went 7-9 during this test -- a record the Lions have only been able to dream about.

And, like a Lions fan, who might take 7-9 and run, today's Tiger nut might also want to do the same thing.

Considering the team was, at one point, 2-8 within the 16-game march, 7-9 isn't so bad. And, frankly, these were teams who had mostly excellent offenses. The Tigers' starting pitching staff handled them, for the most part. The bullpen got frazzled occasionally, which contributed mightily to the below-.500 mark. But the starters earned high marks -- even rookie Zach Miner, who now has to be Mike Maroth -- righthanded -- until further notice.

The offense, though, is peek-a-boo: Now you see it, now you don't. It emerges in waves, then settles down -- like an ocean tide. They still rely too much on the homerun, but there were signs as the recent road trip went on, that moving runners along and getting clutch hits that weren't homers was still a part of their arsenal -- which was so much why they sprinted out to that 35-14 start.

Four games at home against dangerous Tampa Bay -- that's right, I said dangerous, because they can whack the ball from time-to-time -- might be tricky, but a split will still be considered disappointing. The three interleague games at Wrigley Field should be fun this weekend.

So the dealio is this: 40-23, with 99 games remaining. A game-and-a-half lead in the division.

The magic number formula, in case you've always wondered, is to take the amount of games the leading team has remaining (99), add one, and subtract the difference in losses between the leader and the second place team (one, in this case). So the Tigers' magic number is 99.

Post it around town!


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