Friday, August 18, 2006

Tigers Need To Keep Pressing The Gas Pedal

You've heard of the term "Playing NOT to lose, rather than playing to win", correct?

The theory goes like this: a team will be so concerned with maintaining a lead, that it will play too safe, thus enabling the trailing team to come back. It's also known, frankly, as choking.

This seems to be the prevailing theory among the ink-stained wretches and blabbermouths on talk radio, unfortunately.

Stop me if you've heard this one before...

"Even if the Tigers just go 21-20, they'll finish with 100 wins!"

Or something like that.

First of all, that's true; the numbers don't lie. A 21-20 finish will indeed put the Tigers at 100-62 for the season. And, granted, if 100 wins doesn't make the playoffs, then something's whacked.

But let's examine this attitude/theory closer.

21-20 sounds great -- until you go into a slump. The Tigers are still battling their way through one as we blog. They're 3-6 in their last nine games. So what happens if they go into another mini-tailspin?

To wit: let's say the Tigers go 4-8 in their next 12 games. All of a sudden, they'd have to go 17-12 to make the 21-20 mark. Do-able? Absolutely. But the point being, let's not get caught up in having them winning "only" a certain amount of games. Keep the foot on the gas pedal, I always say.

The 1969 Cubs had a 9 1/2 game lead on August 15. That's three games more than the Tigers' lead currently, and it's only August 18. The Cubs ended up in second place behind the Miracle Mets -- 8 games out. They lost 17 1/2 games in a month and a half. Starting September by losing 10 of 11 games didn't help the Cubs' cause.

Here's the records of the Cubs and Mets the morning of August 16, 1969:

Cubs 74-44
Mets 62-51

Here's how they finished:

Mets 100-62
Cubs 92-70

From August 16-end of season:

Mets 38-11
Cubs 18-26

If you think this can't happen to you, think again.

Doubtless folks in Chicago looked at their Cubbies' spiffy 74-44 record in mid-August and thought, "Hey, if they play .500, they win 96 games! That should be good enough, right?"

Now, all sorts of things contributed to the Cubs' collapse in 1969. A lot of things have to go wrong, granted. But 92 wins is still strong. It's just that the Mets started playing out of their freaking minds in September.

The best way for the Tigers to make this AL Central/wild card race moot is to keep winning, to keep the baseball spikes on the throats of their chasers. Don't get sucked into having to play at "only" a certain clip the rest of the way.

I doubt highly that Jim Leyland will allow that notion to prevail amongst his players; this warning is mainly for the fans and my fellow media types.

Don't try not to lose this thing. Just go out and win it.


Blogger Ozz said...

I'll second that last statement!

1:20 PM  

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