Saturday, May 27, 2006

Detroit always was a baseball town

Beleaguered Tigers fans have tried to tell anyone that would listen for years that Detroit was a baseball town. They recalled the World Series of 1968 and 1984 and even the playoff run of 1987 and how electric the atmosphere in the city was, but few would listen as the Tigers suffered through one laughable season after another in front of half empty stadiums.

But now? It's a baseball town after all. The Tigers are winning games at a breakneck pace and fans are coming out of the woodwork. There is real excitement back at Comerica Park. People are actually talking about the Tigers again. Hell, I enjoy just flipping through the paper in the morning to gaze at the baseball standings and see Detroit looking down on everybody. They currently sit at 34-14 an amazing 20 games over .500 and have a 2.5 game lead on the White Sox for the best record in the AL Central, AL, and all of baseball. They have a 6 game lead on the Yankees for the wildcard spot. And they just started a 10 game home stand that will be played in front of a nearly packed house every day.

It now seems like 2003 was so long ago when the Tigers need a late season rally to finish 43-119 and avoid setting an all time loss record. Dave Dombrowski has improved the roster every year and now he got a manager in Jim Leyland that commands the respect of everybody in the clubhouse. Just ask Brandon Inge what it feels like...

"As much as we were panicking and stressing out about the 2003 season, it's a complete, flip-around opposite this year," he said. "I can't wait to get to the ballpark. I can't wait to start a game. I can't wait to win. And everyone is having a great time.

"In a sense, all our wishes and hopes have come true this year as far as a turnaround from 2003."

But how long will this last? At what point does the clock strike midnight for Cinderella? Let's not forget that's band of geniuses pegged them for 4th in the AL Central behind everybody except Kansas City. Well, I guess 2 of the 10 "experts" picked them for 3rd so I'll give that pair a little bit of a pass. Baseball Prospectus runs a fascinating scenario every morning where they update the playoff odds for each team. They do this by factoring in a team's current record, their runs scored/allowed, and their SOS and then they simulate the rest of the season 1 million times to see how many of that 1 million they make the playoffs. Want to guess what the Tigers current odds are? 86.4% to make the playoffs and 73.1% to win the division. They also run a sort of adjusted odds report that takes into account how good the team was predicted to be before the season. That one knocks down the Tigs playoff chances to only 83.6% and still pegs them with an average record of 100-62.

So when will this fairy tale end? The World Series? A second half swoon and out of the playoffs? I don't have a damn clue, but right now it's the most fun I've had following the Tigers ever, since I wasn't quite old enough to have anything more than fuzzy memories of 1984.



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