In the first game of the Marlins series it was pretty clear Leyland didn't care about the W-L result. In fact, he sort-of went with the program I outlined here, using lots of pitchers and platooning the non-starters. It's not at all clear that he wasn't trying to win the last two games - though he didn't put everything on the line to do so. As a result, they wound up only one game in front of the red hot 2nd place Indians, who ended their season running away from the 3rd place Royals with 10 straight wins.
I ended my August wrap-up saying, "Scoring is down a bit, and that might be a concern going forward." Really, I had no idea. Graph 1 shows how scoring has declined over the season. The purple line is season average to date. The yellow line is the average of the last 34 games.
From game 34 through game 62, the 34 game average stayed in the relatively narrow range of 5.26 to 5.68 runs per game [RPG]. Then, through game 80, there was a steep decline to 4.24 RPG. After that came a climb to a double peak culminating in the season high of 5.74 RPG at game 115. Since then, the bumpy slide into the slough of despond, and the season ending 4.35 RPG.
Season average to date [purple line] is a lot less volatile, but shows a similar pattern. After a double bottom at 4.93 RPG at games 71 and 81, the high for the 2nd half of the season came at 5.18 RPG in game 106. But from there was a slide to end the season at 4.91 RPG, the lowest reading since May 1st.
Despite having a stretch where they won 11 of 15 games, September was a very poor month for the Tigers, ending with a 13-13 record. Three of those 13 wins came against the Royals, and 1 against the Red Sox. The rest were against the hapless White Sox, Twins and Mariners.
Two defects have characterized the Tigers play for most of the season: ineffective relief pitching, and an inability to score runs late in games - and, as it turns out, late in the season, too. Those problems were mitigated in August, but came home again in September. In August, the Tigers outscored the opposition by 150 to 113. In September, with 4 fewer games, it was 97 to 94. Four fewer games, 57 fewer runs. RPG for the month took a nose dive from 5.0 to 3.73. Opponents RPG only slipped slightly from 3.77 to 3.62. The Tigers got 31% of their September runs after inning 6, which is not awful, but down from August's 35%. They gave up 41.5% of their runs after inning 6, which is awful, and up from August's excellent 26.5%. From the 6th inning on, the Tigers have been outscored 53 to 34 in September. Clearly, starting pitching is not the problem.
Seven of their 13 September losses were by 1 run. In those 7 games, the opponents averaged 2.4 RPG. Anemic late scoring and inept relief pitching are death in close games. In their 13 September wins, the Tigers averaged 5.9 runs; in the loses, 1.54. They were shut out an astounding 4 times in September, and 12 for the season. The 2012 Tigers were shut out twice. This year's Tigers scored 796 runs, second only to Boston's 853. I just discovered that the Tigers 3-0 win over the Red Sox on labor day was the 11th time the Sox were shut out this year. There is no way to make sense of this.
Graph 2 shows runs scored per inning in September. I've used a 30 run vertical axis all season, since the Tigers have topped 25 for a given inning a few times, starting with 28 in inning 4 in April.
Graph 3 shows runs allowed in September.
Graph 4 shows Tigers runs per game in September.
The blue line is runs for the game, yellow line is 5 game average, green line is season average to date
Last year, after the 4 day lay off before the world series, the Tigers came out flat and got swept away by the Giants. Historically, these lay-offs have not been kind to the resting team, while their opponents keep fighting it out. This year, the Tigers ended the season on such a low note that a lay-off can't possibly do any harm.
The A's strategy in the playoffs should be to run up the pitch count for Tiger's starters and dig into the bull pen as quickly as possible. That ought to get them a ticket to the next round.
The first 150 games
August Wrap up
July Wrap up [includes links to June, May, and April]