In yesterday's Freep, Drew Sharp wrote a don't-worry-be-happy article on the Tigers' impressive starting pitching. It's been great the last few days, but also erratic over the season. I can't really quibble much with what Sharp says. They're in first place, now at 33-26, with a far better record than at this time last year, when they spent a great deal of the season struggling to get above .500 It's what he leaves out that's troubling, and we'll get to that. Also in yesterdays' Freep, John Lowe fills in some of the blanks.
Before yesterday's game time, the Tigers were 24-15 when they get a quality start [QS], leading the league with both numbers. [Verlander then turned in another one for a win last night.] They're tied with KC at 15 QS losses, against the Royals mere 16 QS wins. It's pretty clear starting pitching is not a problem for the Tigers - but a few other troubling things are.
The Tigers have lost eight games in which they have led in the seventh inning or later. In five of those, they have gotten a quality start. In those eight losses when leading in the seventh or later, the Tigers have scored one run in the seventh inning or later.
That's the crux of it, on the offensive side. The Tigers are mediocre in close games, less than that in extra inning games, and have no ability to come from behind for a late win. That's because, win or lose, tight game or blow out, the Tigers offense is anemic after the 6th inning. I heard on the radio broadcast last night that they are in the bottom three teams in late scoring.
And this from Lowe is why it's such a big problem.
The Indians have 11 fewer quality starts than the Tigers, but only two fewer wins in quality starts (24 for the Tigers, 22 for the Indians). If the Tigers don’t win more often when they get quality starts, and if Cleveland can get quality starts more often, perhaps the Indians will give the Tigers a race.
Scoring per inning across the game has leveled a bit compared to April, but still falls off badly after the 6th.
Contrast April, when innings 4 and 5 were powerhouses. In each case, 10 is a proxy for all extra innings.
Here's a look at scoring by game.
Here are opponents runs per inning.
Here are some random stats.
Relief pitching has actually improved a bit, but the closer problem still looms large.
That along with the inability to score late could be the Achilles heels of an otherwise powerful team.