With Opening Day creeping closer and closer, I began to think again about how 2009 ended for my Detroit Tigers.
A solid six game division lead over the Minnesota with a month to go. A huge series in the final week of the season that ended in 2-2 split with the Twins. “Game 163” that was so epic, even the fans on the losing end could appreciate how great it was.
That’s a tough way to end a season.
Then I started looking at the numbers. Lots of people accused the Detroit Tigers of collapsing in the final month of the 2009 season. How else could you define blowing that six game lead? Here I will attempt to present the counter-argument:
Heading into the last month of the season (September 5th to October 4th) the Tigers record was 73-61, and they held a 6 game lead over the Twins (67-67). To that point in the season, the Tigers had played with .530 winning percentage, while the Twins had an even .500 record.
From that point forward, the “collapse” began. Over the next 28 games, the Twins began a tear including separate five and six game win streaks. Their winning percentage jumped over 175 points, from .500 to .679, winning 19 out of the last 28 games they played. The Twins had 10 games of 7+ runs scored, and five games allowing one or zero runs over the last month.
During that time, the Tigers winning percentage dropped only 66 points, from .530 to .464. The last month did include their longest losing streak of the season, 5 games, but they had previously had two 4-game losing streaks. The Tigers season average was 4.56 Runs Scored per game, yet in the last 28 games that number dropped only 0.24, to 4.32 RS per game.
I could go on and on with stats like these. The more you look at it, the more the numbers spell out one simple fact: the Twins came and got the division far more then the Tigers choked it away.
I’m not trying to twist statistics to make myself feel better. I realize that had the Tigers won only one more game in the last week of the season, there would have been no Game 163. They would have gone on to face the Yankees, and probably suffered the same fate as the boys from the Twin Cities. I’m just trying to present the facts from a different angle.
The Tigers 2009 season was a classic case of a team overachieving, and making people believe they were better than they actually were. Heading into the season with a 20 year old starter, and a ton of other question marks, finishing only a game out of the division lead wasn’t a bad end result when you look at the big picture.
That being said, from this point forward I will not refer the end of Detroit’s 2009 season as a choke job, but simply as “The Twins Tear”.