Scoreboard Watching Should Show Many Detroit W’s

With the newness and goofiness that is the new (as of last season) Wild Card format in baseball, the importance of winning your division has never been bigger.  Theoretically, the team with the second best record in baseball could find themselves in a one game playoff in order to even join the postseason tournament, instead of having guaranteed themselves a seat with the old one-team Wild Card format.  Of course, the addition of the second Wild Card is far better than nothing if your team wins the second spot, but the situation is much worse for the “first place” Wild Card holder.

Two weeks ago, I broke down the remainder of the Indians schedule and came to the conclusion that the Tribe has a fairly easy road ahead of them.  Even after re-crunching the numbers after another dozen or so games have passed, the schedule still looks very favorable for the Cleveland squad.  In the breakdown, I outlined some objectives that the Indians should aim for and I came to the conclusion that 92 wins is a realistic goal.  At the time, the Tigers were not playing extremely well and I figured that 92 wins could be enough to win the division.  Taking a deeper look into the Tigers schedule, however, shows that their path toward October is nearly as easy as the Indians.

Starting with this weekend’s series’, the Tigers have 56 games remaining while the Indians have 54.  A lot of the opponents are similar—a fact that does not bode very well for the Tribe.  As I see it, the Tigers, like the Indians, really only have two tough stretches that remain in their schedule.  The first one is next week when the Tigers hit the road for four games in Cleveland and then three games against the Yankees in New York.  The second stretch for Detroit comes right at the end of August and into early September, as the Tigers will host the Oakland A’s four times, the Indians thrice and then play three games at Fenway Park in Boston.  Ironically, these dates also have the Indians going through their toughest stretches as well, as the Tribe will face the Angels, Braves and Orioles in addition to the Tigers.  Luckily for the Indians, the Angels have dropped off even more in the last two weeks and lost Albert Pujols in the process.

Besides the previously mentioned stretches of good teams, the Tigers schedule is littered with average to subpar opponents.  Detroit faces the Chicago White Sox 12 times, the Minnesota Twins six times and the New York Mets and Miami Marlins three times each.  These are widely considered to be four of the worst teams in baseball.  The Tribe also has 19 games against those teams plus four with the lowly Houston Astros, but the point is that the Tigers can’t be expected to lose a bunch of those contests.

When comparing the strength of their schedules, the Indians have a slight advantage in every category, but Detroit’s isn’t exactly difficult.  The Indians play two less games than Detroit, therefore having more off-days at five compared to Detroit’s four.  The Tigers have a doubleheader scheduled in August where the Indians have none planned for the rest of the season, so that is a point in the Tribe’s favor as well.

As far as the competition goes, the Tigers will face 10 different teams that have a combined record of 515-537 for a .490 winning percentage.  The Indians, meanwhile, face 11 different opponents that are a combined 552-603 for a .478 winning percentage.  The Tigers have eight series’ with teams above .500 and nine series’ with teams below.  The Indians will face seven winning teams and 10 below the mark.  Lastly, Detroit has 17 games left against potential playoff teams (Indians, Yankees, A’s, Red Sox) while the Indians have 16 (Tigers, A’s, Braves, Orioles).  If you count the Royals as a potential playoff team, the Tigers face them in three series’, while the Tribe square off against them twice.

Other tidbits against the Tigers include the fact that the Tigers have only one more off-day in the month of August and they go on a stretch that can wear out even the best pitching staff.  From August 2 through September 4, Detroit will play 34 games in 34 days.  Their one off-day is included, but so is their lone doubleheader.  From August 15 to 18, the Tigers will host the Royals for a rare five game series, due to the double-dip that is the result of an April rainout.  The lone off day in the litmus test comes on the 19th.

In conclusion, the Indians still have smooth sailing ahead to make a playoff run, as no other team has an easier path ahead of them.  The Tribe has the schedule advantage in every category over the Tigers, including number of head-to-head home games (4-3).  The coast is not completely clear, however, for the Tribe to take the division, as the Motor City Kitties have a pretty easy road ahead as well.  Because of this, the Indians seven remaining games with the Tigers become as important as ever and very well may determine who wears the Central Division crown.

After all, we’d all take that over a Wild Card spot any day.

Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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