The Detroit Tigers used a series victory over the Texas Rangers to pull into the All-Star break with an AL Central leading record of 52-42. The fact that the Tigers are in first place isn’t a surprise – many picked them to with the division by a double-digit (or near enough) margin before the series began – but, to some, it is surprising that they find themselves on top of the Cleveland Indians by only a game and a half.
Detroit’s current .553 winning percentage – fifth best in the American League – isn’t overly impressive considering their payroll* but the accompanying 90-win pace should be enough to ultimately win the division. And if we also consider that the Tigers’ Pythagorean record pace – using run differential instead of actual wins and losses to estimate “true talent” record – puts the team up at 96 wins, fans should have no reason to complain about the play on the field.
The Tigers’ divergence from Pythagorean record to actual record, currently about four wins, isn’t simply bad luck – I’m sure a less-than-reliable bullpen has something to do with it – but it does likely contain a good amount of luck. Tigers fans can reasonable expect the team to perform better in the second half than they did in the first half, especially now that many of the late-inning bullpen problems have been solved by settling on Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit as the eighth and ninth inning guys. If Detroit can maintain their current Pythag pace (and play up to it), they’d finish with 92 or 93 wins, which pretty much no one would consider a disappointing season.