Turning Points, Random Variation, and the Insanity of Fandom; Oh, and Tigers Win 7-3

In the top of the 2nd inning, Delmon Young was thrown out at home place by Red Sox right fielder Ryan Sweeney. It was a close play — and the right move, for all you Gene Lamont haters out there — but Young was definitely out. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then led off the bottom of the 2nd with a solo home run to center field. The Red Sox added another run in the 2nd on a Scott Podsednik RBI double. The Tigers due up in the top of the 3rd were Don Kelly, Danny Worth, and Quintin Berry.

With how the Tigers have played recently, no one would have blamed you for turning off the TV right then and there. This team has underperformed, but they have also been the victim of some rotten luck in recent games. Between the stretch mentioned above and yet another blown call from an umpire — this time, it was first base umpire Jeff Nelson getting in on the act — it seemed that Red Sox Nation was primed to celebrate its first home sweep of the season.

One of the most popular phrases among Tigers fans this season has been “I hate baseball.” This isn’t to say that these fans truly hate the game of baseball. Instead, these individuals are expressing their extreme distaste for the random variation that can occur throughout the course of a single game. These variations haven’t gone in the Tigers favor very often this season, which begs to ask whether they are responsible for “creating their own luck,” but that’s another discussion for another time. Where am I going with this, you may ask? Many fans, myself included, uttered that exact phrase after the 2nd inning. Once again, the Tigers were thisclose to breaking through with something positive, but then fell flat on their faces. Kind of like Marlon Byrd did last night.

I’m not convinced that there is a single moment, save for a serious injury, that can turn the tide of a 162-game baseball season. In football and possibly even basketball or hockey? Sure. Even an 82-game schedule can be altered by a key play or two. Baseball is much more methodical. There’s too much at play. People like baseball because, over time, things are going to even out. We can predict how a player will perform over the course of the season because there’s too many opportunities for someone to regress (or progress) to their actual talent level. The multitude of statistics available to describe the game doesn’t hurt either (thanks, Bill James).

As I mentioned before, there is a certain randomness to any individual game of baseball. This allows for specific turning points. Most of the time, these are home runs (thanks, Miguel Cabrera). They can also be defensive plays, as we almost saw when Ryan Sweeney gunned down Delmon Young, or Marlon Byrd’s diving catch last night. They can even be negative plays, such as an error at the wrong time (thanks, Tigers infield) or a poor call by an umpire (ugh, Bill Wenke).

If you’re still reading this, you undoubtedly know what happened in the top of the 3rd inning. Three straight hits, a Quintin Berry steal, two productive outs, and another single later, the Tigers were up 3-2. While the Red Sox scored in the bottom of the inning to tie the game, I would argue that the top of the 3rd inning was probably one of the most crucial innings that the Tigers have played this season. After yet another stretch of rotten luck, many fans expected the Kelly-Worth-Berry triumvirate of power to go down 1-2-3. Instead, they sparked the offense, and the big guns took over from there.

Miguel Cabrera added an RBI single in the 5th. Delmon Young hit a monster home run over the Green Monster in the 8th. Prince Fielder hit an RBI triple — yes, triple (though Sweeney fell down — in the 9th. Delmon Young added another RBI to quell the rebellion (for the time being). And Max Scherzer was Lights Out for the next three innings. He allowed just an infield single and a walk through the middle innings, and the bullpen shut the door the rest of the way as the offense continued to add insurance runs. This was the type of game we saw through the first two weeks of the season, and the type of game we’ve been expecting to see (but haven’t) ever since.

Is this the “turning point” of the Tigers’ season? Probably not. Casey Crosby, a wild-throwing lefty, is making his first Major League start tomorrow against a New York Yankees squad that has won 6 of its last 8 games. CC Sabathia is on the mound for the Yankees. Rick Porcello is pitching on Saturday. The Tigers might drop their next two games before Justin Verlander returns to being JUSTIN F-ING VERLANDER on Sunday (I refuse to believe that we even have a chance of losing that one).

Is this a big win though? You better believe it. As I mentioned in today’s preview, the Tigers have played 19 of their last 24 games on the road, and all of this in just 25 days. That is a brutal, brutal stretch of baseball for any team, let alone one that just saw it’s #2 starter go on the disabled list for the second time this season. The Tigers finished that stretch 10-14. Crisis averted? Crisis averted.

If there’s a take-home point from my drivel, it’s this: there is still a ton of baseball left to be played. Tonight, this team showed that, despite what many people think, they still have a lot of fight left in them. With the gauntlet portion of the schedule over and done with, we should see more W’s coming soon. Will it be instantaneous? No, but as I said before, this is too long of a season to see this much talent not even itself out by the end of the year.

  • Fulloutshred

    Cc doesnt seem to own the tigers like he once did. I think this series should be a good one.

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