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Autopsy Report: Detroit Tigers

Oct 29, 2012, 12:30 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants pitcher Romo strikes out Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera to win the MLB World Series baseball championship in Detroit

I prefer to think of this as an autopsy and not a eulogy, because an autopsy deals specifically with the cause of death. A eulogy, in contrast, takes in the deceased’s whole life and tries to draw some lessons from it. I don’t think anyone can draw any intelligent conclusions about the Tigers’ entire 2012 season based on these past four games, no matter how important they were. Four games is pure randomness and the Tigers performance in them is no more relevant to their legacy than a random fall off a cliff during a vacation to the Grand Canyon is to the life of a Nobel Prize winner.

So, what happened to the Tigers?  In a nutshell: everything:

  • The Giants were the better team: Before anyone casts this World Series as a Detroit failure, they had better first note that it was a Giants triumph. While they flew under the radar for so much of the year, the Giants won six more games than the Tigers in a tougher division. The Giants were and remained a well-balanced team throughout 2012, and history shows us that well-balanced teams do awfully well in the postseason where runs are harder to come by and defense matters more. They didn’t have a pitcher as good as Justin Verlander or a hitter as good as Miguel Cabrera, but there were few if any holes on the roster, and when a couple of potential weak links — like Barry Zito — came up big in the playoffs, it transformed a good team into a team that was great at the right time.  But, the Giants aside …
  • No one hit. Omar Infante and Delmon Young each got five hits, and each reached base via a walk or a HBT (Infante’s HBP, sadly, broke his hand). The rest of the lineup was deadsville. Prince Fielder was 1 for 14 with four strikeouts. Jhonny Peralta was 1 for 15. Miguel Cabrera hit a homer last night, but was 3 for 13 overall. Austin Jackson had three hits in four games. Quintin Berry had none. It was a top-heavy, all-or-nothing offense in 2012 for Detroit, and they picked a bad week for the nothing.
  • The layoff:  While the Tigers worked out every day in between the end of the ALCS and the beginning of the World Series, several Tigers said that not playing any real games during that time was disruptive to their rhythm and their mojo. It’s impossible to measure such things, but it’s not a stretch to say that layoffs lead to cold bats.
  • Verlander was mortal: It was only one game, but the only time the Tigers were blown away in this series was in Game 1 when Justin Verlander came out with poor command of has his fastball and Pablo Sandoval feasted on him for a couple of home runs. It’s harder to measure mood and momentum than in it is to measure rust, but it was probably somewhat dispiriting for the Tigers when their ace was popped in the nose right out of the gate.
  • The cookie just crumbled: luck should not have a major place in a serious empirical analysis, but a four-game series sort of defies serious, empirical analysis. The Giants got the bounces. Literally, at times: off the third base bag in Game 1 to set up a big inning, off Doug Fister‘s head in Game 2 to give Gregor Blanco a single. Multiple hard-hit balls by the Tigers throughout the series that just always seemed to be right at a Giants defender.

A whole year can disappear pretty quickly in the postseason. The Reds and Cardinals were good teams that saw their good seasons end only one game away from advancing. The Braves and Rangers were good teams that had good seasons erased after just one game total. The Tigers, like the Yankees before them, saw a good season erased in four short games.  That’s how playoff baseball goes.

So, if you’re wondering what should be listed as the cause of death on the autopsy report, how about this: October.

  1. darthicarus - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    Well written Craig.

    The Tigers hitting was non-existent and the defense was nothing exciting, the pitching was pretty good but not as good as the Giants, and the better team won. Heading into the Series I was hoping for the Tigers in 6…but after Game 1 that feeling disappeared & I knew the Tigers were going to have to play perfect baseball to win (which they couldn’t manage to do all season). The Giants beat them in every facet of the game and they won the series more than the Tigers lost it. I am obviously disappointed that the team I’ve grown up loving got swept, but I can’t hate the Giants. It is a great collection of players that meshed together & played some downright awesome baseball when it mattered most.

    Hats off to you Giants & your fans on a great season. Now to look forward to some changes on the Tigers roster to try & fix the glaring deficiencies that the team displayed throughout the season.

    • detroitr1 - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:11 PM

      Respectfully, I thought our pitching (outside of Verlander in Game 1 obviously) was really good–credit to the Giants plate discipline. Sanchez is going to start a bidding war…and for all the issues with Valverde, I thought our bullpen (more so for Game 4) at least challenged the narrative a bit.

      When a team has Lincecum is in the bullpen, you’re going to play hell to beat that team. That Giants defense was phenomenal.

    • juanhughjazz - Oct 30, 2012 at 9:21 AM

      The were very unlucky in that series. It seemed like every break fell to the Giants. Detroit’s pitching was good enough to win the series. I wasn’t even unhappy with Detroit’s hitting. They were hitting the cover off the ball. It was just right at someone. That’s baseball. I love baseball(and you have to take the bad with the good). And I wouldn’t throw any soil on the Tigers. Did you notice that they are the favorite to win the series next year?

  2. fuddpucker - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    Anyone ever thought of this?: Maybe SF has better juiced up players than the Tigers.

    Think Melky.

    • temporarilyexiled - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:44 PM

      ?!

      • megastaff1975 - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:48 PM

        you know its true!!!!!

      • temporarilyexiled - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:55 PM

        What’s true? That I’m confused? What the hell are you talking about? Please explain your logic to one so dense as myself.

    • blabidibla - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      In case you missed it, Melky didn’t play for the Giants in the post season – at the team’s request.

      • fuddpucker - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:54 PM

        But he would have if he didn’t get caught. All of baseball is a cheating culture.

      • blabidibla - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:39 PM

        All of sports has a “cheat but don’t get caught” culture.

    • nategearhart - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:00 PM

      No, dude no one has brought up steroids this entire postseason! Good insight, I wonder why no one thought of it before now.

    • cosanostra71 - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:44 PM

      good point fuddpucker, I never thought of that.

      Just think about Melky’s 3 HRs in Game 1, or his contributions out of the bullpen towards two straight shutouts.

      • sailcat54 - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:25 PM

        Don’t let the sour grapes upset your tummies, losers.

  3. temporarilyexiled - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    Autopsy Report? Ouch!

    In all seriousness, good luck to the Tigers. That they had to beat the Yankees and spoil my fun, oh well.

    As for the usual media dismissal of the Giants’ chances going forward, whenever it invariably happens, I’ll just assume that when they’ve actually done well for so long that they become media darlings BEFORE they win the World Series, that’s when they’ll actually crash and burn.

  4. blabidibla - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    I still contend the ball “off the third base bag in Game 1 to set up a big inning” was another case of poor defense. Miguel should not have sat back. He took a approach to the ball.

    • blabidibla - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:59 PM

      *he took a poor approach to the ball

  5. indaburg - Oct 29, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    Cause of death: Acute trauma caused by panda followed by severe case of impotence.

    Very sad, saw it once before in the ER.

    • cur68 - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:25 PM

      What was the grit content of their livers? Contents of the gut: was there enough scrap there? What about their pineal glands? Was there enough leadership hormone being excreted? Pituitary function: enough drive? And of course the adrenal gland’s class excretion: was there enough class being excreted? I highly doubt any decent autopsy would omit these results. As for the severe impotence thing . . . what were you doing assessing that in Emerge? I ask this last in the spirit of pure scientific inquiry.

      • historiophiliac - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:31 PM

        I know you aren’t questioning our grit content and intestinal scraps! Dang you to heck, Sir! There’ll be no more Kate Upton pics for you now, how about that? >:(

      • indaburg - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:32 PM

        Good points. I was just giving the summary.

        Florida ERs are very thorough. Impotence highly correlates with cardiovascular issues. (Seriously, boys, if it stops working, get your heart checked.)

      • cur68 - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:41 PM

        Ok. Good tip. I can now assure the entire single female population of HBT and the greater Internets that my heart is JUST fine. Might even be BSOIL. Well, with that off my mind and registered to the internets at large, I’d like to ask Kate Upton if she can help me with more stringent cardiac function tests.

      • indaburg - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:26 PM

        BSOIL, huh? We’ll have to let Craig know so he can it to the list.

      • nbjays - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:59 PM

        You forgot “intangibles”, Cur. Oh, never mind… Micheal Young wasn’t even playing. :-)

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 29, 2012 at 4:04 PM

        (Seriously, boys, if it stops working, get your heart checked.)

        Should I be concerned if it’s working too well? And unlike Melky, my performance isn’t enhanced…

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 29, 2012 at 4:05 PM

        by drugs… (gobbled a pair of words there!)

      • indaburg - Oct 29, 2012 at 8:54 PM

        FC, you have nothing to worry about. All that means is that Mrs. FC is one lucky lady.

  6. alexo0 - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Wasn’t it last week when claiming that the layoff could hurt the Tigers was considered playing into a narrative?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:12 PM

      It is when writers invent it. Several Tigers said last night, however, that it affected them.

    • alexo0 - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:29 PM

      It seems that the writers were simply speculating that the possibility may exist, after the same thing happened in ’06, and the team itself took steps to try and prevent it this year. That hardly seems invented.

      • historiophiliac - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:34 PM

        So, it IS all about the Stankees. Thanks for laying down, Bombers. Next year, we demand the Orioles!

    • sophiethegreatdane - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:00 PM

      @alexo0:

      Yep, just four games ago, if anyone suggested that the Tigers were rusty from the layoff, that analysis was considered ex post facto crapola.

      Now, it’s an accepted and insightful part of the post-mortem.

      • sailcat54 - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:38 PM

        You know, I could accept the rust excuse for a game, maybe two, but sooner or later the Tigers should have loosened up and hit their stride. They were also reputed to be practicing hard and running drills in the interim, too.

        Rust? Poppycock! Detroit just got whooped fair and square.

  7. hk62 - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    The series played out as if the Giants were the team of experienced post season pros and the Tigers, the bright eyed newbies. But the balanced team comments Craig were on the money. The Tigers starting pitchers were good to very good, but the offense was woeful – not even having good at bats in some of the key situations early in games or early in the series. So the “approach” nod went to SF, along with the Championship.

    Well done SF Giants!

  8. Detroit Michael - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    Yes, that’s the way post-season baseball works. A team can have a hot streak one series and a could streak the next one.

    Tiger fans are hurting today although logically, entering the post-season with the (tied for) worst record among the 10 play-off teams and finishing as the World Series loser, I guess we can’t complain too much.

  9. Detroit Michael - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    Craig,
    Where’s the study indicating that a well-balanced team does better than expected in the post-season than unbalanced teams, once one adjusts for team quality as meaured by regular season won-loss records or regular season run differentials? I’m skeptical that’s data supporting that notion.

  10. kiwicricket - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    C.O.D: Tigers …. Ham sandwich.

    Crawford played some incredible defense in the series for the Giants, as did several others. Those extra few base=runners seemed to make a difference. The Tigers having Garcia in the OF next season will be a boost, but they need someone at SS with a great glove. Miggy + Peralta + Fielder = large holes in the infield.

    • kiwicricket - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:28 PM

      Ummm eliminate the random “=runners”. Edit function!

  11. Old Gator - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    I dispute your statement that Verlander is “mortal,” Craig. Mythology is littered with tales of gods and goddesses who fucked up royally.

    • historiophiliac - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:41 PM

      Ahhh, the gods of Detroit.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:45 PM

        Sorry Philiac!
        I know it doesn’t help much right now…but I fully expect you guys to be back next year.

      • Old Gator - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:46 PM

        Yeah. Where was John Sinclair when you really needed him?

      • sailcat54 - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:29 PM

        Gotta say I was damned impressed with Fister. He is a big asset to the Tigers. Not as impressed by Verlander, though, but I have only watched him pitch in one game. Good luck to the Tigers in 2013!

    • gogigantos - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:44 PM

      Agreed. I much prefer the narrative that the lowly Giants slayed the God Demon Verlander. It fits with knocking down the Halladay and Lee a couple seasons ago on the way to unexpected glory. From the depths of despair to glory, one of the great plot lines of fiction and history. This was glorious beyond belief.
      Giants!!!!!!!

      • sailcat54 - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:33 PM

        This 2012 Giants team had a lot grit. They were tough, determined, and hell-bent to win. They pitched well, hit well, and fielded well. Luck had nothing to do with their World Series win: with no disrespect to the Tigers, the Giants were the better team and they were hungrier than Detroit.

        Big congrats to the Gigantes!!!

  12. pbinca - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    Both teams batters were battling against over-the-top pitching skills. These games were so close, ANY fielding sloppiness tilted the odds. Which team had the tighter fielding? The throw-out of Fielder at the plate was the signature play of the Series. I disagree that Fielder should have held at 3rd…it was a calculated risk….the odds are with the runner in this situation. Except, these are the Giants and their fielding defies the odds. That explains it more than the layoff.

    • gogigantos - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:46 PM

      Absolutely, the pitching both sides was outstanding. Dude takes a ball off the skull and retires the next 13?,, WTF,, great pitching all around.
      Good ball played and a champion crowned, so be it.
      Giants!!!!!!

  13. icanspeel - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Besides the first game which was a blowout, the Tigers had a chance to win the next 3 and the main difference is the Giants came through with a clutch hit or 2 for a few runs and the Tigers didn’t.

    I remember seeing Fielder getting thrown out at home with 0 outs and Tigers not getting anything with the bases loaded and 1 out. Missed opportunities like that will kill you in close games.

  14. gogigantos - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Somebody please, why was Coke left in to face the lefty killer Scutaro with Benoit or Albaquerque ready?????

  15. historiophiliac - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    Actually, the cause of death was August in October. We played like we did in August, only it was October. Thankfully, we didn’t play like April in October — that would’ve been really bad. Of course, fans would’ve preferred that they played like September in October. Come December and January, I will wish it was again October, but then in February and March, a new April will be near.

    I look forward to 2013. I’m not really unhappy with our infield. (Sorry, kiwi.) I’m not disgusted with the outfield (save Kelly — please, can’t someone steal his shoes or something?). And next year, V-Mart returns from his Odyssey to join Cabrera-Verlander-Scherzer-Fielder to chase next year’s laurels. If our lesser gods can escape intrigue and the Titans can deliver…the wonderful thing about the off-season is that you can do anything with your imagination.

    In the meantime, my buddies have returned to putting crap like Chapel > Verlander on FB (along with pictures of pandas having sex with tigers) — so between that and the election postings, I’m going offline for a couple of weeks. It’s my off-season.

  16. elwaysmilehighdenver - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    Great insight and analysis Craig.
    Tigers got beat fair and square by a
    better team. The lay-off may or may not
    have contributed to Detroit’s comatose bats. But I give the credit to a SF pitching
    staff that caught fire when needed. RIP
    Tigers. And hurry back V. Martinez!

  17. loungefly74 - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    (not sure if mentioned earlier…)

    my autopsy analysis: severe pyschological trama to the brain due to the sight of seeing something un-natural/supernatural. if you will…an earlier well documented diagnosis: what the Oakland A’s experienced when the Dodger’s Kirk Gibson launched it out off of Eckersley in the 88′ WS. After that homerun, the A’s went flat and were just outplayed and scared. To our current situation, when Panda smashed the immortal god verlander twice, it crushed the psyche of the Tigers.

  18. jdillydawg - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    The layoff factor is pretty interesting. I’d be curious to see how it has affected teams in the past, like what the stats are. We all assume it makes teams rusty, but is that what the stats say?

    If so, as a manager, it would almost seem to better your odds of winning it all if you did stretch a series out a game or two. When you’re 3 up on a Yankees team that’s playing like a bunch of little leaguers, the temptation would be to lose game 4 and wrap it up in game 5 just to give your team the extra time on the field.

    Of course, this argument defies most all logic given that one win can propel any team to greatness – better to beat them while they are down than give them any sort of life. But, if by doing so you reduce your odds of winning it all, then it’s almost like you have to think about doing it, don’t you?

    • critter69 - Oct 29, 2012 at 10:28 PM

      Each season EVERY team, and most players, have three or four days off consecutivly at the All-Star break, so it would be fairly easy to make a comparison of what the teams do when playing most every day, and when they have several days off. Thirty teams and as few as five years would give a pretty good sample size of 150 (for those who want to spend some time doing it).

      And many teams have two, three, four or more days off consecutively because of weather during the season, especially those playing in the North in non-domed stadiums. Days off because of cold weather, and/or snowy weather; earthquakes, spring and summer rains; fires, etc.

  19. onehokiefan - Oct 29, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    Did you hear about Sparky ? The old man rolled over early this am……

  20. adm272012 - Oct 29, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    Of the four teams that swept in the lcs and played a team that went seven games in there lcs, they are a combined 2 and 16 in the world series. So a long lay off does have zome effect, that being said the tigers just got out played

  21. mrznyc - Oct 29, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    These homer happy teams always seem to spit the bit in the World Series – The last two Cardinals wins, both Giants wins, Pinella’s Reds against the bash brothers, Lasorda and the A’s – Good pitching, then hang around and wait for the 3 run homer is not that difficult to work around. By definition a team that makes it to the World Series has pretty good pitching so the series revolves around the other aspects of the game. If hitting homers is the only other thing you bring to the table, your probably in trouble.

  22. critter69 - Oct 29, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    The Giants brought at least five ingredients to the table, based on the complete season and playoffs:
    Very good pitching (season and post-season playoffs; starting and relief);
    Very good small ball hitting (season and post-season playoffs);
    Very good defense (season and post-season playoffs);
    Very good working together as a team (season and post-season playoffs).
    Extremely well managed during the season AND in the post-season playoffs.

    Add in many seemingly small intangibles (season and post-season playoffs).

    The Tigers during the WS? Probably two things:
    Very good pitching (Verlander was great until the Series, the rest were good to very good during the season);
    Very good long ball hitting during the season (but Tex-*** was probably a bit better as a team).
    No defense;
    No working as a team;
    Did the Tigers display any management?

    Add in a lack of intangibles, or a very small dose of them.

    Six pluses versus two – anyone surprised that it was a 4 games to zero sweep by the Giants?

  23. bh192012 - Oct 30, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    “The Reds and Cardinals were good teams that saw their good seasons end only one game away from advancing. The Braves and Rangers were good teams that had good seasons erased after just one game total.”

    The A’s were a division winning team that saw their good season end only one game away from advancing. The Rangers were a wild card team that had a good season erased by losing 1 game, after losing the 3 games prior to that and the division.

  24. xjokerz - Oct 31, 2012 at 4:32 AM

    Must we keep talking about this Craig ?…. Fjahabbabshgaahallsm d duhbdbx xnjxhbd she hand. Wbshxjsnsksllsll kind s shuxhsbsnsjsushsjsndb

    Tigers 2013 baby..

  25. irokkit - Oct 31, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    I’m a Red Sox fan by birth and by blood (if I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand) I was routing for the Tigers. And it was for one reason, Jim Leyland. Never question my allegiance to my beloved home team. There are some good guys that play on the opponents side. (In a whispering voice no one can truly hear:Derek Jetter)
    Next year Tigers….next year!

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