Skip to content

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Steve Pearce reports improvement in sore wrist

    Sep 22, 2014, 6:10 PM EDT

    Steve Pearce Getty Getty Images

    Pearce has been one of baseball’s biggest surprises this season, batting .297 with 20 home runs and .932 OPS over 98 games.

  2. CC Sabathia throws for the first time since knee surgery

    Sep 22, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT

    CC Sabathia CC Sabathia

    He’s owed $23 million in 2015, $25 million in 2016, and $25 million or a $5 million buyout for 2017.

  3. Royals owner “can’t imagine” GM Dayton Moore leaving for Braves

    Sep 22, 2014, 4:50 PM EDT

    Dayton Moore, David Glass Getty Images

    “He’s a good baseball guy, and we’re in this thing together.”

  4. Masahiro Tanaka is going to pitch again on Saturday

    Sep 22, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT

    tanaka yankees getty Getty Images

    Good news for the Yankees and their once and future ace

  5. Mariners skipping “out of gas” Chris Young’s turn in the rotation

    Sep 22, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT

    Chris Young Getty Getty Images

    When injuries wrecked the Mariners’ rotation depth Chris Young stepped in and went 12-6 with a 3.07 ERA through his first 24 starts.

  6. Yankees claim Eury Perez off waivers from Nationals

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:49 PM EDT

    Chase Utley, Eury Perez AP

    Washington cut Perez loose after claiming light-hitting shortstop Pedro Florimon off waivers from Minnesota.

  7. Cubs ready to make a big play for pitching

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    theo epstein getty Getty Images

    The Cubs know they can’t just get by on change-of-scenery guys and sign-and-flip deals.

  8. Sandy Alderson is getting a three-year deal with the Mets

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Sandy Alderson AP

    The Mets are staying the course. And it is probably a good idea.

  9. Desmond Jennings won’t return to play the final week

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT

    Desmond Jennings AP

    He finishes the season hitting .244 with 10 homers, 15 steals, and a .697 OPS in 123 games, falling back to his 2012 production after posting a .748 OPS last season.

  10. Adam LaRoche doesn’t expect to re-sign with the Nationals

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT

    laroche getty Getty Images

    LaRoche has bounced back nicely from a down season in 2013, hitting .255 with 25 homers and a career-high 80 walks on the way to an .811 OPS.

  11. HBT Daily: Who will be on the outside looking in?

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    HBT Daily Logo

    The A’s? The Mariners? The Royals? Does it help if I tell you that I’m always wrong about these things?

  12. Royals finish with their highest attendance in 23 years

    Sep 22, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT

    Ned Yost Getty Images

    They’re an unshakable bunch, Royals fans.

  13. Major League Baseball creates a pace of game committee

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:13 PM EDT

    Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley

    They hope to have some measures in place to attack slow play in time for the 2015 season.

  14. Mat Latos is done for the year

    Sep 22, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

    latos getty Getty Images

    The whole year?!!! *someone whispers in my ear that there’s only a week left* Oh, in that case.

  15. Frank Wren fired as Braves GM, John Hart to take over on an interim basis

    Sep 22, 2014, 10:56 AM EDT

    Frank Wren

    The Braves cratered this year. Someone had to take the fall.

  16. UPDATE: Frank Wren likely to be fired by the Braves, Fredi Gonzalez likely to stay

    Sep 22, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT

    Fredi Gonzalez Getty Images

    It looks like Frank Wren is gonna take the fall for the Braves’ collapse.

  17. AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME! Sizing up the final week of the regular season

    Sep 22, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 9.39.12 AM AP

    What’s left to be decided? And who will be left standing this time next week?

Featured video

Who's outside looking in on playoffs?
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. R. Castillo (2962)
  2. M. Trout (2065)
  3. D. Ortiz (2060)
  4. A. Pagan (2050)
  5. A. Pujols (2005)
  1. J. Hamilton (1932)
  2. N. Arenado (1868)
  3. G. Stanton (1836)
  4. H. Ramirez (1825)
  5. C. Kershaw (1809)