The Tigers have cooled off their white-hot offensive pace a bit since the All-Star break but they still hold a not-so-slim 40-run lead over the next closest teams (Cleveland and Philadelphia). Barring a disaster, the Tigers should easily lead MLB in runs scored at season’s end. Despite an offensive renaissance last season, the Tigers still only managed to finish 9th in MLB in runs scored. We can all thank Gary Sheffield for that eight-spot jump. Pitching unexpectedly stole the show in ’06.
Despite a slow start in ’07, Tigers pitching has slowly crept into the top-six in the AL in runs allowed (13th in MLB). Based on the way the team has been pitching lately it could easily finish in the top three in the AL and the top ten in MLB. Considering the Tigers have been without Kenny Rogers and Joel Zumaya for the majority of the season; that would be quite a feat. As impressive as Tigers pitching has been in the face of so many injuries this season, it doesn’t come close to last season’s performance. The Tigers led MLB in fewest runs against in 2006. Only two AL teams have led MLB in fewest runs against in the last 17 years (Seattle did it in 2001).
While the Tigers won’t duplicate their feat of leading MLB in runs allowed this season, I started to wonder how often a team has led MLB in runs scored or runs allowed in one season and then led MLB in the other category the next season. Since the AL generally leads MLB in runs scored and the NL generally leads MLB in fewest runs allowed, I guessed that it hadn’t happen much. In fact, it hasn’t happened since the LA Dodgers did it leading MLB in runs scored in 1974 and runs allowed in 1975. The Tigers are in excellent shape to accomplish something that hasn’t been done in 32 years. The Mariners led MLB in runs scored and fewest runs against in 2001 which is a feat of historic proportions. Unfortunately for the good people of the Great Northwest, that resulted in a big fat pile of nothing in the hardware department. Hopefully the Tigers can turn their two-year feat into something bigger.
The Tigers are also trying to accomplish something that nobody would’ve predicted last year. With Boston and New York seemingly leading MLB in runs scored every other year, the Detroit Tigers are not the name that comes to mind when the discussion of leading MLB in runs scored is brought up. Amazingly, if the Tigers can hold on to the MLB lead in runs scored this season, they will have led MLB in runs scored the most times since 1970…and 1980…and 1990. They’ll have even led MLB in runs scored more than any team since 1992. Considering how dreadful the 90’s were to the Tigers—or maybe it’s the other way around—that certainly is unexpected.
This team can accomplish a lot of things that haven’t been accomplished in a long time. This team also has one of the greatest combinations of hitting and pitching that MLB has ever seen. I’m just hoping all of this translates into something more than an historical footnote. Maybe the key is not leading MLB in runs scored and runs allowed in the same season but rather spreading it out over two. Hopefully that’s the key to the Tigers getting back to the World Series and avoiding a fate similar to the ’01 Mariners. Yeah, that’s gotta be it.