Friday Freehans: Tigers Converts, Playoff Odds and Two-Sport Stars

And what do you know? The Tigers are but a game out of first place to start the weekend — the first time we’ve been able to say that since April 1.

It’s been a slow-and-steady climb but Detroit has won 22 of the club’s last 33 games dating back to May 3, a .656 .667 winning percentage. The Tigers are behind only the Red Sox (23-11, .676) over that stretch.

Let’s enjoy this run (at least until the Tigers face Felix Hernandez on Sunday). In the meantime, enjoy some links with your eggs:

  • Thanks to the Tigers’ surge, there are more believers that this could be, might be the team to beat in the American League Central. The SweetSpot’s Dave Schoenfield uses Brennan Boesch as the pivot point of his take on the Tigers:
  • Sabermetricians are not big fans of Brennan Boesch, with a full host of reasons. He doesn’t walk enough. He doesn’t have enough power for a corner outfielder. He’s not a very good defensive player. He doesn’t exactly run like Austin Jackson. He just had a couple hot months in 2010. He’s got a weird reverse platoon split that he won’t be able to maintain.

    Maybe they’re right, but on the other hand … well, maybe Brennan Boesch isn’t so bad. After wrapping a two-run homer around the foul pole in Thursday’s 4-1 victory over Seattle, Boesch is hitting .281 with eight home runs on the year.

    Dave has a suggestion for improving the Tigers’ batting order that seems to make perfect sense … and have zero-percent chance of Jim Leyland implementing.

  • Old friend Rob Neyer also thinks the Tigers are division favorites:
  • [T]he Tigers have quite suddenly become the real favorites in the Central. According to Baseball Prospectus’s Playoff Odds Report, the Tigers now have something like a 60-percent chance of winning the division, with the Indians and White Sox well behind.

    (snip)

    Based purely on talent, the Detroit Tigers are the best team in the American League Central and they’re now the team to beat.

    As of this writing, Baseball Prospectus has the Tigers’ playoff odds at 63.7 percent, division title odds at 61.2 percent and Wild Card odds at 2.5 percent.

  • If you haven’t visited The Toledo Blade‘s CoopScoop blog, written by the Blades’ Mud Hens beat writer John Wagner, I recommend it. Also check out this piece in which he talks to Magglio Ordonez about his rehab stint in Toledo.
  • This morning I discovered yet another interesting nugget on Jim Northrup, this one from The New York Times in which they spotlight him and other two-sport stars on the 1968 team:

Northrup had been a standout quarterback at Alma College in Michigan. Joe Sparma, a starting pitcher for the Tigers, had been a quarterback at Ohio State under Woody Hayes. They pitched to Bill Freehan, who had played end at Michigan. Pitcher Dennis Ribant had played minor league hockey, with a Red Wings affiliate. And outfielder Willie Horton won a Golden Gloves boxing tournament at 17.

  • On this date in 1976 the Tigers and Brewers swapped infielders: Detroit picked up second baseman Pedro Garcia for Gary Sutherland. Garcia was stellar: in 77 games he hit .198 … seven points lower than Sutherland was hitting at the time of the trade. But at least they both got to play behind Mark Fidrych that year.

Finally, rest in peace, Leonard Stern. The creator of Mad Libs died yesterday at 88.

Have a great weekend.

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