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Home sweet home

Andrew Mouranie

When you think of great home field advantages in baseball, you instantly think of Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park or even the Metrodome. But could Comerica Park be joining the ranks of best home ballparks? A year ago, this question would seem like a joke. But if 2009 is any indication, it deserves legit consideration.

In 2008, the Tigers finished last in the American League Central and finished under .500 at home (40-41). In 2009, however, things have drastically changed. Whatever the wives or girlfriends are making their significant Tiger other to eat while they’re at home, it’s working. The AL Central leading Detroit Tigers are 36-18 at Comerica Park so far this season, including winning 5-of-7 on their most recent homestand. The confidence Jim Leyland’s team shows while playing in front of their hometown fans is unmatched by most teams in the big leagues. Only the Red Sox and Yankees have lost fewer home games than the Tigers (not good news since the Tigers start a 4-game series at Fenway Park tonight). But by comparison, the 2nd-place Chicago White Sox are 33-27 at U.S. Cellular Field, a 12-game difference behind the Tigers.

However, what is maybe more staggering than their overall record, is the difference in the team’s play from being at home than being on the road. Usually with teams with that kind of home record are respectable away from home, but the Tigers do not fit that category. As good as the Tigers have been at home this year, they have been equally as bad on the road. They are 23-33 away from the CoPa. If you compare that to the White Sox’s road record (24-28), half of that 12-game home advantage is taken away.

As you can probably guess, the home and road splits are baffling as well. As a team, the Tigers are hitting .274 at home while just .245 on the road. Some individual hitters have an even larger discrepancy. Miguel Cabrera hits .380 at Comerica while just .287 on the road. Second baseman Placido Polanco, who just completed a great homestand, boosted his home batting average to .318. Unfortunately, he hits .237 on the road.

Not as lopsided is the pitching differential. For a team that came into the season with plenty of question marks in their pitching staff, the Tigers have been one of the best pitching teams in baseball in 2009. Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson have dominated wherever they have pitched this year, but similar to the hitting, the pitching staff as a whole has been more effective at home. At pitcher friendly Comerica Park, the Tigers staff has a team ERA of 3.69. On the road, they are at 4.63 (which isn’t horrible for an AL team).

The Tigers’ home success is the only reason they are sitting in 1st place in the AL Central and could be the defining reason why they are still playing baseball in October. The schedule-makers have given the Tigers ample opportunity to use their home-field advantage to push them into the postseason. The final seven games of the regular season are at home against their closest division rivals, the Twins and White Sox.

If the Tigers can continue their winning ways at Comerica Park and sneak out a few road wins here and there, this team will return to the postseason for the first time since that magical season of 2006.

And we all know, once you get to the dance…. anything can happen.


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