For as many good things that happened to the Detroit Tigers in 2013, there were an equal number of things that fans wish would have not happened. For example, the Tigers won the AL Central and had a record 3.1 million fans come through the gates at Comerica Park. Conversely, the Tigers collapsed in the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, and the team had very little to show for the season’s successes.
In similar fashion, the Tigers went 51-30 at home, one of the highest win percentages in the American League last season. However, the team typically followed strong homestands with less than stellar road trips, going just 42-39 on the road. Granted, they were over .500 on the road so they had that going for them, but just settling for mediocrity will not cut it in 2014.
With the additions of Joe Nathan, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis, the Tigers’ lineup will be noticeably different in 2014. The jury is still out on whether or not this is a better lineup than last season’s; I for one say it is. In addition to a roster full of new faces, the Tigers will be led into the 2014 season by first year manager Brad Ausmus, who is just 44 years old and could easily be mistaken for an active player on the team.
With these changes, the Tigers need to keep focused on protecting their home field. With the old “protect this house” mantra, the Tigers should be able to keep Comerica Park their safe haven and continue to build upon the successes of last season. The key indicator of the team’s success will be winning on the road, an underutilized indicator of success when looking at World Series contenders.
You may say that winning on the road doesn’t mean much, but down the stretch winning on the road can make or break a season. Last season the World Champion Red Sox were 44-37 on the road, the 2012 World Series champion San Francisco Giants were 46-35 on the road and the 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals were 45-36.
Winning on the road isn’t everything, but I feel that it is something to keep on eye on, especially in 2014 for the Tigers. The magic number for road wins for them should be around 44 this season. If the Tigers can achieve that number, it will help indicate the team’s level of success and add to the trend of World Series winners with at least 44 road wins in a season.