DETROIT – Since the Detroit Tigers hit rock bottom in early May, they have played playoff-caliber baseball against some of the best teams in the league.
This isn’t an exaggeration. Since May 7, the Tigers are 29-22 in their last 51 games. In that span, only four teams in the American League have been better, meaning the Tigers have played well enough to be the second wildcard team over that span.
Unfortunately, the season didn’t start on May 8, and the Tigers went 9-24 in the first five weeks. They were the worst team in all of baseball by 3.5 games at that point -- a wide margin for such a short period of time.
It went from really ugly to shockingly impressive in the blink of an eye.
Here’s a look at every MLB team’s record since May 7:
- Boston Red Sox: 33-19 (.635)
- Tampa Bay Rays: 30-20 (.600)
- Toronto Blue Jays: 27-24 (.529)
- New York Yankees: 26-25 (.510)
- Baltimore Orioles: 12-40 (.231)
- Chicago White Sox: 32-21 (.604)
- Detroit Tigers: 29-22 (.569)
- Cleveland Indians: 25-25 (.500)
- Minnesota Twins: 22-29 (.431)
- Kansas City Royals: 19-33 (.365)
- Houston Astros: 35-18 (.660)
- Oakland Athletics: 29-23 (.558)
- Los Angeles Angels: 28-24 (.538)
- Seattle Mariners: 27-25 (.519)
- Texas Rangers: 17-33 (.340)
- New York Mets: 29-24 (.547)
- Atlanta Braves: 26-25 (.510)
- Washington Nationals: 27-27 (.500)
- Philadelphia Phillies: 21-27 (.438)
- Miami Marlins: 20-31 (.392)
- Milwaukee Brewers: 34-18 (.654)
- Cincinnati Reds: 28-25 (.528)
- Chicago Cubs: 26-26 (.500)
- St. Louis Cardinals: 22-30 (.423)
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 17-35 (.327)
- Los Angeles Dodgers: 36-15 (.706)
- San Francisco Giants: 34-17 (.667)
- San Diego Padres: 32-21 (.604)
- Colorado Rockies: 25-28 (.472)
- Arizona Diamondbacks: 8-46 (.148)
In the American League, the Red Sox, White Sox and Astros would be the division winners for the time period between May 8 and July 4, while the Rays and Tigers would be the wildcard teams.
Expanding the scope even further, only the Brewers, Dodgers, Giants and Padres have been better than the Tigers in the National League over that span. That means Detroit has been the ninth-best team in baseball after starting 9-24.
That’s quite a turnaround.
This isn’t the result of an easy schedule, either. In the past 51 games, the Tigers have played the following opponents:
- Houston Astros: 4 games
- Milwaukee Brewers: 2 games
- Chicago White Sox: 10 games
- Seattle Mariners: 6 games
- Cleveland Indians: 7 games
- Los Angeles Angels: 4 games
- New York Yankees: 3 games
- Chicago Cubs: 3 games
- St. Louis Cardinals: 2 games
- Kansas City Royals: 9 games
- Minnesota Twins: 1 game
The Astros, Brewers and White Sox are first-place teams. The Mariners, Indians, Angels and Yankees all have winning records. The Cubs and Cardinals are playoff hopefuls.
So the Tigers went 29-22 over a stretch that included 16 games against first-place teams, 36 games against teams with winning records and only 10 games against non-contenders.
It’s difficult to even comprehend those numbers from a team that lost 24 of its first 33 games, including eight to the Pirates, Royals and Twins.
Looking forward, the Tigers have a chance to continue clawing toward .500. Their next 25 games will come against the Orioles, Rangers, Royals and Twins -- the four worst teams in the AL. It’s time to prove the last two months weren’t a fluke.