Edson: Tigers Fans Should Savor Fast Start

It’s an optical illusion.

It’s a mirage.

And if it’s a dream, Detroit Tigers fans don’t want to wake up.

After Sunday’s win over the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park, the Tigers were 7-3 and in first place in the American League Central Division.

This comes after they started the season with seven straight games on the road before playing a home game.

So how have the Tigers done it so far? Here are a couple of reasons:

* Pitching. The starting pitching has been way better than expected, with most starters going six or seven innings. The bullpen, especially closer Shane Greene, has been unhittable. Greene set a Major League record on Sunday by recording his seventh save after his team’s first 10 games. Anyone who has Greene in their baseball fantasy league (that would be me) should count themselves lucky.

* Defense. The value of adding two veteran middle infielders just before spring training has been indispensable. In shortstop Jody Mercer and second baseman Josh Harrison, the Tigers have a rock solid Keystone Combination. And who knew catcher John Hicks was such a weapon behind the plate, throwing out two runners on Sunday?

* Analytics. No one talks about the value of the Tigers expanding their analytics department since Al Avila took over as general manager, but it has made a big difference. You noticed during the three-game sweep of Kansas City how often Tigers defenders “happened” to be positioned perfectly. That wasn’t an accident. That was analytics.

* Manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson. These two have done a tremendous job of teaching and leading this team. Both coaches have been around the block and they know what has to be done to develop a winner.

* The Schedule. This can’t be overlooked. The Tigers did well to split four games at Toronto, then took advantage of the ailing New York Yankees, who’ve had 11 players hit the Injured List, formerly the Disabled List. Then Kansas City came to town and the Tigers chopped them up and extended their winning streak to five games.

So what should we expect the rest of the season? Obviously this team won’t continue to win at a .700 clip. But Gardenhire should get some votes for Manager of the Year if he can coax 81 wins and a .500 record out of this team.

The way it looks now, that could be possible. But let’s check back in August… and in the meantime just enjoy the roll these Tigers are on.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.

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