The Tigers got swept by the Los Angeles Angels this weekend in a series that included two more one-run losses. These one-run defeats have become too commonplace in recent weeks for the Tigers. In fact eight of their last nine losses have been by the narrowest of margins. For the season, they are 17-24 in one-run games which is second worst in the American League to the Blue Jays (10-21). In contrast, the Orioles record of 25-7 in one-run games would be the best percentage (.781) in the history of baseball if they keep it up.
David Berri of Wages of Wins asked me today what is the worst record the Tigers have ever had in one-run games. The answer is 12-27 by the 2004 team. It seemed a lot less frustrating back then because that squad was coming off a historically bad 43-119 2003 season and fans were just happy that the Tigers were competitive enough to win 72 games.
Some fans might be surprised that the 2003 team was 19-18 in one-run games which goes to show that success in one-run contests is largely due to luck and doesn't say much about the talent on the team. In 2011, the Tigers were a very strong 29-17 in on-run games. This year with mostly the same roster, they are a whopping 9 1/2 games worse in those types of games. Say all you want about leadership, but I don't think Victor Martinez is worth 9 1/2 wins over Prince Fielder.
The fact that the White Sox are 23-17 in games decided by one run has helped them stay ahead of the Tigers this year. However, the generally weak Indians have done even better at 19-8, so what does it all mean? Not a lot in terms of evaluation.
Whether it's due to good fortune or something else though, it doesn't hurt to win one-run games. The Tigers best record in games determined by one run was 25-11 by the legendary 1984 team. Most other winning Tigers teams had similar success including 1909 (26-15), 1934 (26-18), 1968 (35-23) and 1987 (26-16).
A poor record in one-run games does not guarantee doom however. The 1935 team went 19-27 in those games and still managed to win 93 games in route to the franchise's first championship.