D Is For Disappointment

Baseball is a funny game. A week-and-a-half ago, before the season started, the conventional wisdom was that three things were just about mortal locks: The much-improved Detroit Tigers were likely to ride their explosive lineup to the playoffs, while the Baltimore Orioles would battle with the Tampa Bay Rays to stay out of the American League East's basement, and the Barry Bonds-less San Francisco Giants were in for a really rough year.

How quickly things change. Only one out of those three prognostications has panned out at the beginning of the season: The Giants are 2-6 and are destined for last place in the National League West. But the surprising Orioles are in first place in the AL East, with the best record in the league at 6-1 (although that's unlikely to last), and the Tigers, who looked like world-beaters coming out of spring training in Florida, are the only team in baseball that has yet to win a game, starting the season a woeful 0-7.

The Tigers started out by being swept by the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox in back-to-back three-game series in Detroit, and then lost yesterday in the opener of their first road series in Boston. They were hurt by the loss of centerfielder Curtis Granderson, who broke a finger at the end of spring training and is on the disabled list. Injuries are part of the game, however, and most teams are affected by them at one point of the season or another.

Yes, that Olde English D on their caps is for Disappointment. Sure, it's early. There are still 155 games left to play, and their lineup has the firepower for the team to turn their fortunes around. But they'll be battling history to even make the playoffs, as no team as ever started the season by losing seven games and then come back to make the playoffs.

How difficult is it to lose seven games in a row? Well, for the sake of the mathematics, let's assume that the two teams involved are evenly matched and have the same chance to win each game. It's like flipping a coin, with heads representing a win and tails representing a loss. The chances of a coin flip coming up tails seven times in a row is one in 128. On the face of it, the Tigers probably had more than an even chance of winning most of those games in their two home series; I'm pretty sure they were the favorite in most of those six games. And yet, they lost all of them. Now they're on the road, playing the defending World Series champion Red Sox in Fenway Park. Boston is favored today to extend the Tigers' losing streak to eight games. Tough times so far for the Motor City fans, especially with the expectations that were raised by the team's off-season moves.