Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mark Fidrych Book Contest Winner

We finally have a winner in the Mark Fidrych book contest.  Since Miguel Cabrera only got two total bases versus the Padres, nobody came very close to guessing his total correctly.  The closest was seven by OPUS and Eddie (who entered his guess on Facebook).  The tie breaker was strikeouts by Tigers pitchers in the series - they got 30.  Eddie guessed 25 while OPS had them for only 22, so Eddie is the winner of Doug Wilson's book: "The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych"..   TSE guessed 30 strikeouts on the nose, but had Cabrera getting 10 total bases. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Analysis of Rick Porcello: Game 2

After a good first start last weekend versus the Orioles, Tigers right hander Rick Porcello was much less effective in his second second start last night in San Diego.  He pitched 6 1/3 innings allowing five runs on ten hits in a 6-0 loss to a masterful Andrew Cashner and the Padres.  What went wrong?

According to Brooks Baseball, Porcello threw a lot of sliders last night - 18 of them compared to just 11 curve balls.  His curve is better than his slider, so you may wonder why he would throw more sliders.  It might be because his slider was effective last week versus the Orioles - a linear weights value of -1,10 (negative numbers are good).  Last night, he was 2.90 (positive numbers are bad) on his slider.  He had favorable results on his sinker and change-up in both outings.

Porcello needs to keep his pitches down to be effective and he was unable to do that last night.  After getting 12 outs on ground balls in his first start, he he had just 7 on Saturday.

Last night, his location was off versus left-handed batters in particular.  The strike zone plots below indicate that he located fewer pitches in the middle of the strike zone versus left-handed batters on April 5 (figure 1) than he did last night (figure 2).  The result was that lefties went 6 for 14 against Porcello last night compared to 2 for 11 in his first start. 

Figure 1: Rick Porcello's Strike Zone Plot Versus LHH - April 5, 2014
Data source: Brooks Baseball

Figure 2: Rick Porcello's Strike Zone Plot Versus LHH - April 11, 2014
Data source: Brooks Baseball

So, there you have it.  Like many of Porcello's poor starts, he couldn't keep the ball down and couldn't get left-handed batters out.  Next up, he'll face the Indians on Thursday

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mark Fidrych Book Contest: Part 2

Nobody won last's week's contest, so I'm still trying to give away my extra copy of Doug Wilson's book: "The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych".   Last year, I wrote a review of this book and I still highly recommend it.  It is a great read for all Tigers fans whether you remember seeing him pitch or not.

Here is the new question:

How many total bases will Miguel Cabrera get in the Padres series from Friday through Sunday? 

The tie breaker question is:

How many strikeouts will the Tigers pitching staff get in the same series?

The winner gets a free copy of the book.  Please put your predictions in the comments section.  You have until 10:00 PM EST on Friday, April 11 to submit a guess.  I will announce the winner once he/she is determined and we'll arrange to get the book sent.  The person who won last year's Mark Fidrych book contest is not eligible, but he is free to guess.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

One Week In The Books


The Tigers are off to a strong start but Phil Coke and the bullpen has some fans worried.
(Photo Credit: John T. Greilick, Detroit News)
After one week of play, the Tigers are 4-1 giving them the best record in the American League.  They could very easily be 1-4 as there have been three one-run victories including two walk-offs in the first two games.  Those three wins can't be taken away though and they count just as much in the standings as they would in September.  Some observations on how they got where they are and where they could be going follow.

The Tigers starters have posted a 2.20 RA (using runs rather than earned runs) and have allowed no homers and just 20 hits in 32 2/3 innings.  Surprisingly, they have just 18 strikeouts which makes one wonder if they are holding something back.  At any rate, it's not a concern.  The strikeouts will come. 

The bullpen, on the other hand, has been a mess with a 6.08 RA in 13 1/3 innings.  Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain have looked especially awful and may not stay on the roster through May at this rate.  The biggest disappointment so far though has been closer Joe Nathan who has not been sharp at all.  He was the only supposedly reliable reliever entering the season, so seeing him struggle early is a bit concerning, although not too alarming yet.  On the bright side, journeyman Evan Reed is looking as if he could be an important piece of the bullpen puzzle. 

Don't blame the bullpen struggles on the  Bruce Rondon injury.  That was a tough loss but he was far from a guarantee to lock down the setup role - not with less than 30 MLB innings and a season-ending injury (I'm talking about the 2013 season here) under his belt.  The bullpen was very questionable even before than injury.  During the off-season, they lost Joaquin Benoit,  Drew Smyly and Jose Veras from an already shaky pen and added just Nathan.  That's the one area I really wish they had addressed further during the winter.

The shortstop situation is about as unsettled as the bullpen.  Alex Gonzalez is showing that he has something left with the bat, but his defense has been awful so far.  Not only does he have limited range, but he also appears to be unsteady with poor judgement.  I don't think he'll last more than a few weeks.  Andrew Romine will last longer, but he's not a full-time player.

Other than the starting staff, the other thing that has carried the team so far is the offense.  They are fourth in the league with 4.8 runs scored per game.  Moreover, they lead the AL with an .825 OPS.  Rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos and center Austin Jackson have looked particularly promising thus far and could exceed expectations.

So, it's been a mixed bag so far, but they have four wins in the bank already and that's important.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Thoughts on Porcello's First Start

Did Rick Porcello do anything different in his first start of the year today?
(Photo Credit: Associated Press)
Over analysis of Rick Porcello has been a favorite pastime of  internet fans and writers for five years now and year six will be be more of the same.  I'll start with some thoughts on his first start of 2014, one which saw him allow just one run on three hits in 6 2/3 innings versus a good hitting Orioles club.  The 25-year-old right hander allowed one run in the first inning on a walk, a steal and a single, but  held the Orioles scoreless after that.

Porcello generally does well when he keeps the ball on the ground and today he recorded 11 outs on ground balls.  He had just three strikeouts, all on swinging strikes.   

Last year, Porcello improved, in part, because of less reliance on his sinker and adoption of the curve as his primary breaking pitch.  According to Brooks Baseball, Porcello used his sinker on 43( 44%) of his 94 pitchers which is similar to his 42% sinker rate of 2013.  However, he used he slider almost as much as his curve (12% versus 15%).  Interestingly he seemed to have more success with his slider today posting a whiff (swing and miss) rate of 46% (versus just 7% on curves).  It's just one game and might mean nothing, but it's something worth watching in his next start.   

Porcello has always had trouble with durability shown in dramatically reduced fastball speeds and results as the game progresses.  Table 1 below shows that today was no exception as far as losing zip on his pitches.  He threw as hard as 94 MPH in the first inning, was down to 90-91 on pitches 60-70, the interval where he traditionally starts to lose it and 88-89 by the end of the game.  He often gets hit hard once he loses his velocity, but today he was effective until the end.  Perhaps, we can credit manager Brad Ausmus with having the foresight to remove him before the hits started coming. 

Table 1: Pitch Speed by Pitch Number

Data source:

Another Porcello theme is his extreme lefty/righty split.  Last year, left-handed batters hit .300 against him whereas right-handed batters hit just.239.  Today, a lefty-heavy Orioles line-up hit just .182 against him. Again, it's way too early to make conclusions, but that's a good early sign.

Over thinking Rick Porcello's performance continues next weekend when he faces the Padres in San Diego. 

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