Monday, January 30, 2006

John Sickels' Tiger Prospect Grades

I just received my copy of the Baseball Prospect Book 2006 by John Sickels. Compared to Baseball America, Sickels goes more by performance and less by tools so we get a different perspective here. He gives grades to most of the important prospects on every team, usually 30-35 players per team. At the end of the book, he gives lists of his top 50 position players and top 50 pitching prospects in all of baseball. You’ll have to buy the book (see link above) to get the details but here is a sneak preview of the Tigers with the highest grades:

Table: John Sickels's Tiger Prospect Grades


Player

Grade

Justin Verlander

A

Joel Zumaya

B+

Brent Clevlen

B

Cameron Maybin

B

Jordan Tata

B-

Eulogio De La Cruz

C+

P.J. Finigan

C+

Jeff Frazier

C+

Tony Giarratano

C+

Michael Holliman

C+

Matt Joyce

C+

Jair Jurrjens

C+

Jeff Larish

C+

Chris Robinson

C+

Clete Thomas

C+

Kevin Whelan

C+


The number of Tigers he ranks as C+ or above (Sickels considers this high praise) has increased from 12 in 2005 to 16 this year. He lists 15 other Tigers as grade C. You can see the difference between the Baseball America and John Sickels philosophies. Whereas Baseball America has Wilken Ramirez and Humberto Sanchez (two players with great tools but so so performance last year) in its top 6, Sickels does not even have them in his top 16. Sickels lists 3 Tigers on his top 50 lists. On the pitching list, Verlander was #1 and Zumaya #12. Clevlen was #48 on the position player list.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Destinations of Top Tiger Prospects

In my last post, I abstracted the top ten prospect list from the Baseball America site and included a chart of the probable destinations of those players in 2006. Today, I’m going to add to that chart by listing the probable opening day destination of most of the top Tiger prospects. Please note that this list is not in any particular order and is not necessarily a complete list of top prospects. It’s just a list of the prospects that are being talked about the most around the net.


My projected destinations are based on reports from Baseball America (including the Baseball America Prospect Handbook), discussions among the minor league baseball gurus at Motown Sports and a little bit of common sense. I will try to keep this chart updated as April approaches. There are people on here who follow the minors closer than I do so feel free to disagree with me if any of the destinations appear to be off.


Table: Destinations of Tiger prospects in 2006


Player

Pos.

Age*

Expected Opening Day Destination

Justin Verlander

SP

23

Tigers

Joel Zumaya

SP

21

Toledo

Humberto Sanchez

SP

23

Erie

Jordan Tata

SP

24

Erie

Jair Jurrjens

SP

20

Lakeland

Kyle Sleeth

SP

24

Lakeland

Preston Larrison

SP

25

Toledo

Dallas Trahern

SP

20

Lakeland

Josh Rainwater

SP

21

Lakeland

Nate Bumstead

SP

24

Erie

Virgil Vazquez

SP

24

Erie

Sendy Vasquez

SP

23

W. Michigan

Kevin Whelan

RP

22

Lakeland

P.J. Finigan

RP

23

W. Michigan

Eulogio DeLaCruz

RP

22

Erie

Chris Robinson

C

21

Lakeland

Danilo Sanchez

C

25

Erie

Jeff Larish

1B

23

Lakeland

Juan Francia

2B

24

Toledo

Ryan Raburn

2B

25

Toledo

Tony Giarratano

SS

23

Erie

Michael Holliman

SS

24

W. Michigan

Audy Ciriaco

SS

19

Oneonta

Brent Dlugach

SS

23

Lakeland

Wilken Ramirez

3B

20

Lakeland

Kody Kirkland

3B

23

Erie

Donald Kelly

3B

26

Toledo

Cameron Maybin

OF

19

W.Michigan

Brent Clevlen

OF

22

Erie

Clete Thomas

OF

22

Lakeland

Jeff Frazier

OF

23

Lakeland

Matt Joyce

OF

21

W. Michigan

Vincent Blue

OF

23

Erie

* Age on July 1, 2006

Friday, January 27, 2006

Baseball America Top 10 Tiger Prospects

Baseball America revealed its top ten Tigers prospect list yesterday and not surprisingly pitchers Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya top the list. I also expect to see those two near the top of the Top 100 prospects in baseball list coming out in a few more weeks. The complete list and the expected April destinations can be found in the table below.


As many of you know, the Baseball America List is based more on tools than performance. This is not a bad thing but it’s good to keep it in mind when comparing it to other lists that you’ll see. Since I’m not a scout, I like the Baseball America list because it gives me a different perspective than my own performance based thinking.



After filtering out all the hype, my impression is that the Tigers right now have the best collection of prospects they’ve had in at least 20 years. This is not saying a lot, as their player development system has been a disappointment for a long time but the organization definitely appears to be on the upswing.


Table: Baseball America Top Ten Tiger Prospects


Rank

Player

Pos.

Age (7/1/06)

Expected Opening Day Destination

1

Justin Verlander

SP

23

Tigers

2

Joel Zumaya

SP

21

Toledo

3

Cameron Maybin

OF

19

Western Michigan

4

Brent Clevlen

OF

22

Erie

5

Wilken Ramirez

3B

20

Lakeland

6

Humberto Sanchez

SP

23

Erie

7

Jordan Tata

SP

24

Erie

8

Tony Giarratano

SS

23

Erie

9

Jeff Larish

1B

23

Lakeland

10

Kevin Whelan

RP

22

Lakeland

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Probabilistic Model for Range

In an earlier post, I discussed the difficulty of measuring range or the ability of fielders to turn batted balls into outs. In that post, I defined range factor and zone rating and gave the limitations of each measure. Here, I’ll talk about David Pinto’s Probabilistic Model of Range.(PMR).

He uses STATS Inc. data to obtain information about each ball put in play – direction, type of hit (ground, fly, line drive, bunt, pop up) and intensity of hit (soft, medium, hard). For each direction/type/intensity combination, he uses something called Maximum Likelihood Estimation to calculate the probability of an out for each of the 9 fielders. Based on these probabilities, he calculates the predicted number of outs for an average defender at each position on each team. He then compares this to the actual number of outs made.

For example, the table below shows that there were 1,233 balls put in play in games when Omar Infante played shortstop. Based on the PMR, the average shortstop should have made 157.18 (or 158) successful plays on the balls that were hit. Infante actually made 171 plays. This was14 (or 8.8%) more than expected. Interestingly, this was the best percentage in baseball for shortstops with 500 or more balls in play when they were in the game. Looking at ground balls only (GB), Infante made 4.7% more plays than expected. Carlos Guillen, made 2.9% fewer plays than expected and 2,7% more plays than expected on ground balls.

At second base, Placido Polanco made 4.2% more plays than expected while Infante made 1.6% fewer than expected. So based on these somewhat small sample sizes, Infante had better range at shortstop than at second base. Orlando Hudson was baseball’s leader with an amazing 18.6% plays more than expected. Pinto has not given ground ball only numbers for second basemen yet.



Pinto has only posted results for middle infielders so far. I’ll add the results for other positions as they become available.


Table: Probabilistic Model of Range


Player

Pos.

Type of Hit

BIP

Outs

Pred. Outs

Diff

% Diff

Infante

SS

Any

1233

171

157.18

13.82

8.79

Infante

SS

GB

567

131

125.07

5.93

4.74

Guillen

SS

Any

1934

240

247.06

-7.06

-2.86

Guillen

SS

GB

950

203

197.69

5.31

2.69

Polanco

2B

Any

3001

336

322.35

13.65

4.23

Infante

2B

Any

1810

190

193.21

-3.21

-1.66

Hudson

2B

Any

3318

490

413.33

76.67

18.55

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Month of York

After spending a lot time poring over box scores and game accounts from the New York Times and Washington Post of August, 1937, I have written a detailed article describing the record breaking month of Rudy York. Hopefully, the article will give you a good feel for what it might have been like to follow York's great month. Since Tiger Tales is not generally a historical site and I wanted to get a wider audience for the article, I contributed it to Detroit Tigers Central which recently celebrated its fifth birthday of covering Detroit Tiger history among other things.

Edit: An edited version of the same article is at Baseball Almanac

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Tiger Tidbits

In today's post, I'll briefly discuss a couple of articles in the local papers.

Tom Gage of the Detroit News gives an account of an interview with Jim Leyland prior to yesterday's TigerFest. First, Leyland dismisses any notion of a another "five year plan":
"I know what's going on here," Leyland said before Saturday's annual TigerFest at Joe Louis Arena -- his first as manager of the Tigers. "Mr. Ilitch is getting a little impatient. I don't blame him. We don't have a lot of time. I think we have to get something accomplished rather quickly.

"That's why I haven't talked about any plans. Sparky (Anderson) had a five-year plan, but we don't have that long. That's just the way it is. I'm not talking about a World Series, but we have to make some strides and we have to make them rather quickly."

Since I think they are not ready to contend any time soon, it's not good to hear that Illitch is putting pressure on them to win now although it was pretty obvious this was going on with some of the free agent signings they have made. As a fan, I'd rather Illitch let the baseball people determine the time schedule for success. The good news is that so far Dombrowski has not given up top prospects for quick fixes.

The rest of the main part of the article is a motivational speech by Jim Leyland. He said all the right things but anybody who has talked to me on message boards knows I don't put a lot of stock into those things.

At the bottom of the article are a few notes of interest:

Dmitri Young missed TigerFest in order to remain in Arizona, where he's attending a conditioning camp.
As I said before, if Young can get in good enough shape where he can play in the outfield occasionally, that gives them a bit of flexibility on the 25 man roster.

Recovered from the health problems (knee and hernia) that bothered him the last two years, Magglio Ordonez , who'll be 32 next week, said, "I feel like I'm 20 again."
Ordonez's defense and power seemed to be affected by his injuries quite a bit last year so this is good to hear.

Dombrowski ruled out any interest in former Tigers' right-hander Jeff Weaver , who's still available as a free agent.
The Tigers never gave any indication that they were interested but this may put a damper on message board speculation that the Tigers would pull of another late free agent signing similar to Ivan Rodriguez and Ordonez.

Because his days as a closer are over, Troy Percival has suggested to the Tigers that he'd consider starting -- the difference being he'd have substantial rest between appearances.
I think it's a longshot that he'll pitch at all.


Joel Zumaya

Another article by Brian Vanochten of the Grand Rapids Press discusses Joel Zumaya and the possibility of him winning the fifth spot in the rotation. Most of the talk has centered around Justin Verlander but I think Zumaya may be just as ready as Verlander at this point. There has been talk about Zumaya pitching out of the bullpen for the Tigers this year. Some people in the organization feel as if he will ultimately be a reliever but at the age of 20 I'd really like to see him be developed as a starter.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Powerful National Leaguers

There is not much news to report on the Tigers unless I talk about the caravan and Tigerfest. While I'm sure those are fun events for Michiganders, they are not really geeky enough for Tiger Tales. I also don’t have a lot of time this week to do anything creative so I thought I’d go back to an earlier analysis of isolated power (on November 28, 2005) and do the same run for the National League. The charts below rank National League hitters with 295 or more plate appearances by position.


Catchers

rank

Player

Team

BA

SLG

ISO

1

Barrett

CHN

.276

.479

.203

2

Piazza

NYN

.251

.452

.201

3

LaRue

CIN

.260

.452

.192

4

Matheny

SF

.242

.406

.164

5

Hernandez

SD

.290

.450

.160

6

Lieberthal

PHI

.263

.418

.155

7

Cota

PIT

.242

.387

.145

8

Schneider

WAS

.268

.409

.141

9

Miller

MIL

.273

.413

.140

10

Phillips

LAN

.238

.363

.125

11

Molina

STL

.252

.358

.106

12

Estrada

ATL

.261

.367

.106

13

Snyder

ARI

.202

.301

.099

14

Lo Duca

FLA

.283

.380

.097

15

Ausmus

HOU

.258

.331

.073


First Basemen

rank

Player

Team

BA

SLG

ISO

1

Clark

ARI

.304

.636

.332

2

Lee

CHN

.335

.662

.327

3

Delgado

FLA

.301

.582

.281

4

Pujols

STL

.330

.609

.279

5

Howard

PHI

.288

.567

.279

6

Tracy

ARI

.308

.553

.245

7

Berkman

HOU

.293

.524

.231

8

Saenz

LAN

.263

.480

.217

9

Helton

COL

.320

.534

.214

10

Niekro

SF

.252

.460

.208

11

Choi

LAN

.253

.453

.200

12

Johnson

WAS

.289

.479

.190

13

Lamb

HOU

.236

.419

.183

14

Nady

SD

.261

.439

.178

15

Overbay

MIL

.276

.449

.173

16

Mientkiewicz

NYN

.240

.407

.167

17

Ward

PIT

.260

.405

.145

18

Nevin

SD

.256

.399

.143

19

Casey

CIN

.312

.423

.111

20

Conine

FLA

.304

.403

.099

21

Snow

SF

.275

.365

.090


Second Basemen

rank

Player

Team

BA

SLG

ISO

1

Utley

PHI

.291

.540

.249

2

Kent

LAN

.289

.512

.223

3

Biggio

HOU

.264

.468

.204

4

Easley

FLA

.240

.419

.179

5

Giles

ATL

.291

.461

.170

6

Walker

CHN

.305

.474

.169

7

Aurilia

CIN

.282

.444

.162

8

Weeks

MIL

.239

.394

.155

9

Vidro

WAS

.275

.424

.149

10

Castillo

PIT

.268

.416

.148

11

Durham

SF

.290

.429

.139

12

Gonzalez

COL

.292

.421

.129

13

Counsell

ARI

.256

.375

.119

14

Grudzielanek

STL

.294

.407

.113

15

Freel

CIN

.271

.371

.100

16

Matsui

NYN

.255

.352

.097

17

Miles

COL

.281

.355

.074

18

Castillo

FLA

.301

.374

.073

19

Cairo

NYN

.251

.324

.073

20

Loretta

SD

.280

.347

.067

21

Carroll

WAS

.251

.284

.033

Shortstops

rank

Player

Team

BA

SLG

ISO

1

Hall

MIL

.291

.495

.204

2

Lopez

CIN

.291

.486

.195

3

Greene

SD

.250

.431

.181

4

Furcal

ATL

.284

.429

.145

5

Barmes

COL

.289

.434

.145

6

Cintron

ARI

.273

.415

.142

7

Rollins

PHI

.290

.431

.141

8

Hardy

MIL

.247

.384

.137

9

Everett

HOU

.248

.364

.116

10

Reyes

NYN

.273

.386

.113

11

Perez

CHN

.274

.383

.109

12

Wilson

PIT

.257

.363

.106

13

Gonzalez

FLA

.264

.368

.104

14

Eckstein

STL

.294

.395

.101

15

Robles

LAN

.272

.368

.096

16

Guzman

WAS

.219

.314

.095

17

Clayton

ARI

.270

.351

.081

18

Vizquel

SF

.271

.350

.079

19

Izturis

LAN

.257

.322

.065


Third Basemen

rank

Player

Team

BA

SLG

ISO

1

Ensberg

HOU

.283

.557

.274

2

Ramirez

CHN

.302

.568

.266

3

Glaus

ARI

.258

.522

.264

4

Jones

ATL

.296

.556

.260

5

Wright

NYN

.306

.523

.217

6

Randa

CIN

.289

.491

.202

7

Feliz

SF

.250

.422

.172

8

Castilla

WAS

.253

.403

.150

9

Atkins

COL

.287

.426

.139

10

Lowell

FLA

.236

.360

.124

11

Mackowiak

PIT

.272

.389

.117

12

Bell

PHI

.248

.361

.113

13

Sanchez

PIT

.291

.400

.109

14

Nunez

STL

.285

.361

.076

15

Alfonzo

SF

.277

.345

.068

16

Burroughs

SD

.250

.299

.049


Left Fielders

Rank

Player

Team

BA

SLG

ISO

1

Dunn

CIN

.247

.540

.293

2

Sanders

STL

.271

.546

.275

3

Bay

PIT

.306

.559

.253

4

Cabrera

FLA

.323

.561

.238

5

Floyd

NYN

.273

.505

.232

6

Burrell

PHI

.281

.504

.223

7

Lee

MIL

.265

.487

.222

8

Holliday

COL

.307

.505

.198

9

Alou

SF

.321

.518

.197

10

Gonzalez

ARI

.271

.459

.188

11

Church

WAS

.287

.466

.179

12

Klesko

SD

.248

.418

.170

13

Langerhans

ATL

.267

.426

.159

14

Johnson

ATL

.241

.397

.156

15

Werth

LAN

.234

.374

.140

16

Burke

HOU

.248

.368

.120

17

Jackson

SD

.255

.342

.087


Center Fielders

rank

Player

Team

BA

SLG

ISO

1

Jones

ATL

.263

.575

.312

2

Griffey

CIN

.301

.576

.275

3

Edmonds

STL

.263

.533

.270

4

Wilson

COL

.258

.491

.233

5

Bradley

LAN

.290

.484

.194

6

Repko

LAN

.221

.384

.163

7

Wilkerson

WAS

.248

.405

.157

8

Roberts

SD

.275

.428

.153

9

Beltran

NYN

.266

.414

.148

10

Patterson

CHN

.215

.348

.133

11

Clark

MIL

.306

.426

.120

12

Michaels

PHI

.304

.415

.111

13

Hairston

CHN

.261

.368

.107

14

Ellison

SF

.264

.361

.097

15

Sullivan

COL

.294

.386

.092

16

Lofton

PHI

.335

.420

.085

17

Redman

PIT

.251

.332

.081

18

Pierre

FLA

.276

.354

.078

19

Taveras

HOU

.291

.341

.050


Right Fielders

rank

Player

Team

BA

SLG

ISO

1

Pena

CIN

.254

.492

.238

2

Drew

LAN

.286

.520

.234

3

Lane

HOU

.267

.499

.232

4

Jenkins

MIL

.292

.513

.221

5

Walker

STL

.289

.502

.213

6

Kearns

CIN

.240

.452

.212

7

Diaz

NYN

.257

.468

.211

8

Cameron

NYN

.273

.477

.204

9

Guillen

WAS

.283

.479

.196

10

Green

ARI

.286

.477

.191

11

Abreu

PHI

.286

.474

.188

12

Giles

SD

.301

.483

.182

13

Burnitz

CHN

.258

.435

.177

14

Encarnacion

FLA

.287

.447

.160

15

Lawton

PIT

.273

.433

.160

16

Hawpe

COL

.262

.403

.141

17

Taguchi

STL

.288

.412

.124

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