Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tigers top Mets, Shelton Injured

Today, the Tigers played an actual Major League team and came away with a 5-4 victory over the Mets at Port St. Lucie. A couple of players trying to solidify and perhaps expand their bench roles had good days. Omar Infante played shortstop and went 2 for 4 while Marcus Thames played left field and went 2 for 3 with a double. Neifi Perez did not help himself going 0 for 3 and making 2 errors.

Chad Durbin, who is hoping to win a bullpen spot, started and pitched 2 perfect innings. He was followed by hard throwing rookie Andrew Miller who struck out 4 and allowed 2 hits and a walk in 2 scoreless innings. Most of the regulars stayed back in Lakeland. Kurt has a more complete wrap up on Mack Avenue Tigers.

Shelton Hurt

Chris Shelton did not make the trip to Port St Lucie because of an abdominal strain he suffered on Sunday. Shelton needs to make a good impression this spring so he can't afford to miss too much time. Lakeland correspondent Deran (also known as Yoda on MotownSports) says that Shelton looked fine taking grounders at first today so his injury is likely not serious.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Florida Southern Game and Other Notes

The Tigers opened their spring schedule with a 14-0 shutout over Florida Southern. It's obviously a meaningless game but it's still exciting to see the first box score of the year at MLB.COM. Curtis Granderson led off the game for the Tigers with a home run and they never looked back. Ryan Raburn had a 3 hits including a home run, Marcus Thames had 3 doubles and minor leaguer Brent Dlugach had 3 singles to pace the attack. The Tigers used 8 pitchers including Kyle Sleeth who is still trying to recover from his 2005 Tommy John surgery.

The most interesting news of the day may been the starting line-up which included all the regulars except Ivan Rodriguez:

Granderson, cf
Polanco, 2b
Sheffield, dh
Guillen, ss
Ordonez, rf
Casey, 1b
Monroe, lf
Inge, 3b
Wilson, c

I don't know if that line-up is any indication of the opening day line-up but it was interesting to see Sheffield 3rd and Guillen 4th rather than the other way around.

Notes

Billfer did it again. He continues to come up with interesting interviews of Tigers media personalities. This time he chatted with commentator Rod Allen. Without a doubt, this was a bona fide interview.

Eric Jackson at D-Town Tigers has jumped onto the retrosheet play by play data theme by looking at how Tigers starting pitchers do after they reach various pitch counts. Earlier in the week, he looked at lefty/righty batter splits.

Mike Cassidy continued his discussion of Tigers prospects at Tigers Minor League Blog.

And finally, this is not Tigers related but I definitely want to give Mack Avenue Kurt a plug for his article in the Detroit Free Press.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tigers Hall of Fame


George Mullin: First player elected into MotownSports Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame


A group of us over at MotownSports is putting together a Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame. This is something that many of us have wanted to do for quite a while and last month we finally decided to take the plunge. The project is led by Dave Troppens (known on MotownSports as DTroppens) and Alan Chichester (DT34456884), two excellent writers and long time contributors to MotownSports. Their hard work and organization is helping to keep the project running as efficiently and smoothly as any I've seen on an internet sports forum.

The Motown project is smaller in scope but somewhat similar to the Hall of Merit developed by Baseball Think Factory. The big difference is that we are only concerned with the Tigers. We have 29 voters, all of whom have been on the project since at least the initial election. That first election included players who finished their careers with the Tigers by 1915. The second election included all players who ended their Tigers careers between 1916 and 1920. Each week, we have an election including players from a new 5 year period.

In each election, each voter is allowed to vote for as many as 5 players. Managers, executives and broadcasters are also eligible. Any player receiving 75% of the votes gets into the Hall of Fame. Players averaging at least 10% of the votes on three consecutive ballots remain on the ballot for future elections.

We did not establish any criteria beyond some very liberal minimum qualifications of at bats and innings pitched for nominees. Some people base their votes more on longevity while others put more emphasis on peak performance. Some make their decisions mostly based on statistical criteria. Others are more likely to take intangibles such as character and contribution to the franchise into consideration along with performance. Some only vote for players who they consider to be elite Tigers. Others vote for 5 players every time regardless of who is on the ballot. The differences cause occasional conflicts but that just makes the process more interesting.

So far, we have completed 3 elections taking us through 1925 and 6 Tigers legends have qualified for the MotownSports Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame: pitchers George Mullin, Wild Bill Donovan and Ed Killian, outfielders Sam Crawford and Bobby Veach and manager Hughie Jennings. The following players were not elected but received enough votes to remain on the ballot: pitchers Harry Coveleski, Ed Siever and Ed Summers, infielders Donie Bush, Germany Schaefer and Jim Delahanty and outfielders Jimmy Barrett and Davy Jones.

This week, we are working on the star studded class of players who last played for the Tigers between 1926 and 1930. This group is led by Ty Cobb (no introduction needed), .342 lifetime hitter Harry Heilmann and all time Tigers wins leader Hooks Dauss. Members are diligently and enthusiastically researching these all-time greats along with lesser known players such as Lu Blue, Bob Fothergill, Johnny Bassler, Heinie Manush, Lil Stoner and Ken Hollway. I'll be giving further updates as the project progresses.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Plate Discipline

As usual, there has been a lot of talk this winter about plate discipline and the talk continues as spring training begins. Plate discipline or strike zone judgement means different things to different people. One simple definition would be the recognition of balls and strikes and the ability to react accordingly. That is, swing at strikes and don't swing at balls.

Another way to define plate discipline would be the ability to balance patience with aggressiveness. Jim Leyland talked about this in discussing Curtis Granderson this week. Leyland wants hitters to work the count and make pitchers throw more pitches but he also wants them to swing when they see a pitch they can hit. Being able to maintain this delicate balance is an important skill.

Another aspect of plate discipline is a batter's approach with two strikes and this is the number one item on which Leyland wants batters to work this spring. He wants players to shorten up their swings a bit and concentrate on making contact once the count reaches two strikes. A good two strike approach might also include fouling off strikes in order to extend at bats.

Using the retrosheet play by play data base, Billfer investigated the Tigers performance in 2006 after they reached two strikes. He discovered that, while some Tigers (e.g. Placido Polanco) did better than others (e.g. Curtis Granderson), their team performance relative to the league was the same with two strikes as it was in other situations. That is, they slugged better, walked less, got on base less and struck out more than other teams regardless of the count.

One simple way to try to measure overall plate discipline is to look at strikeout/walk ratio. In 2006, the Tigers drew the second fewest walks (430) and had the second most strikeouts (1,133) in the American League. That comes out to a league worst 2.63 k/BB ratio. The league average ratio was 1.96 or about two strikeouts for every walk. By that measure, the Tigers had very poor plate discipline last year.

Table below lists the k/bb ratios for Tigers hitters in 2006. It shows that only Carlos Guillen (1.23) and Placido Polanco (1.59) did substantially better than league average. Magglio Ordonez (1.93) and Sean Casey (2.10) were right around the league average. If you include his time with the Pirates, Casey had 33 BB and 43 k for a 1.30 ratio which is closer to his career ratio of 1.21.

The rest of the team including Marcus Thames (2.49), Curtis Granderson (2.64), Brandon Inge (2.98), Chris Shelton (3.15), Omar Infante (3.21), Rodriguez (3.31) and Craig Monroe (3.41) was much worse than league average. It won't be easy for them to dramatically improve these ratios but the hope is that through better discipline, some of these players can get closer to the 2 strikeout to 1 walk league norm.

One player who should help a lot in improving the team ratio is Gary Sheffield who has an astounding 0.75 career mark. This is just one more reason why I'm looking forward to seeing him the Tigers line-up this year.


Table: K/BB Ratio for Tigers in 2006

Player

PA

K

BB

K/BB

Guillen

622

87

71

1.23

Polanco

495

27

17

1.59

Ordonez

646

87

45

1.93

Casey

196

21

10

2.10

Thames

390

92

37

2.49

Granderson

679

174

66

2.64

Inge

601

128

43

2.98

Shelton

412

107

34

3.15

Infante

245

45

14

3.21

Rodriguez

580

86

26

3.31

Monroe

585

126

37

3.41

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Guillen, Casey and Other Spring Questions

A happy Cameron Maybin - Photo Credit: Roger Dewitt


Earlier in the week, I pondered questions surrounding Tigers pitchers this spring. Today, I'll discuss the position players. Barring an injury or a surprise trade, the starting nine is all set:

C. Ivan Rodriguez
1B. Sean Casey
2B. Placido Polanco
SS. Carlos Guillen
3B. Brandon Inge
LF. Craig Monroe
CF. Curtis Granderson
RF. Magglio Ordonez
DH. Gary Sheffield

I'm sure that surprises nobody. There are still some things to keep an eye on this spring though.

Guillen will be one of the Tigers at the center of attention. First, there is the contract issue. He is in the final year of his three year extension and is a potential free agent at the end of the season. He will likely be looking for a lucrative deal spanning 4 or more years. That situation may or may not be resolved this spring but it will be a hot topic which I'll talk more about later. For now, I'll point you towards Mack Avenue Kurt who has the story pretty well covered.

Then there are always questions about Guillen's health. Last year, he played more than 140 games for the first time in his career but there were mentions of fluid on his knee a few times during the season and it never seemed completely stable. His knee may have been the cause of his sub-par defense as he often seemed to have trouble getting position to make throws and made numerous throwing errors throughout the season. Whether or not his knee can last another full season probably can't be answered in spring training but we may get some clues as to whether last year's fielding woes were a fluke or whether he'll continue to struggle defensively this year. There is little question about his offense.

As usual, first base is a position in question. Sean Casey's first base job seems pretty secure right now but injuries limited him to 112 games and a combined .272/.336/.388 line for Pirates and Tigers last year. Given his age and body type, I would expect more injuries this year.

With a need for insurance at first base, Jim Leyland is going to try out Marcus Thames at the position this spring. Thames' ability to handle first base, at least on a part-time basis, would make him a lot more valuable and might determine whether he stays or gets traded at the end of the spring. Another one to watch is Chris Shelton who will be looking to regain his stroke this spring. I get the feeling the Tigers are not too high on Shelton right now but a good spring could put him back in the picture.

The other major health question is Gary Sheffield who missed most of last season with a wrist injury. He is supposedly healthy now but he struggled when he returned last year and only regular playing time is going to tell whether he is completely healed. He is obviously, a huge addition to the line-up if he is healthy.

The bench will likely consist of catcher Vance Wilson, utilityman Omar Infante, one of Ramon Santiago or Neifi Perez (hopefully not both) and one other player. Right now, the other player looks like Thames, although there is a possibility they may add a left-handed back-up outfielder before the end of spring training. Shelton is another possibility but I think it's likely that he'll start out in Toledo. Another bench question is how well Infante handles center field this spring. He has played out there before but the ability to play it well would give them some extra roster flexibility.

Spring is also a time to get excited about young players on the way up. This year, the center of attention among rookies is Cameron Maybin, the most exciting young talent to come through the Tigers system in a couple of decades. Maybin has virtually no chance to make the Tigers roster but it's going to be fun to watch him run and field and bat against Major League pitchers this March. He'll likely stay in Lakeland in April and team will pitching phenom Andrew Miller. I'm interested enough in both of them that I plan to go down to Lakeland in April to watch a couple of regular season Flying Tigers games.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Spring Training Pitching Questions

Photo Credit: Roger Dewitt

As the above photo suggests, the hot stove league is over and the real thing is starting up. The Tigers pitchers and catchers officially reported last Thursday, the rest of the players players report on Tuesday and the first spring game is just a little more than a week away (February 28 versus the Mets).

For the first time in years, the Tigers are expected to win and there are few doubters even in the national media. Also, unlike past years, the team is pretty much set with no real battles for starting spots. However, there are still some questions to be answered and today I'm going to list some things to watch from pitchers this spring. Next time, I'll look at the position players.

Assuming everyone is healthy, the starting rotation will consist of Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, Nate Robertson and Mike Maroth. Health is never a safe assumption to make with any pitching staff though and there are two pitchers to watch in particular. First, Mike Maroth missed most of last year with an elbow injury and struggled a lot when he returned in September. He is reportedly healthy and ready to go but any pitcher coming off an elbow injury causing him to miss more than 4 months is a question mark.

The other pitcher whose health is a concern is Justin Verlander. Last year, his innings jumped from 130 to 208 including postseason and he was hampered by a tired arm in the second half. This was seen in his sub-par performance and inconsistent velocity the last two months of 2006. Another thing to watch with Verlander is the blister problem which made it difficult to throw his knuckle curve last season. That pitch may have been the reason for his relatively low strike out rate last season. A return of the blisters or a reluctance to throw that pitch could be a sign of trouble.

Besides potential health problems, another issue of interest is Jeremy Bonderman's quest to develop a change-up that he can trust. I know this story sounds familiar but my hope is that he has recognized that he may not be able to progress any further with his two pitch arsenal and stay committed to learning the third pitch this year. Developing a good change-up is not an easy task though so this should be an interesting story to follow.

Five bullpen spots are set with Todd Jones, Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, Jose Mesa and Wil Ledezma. The other two spots will be up for grabs among almost 20 candidates including non-roster invitees. Not all of them have equal shots at making it but Leyland has shown in the past that he's not afraid to take even the most inexperienced pitchers north if he feels they have the talent .

The leading candidates for the last two spots are probably right-handers Jason Grilli, Zach Miner, Jordan Tata, Chad Durbin, Andrew Miller and left-handers Edward Campusano, Tim Byrdak, Felix Heredia, Bobby Seay and Joey Eischen. Roman Colon would be a strong candidate except that he will likely start the season on the disabled list with a disk problem in his neck. Craig Dingman is reportedly healthy after artery bypass surgery. This is great news but it is hard to imagine that he will be ready to step in and help in the Majors by opening day.

Leyland has said that he would prefer to have a second lefty out of the bullpen to go along with Ledezma. So, if one of the lefties has a good spring, he would have a good chance to make the 25 man roster. The best bet might be Edward Campusano who they obtained via trade during the Rule 5 draft. Some think that Eischen is a strong candidate but he had rotator cuff surgery in June and I have to question whether will be ready to help by opening day.

If none of the lefty relievers come through, then there is the possibility of a trade before they head north. That won't be easy to do though. The other option would be to put two right-handers in the two open spots. In that case, the most likely choices would be Grilli and Miner.

Another bullpen storyline this spring is Zumaya's wrist which caused him to miss some time during last year's stretch drive and again during the playoffs. The wrist was supposedly caused by Zumaya playing the game Guitar Hero too much or too vigorously. I'm not convinced that's the case and he hasn't stopped playing the game anyway. Thus, this is still a potential problem.

As always, there will be a number of young pitchers who will be fun to watch whether the have a chance to make the team this year or not. The most prominent name is Andrew Miller who saw action with the parent club at the end of last year and who is regarded as one of the top prospects in all of baseball. It is more likely that he'll stay in Lakeland than go north to Detroit but the latter scenario is not out of the question. Of particular interest is whether he shows improvement in his control this spring. Other youngsters to watch are Jair Jurrjens, Eulogio DeLaCruz, Virgil Vazquez, Yorman Bazardo and Kyle Sleeth.

So, most of the pieces are already in place this spring but there are still many questions to be answered. Next time, I'll ponder questions concerning the position players.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

How Bill James Changed Our View of Baseball

I just received my copy of "How Bill James Changed Our View of Baseball". This book was by produced by ACTA Publications in response to Bill James making TIME magazine's list of "100 Most Influential People in the World". It is a collection of essays written by well known analysts and writers, such as Alan Schwarz, Rob Neyer and john Dewan, who have been greatly influenced by Bill James. Also sprinkled throuhout the book are passages from fans whose lives have been touched by James in less direct but equally prominent ways. I was very pleasantly surprised to find out yesterday that one of those fans was me.

If you are looking for statistical analysis, then this book is not for for you. If you are looking for a collection of heartfelt tributes to the God father of sabermetrics, then you'll probably enjoy it. Here is what I wrote:

When I first read Bill James’ Baseball Abstracts in the early 1980s, they profoundly changed the way I looked at the game and even had an impact my career. I was majoring in mathematics at a university in Massachusetts at the time but had not seriously considered the connection between my education and baseball. I had memorized the batting averages and ERAs of Major League players and had played simulated games for years, but baseball was not something that I had analyzed scientifically. James’ writings led me to think more carefully about why teams won and lost games and to examine everything I thought I knew about baseball. He taught me to question traditional beliefs about batting orders, strategy and player evaluation, and he showed me that the baseball establishment was not always correct. Baseball had become more than just a leisurely pastime; it was now a sport that I spent as much time analyzing as watching.


Inspired by James, I started using baseball data in my classes at school and ultimately wrote a Masters thesis entitled, “How to Win a Pennant in Major League Baseball.” In my thesis, I used regression analysis to investigate the relationship between winning percentages and various other team statistics. Twenty years later, I am still analyzing the game on my blog and on internet message boards and encouraging others to do the same. When I am not watching or studying baseball, I work as a research analyst in the behavioral health field and have never forgotten James’ lesson about questioning everything that I think I know.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

High Injury Risk for Verlander and Others

Baseball analysts have achieved a fair amount of success in projection of hitting performance and they are getting better at projecting pitching performance. One of the factors which makes players sometimes undershoot their projections is health. With that in mind, people like Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus and Sig Mejdal, quantitative analyst for the St. Louis Cardinals, have been assessing injury risk for the past few years.

Carroll and Mejdal have independent systems to assess injury risk but they use some of the same basic principles. First, they both have extensive injury databases spanning several decades. They match current players with players in the database using characteristics of players such as age, body mass index, position , past injuries, etc. From this they determine which players are normal or low risk, medium risk and high risk for a significant injury in the coming year. Carroll refers to the three groups as green, yellow and red lights respectively.

Carroll surprised me last year when he claimed the Tigers had fewer players with injury risks than other teams. Mejdal, on the other hand, felt the Tigers had a good number of high risk players. Carroll's more optimistic projection turned out to be the more accurate in this particular case as the Tigers stayed fairly healthy compared to other teams in 2006.

What do they see for 2007? Mejdal's assessments are included in the Bill James Handbook 2007 and Carroll's work can be found on the Baseball Prospectus site. All of this is proprietary information so I can't give you all the details. However, I can tell you that Mejdal's projections are quite pessimistic once again and that Carroll's overall assessment is not quite as rosy as last year.

Both feel that Justin Verlander, Carlos Guillen and Mike Maroth are high injury risks for 2007.
Carroll feels that Sean Casey is also a red light player whereas Mejdal see him as only a moderate risk. The exclusion of Casey is a bit surprising since Mejdal's system pegs most of the Tigers players aged 30 and over as high risks.

I concur with Carroll that the 4 players listed above are a concern. In fact, without using any formal system, I would rank those players as the top 4 injury risks on the team. As I've mentioned before, I'm a little bit worried about Verlander's dramatic increase in innings pitched and his tired arm last year. Maroth is an injury risk since he missed most of last year with an elbow problem and I am always skeptical about pitchers coming off of injuries.

Among hitters, Guillen is a risk because of his extensive injury history and because his knee acted up from time to time last year. I also side with Carroll's system on Casey. Casey is over 30, had all sorts of injuries last year and does not seem to be in the greatest condition so I have to believe he has a high potential for injury. Hopefully, the Tigers will be fortunate with injuries again this year but there is reason to be concerned about both their hitters and pitchers.

Outfield Arms

I recently used the retrosheet play by play database to count how many times runners took extra bases on hits or advanced on fly balls to the outfield. The flip side of this would be to count the number of times outfielders either threw runners out trying to advance or prevented them from advancing. This would be one way to measure the effectiveness of an outfielder's arm. John Walsh at The Hardball Times has done just that. Thanks to Kurt for directing me to this article.

Magglio Ordonez was the third ranked right fielder in the Majors saving an estimated 7.2 runs per 200 opportunities. He was behind only Alexis Rios and Brad Hawpe. Curtis Granderson was below average for center fielders giving up up an estimated 4.2 runs. Craig Monroe was the 4th ranked left fielder saving an estimated 4.2 runs.

So Granderson had the best range of the three out fielders but Ordonez and Monroe had better arms. Now, I believe range is significantly more important than having a good arm but Ordonez and Monroe are somewhat underrated if you evaluate on range stats alone.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Projections for Tigers Relievers in 2007

Earlier in the week, I combined the results from 5 respected projection systems to come up with one set of projections for Tigers batters in 2007. Later, I did the same for the Tigers starting pitchers. Now, I'll take a look at the relievers.

All of the definite relievers and some of the possibles are listed in the table below. The table is color coded. Every pitcher projected to fall in the top 30 percent of the league’s starters for ERA is coded in blue. Every plitcher projected to fall in the bottom 30% is coded in red. The middle 40% are in black. Relievers are probably the hardest players to project as they don't pitch a lot of inings and have so much variation from year to year. So take all of this with a grain of salt.

Joel Zumaya is expected to have a blue ink ERA (3.39) with a healthy number of innings pitched (82). Todd Jones (3.96) and Fernando Rodney (3.85) do not project to fall in the top 30% but are expected be better than league average. I'm not so sure about Jones but I said the same thing last year and he was a surprise to many of us.

Jose Mesa (4.78) and Steve Grilli (5.02) both have red ink ERAs so there might be a little problem with depth. Wilfredo Ledezma and Zach Minor should help out there as they will hopefully not be needed as starters (see the link above for starting pitcher projections). Rule 5 acquisition Ed Campusano also has a fairly good ERA projection (4.09).

Overall, the Tigers 2007 relievers look ok but not as good as the starters which probably does not surprise too many people.


Table: Projections for Tigers Relievers in 2007

Pitcher

IP

ERA

Jones

63

3.96

Zumaya

82

3.39

Rodney

62

3.85

Mesa

66

4.78

Grilli

71

5.02

Campusano

52

4.09

Colon

83

4.55

Seay

43

4.52

Tata

108

5.05




Projections for Tigers Starting Pitchers in 2007

Earlier in the week, I combined the results from 5 respected projection systems to come up with one set of projections for Tigers batters in 2007. Today, I'll do the same for the Tigers starting pitchers.

The 5 probable starters plus 3 potential replacements are listed in the table below. The table is color coded. Every pitcher projected to fall in the top 30 percent of the league’s starters for ERA is coded in blue. Every pitcher projected to fall in the bottom 30% is coded in red. The middle 40% are in black.

Jeremy Bonderman (3.81) and Justin Verlander (3.97) are projected to be blue ink (top 30%) starters. Verlander's projected ERA in 2007 is higher than his actual 2006 ERA (3.63) but this would not necessarily be a decline in performance. Verlander did not pitch as well as his ERA in 2006 as he had FIP of 4.47 and very ordinary peripherals (strikeout, walk and ground ball rates) . There is a good chance he could pitch better this year than last year and still not reach the same low ERA again.

Two other pitchers who are expected to have higher ERAs this year are Kenny Rogers (4.31) and Nate Robertson (4.34). As is the case with Verlander, this is primarily a matter of the projection systems saying that their ERAs will be more in line with their peripherals. It doesn't indicate a big decrease in performance.

A more ominous projection is the 168 innings pitched for Verlander. Most of the systems think there is a good chance that he'll pitch fewer innings this year than last. There is some concern about his big jump in innings pitch and second half tired arm last year. I have the same concern so I don't think the projections are pessimistic.

The good news is that none of the starters or most likely replacements have a red ink (bottom 30%) ERA. I think we can expect another good year from the Tigers starters in 2007. Next time, I'll look at the relievers.


Table: Projections for Tigers Starting Pitchers in 2007

Pitcher

IP

ERA

Bonderman

201

3.81

Rogers

182

4.31

Verlander

168

3.97

Robertson

194

4.34

Maroth

136

4.68

Ledezma

97

4.54

Miner

118

4.66

Miller

79

4.37

Monday, February 12, 2007

Tigers Minor League Coverage

There are a few relatively new Tigers bloggers who are doing a good job covering the minor leagues. First, there is Matt Wallace over at Talking Tigers. Matt is not a new blogger as he also contributes to Infinite Diablogue but Talking Tigers is his first blog exclusively covering the Tigers. One of the interesting features on his Tigers site is a profile of prospects on the right side bar. It's a very comprehensive list going well beyond the typical top 10 or 20 Tigers prospects. It has all the players you've heard about and some you may not have heard about.

Eric Jackson at D-Town Tigers has a nice article on Gorkys Hernandez, a raw but talented young prospect who has been making Tigers top ten lists for the first time this year. Eric also has an article on 24 year old shortstop Tony Giarratano. You probably remember that Giarratano was a top prospect for the Tigers a couple of years ago and was called up to the Tigers probably a little too quickly in 2005. His career has been derailed by injuries but he's still just 24 and may have a future, at least as a utility player.

Finally, Just this week Mike Cassidy started up a blog called Tigers Minor League Baseball Blog where he plans to cover all the Tigers minor league teams. He was encouraged to start this blog by Brian at Tiger Blog who thinks that there has not been enough blogger coverage of the minor leagues. I agree with Brian on this point so these new additions to the blogosphere are very welcome.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tigers Batting Projections for 2007

Believe it or not, I am not going to discuss a new base running statistic today. With several Tigers pitchers already working out in Lakeland, it's time to start looking ahead to the upcoming season. Today, I'm going to look at statistical projections for Tigers batters in 2007. Some of the most popular systems are:

I entered projections for each of the systems into a spreadsheet and calculated an average projection over the 5 systems for each Tigers batter in the starting line-up and others who may get significant playing time. This method should drown out any projection by one system which seems to be overly optimistic or pessimistic for a particular player. I will only be giving you the averages and not the specific projections for each system as the Handbook projections and PECOTAs are proprietary.


The Bill James Handbook which contains the Baseball Info Solutions projections for all teams can be purchased at the above link. An an online subscription to Baseball Prospectus (see above link) gives you access to the PECOTAs. The ZIPS, CHONE and Marcles projections are public and can be found at Baseball Fan Graphs.


The table below is color coded. Every player projected to fall in the top 30 percent of the league’s regulars for a particular measure is coded in blue for that statistic. Every player projected to fall in the bottom 30% for a measure is coded in red. The middle 40% are in black.

Here are the highlights:
  • Carlos Guillen is projected to fall in the top 30% for all measures (.307/.377/.488 and a .865 OPS).
  • Gary Sheffield is expected to finish in the top 30% in OBP (.372) and OPS (.845). Thames is projected to make the top 30% in slugging (.501) if he plays.
  • Both Thames (.831) and Chris Shelton (.832) are projected to post higher OPS than Sean Casey (.777).
  • Three starters - Brandon Inge (.323), Craig Monroe (.317) and Ivan Rodriguez (.324) - are projected to fall in the botton 30% for OBP. Utility player Omar Infante (.307) also falls in that range.
  • Inge (.258), Infante (.258) and Thames (.254) are projected to finish in the bottom 30% for batting average.
These aggregate projections seem pretty reasonable to me for the most part. I really don't see them being overly optimistic or pessimistic for any player. Each of the 5 systems has a fairly good history of success but there are unexpected things that happen every season. It's very difficult to project who will get injured (although Baseball Prospectus tries to do that) and who will have a career year (good or bad).

What we can expect is that a couple of these players will perform either over or under their projections but that most of them will fall fairly close. Hopefully, the Tigers will follow last years trend of more overperformers than underperformers.

In future posts, I'll look at starting pitchers and relief pitchers.

Table - Average Projections for Tigers Hitters in 2007

Player

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

Casey

493

.292

.354

.423

.777

Granderson

609

.267

.341

.452

.793

Guillen

558

.307

.377

.488

.865

Infante

392

.258

.307

.407

.715

Inge

585

.258

.323

.438

.761

Monroe

556

.268

.317

.467

.784

Ordonez

553

.292

.350

.463

.813

Polanco

528

.302

.346

.404

.750

Rodriguez

531

.289

.324

.437

.761

Sheffield

456

.284

.372

.473

.845

Shelton

483

.280

.355

.477

.832

Thames

411

.254

.330

.501

.831

Sabermetrics Book

Sabermetrics Book
One of Baseball America's top ten books of 2010

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501 Baseball Books

501 Baseball Books
Recommended by Tiger Tales

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