Friday, November 30, 2007

Tigers sign Rogers, Cruceta

As expected, the Tigers have signed Kenny Rogers to a one year 8 million dollar contract. The left-hander had a 4.43 ERA in 63 innings in 2007 but missed most of the year with a blood clot and later tendonitis. This was a necessary signing but one has to wonder how many innings they will get from a 43 year old pitcher coming off a season with significant health problems. I'd like to see them try to add another starter but there has no indication that they will.

They also signed 26 year old minor league free agent Francisco Cruceta to a contract and added him to the 40 man roster. Pitching mostly as a reliever for AAA Oklahoma City in 2007, the right-hander had a 3.02 ERA and 70/40 K/BB ratio in 65 2/3 innings. So, he can strike guys out but also has some control issues. Perhaps, the best thing about his 2007 season was that he just allowed 2 homers. The gopher ball has been a problem for him in the past. He has been impressive in the Dominican Winter league posting a 1.02 ERA in 14 appearances.

According to the 2007 Baseball Prospectus Annual, he has a fastball that touches the mid 90s, as well as a sinker, curve and splitter. He has a a 3.80 ERA and an 8.2 k/9 IP ratio in 824 2/3 innings over 6 minor league seasons. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski expects Cruceta to compete for a job in the Tigers bullpen:
Cruceta has pitched very well this winter in the Dominican Republic," Dombrowski said. "He is a quality prospect and we expect him to compete for a spot in our bullpen in 2008."
To make room for Rogers and Cruceta on the 40 man roter, the Tigers also designated first baseman Chris Shelton and outfielder Timo Perez for assignment. Shelton has been a disappointment since his incredible start in April, 2006. He batted .269/.381/.420 for Toledo in 498 at bats in 2007. Maybe a change of scenery in a new organization would be the best thing for him. I like Shelton and I wish him well wherever he ends up.

Perez captured lightning in a bottle batting .389 in 90 at bats for the Tigers down the stretch this year. However, with the acquisition of Jacque Jones, there is no longer any room for him in a crowded outfield.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Winter Meetings Preview

The annual winter meetings take place in Nashville next week from December 3-6. There has not been a lot of trade activity in recent years but with the weak free agent market this year, we can probably expect more this year. However, the Tigers seem to be more likely to go the free agent route to reach their goals which are to acquire a starter and reliever.

The starter will most likely be Kenny Rogers who has said that he wants to remain a Tiger and has dropped his agent Scott Boras. If for some reason that does not go as planned, Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse and Japanese free agent Hiroki Kuroda have been mentioned as backup targets. Having already traded away Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez to acquire shorstop Edgar Renteria, it's unlikely that they will be able to trade for a starter. It's looking to me like that Rogers will the one and there has been no indication that they would be interested in signing two starters.

The reliever rumors seem to change daily. The most recent names have been Latroy Hawkins, Octavio Dotel and Matt Herges. Dotel, who has a has a lifetime 10.9 k/9ip ratio but has been limited by injuries to under 60 innings over the last three years combined, seems expensive:

The Tigers had been intrigued by the versatile Dotel – they pursued him at the trade deadline this year – but he asked for a two-year contract in the neighborhood of $10-12 million. The club did not seem eager to meet that price for Dotel, who missed six weeks this year with a right shoulder strain.


Herges, who had a 2.96 ERA in 48 2/3 innings last year, appears to be read to re-sign with the Rockies according to The Rocky Mountain News

That leaves Hawkins as a strong candidate, at least for today. Hawkins had a 3.42 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 2.8 BB/G in 55 1/3 innings pitched last year but is 34 years old with a rapidly decreasing strike out ratio (5.0 k/9ip in 2007). Stay tuned.

Monday, November 26, 2007

PrOPS to the Tigers in 2007

In a recent post, I presented some data on batted ball types for Tiger batters. The lists of leaders and trailers are somewhat useful for describing players but the batted ball data can also be used for evaluation and projection. There is a statistic called PrOPS (predicted OPS) developed by J.C. Bradbury at The Hardball Times which estimates what a batter’s OPS “should have been” based on strikeouts, walks, home runs and batted ball types. Bradbury discussed Props in Introducing PrOPS, an article he wrote last year.

PrOPS helps to identify which players may have been lucky or unlucky in a given year and hints at which ones may improve or regress in the following year. The OPS and PrOPS for Tigers batter in 2007 are given in Table 1 below. A player with an OPS exceeding his PrOPS may have been lucky (e.g.. his bloopers dropped in front of fielders or his grounders found holes). This player might be expected to have a lower OPS in 2008. A player with an OPS falling below his PrOPS may have been unlucky (e.g. their line drives were hit right at opposing fielders). This batter might be expected to have a higher OPS in 2008.

The table shows us the following:

  • Gary Sheffield had the highest PrOPS (.916) on the team in 2007. His .839 OPS was -.077higher than his PrOPS which suggests that he might have hit into some bad luck in 2007 and that we can expect an improvement next year.

  • Magglio Ordonez (OPS=1.029, PrOPS=.885) and Curtis Granderson (.913, .785) exceeded their PrOPS by .144 and .128 respectively. These were the top 2 differentials in the league. This indicates that they might be expected to have lower much OPS next year. I think most people expect Ordonez to regress next year and a very large drop in OPS would not surprise me. Granderson might fall back a bit but I do not expect a .128 decrease in OPS.

  • Others who would be expected to improve next year according to the PrOPS theory include Brandon Inge (-.058 differential) and Marcus Thames (-.045).
  • Others who would be expected to regress next year according to the PrOPS theory include Edgar Renteria (.072), Placido Polanco (.053), and Carlos Guillen (.047)


Table 1 – OPS and PrOPS for Detroit Tigers Batters in 2007

Player

PA

OPS

PrOPS

OPS-PrOPS

Sheffield

593

.839

.916

-.077

Ordonez

679

1.029

.885

.144

Thames

284

.776

.821

-.045

Guillen

630

.859

.811

.047

Polanco

641

.846

.793

.053

Granderson

676

.913

.785

.128

Inge

577

.688

.746

-.058

Casey

496

.746

.730

.016

Monroe

372

.637

.696

-.059

Rodriguez

515

.714

.687

.027

Jones

495

.735

.712

.023

Renteria

543

.860

.787

.072

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Hardball Times Annual

One of my favorite annual books - The 2008 Hardball Annual - is now for sale. It is a collection of essays wriiten by The Hardball Times staff and other writers/analysts such as Bill James, John Dewan, Will Leitch and Tom Tango. The articles range from light commentary on the game to cutting edge sabermetric analysis with an emphasis on the latter. Of particular interest to Tiger fans this year is an article written by Bill Ferris profiling Dave Dombrowski. I was one of the reviewers of the article and I recommend it highly. I also recommend the entire book because I enjoyed both the 2006 and 2007 annuals.

Grounders, Liners and Flies in 2007

A lot of times you hear people talk about how their favorite player does not have good stats but he's been hitting the ball hard and has just been unlucky. For years, there was no way to measure how well players were hitting the ball and all we could do was go by memory. Now, with more advanced play by play data collected by companies like Baseball Info Solutions, it has become possible to to answer questions about the frequency of line drives, ground balls or fly balls players are hitting.

This data has been aggregated and made available year round by The Hardball Times (THBT) site. In the past, the data have summarized in tables and essays in The Hardball Times Annual. If you want even more detail on individual batters, check out Dan Fox's BIPChart application. As an introduction to batted ball data, I am presenting data from THBT for the Tigers in the tables below. To give the Tigers data some context, Table 1 lists the average rates of frequency for different batting events in the American League in 2007. Table 2 lists the average rates for batted ball types.

The first table shows that approximately one out of four (26%) plate appearances in 2007 resulted in a walk, a strike out or a hits batsmen. The rest (74%) of plate appearances yielded batted balls which turned into hits or outs. We can see in the second table that the most common batted ball type of all balls put in play was a ground ball (44%). Outfield fly balls (29%), line drives (19%) and pop ups (9%) happened less frequently.

Table 1: AL Averages for Batting Events Per Plate Appearance

BB/PA 9%
K/PA 16%
HBP/PA 1%
BIP/PA 74%

Table 2: AL Averages for Batted ball Types Per Balls in Play

Ground ball 44%
Outfield fly 29%
Line drive 19%
Infield pop up 9%

Tables 3-14 list the Tigers leaders and trailers for each batting event. So what does this all mean? Which Tigers were lucky or unlucky? For today, I'll let you draw your own conclusions. I'll give you the answers (or at least the theoretical answers) in my next post.

Table 3: Highest K/PA for Tigers

Brandon Inge 26%
Marcus Thames 25%
Craig Monroe 25%

Table 4: Lowest K/PA for Tigers

Placido Polanco 5%
Sean Casey 8%
Magglio Ordonez 12%

Table 5: Highest BB/PA for Tigers

Gary Sheffield 14%
Mgglio Ordonez 11%
Carlos Guillen 9%

Table 6: Lowest BB/PA for Tigers

Ivan Rodriguez 2%
Marcus Thames 5%
Craig Monroe 5%


Table 7: Highest GB% for Tigers

Jacque Jones 58%
Ivan Rodriguez 53%
Sean Casey 46%

Table 8: Lowest GB% for Tigers

Curtis Granderson 34%
Craig Monroe 35%
Marcus Thames 38%

Table 9: Highest outfield FB% for Tigers

Curtis Granderson 38%
Craig Monroe 35%
Carlos Guillen 34%

Table 10: Lowest FB% for Tigers

Jacques Jones 13%
Ivan Rodriguez 22%
Sean Casey 24%

Table 11: Highest LD% for Tigers

Placido Polanco 24%
Edgar Renteria 23%
Brandon Inge 22%

Table 12: Lowest LD% for Tigers

Marcus Thames 16%
Craig Monroe 17%
Gary Sheffield 17%

Table 13: Highest infield Pop up % for Tigers

Marcus Thames 16%
Gary Sheffield 15%
Craig Monroe 12%

Table 14: Lowest infield Pop up % for Tigers

Magglio Ordonez 5%
Ivan Rodriguez 6%
Edgar Renteria 6%

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ordonez Second in MVP Voting

The results of the American League MVP voting were released today and, as expected, Magglio Ordonez finished second to Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez was the near unanimous winner garnering all but two first place votes. Two hometown writers, Tom Gage and Jim Hawkins, reportedly gave their first place votes to Ordonez. However, Rodriguez clearly deserved the award this year despite Magglio's magnificent season.

Ordonez had the better batting average (.363 to .314) but Rodriguez topperd him in most other categories including runs created (154 to 142), OPS (1.067 to 1.029), homers (54 to 28), RBI (156 to 139) and runs (143 to 117). For those who consider this to be a team award as well as an individual award, Rodriguez also helped get the Yankees into the playoffs while the Tigers stayed home. There could be no other winner this year but ARod.

Others Tiger receiving votes were Curtis Granderson (1oth place) and Placido Polanco (19th). Personally, I would have ranked Granderson a little higher but he was probably hurt by his relatively new star status, his team failing to make the post-season and competition for votes with two teammates. I certainly would not hold any of that against him but might knock him down a notch for his inability to hit left-handers and his occasional platooning.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ordonez among baseball's most complete hitters in 2007

This is the third in a series of articles on run production. The others are linked below.

Run Production - Part 1

Run Production - Part 2

In part 2, I mentioned that Magglio Ordonez was the only Tiger hitter to finish in the top 40 in the league in BA, EOBP and ISO among 135 players with 300 or more PA (including recently acquired Edgar Renteria and Jacque Jones). How many other hitters in baseball were as well rounded in 2007? Remember that I’m only talking about hitting skills here. Base running is being left out of this for now.

Table 1 shows that there were 7 other American hitters to achieve the trifecta. All players on the list except Manny Ramirez finished in the top 15 in RC/G. Ramirez, who had an off year for him, finished 34th. Interestingly, Ramirez was the only American League player to make this list in both 2006 and 2007.

Table 2 displays 5 National League hitters among 140 players with 300 or more PA who ranked in the top 40 in all 3 categories. All 5 National Leaguers finished in the top 8 in RC/G. There are no surprises on the list and there are three repeaters from the 2006 list: Chipper Jones, Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols.

Table 1: Well Rounded American League Hitters in 2007

Player

Team

PA

BA

EOBP

ISO

RC/G

RC/G Rank

Rodriguez

NYA

708

.314

.164

.331

9.69

1

Ortiz

BOS

667

.332

.172

.290

9.48

2

Ordonez

DET

679

.363

.115

.232

9.47

3

Posada

NYA

589

.338

.136

.206

8.39

5

Guerrero

LAA

660

.324

.121

.223

7.72

8

Teixeira

TEX

335

.297

.143

.227

7.19

11

Upton

TB

548

.300

.126

.209

6.90

15

Ramirez

BOS

569

.296

.137

.197

6.17

34


Table 2: Well Rounded National League Hitters in 2007

Player

Team

PA

BA

EOBP

ISO

RC/G

RC/G Rank

Jones

ATL

600

.337

.137

.267

8.92

2

Wright

NYN

711

.325

.141

.222

8.79

3

Utley

PHI

613

.332

.122

.234

8.54

4

Cabrera

FLA

680

.320

.124

.245

8.18

7

Pujols

STL

679

.327

.156

.241

8.07

8

Friday, November 16, 2007

Batting Average Dependent Tigers

Earlier in the week, I discussed team run production using batting average (BA), isolated power (ISO) and extra on base percentage (EOBP). Today, I’ll look at the individual Tiger hitters. Table1 below presents these statistics for Tiger players in 2007. Table 2 table shows how the Tigers ranked in each category among 133 American League players with 300 or more plate appearances (PA) plus recently acquired Edgar Renteria and Jacque Jones.

We can see from the tables that Magglio Ordonez was not only the best hitter on the team in 2007 but also the most well rounded. He was the only player on the team to finish in the top third in the league all 3 categories (1st in BA in BA, 37th in EOBP and 11th in ISO).

My rule of thumb is that a player should rank above average in 2 of the 3 categories to be considered a really solid hitter. Several Tiger regulars did reasonably well in only one category while falling below average in the other two categories in 2007. The one trick ponies included Ivan Rodriguez (61st in BA), Brandon Inge (56th in EOBP), Sean Casey (32nd in BA) and new Tiger Jacque Jones (58th in BA). Not surprisingly, none of these players finished in the top half of the league in runs created per game (RC/G).

Two players who were productive hitters without meeting the rule of thumb were Placido Polanco (3rd in BA) and Edgar Renteria (5th in BA if placed in the AL). Both finished in the top 20 in RC/G primarily because of very high batting averages. They were among only 7 major league players who finished in the top third in the league in RC/G despite despite finishing below average in the EOBP and ISO. All batted .315 or higher. No player in the majors who excelled in only EOBP or only ISO had a very productive season.

Dependency on batting average is not particularly desirable because batting average is by far the least repeatable of the three statistics. It will be difficult for Polanco and Renteria to repeat their career high batting averages of 2007 in 2008. Jones is not usually as dependent on batting average as he was last year. He usually hits for more power and will need to get it back if he's going to be more productive than 4.3 RC/G. And then Pudge needs to walk more but that's an old story.


Table 1: Detroit Tigers Run Production in 2007


Player

PA

BA

EOBP

ISO

RC/G

Ordonez

679

.363

.115

.232

9.47

Granderson

676

.302

.084

.250

7.78

Polanco

641

.341

.075

.118

6.98

Renteria

543

.332

.087

.138

6.82

Sheffield

593

.265

.157

.196

6.54

Guillen

630

.296

.092

.206

6.23

Raburn

148

.304

.054

.203

5.65

Casey

496

.296

.083

.097

5.11

Thames

284

.242

.049

.257

4.67

Jones

495

.285

.073

.115

4.32

Inge

577

.236

.101

.140

4.12

Rodriguez

515

.281

.019

.139

4.02

Infante

178

.271

.051

.084

3.77

Rabelo

185

.256

.059

.101

3.53

Monroe

372

.222

.059

.152

2.90



Table 2: Detroit Tigers Run Production Ranks in 2007

Player

BA Rank

EOBP Rank

ISO Rank

RC/G Rank

Ordonez

1

37

11

3

Granderson

22

83

6

7

Polanco

3

101

103

13

Renteria

5

78

86

16

Sheffield

85

10

33

19

Guillen

30

67

24

31

Casey

32

85

118

72

Jones

58

103

107

103

Inge

122

56

83

108

Rodriguez

61

135

84

111

Monroe

133

119

72

133

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