Monday, June 30, 2008

Tigers first half team statistical summary

With the season half over and the Tigers now getting back to playing AL rivals, it's time for a mid-season statistical summary. One thing to keep in mind as you go through the tables below is that offense is down in the American League so far this year. The average runs scored per game is down from 4.9 in 2007 versus to 4.6 so far this year. It was even lower before the AL beat up the NL in interleague play. Anyway, where a team ranks among other teams in the league is more relevant than comparing raw numbers between 2007 and 2008.

The Tigers are third in the league in runs scored per game (4.9) after being second in 2007. Much has been made of those two 19 run games throwing off the offensive numbers and they do skew things a little but they have played enough games now where it's not a big factor. Their inconsistent offense (9 shutouts) was a problem earlier in the year but they have become more steady over the past month. run prevention has been their weakness overall this year. They have allowed 4.8 runs per game which is 12th in the league. The positive thing is that they did improve to 4.2 runs allowed per game in June.

Table 1: Overall


2007

2008


#

Rank

#

Rank

Record

88-74

5

41-40

9

R/G

5.5

2

4.9

3

RA/G

4.9

9

4.8

12



Table 2 shows that the Tigers are above average in most offensive categories including 3rd in batting average, 3rd in isolated power, 4th in OBP and 4th in slugging. The one area where they are only average is walks. However, they have improved from 2.9 per game in 2007 (12th in the league) to 3.4 this year (7th).

Table 2: Offense



2007

2008


#

Rank

#

Rank

BA

.287

2

.274

3

BB

2.93

12

3.44

7

K

6.5

7

6.1

5

ISO

.171

2

.160

3

OBP

.345

4

.342

4

SLG

.458

2

.434

4

OPS

.802

3

.776

4



Table 3 shows that their pitching is bad again this year. Looking at the starter and reliever splits, we can see that their starters ERA is 9th and their relievers ERA ranks 12th. Their starting pitching has improved remarkably since the beginning of the season though. After compiling a 5.44 ERA in their first 38 games, they have had a 3.67 ERA in their last 43.

Table 3: Pitching



2007

2008


#

Rank

#

Rank

FIP

4.73

11

4.45

12

ERA

4.57

9

4.50

12

SP ERA

4.68

9

4.51

9

RP ERA

4.37

11

4.49

12


Fielding is harder to measure but Table 4 illustrates that the Tigers are not doing nearly as well defensively this year. Using The Hardball Times plus/minus stat, they ranked 3rd in fielding last year and have dropped to 22nd this year. In this system, they break down fielding by looking at types of balls hit (ground ball, fly ball, pop up, line drive) . These stats are explained further in an article by Dave Studeman. This system is denoted +/- in the table.


Looking at Revised Zone Rating (RZR), they were 4th in 2007 and 18th so far this year. Each position on the field has a zone around it and a player's RZR is the proportion of balls hit into his zone which he converts into outs. Team RZR is the proportion of balls hit into all fielding zones which are converted into outs. Balls not hit into any zone are not considered in the calculation. For a further discussion of RZR and other fielding statistics, check out Fielding Stats at The Hardball Times by Dave Studeman.

The chart below also breaks RZR into infield and outfield. The table shows that both their infield and outfield defenses have slipped substantially this year. The infield ranked 6th in 2007 and is now 24th. Similarly, the outfield has gone from 1st to 17th.

Table 4: Fielding



2007

2008


#

Rank

#

Rank

+/-

+45

3

-12

22

RZR Overall

.829

4

.824

18

RZR Infield

.781

6

.770

24

RZR Outfield

.898

1

.900

17



In summary, both pitching and defense have slowed the Tigers this year. The offense was inconsistent early but they have become more balanced as the season has gone along. Scoring has not been a big problem overall. I think the offense will actually do a little better in the second half. The defense will probably remain average to below average. The pitching will likely be the key to whether they stay in the race. Their starting pitching has been solid over the last seven weeks. If they can keep that up (and that's a big if with two rookies in the rotation), they should be in good shape.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tigers sweep Rockies; Ordonez to DL

Dane Sardinha was called up earlier in the week so that the Tigers would have a capable defender to back up Pudge Rodriguez while Brandon Inge recovered from a pulled oblique muscle. He wasn't expected to hit much. Today, Sardinha got his first major league hit and it was a big one. He smashed a two run triple to center field off of Rockies reliever Matt Herges to put the Tigers in front 4-3 in the sixth inning. That would be the final score.

Kenny Rogers allowed three runs in the second inning and the Padres went ahead 3-2 but Rogers settled down after that. He allowed no more runs in six innings of work before yielding to Freddy Dolsi who pitched two perfect innings. Todd Jones then recovered from last night's awful performance with a 1-2-3 ninth to get the save.

The biggest news of the day may have been the announcement that Magglio Ordonez was placed on the disabled list with a pulled oblique muscle. He has been replaced on the roster by Matt Joyce. Ordonez was not missed today as Clete Thomas played right field and went two for four. Also, Miguel Cabrera took over Magglio's clean-up spot and also had two hits.

The sweep gives the Tigers six consecutive series wins and 17 victories in their last 21 games. They now travel to Minnesota to face the equally hot Twins in the always tough Metrodome.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cabrera gets the save

Miguel Cabrera lashed a two run double into the gap in right center field in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Tigers a 7-6 Tiger victory over the Rockies tonight. Cabrera's winning hit was preceded by a lead off single by Placido Polanco and a one out walk to Ryan Raburn all against Rockies closer Brian Fuentes. It was the Tigers third walk off win in four games.

The elation of the bottom of the ninth followed the agony of Todd Jones' first blown save of the year in the top of the inning. The Tigers led 5-2 after eight innings but Jones allowed four runs on five hits and a walk in the ninth to lose the lead. The roller coaster finally crashed. Fortunately, Cabrera was there to pick up the pieces.

Raburn produced most of the early offense with a grand slam in the fourth which put the Tigers in front 5-0. Ryan entered the game in the top of the third inning when Magglio Ordonez left the game with spasms in his right oblique. There is no word on how much additional time Ordonez will miss, if any

Justin Verlander allowed only two runs in 5 2/3 innings but was not very efficient. He had trouble with his control and ended up throwing 118 pitches before yielding to Zach Miner. He walked four and allowed five hits.

Curtis Granderson finally saw his hitting streak end at 15 games as he went zero for three. Granderson batted ninth tonight with the left-handed Jeff Francis on the mound for the Rockies. The lead off hitter was Edgar Renteria and he had three hits.

The win evened the Tigers record at 40-40, the first time all year they have been at .500.

Mid-season WPA update

With the season approaching the halfway point, I'm going to start looking at Tigers leaders in various areas. I'll start with the relief pitchers. It's difficult to measure the performance of relievers for a couple of reasons: (1) They pitch so few innings that their statistics can be influenced heavily by a couple of really bad outings. (2) Their actual value depends on game situations more than any other player. Using ERA to evaluate relievers is problematic because relievers often come in with runners on base and give up other pitcher's runs. So a pitcher could have a low ERA without actually being that effective. FIP ERA which is based on walks, strikeouts and home runs allowed rather than runs allowed is better but it still does not consider the game environments in which a reliever pitched.

In one instance, Fernando Rodney comes into the game with a one run lead and two runners on base in the 8th inning. In another game, Bobby Seay comes into the game with a 6 run lead and nobody on base. Now suppose each pitches a perfect inning. Using ERA or FIP, they would both get the same credit for that inning but Rodney's performance had more impact on the outcome of the game.

The Win Probability Added (WPA) statistic gives players (hitters, starters, relievers) credit based on the effect each play has on a team's probability of winning. These probabilities vary depending on the game score, the runners on base and the number of outs before and after each play. They are based on the results of thousands of games worth of data looking at every possible situation over and over.

More concretely, WPA works as follows. Suppose Bobby Seay comes into the game in the top of the 8th with a 2 run lead, 0 outs and a runner on first. There is a .787 (78.7%) expectancy that a team will win the game given that situation. Suppose Seay strikes out the first batter. There is now one out and the probability of winning has gone up to .848. Thus, the strikeout was worth .848-.787=.061

Now suppose the next batter after that doubles home a run. The Tigers now have a one run lead with a runner on second and one out. The probability of winning goes down to .693. So Seay loses points on that batter: .693-.848=-.155.

If you add up all the gains and losses for all the batters Seay faces you get his WPA. WPA doesn't necessarily solve the problem of small sample sizes but it is a reasonable stat for relievers because it gives more weight to plate appearances which have a strong impact on winning and losing games. Table 1 below lists The WPAs for Tigers relievers with 10 or more appearances in 2008. Table 2 lists the American League leaders with 25 or more appearances. These data were abstracted from the Fan Graphs web site.

Todd Jones is the leading Tigers reliever according to WPA (1.34) so far this year. This ranks Jones 13th in the American League. If we ranked Jones according to his by ERA (3.86) or WHIP (1.38), he would not have finished in the top 30. He ranks better on WPA because, like most closers, Jones comes into a lot of critical situations and gets positive results a lot more often than negative results. The Tigers lowest WPA (-1.41) belongs to Francisco Cruceta who, of course, is no longer with the team.

Table 1: WPAs for Tigers relievers in 2008 (through June 27)

Name

G

WPA

Jones

32

1.34

Miner

30

0.48

Rapada

14

0.32

Dolsi

17

0.13

Lopez

23

0.06

Seay

29

0.01

Bautista

16

-0.14

Cruceta

13

-1.41


Table 2: AL reliever WPA leaders in 2008 (through June 27)

Name

Team

G

WPA

Rodriguez

Angels

37

2.86

Nathan

Twins

34

2.77

Soria

Royals

33

2.66

Rivera

Yankees

33

2.39

Howell

Rays

29

2.10

Johnson

Orioles

31

1.99

Sherrill

Orioles

37

1.97

Downs

Blue Jays

34

1.90

Guardado

Rangers

31

1.73

Mahay

Royals

34

1.71



Now, which pitchers typically worked in the most pressing situations? To answer this question, we can use Leverage Index (LI) which measures how critical a given plate appearance is to determining the final result of a game. An LI of one is average. An LI of more than one indicates a high leverage plate appearance which has a potentially high impact on the outcome of the game. An LI of less than one is a low leverage plate appearance. pLI is Leverage Index per Plate Appearance.

Table 3 below lists The pLIs for Tigers relievers with 10 or more appearances so far in 2008. Table 4 lists the American League leaders with 30 or more appearances. Not surprisingly, closers dominated the AL leader board. If you noticed that Francisco Cruceta pitched in a lot of high leverage situations, you were right. Cruceta had the highest pLI (1.78) of any Tiger before he was removed from the Tigers roster. Of those still on the roster, Jones (1.35) and Freddy Dolsi (1.31) have been used in high leverage situations most often. Again, all of these data were pulled from Fan Graphs.


Table 3: Leverage Indexes for Tigers relievers in 2008 (through June 27)

Name

G

pLI

Cruceta

13

1.78

Jones

32

1.35

Dolsi

17

1.31

Miner

30

1.07

Seay

29

0.88

Bautista

16

0.79

Lopez

23

0.54

Rapada

14

0.47



Table 4: AL reliever Leverage Index Leaders in 2008 (through June 27)

Name

G

WPA

Jones

32

1.34

Miner

30

0.48

Rapada

14

0.32

Dolsi

17

0.13

Lopez

23

0.06

Seay

29

0.01

Bautista

16

-0.14

Cruceta

13

-1.41

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bonine and Granderson shine versus Rockies

Eddie Bonine cruised through eight five hit innings as the Tigers smacked the Rockies tonight 7-1 in the opener of a three game series. The best thing about Bonine's performance was that he threw strikes - 69 of 99 pitches went for strikes and he walked nobody. The second best thing was that he got 17 outs on ground balls including one double play ball. He did exactly what a pitcher without dominating stuff needs to do - get the ball over and keep it down.

The Tigers got all the runs they needed in the first inning when they scored two off of Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Red hot Curtis Granderson led off with a single, stole second and scored on a Carlos Guillen double. Guillen then scored on a single by Miguel Cabrera.

Granderson was involved in quite a bit of the Tigers scoring tonight. He got four hits for the second straight game, including two triples, scored three runs and knocked in another. The internet fan favorite had a slow start to the season but he's back in a big way. Grandy now has a 15 game hitting streak in which he has gone 27 for 61 for a .443 batting average.

Clete Thomas continued his good play going three for three with a double and a walk. The wide eyed but fearless rookie is now batting .325 with a .395 OBP. I was initially not too happy to see him taking at bats away from Thames but Jim Leyland seems to be doing a good job mixing and matching as of late.

Game two of the series is at 7:05 tomorrow night with Justin Verlander facing Jeff Francis.

Blog poll - NL Awards (week 12)

Jason Collette has the weekly blog poll results up at RotoJunkie. Each week a group of bloggers (including myself) votes on the the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards based on season results up through that week. This week we did the National League and the leaders are listed below. The complete results can be found at RotoJunkie.

MVP

1. Lance Berkman
2. Chase Utley
3. Chipper Jones

Cy Young

1. Edinson Volquez
2. Tim Lincecun
3. Ben Sheets

Rookie of the Year

1. Geovanny Soto
2. Joey Votto
3. Kosuke Fukudome

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another walk off win for Tigers

Last night Clete Thomas doubled and then scored the winning run in the ninth inning on a base hit by Gary Sheffield. Today, Thomas pushed in a run in the tenth by walking on a 3-2 pitch from Cardinal reliever Mike Parisi giving the Tigers a 3-2 victory. Curtis Granderson singled to lead off the inning and moved up to second on a a sacrifice bunt by Ryan Raburn. The Cardinals then loaded the bases by intentional bases on balls to Carlos Guillen and Miguel Cabrera leading up to Thomas' walk off walk.

The tenth inning was not the only inning that produced drama today. The Cardinals had gone ahead 2-1 in the top of ninth on a single by Albert Pujols who went 4 for 4 on his first day back from the disabled list. Gary Sheffield then tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a homer to left on a 2-2 count. The only other Tiger run scored on another bases loaded walk to Thomas in the sixth.

The win gave the Tigers their 5th consecutive series win. This includes sweeps of the White Sox and Dodgers and two of three from the Giants, Padres and Cardinals. They now host the Rockies in a three game series at Comerica starting tomorrow night.

Other notes:
  • Curtis Granderson extended his hit streak to 14 games with a four hit day. The streak has raised Grandy's batting average from .235 to .282.
  • Fernando Rodney had his second consecutive good outing retiring all five batters he faced. This included getting the last two out in the seventh with runners on first and third.
  • Bobby Seay was also clutch pitching a scoreless tenth allowing just a walk.
  • Michael Hollimon played shortstop in place of the resting Edgar Renteria and got his first two major league hits. He doubled in the ninth inning but was out trying to stretch it to a triple. I was listening on the radio so I didn't see it but by all accounts it took a perfect relay to get him.
  • Catcher Dane Sardinha made his Tiger debut by spelling starter Pudge Rodriguez. He went 0 for 4 but he is in Detroit for his defense. He will remain with the team until Brandon Inge (strained oblique) returns from the 15 day disabled list.

Sheffield is really back!

After nearly six hours of baseball including a rain delay of more than two hours, Gary Sheffield drilled a single to right center field and the Tigers walked off with an 8-7 victory. The bottom of the ninth inning started with a double by Clete Thomas off the left field wall. One out later, Sheffield had his fourth hit of the game and his fourth line drive of the game. He seems to be swinging the bat better than he has at any point since injuring his shoulder last summer. Last night , he hit a homer. Yesterday, I wrote that "Sheffield is back" in the line-up. Today, I can say that he seems to be really back.

It's late but here are some other notes about the game:
  • The game was tied 5-5 in the fifth before the long rain delay. Todd Jones entertained the crowd during the delay by putting on an Magglio Ordonez wig and reenacting the home run in the 2006 playoffs. He also apparently passed out sunflower seeds and other things to the crowd.
  • Armando Galarraga was not sharp tonight allowing two homers in the first inning to Skip Schumaker and Rick Ankiel and another to Ankiel in the fifth. He allowed five runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.
  • Joel Zumaya was wild again tonight walking three including a bases loaded base on balls in the seventh.
  • Jones pitched a 1-2-3 ninth and got credit for the victory.
  • Sheffield was not the only Tiger with a four hit game. Carlos Guillen also had four hits including a three run homer.
  • Curtis Granderson had two more hits including a solid single in the eighth off lefty reliever Randy Flores. He now has a 13 game hit streak and has batted .373 during that stretch.
  • The White Sox lost to the Dodgers 5-0 so the Tigers are now just 5 games out. The Twins are a half game out of first after beating the Padres 9-3 for their eighth straight victory.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sheffield is back

Gary Sheffield has finished his rehabilitation stint in Lakeland and is in the Tigers Starting line-up tonight. Jeff Larish (.200/.273/.300 in 40 at bats) has been optioned to Toledo to make room on the 25 man roster. For those like me, who were worried that Jim Leyland would insert Sheffield into the third spot in the order, you can rest easy. He's batting seventh tonight:

Curtis Granderson CF
Placido Polanco 2B
Carlos Guillen 3B
Magglio Ordonez RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Marcus Thames LF
Gary Sheffield DH
Edgar Renteria SS
Ivan Rodriguez C

Larish had been struggling quite a bit in his first stint in the majors so Sheffield should be an upgrade even if he's not 100%. If he is 100% (I don't have my hopes up) and hits like he did last May and June, he obviously would give a big boost at the bottom of the line-up.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Blog Poll - AL Awards (week 11)

Jason Collette has the weekly blog poll results up at RotoJunkie. Each week a group of bloggers (including myself) votes on the the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards based on season results up through that week. This week we did the America League and the leaders are listed below. The complete results can be found at RotoJunkie.

MVP

1. Josh Hamilton
2. Milton Bradley
3. JD Drew

Cy Young

1. Cliff Lee
2. Shaun Marcum
3. Felix Hernandez

Rookie of the Year

1. Jacoby Ellsbury
2. Evan Longoria
3. David Murphy

Thames, Tigers rally to beat Padres

Rightly or wrongly, Jim Leyland has received a good deal of criticism for his use of his bullpen lately. Tonight, he deserves some credit for pushing the right buttons in the seventh inning. With the Tigers down 5-4 and Clete Thomas on third and one out, Leyland sent up the struggling Jeff Larish to pinch hit for Nate Robertson. The rookie responded by driving a single through the drawn in infield to tie the game at five.

Then, the manager had Marcus Thames pinch hit for lead off hitter Curtis Granderson. Granderson went 2 for 3 versus starter Cha Seung Baek but when left-handed pitcher Justin Hampson entered the game, Leyland went with the right-handed hitter. The raging River Thames blasted a two run homer to right center to put the Tigers in front 7-5. That would be the final score.

Nate Robertson pitched six innings allowing five runs on seven hits but one of the hits was really a misplay by Miguel Cabrera which led to two runs. Cabrera strayed too far from the bag on a routine grounder to Placido Polanco and what would have been the third out ofthe fifth inning turned into an infield hit for Jody Gerut. Edgar Gonzalez then followed with a two run double to give the Padres a 5-4 lead.

Zach Miner, Bobby Seay, Freddy Dolsi and Todd Jones then combined for three shutout innings to secure the victory. Dolsi actually allowed a hit to the only batter he faced but Magglio Ordonez bailed him out with an excellent throw nabbing Khalil Greene at the plate.

The win left the Tigers six games behind the White Sox who lost a second straight game to the Cubs today 11-7. The rubber game of the Tigers-Padres series will be at 4:05 tomorrow with Justin Verlander opposing Randy Wolf.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Talking about the Padres

Geoff Young, who writes the excellent Ducksnorts blog among other things, invited three Tigers bloggers - Billfer, Brian Borawski of Tiger Blog and myself - to participate in a round table discussion about the Tigers and Padres. I'm pretty sure most of you know Billfer and that many have read Brian's work. If you don't know Geoff, he is like the Billfer of the San Diego Padres and he has been blogging even longer. In fact, he started blogging before blogging was called blogging.

Anyway, Geoff asked us a bunch of questions about the Tigers and our answers are listed on Ducksnorts. In return, Geoff answered several of my questions about the Padres and they can be found below:

What has gone wrong with the Padres this year and can they still win the NL West?

The better question is, what hasn't gone wrong? For reasons that remain a mystery, catcher and shortstop have been complete black holes; Jim Edmonds was a disaster in center field; Jake Peavy and Chris Young have been hurt, although Peavy is back now; Trevor Hoffman has been inconsistent (and the rest of the bullpen has been even worse)... So a lot has gone wrong. On the bright side, the same can be said for the entire NL West. This is not the same division that saw an 89-win team denied a spot in the post-season; this is more like the 2005 version that sent an 82-win team to the playoffs. Remarkably, the Padres still have a chance to win this thing. They're still not playing great baseball, but they've improved. After dropping 14 of their first 17 series, they won 4 of their next 6 before heading to Yankee Stadium. The odds are long, but there is at least some hope.

I personally like the idea that Petco Park is one of the few new parks that challenges hitters more than pitchers. Do you think the park has been a particular advantage or disadvantage to the Padres?

It appeared to hurt the Padres the first few years. Some of the veteran power hitters seemed a bit intimidated by the dimensions. Last year, though, the Pads beat up on other teams at Petco Park. They haven't been quite as successful at home so far in 2008, but they've still been solid. The problem has been pitching on the road, which is a potential disadvantage of playing 81 games in a pitchers park -- sort of like how Rockies hitters used to fizzle once they left Coors Field. Interestingly, there's been virtually no difference between the Padres' offensive performance at Petco or away from it.

In the past, the Padres have done a great job building cheap bullpens. This year, they are last in the NL in bullpen ERA. What happened?

For as good as Kevin Towers has been at building a bullpen, I'm beginning to think that luck plays more of a factor than I'd realized. I'm not just saying that to excuse this year's performance, but to explain some of the past successes as well. Sometimes when you roll the dice, they come up Scott Linebrink and Akinori Otsuka, other times they come up Mike Matthews and Luther Hackman. Obviously Hoffman has slipped a bit, but so has Cla Meredith, a vital part of the bullpen the past couple years. Joe Thatcher, who was lights out down the stretch last season after coming over from Milwaukee in the Linebrink trade, has been an unmitigated disaster and now finds himself back at Triple-A. Basically a lot of things went wrong that haven't gone wrong in recent years. Fortunately the Padres have uncovered a couple of minor-league vets in Mike Adams and Bryan Corey, and they've helped stop the bleeding, at least for the moment.

Adrian Gonzalez has a .900+ OPS and is on a pace to hit over 40 homers. Do you expect him to level off or is this what we can expect from him this year and the next few years?

He's a stud. People don't know it because he plays in San Diego, but he's a stud. Gonzalez hits the ball with authority to all fields, and his power plays anywhere. He's also a Gold Glove caliber first baseman. Watch his footwork around the bag and how aggressive he is in trying to cut down the lead runner. If Gonzalez played in a larger, more visible market, he'd be a perennial MVP candidate. The only real chink in his armor is that he runs like he's got a couple of pianos on his back, but when you do everything else as well as he does, it's easy to forgive that.

When will Chase Headley be playing for the Padres and how good will he be?

He's just been recalled, and I'm assuming they didn't bring him up to ride pine. Once he settles in, Headley should be a solid big-league regular. There is some expectation of superstardom around here, but that isn't realistic. I'm thinking more along the lines of Mike Lowell, less the obligatory Red Sox hype.

Chris Young has been out of action since taking an Albert Pujols line drive off his head. How is he doing? Can we expect him back any time soon?

He still can't breathe through his nose. I'm hearing possibly around the All-Star break, possibly later. I think a lot is up in the air with Young at this point.

Luis Salazar or Champ Summers?

This basically boils down to porn 'stache or porn name. As much as I'd love to go with the name, Summers just didn't do much here. I'll choose the Padres' all-time leader in games played at third base, Salazar.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tigers starters doing their jobs

It's probably obvious to anybody who has been following the Tigers closely that the starting pitching has gotten better in recent weeks than it was during the first part of the season. How much better? On May 12th, the Tigers starters were dead last in the American League with a 5.44 ERA. In the last 5 weeks, the Tigers starters have combined for a 3.60 ERA in 34 games (3.28 if you throw out Dontrelle Willis' last start). So, they have been two runs better in the last 5 weeks than they were in the first six weeks. They also have 23 quality starts in those 34 games.

Most of the starting staff has contributed to the improvement:
  • Justin Verlander - 2.62 ERA and 6 quality starts in his last 7 games.
  • Armando Galarraga - 2.54 ERA and 4 quality starts in his last 6 starts.
  • Kenny Rogers - 1.00 ERA in his last 5 starts, all of them quality starts.
  • Jeremy Bonderman - 3.42 ERA in the last 4 games (all QS) before going on the disabled list.
  • Nate Robertson - 4.40 ERA in 7 starts (which is better than the 6.60 ERA he had in his first 7).
Can they keep it up? Justin Verlander should keep going strong. I was ready to bury Kenny Rogers a few weeks ago but he is a different pitcher now. Jim Leyland said that he limited Kenny's innings in spring training because he was recovering from an elbow injury suffered at the end of 2007 and hinted that the left-hander was not at full strength when the season started. He won't keep the 1.00 ERA up but he should be OK if he stays healthy (a significant if for a 43 year old pitcher). Nate Robertson should continue to maintain his performance of the last 7 weeks through the remainder of the season.

Galarraga has been a very pleasant surprise this season. His 3.03 ERA would be 5th in the league if he had enough innings to qualify. The problem is that he is not likely to maintain a .212 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) for the rest of the season. His walk rate of 3.66 batters per nine innings is also a concern. I don't expect him to blow up but he is not likely to have anything close to a 3.03 ERA the rest of the way.

The biggest issue for the staff is Bonderman's season ending surgery to correct a circulation problem. Replacing him may be the biggest challenge for the team the rest of the way. Willis is far from being ready to contribute and they have very little pitching depth at Toledo. Eddie Bonine, who makes his second start versus the Padres tomorrow night is the current hope. His first start was less than stellar but he does have excellent control which is something the Tigers have lacked this year. If he fails, Aquilino Lopez (recently optioned to Toledo to stretch out his innings), Casey Fossum or Virgil Vazquez may be next in line.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The starters have been excellent for over a month now and, with a relatively easy schedule ahead, they should be in good shape for a while.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thames ties Tigers home run record

Marcus Thames blasted a home run to center field in the ninth inning tonight to became the fifth player in the history of the Tigers to hit homers in five consecutive games. The list includes some of the best sluggers in the history of the franchise:

Rudy York 1937
Hank Greenberg 1940
Vic Wertz 1950
Willie Horton 1969
Marcus Thames 2008

Thames now has 13 homers in 117 at bats this year. That's one homer for every nine at bats which is the best rate in the majors this year. Thames' last eight hits have been homers and they have come in a span of ten games.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Streak comes to an end

Jim Leyland brought Fernando Rodney into a tough spot versus the Giants in his first night back: 4-3 lead, runners on first and third with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Rodney threw two change-ups to John Bowker for strikes on the first two pitches but Bowker eventually crushed a three run homer. Fernando proceeded to give up two doubles and a walk and left the game losing 8-4.

The Tigers almost made a come back in the top of the ninth when they loaded the bases against closer Brian Wilson and Curtis Granderson drilled a single to left field to make it 8-6. However, Placido Polanco was retired on a great play by Omar Vizquel and the game and six game winning streak were over.

On the bright side, Marcus Thames continued to mash. He hit homers in his first two at bats and knocked in the first three Tiger runs. He now leads the team with 12 homers in 113 at bats. That comes out to a Ruthian one homer every 9.4 at bats. He also has five homers in last four games so add him to your fantasy team. I did.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fernando Rodney activated

After spending the last couple of weeks rehabbing in Toledo, Fernando Rodney has been activated by the Tigers. To make room for him on the roster, Aquilino Lopez will be sent down to Toledo. At first glance, it's a surprising move because Lopez has been one of the Tigers better relievers this year with a 2.67 ERA and a 24/7 K/BB ratio in 33 2/3 innings. What is even more surprising though is that they plan to work him out as a starter down there.

It makes some sense to have Lopez start because he has been effective in long relief this year pitching 2 plus innings 8 times and going as far as 4 innings in one game. Still, it shows how desperate the Tigers are for starters with Jeremy Bonderman likely out for the season and Dontrelle Willis trying to regain his control in Lakeland. Lopez last started for Tacoma of the PCL in 2002.

Another sweep for Tigers

The Tigers held on to edge the Dodgers 5-4 today to complete a three game sweep of the National League opponent. They now have two consecutive sweeps, the other of course coming at the hands of the first place White Sox. In six days, they have gone from eleven games out to six games out. They went 8-2 on their home stand which also included a four game split with the Indians.

Today's game got pretty scary in the ninth when a 5-0 lead almost evaporated. Bobby Seay started the inning but allowed three hits and two runs before anyone was retired. Roller coaster Jones then allowed two hits and a wild pitch and the score went to 5-4 with the tying run on second base before Delwyn Young and Juan Pierre were retired on fly balls. Some way somehow Jones has not blown a save or lost a game all year.

Nate Robertson pitched six shutout innings before being pulled after 66 pitches. I have not heard why he was lifted so early but I suspect he was just a little stiff after sitting through a rain delay and two long innings. The two long innings were the Tigers scoring three runs in the fifth and two the sixth off of Chan Ho Park who relieved Clayton Kershaw (four shutout innings) after the rain delay.

The Tigers scored all of their fifth inning runs after two were out. Brett Clevlen started it with a single and Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen and Miguel Cabrera had RBI hits. Marcus Thames and Brandon Inge then hit back to back homers to start the sixth. Thames is now tied for the team lead with 10 homers and has done it in just 109 at bats.

The Tigers now go on another west coast trip, this one to the National League cities of San Francisco and San Diego. Game one tomorrow night looks like a classic match-up between Justin Verlander and Tim Lincecum. Verlander is coming off a complete game and has a 2.57 ERA in his last six starts. Lincecum has been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball this year posting a 1.99 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 90 2/3 innings.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What's wrong with Curtis Granderson?

Last week, I took a look at Miguel Cabrera's struggles at the plate this season. I found that his approach, his strike out and walk rates and his contact rate are similar to what they had been in the past. The big difference between this year and past years was that he not hitting ball as hard as he had in other years.

Another Tiger who is having a disappointing season at the plate is Curtis Granderson. While he is still fielding brilliantly (3rd in zone rating and 2nd in revised zone rating), his offensive stats are way down from last year. His .240 batting average, .297 OBP and .728 OPS are the lowest of his career so far. Part of that is the depressed offense in the American league this year as his 95 OPS+ is close to his 98 OPS+ of 2006. But it was 136 last year!

It's possible that 2007 was a career year and that 2006 was more representative of what his typical year will be. Of course, none of us (including myself) like that answer. Another possibility is that the time off because of the hand injury messed up his swing or timing. To investigate his difficulties further, I'll again (as I did with Cabrera) use data from Baseball Reference and Fan Graphs.


Table 1: Curtis Granderson's standard stats

Year

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

2005

174

.272

.314

.494

.802

113

2006

679

.260

.335

.438

.773

98

2007

676

.302

.361

.552

.913

136

2008

182

.240

.297

.431

.728

95



Table 2 shows that his walk rate is down from 2006 but about the same as 2007. His strikeout rate (18.6%) is the best of his career by a significant margin. The next three columns indicate that he might be taking a somewhat different approach this year. His pitches per plate appearance have gone from 3.98 in in 2007 to 4.26 so far this year. He is also swinging at fewer balls outside the zone (OSWING%) and inside the zone (ZSWING%) this year than last. This all indicates that he may be less aggressive at the plate this year compared to 2007. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. The most positive result here is that his contact rate is actually slightly better this year (78.6%) than last (77.8%).


Table 2: Curtis Granderson's plate discipline stats


Year

BB%

K%

P/PA

OSWING%

ZSWING%

Contact%

2005

5.8

26.5

4.07

21.4

59.3

77.4

2006

10.0

29.2

4.08

20.4

63.2

70.8

2007

7.8

23.0

3.98

23.4

62.4

77.8

2008

7.7

18.6

4.26

19.6

60.9

78.6



A look at his batted ball data in Table 3 shows that his BABIP (.250) is way way down from any other year (never lower than .324 since 2005). This is a very good sign as it indicates that he is probably hitting into some bad luck and that fewer balls are dropping in this season. The batted ball data is not all good though as, like Cabrera, Granderson is not hitting as many line drives this year as in past few years. I'm pretty sure, however, that this does not account for all of the extreme drop in BABIP.


Table 3: Curtis Granderson's batted ball data


Year

BABIP

GB%

LD%

FB%

HR/FB

2005

.324

45.4

18.5

36.1

11.7

2006

.337

38.9

22.2

38.9

10.9

2007

.362

34.2

21.0

44.8

12.5

2008

.250

38.7

14.6

46.7

12.0



Finally, his hit charts on MLB.COM for 2007 and 2008 are pretty similar. He is still very much a pull hitter.

So, my conclusion is that there are three things different between 2007 and 2008 for Granderson:

(1) He is a little less aggressive this year. I'm not sure if that's something that needs to change.

(2) He has been unlucky this year

(3) He is hitting fewer line drives so far.

(2) tells me that his BABIP and consequently (his average and slugging) is likely to go up as the year goes along. I also see no reason why his line drive rate should stay down. So, look for Granderson's second half to be better than his first half.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tigers rookies shutout Dodgers

Rookies Armando Galarraga and Freddy Dolsi combined for a three hit shutout tonight as the Tigers beat the Dodgers 5-0 in the first game of a three game series. The big Cat went seven innings allowing 3 hits and no walks along with 5 strikeouts. Armando leads all Tigers starters with a 3.31 ERA in 11 starts. Dolsi went two perfect innings to get the save and leads all Bengal relievers with a 2.20 ERA in 16 1/3 innings. It was the Tigers first shutout of the season.

Detroit got all the runs they needed when they scored two in the 5th. Marcus Thames belted his 8th homer of the year in just 104 at bats to give them the lead. Michael Hollimon then hit a sacrifice fly for his first major league RBI for the other run. Hollimon was playing in place of Edgar Renteria who apparently missed the game with a sore pectoral muscle. Also, Ryan Raburn played in place of the resting Ryan Raburn went three for three with a stolen base.

The game almost broke out into a fight in the 8th inning when Cory Wade hit Carlos Guillen in the elbow with a pitch. Guillen got angry and both benches emptied but it was pretty uneventful and no punches were throw. The first ones out of the dugout were Miguel Cabrera and Pudge Rodriguez. Wade paid the price when next batter Magglio Ordonez slugged his tenth long ball of the year.

So all was good for the suddenly ferocious Tigers tonight. They have now won four in a row and six out of seven and are seven games below .500. Another rookie Eddie Bonine goes tomorrow for the Tigers versus Brad Penny at 3:50 in the so called nationally televised game that most of the country won't see. It will Bonine's first major league start.

Note: FSN is reporting that Clay Rapada will be optioned to Toledo to make room for Bonine

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tigers sweep White Sox on Cabrera walkoff

Three days ago, the Tigers were 11 games out of first and fans were wondering which players would be traded to contenders in July. Miguel Cabrera was getting booed in Comerica and many internet fans viewed him as the chief culprit of the Tigers disappointing season. Today, the Tigers beat the White Sox 2-1 to complete a three game sweep over the central division leaders and the decisive blow was a walk homer by Cabrera in the bottom of the ninth. So now Cabrera is a hero and Tigers fans are dreaming of a summer come back in the AL Central. What a difference a series makes.

Perhaps even more important than the sweep was that Kenny Rogers pitched another strong game allowing just one run on four hits in eight innings. He has now allowed just four runs in 29 innings (1.34 ERA) in his last four starts. A pitcher who a few weeks ago looked to be all done at the age of 43 now seems to have regained his form of 2006. It's a big boost for a team who has lost Jeremy Bonderman for probably the rest of the season and who has seen Dontrelle Willis seemingly forget how to pitch.

Before we get too giddy about the sweep though, remember that the last two sweeps did not inspire continued good play. A three game sweep of The Yankees, which drew them to within a game of .500 on May 1, was followed by a five game losing streak. A three game sweep of Seattle in the middle of May was followed by four losses in their next five games.

With their margin of error now just about gone, it's crucial that they avoid a let down as they head into interleague play. In their next five series, they will be facing four teams - the Dodgers, Padres, Giants and Rockies - who are under .500 and one team - the Cardinals - who are missing their star play (Albert Pujols). It is a stretch of games where they must do very well if they want to be serious contenders.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Verlander goes the distance

Justin Verlander had been receiving very little offensive support prior to tonight's game. In 10 of his first 13 starts, his teammates had scored two runs or fewer leading to nine losses for Verlander. Tonight, Marcus Thames gave Justin all the runs he would need when he blasted a three run shot in the second inning. Verlander took advantage of his good fortune and wasn't about to let the bullpen mess it up. He pitched a rare complete game as the Tigers topped the White Sox 5-1. Verlander allowed just 4 hits and most significantly walked nobody. The last time a Tigers pitcher hurled a complete game was almost exactly a year ago - Justin Verlander's no hitter versus the Brewers on June 9, 2007.

The Tigers second inning began with a 14 pitch walk to Miguel Cabrera by Javier Vazquez. Edgar Renteria then reached on an infield hit with one out leading up to Thames three run shot to left. The White Sox scored a single run in the fourth but the Tigers got it right back in the bottom of the inning on a double by Brandon Inge and a single by Magglio Ordonez. Carlos Guillen tripled home the final run in the sixth.

The Tigers have now won 4 out 5 versus two important divisional foes and look to sweep the White Sox tomorrow afternoon. It will be Kenny Rogers versus Mark Buehrle at 1:00 tomorrow afternoon. This is a pretty big game for the Tigers so they need to avoid one of their notorious Thursday afternoon siestas.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cabrera leads Tigers over White Sox

Although he only had four hits in four games against the Indians, it appeared that Cabrera was starting to drive the ball better in the recent series. It seemed as if he was on the verge of getting hot and perhaps today was the start of a big turn around of his disappointing start. He went three for four including a key two run single in the fifth which put the Tigers ahead 4-2. They went on to defeat the first place White Sox 6-4.

Nate Robertson fell behind 2-0 in the third inning but kept the team in the game. In all, he allowed three runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. He did leave the bases loaded in the seventh but Freddy Dolsi came in to get the final two outs. Dolsi ran into trouble in the eighth when he allowed three hits and balked in a run but left fielder Brent Clevlen saved him by nailing Carlos Quentin with a perfect throw to the plate after a single by Jim Thome. Todd Jones then pitched a scoreless ninth and is now 11 for 11 in save situations.

Along with his great throw, Clevlen had two hits, one RBI and one run scored. Perhaps fired up by Leyland's announcement that he would be splitting catching duties with Brandon Inge, the slumping Pudge Rodriguez had two hits, a stolen base and threw out two White Sox attempting to steal. Placido Polanco added three hits to the 14 hit attack. It was a nice start to a series which they need to win (probably need a sweep) in order to stay in the race at all.

Willis optioned to Lakeland

The Tigers announced today that they have optioned Dontrelle Willis to Lakeland so that he can work out his control issues in minor league games. As a five year veteran, Willis had to agree to the minor league assignment and he did so willingly. It became apparent last night, when he walked five and gave up eight runs in an inning and a third, that Willis does not have the control to pitch at the Major League level at this time.

Jim Leyland says that the most likely candidate to replace him in the rotation is Eddie Bonine, a 27 year old right-handed pitcher with an interesting repertoire. According to Tigstown.com (premium content), he uses a hard knuckleball to set up his 88-91 MPH fastball and also has a curve and change-up. he was acquired from the Padres in the minor league portion of the 2005 Rule 5 draft.

Bonine posted a 4.01 ERA and 45/13 k/BB ratio in 67 1/3 innings for Erie and Toledo this year. In 2007, he pitched 154 2/3 innings for Erie, had an ERA of 3.90 and led all Eastern league starters with just 1.34 BB per nine innings. If nothing else, his great control with be refreshing on a staff that has been plagued by walks all year.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Tigers split with Indians, Willis a mess

The Tigers got pounded by the Indians today 9-2 and settled for a split of their four game series with the Indians. Now 11 games behind the high flying White Sox, splitting series is not good enough if they have any plans of a huge comeback this year. I can't get myself to give up on the season on June 9 but, realistically, it's not looking good especially with Bonderman out for the season.

They did get some good starting pitching in this series before Dontrelle Willis blew up today. Coming into the game, the starters had a 3.92 ERA in 24 games. Justin Verlander (3.00 ERA in his last 5 starts), Kenny Rogers (2.14 ERA in 3 starts) and Armando Galarraga (3.74 for the season) all pitched well. Willis was a disaster today allowing 5 walks and 8 runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Willis is a mess and really shouldn't be starting games in the majors right now. I'm not sure what they'll do with him. I imagine they'll give him some more opportunities to start but how many chances can they give to a pitcher who can't find the plate at all? He wouldn't be of any use in the bullpen either. He's signed through 2010 so they aren't going to just release him and, at his young age (26) and with his past success, they shouldn't. The ideal situation would be for him to agree to work out his control issues in the minors.

Then there is the problem of who would replace him if he is removed from the rotation. They don't have any great options in either the majors or minors. Zach Miner is a possibility but the Tigers like him better as a reliever. Casey Fossum might be a better bet. Virgil Vasquez, seen as a possible injury replacement call-up at the beginning of the year, is not having a good year for Toledo. Chris Lambert is doing the best of the current Mud Hen starters.

Inge to split time with Pudge?

Jim Leyland said today that Brandon Inge is going to split time at catcher with Pudge Rodriguez with each playing every other day. The Tigers manager wants to give more rest to the 36 year old Rodriguez, who has caught 51 of the first 62 games. He also wants to see if Inge can catch.

Pudge is batting .245/.286/.349 and isn't the elite defensive catcher he once was. Inge is not exactly tearing it up either but his .228/.324/.425 line is superior to Rodriguez. I don't think they lose that much defensively with Inge either. One question is how well he can hit as a catcher as that has been a problem for him in the past. Leyland wouldn't admit to it, but with Pudge on the decline and his contract coming to and end, this could be a signal they plan to use Inge at catcher in 2009.

Of course, we need to remember that Leyland's plans have been changing every few days. A couple weeks ago, Marcus Thames was going to be the regular left fielder. Last week, Inge was going to see more time at third base with Carlos Guillen playing some left field. So this could be just Leyland's thought of the day. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Sharing the blame

David Berri, who authored the book Wages of Wins and writes the Wages of Wins Journal,
asked me the other day how well we could have expected the Tigers to perform this year given what the players did last year. He also wanted to know which players are underperforming and by how much. There is no definitive answer to these questions but one approach is Win Shares.

Bill James developed Win Shares as a way to estimate the number of wins a player contributes to a team based on his individual statistics. In the Win Shares approach, everything a player does (hitting, fielding, base running and pitching) is summarized with one number. Each win is worth three win Shares. For example, a player with 30 Win Shares is considered to have contributed 10 wins to his team.

The algorithm for determining Win Shares is much too complicated to be detailed here. If you want to learn more, you can read Win Shares written by Bill James and Jim Henzler and published by STATS, Inc. If you want a much briefer version, you can go to Baseball Graphs
The win shares algorithm has been critiqued and altered over the year and these changes are described at The Hardball Times.

I obtained the 2007 and 2008 Win shares statistics from The Hardball Times. THBT updates the win shares every couple of weeks and I thank Dave Studeman for running them the same day I told him I was hoping to use them in this article. Table 1 shows the win shares for batters in 2007 versus 2008. Basically, I calculated expected win shares for 2008 based on 2007 win shares and expected plate appearances in 2008. Using Miguel Cabrera as an example, here is how to read the table:

PA = 680 plate appearances in 2007
WS= 30 win shares in 2007

EPA= 700 expected plate appearances in 2008. This was done mostly to account for acquisitions made during the off-season. You would not, for example, expect Brandon Inge to have the same number of appearances in 2008 as a part-time player as he had in 2007 as a full-time player. Consequently, you would also not expect him to have as many win shares.

EWS=31 expected win shares in 2008 given 2007 win shares and EPA in 2008.

WS=6 win shares in 2008 as of June 5.

PWS= 17 projected win shares in 2008. This is calculated by simple extrapolation assuming Cabrera will perform the same way all season as he did through June 5.

WS diff= PWS-EWS

W diff= WS diff/3 because each win is worth 3 win shares.

Table 2 is similar to table 2 except it presents win shares for pitchers and uses innings pitched to determine expected win shares.



Table 1: Win Shares for Tigers batters - 2007 vs 2008



2007

2008

2008 - 2007

Player

PA

WS

EPA

EWS

WS

PWS

WS diff

W diff

Granderson

676

26

650

25

3

8

-17

-5.67

Jones

495

15

500

15

0

0

-15

-5.00

Cabrera

680

30

700

31

6

17

-14

-4.67

Ordonez

679

36

650

34

8

22

-12

-4.00

Sheffield

593

16

500

13

1

3

-10

-3.33

Renteria

543

18

600

20

4

11

-9

-3.00

Polanco

641

23

600

22

6

17

-5

-1.67

Raburn

148

5

150

5

0

0

-5

-1.67

Guillen

630

19

600

18

6

17

-1

-0.33

Rodriguez

515

13

450

11

4

11

0

0.00

Santiago

74

2

150

4

3

8

+4

+1.33

Inge

577

13

250

6

4

11

+5

+1.67

Thames

284

7

200

5

4

11

+6

+2.00

Others

----

----

200

4

3

8

+4

+1.33

Totals

----

----

6200

213

52

144

-69

-23



Table 2: Win Shares for Tigers pitchers - 2007 vs 2008


2007

2008

2008 - 2007

Player

IP

WS

EIP

EWS

WS

PWS

WS diff

W diff

Verlander

202

16

215

17

2

5

-12

-4.00

Willis

205

7

215

7

0

0

-7

-2.33

Zumaya

34

3

60

6

0

0

-6

-2.00

Robertson

178

8

185

8

1

3

-5

-1.67

Byrdak

45

4

50

4

0

0

-4

-1.33

Rodney

51

3

60

4

0

0

-4

-1.33

Seay

46

6

50

6

1

3

-3

-1.00

Miner

54

5

60

6

1

3

-3

-1.00

Jones

61

6

60

6

1

3

-3

-1.00

Grilli

80

4

60

3

1

3

0

0.00

Rogers

63

3

125

6

2

6

0

0.00

Bonderman

174

7

200

8

4

11

+3

+1.00

Galarraga

17

1

25

1

4

11

+10

+3.33

Lopez

9

0

25

0

4

11

+11

+3.67

Others

----

----

60

2

2

6

+4

+1.33

Totals

----

----

1450

84

23

65

-19

-6.33



Looking at the totals row in each table, we can see how many team win shares the Tigers would accumulate in 2007 if they performed the same way in 2008 as 2007. It comes out to 297 expected win shares in 2008 (213 for the batters and 84 for the pitchers). That is 99 expected wins assuming no injuries or player regression. So far this year, they have accumulated 75 win shares (52 and 23). Extrapolating that over 162 games, it comes to 209 win shares (144 for hitters and 65 for pitchers). That is equivalent to 70 wins.

So, if they keep up the same pace, the Tigers will lose 29 more games this year than expected based on their performance in 2007. Some of it is injuries to Curtis Granderson and Gary Sheffield and a few others but they haven't been hit that hard by injuries this year. So which players are underperforming the most?

Table 1 illustrates that six position players are underperforming by three or more wins over a full season.

Curtis Granderson (5.67 wins) - We can't blame Granderson for his hand injury but even if we lower his expected plate appearances to reflect time missed for the injury, it still comes to 4+ wins of underperformance.

Jacque Jones (5 wins) - Some people were not expecting much from him but he should have been expected to be a decent platoon player. Instead he had zero win shares at the time of his release.

Miguel Cabrera (-4.67) - He is tied for second on the team in win shares but he has simply underperformed. There is no excuse for him other than he is trying to adjust to a new league.

Magglio Ordonez (-4.00) - I'll excuse Ordonez for not repeating his career year of 2007. If I had used a three year average as the comparison rather than just last year, he would be performing just as expected. So, let's not blame Magglio.

Gary Sheffield (-3.33) - Sheffield has been hurt but he was hurt last year too so I wasn't expecting a full season of plate appearances from him. He has produced very little while playing though.

Edgar Renteria (-3.00) - Renteria had one of his best seasons last year but even if we take a three year average, he is still underperforming by more than 2 games.

On the pitching side, there are three players underperforming by 2 or more games:

Justin Verlander (-4.00) - He is apparently healthy and simply underperforming.

Dontrelle Willis (-2.33) - has been injured most of the season.

Joel Zumaya (-2.00) - has been injured all season.

My conclusion is that most of the team underperformance compared to 2007 is due to three things:

(1) the underperformance of the following players: Cabrera, Verlander, Granderson, J.Jones, Renteria and Sheffield.

(2) injuries to Zumaya, Granderson, Willis and Sheffield.

(3) Magglio Ordonez should not have been expected to repeat his amazing 2007 season.

So, for those who want to point the finger, there is plenty of blame to go around. For those who like to make excuses, there is some reason for that too. Regardless of how you look at it, it's been a very disappointing season for the Tigers.

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