Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wild wild day for the Tigers

It was a crazy day for the Tigers. It started with the trade of Pudge Rodriguez to the Yankees. It ended with Casey Fossum striking out Jamie Carroll in the bottom of the thirteenth for a 14-12 Tigers victory over the Indians. In between we saw a 5 1/2 hour baseball game that went something like this:

the Tigers fell behind 8-1 after three innings to Cy Young candidate Cliff Lee. It looked like they had no chance but they came back to make it 8-7 in the top of the sixth.

The Indians scored three in the bottom of sixth to make it 11-7. The Tigers scored four runs in the 8th after two were out to tie it 11-11. Miguel Cabrera tied it with a two run double.

The Tigers went ahead 12-11 on a sacrifice fly by Placido Polanco in the ninth.

The Indians tied it 12-12 in the bottom of the ninth when Kelly Shoppach blasted a homer. Shoppach had an incredible night tying a major league record with 5 extra base hits - three doubles and two homers.

Fernando Rodney, Bobby Seay and Casey Fossum each wiggled out out of bases loaded jam in extra innings.

The Tigers scored in the 13th on a single by Carlos Guillen, another single by Curtis Granderson (his fifth of the night) and a hit and run infield out by Polanco. Another run scored on an error making it 14-12.

The game featured:

26 runs
41 hits
7 homers
8 doubles
6 errors
16 walks
28 LOB
5,785 drum beats by the Progressive Park drummer

The Pudge-less era begins with a bang. That was honestly one of the most improbable games I've seen in 40 years..... The final game of the series happens in just a few hours - at noon. Justin Verlander versus Fausto Carmona.

Pudge traded for Farnsworth

In a surprising move, the Tigers have traded Pudge Rodriguez to the Yankees today for reliever Kyle Farnsworth. This means that Brandon Inge will be the starting catcher and Dane Sardinha would be the back-up unless they make another move prior to the deadline. Kyle Farnsworth will likely serve as the set up man for Fernando Rodney and perhaps become the closer if Rodney struggles in that role.

I'm not shocked that they traded Rodriguez but I thought he was worth more than Farnsworth. Pudge will likely be a type A free agent after the season which means if the Tigers had offered him arbitration and he declined it and then signed with another team, the Tigers would have received two first round picks in next year's amateur draft. Farnsworth is more likely to be a Type B which means they would only get one pick. Rodriguez did have a no trade clause so that may have limited what they could get in return. So why trade him? My guess is that he requested a trade because he didn't like splitting time with Inge behind the plate.

Rodriguez is batting .295 with 5 homers and a .755 OPS in 302 at bats. Inge is batting only .227 but actually has a higher OPS (.758) than Pudge. I don't think they lose a lot offensively going from Pudge to Inge. They may lose a little defensively but I think Inge is capable defender so I'm not too worried about that. What does concern me is that having Dane Sardinha catch a couple times per week will hurt them offensively.

The Tigers are desperate for relievers so Kyle Farnsworth should help somewhat. He has a 3.65 ERA and 43/17 K/BB ratio in 44 1/3 innings this year but has given up an alarming 11 homers. That's a lot of homers. He has been better recently allowing just 2 runs on 4 hits in his last 11 games spanning 10 1/3 innings.

As for next year, I believe Pudge would have rejected arbitration and signed a multi-year deal elsewhere so I think Inge might have ended up being the catcher anyway. I also believe Farnsworth will reject arbitration and sell himself to the highest bidder. Thus, the trade might not have a lot of bearing on the future except for the probable draft pick.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tigers even series with Indians

After getting blanked 5-0 last night by nemesis Paul Byrd, the Tigers evened the series with the Indians with an 8-5 victory tonight. They were in command most of way but with their bullpen the way it is, it never seemed safe. Armando Galarraga started with three perfect innings but struggled the second time around the order. He allowed three runs on five hits and left with 6-3 lead and a man on second and one out in the sixth.

Freddy Dolsi came in and got the final two outs of the inning but then allowed a hits batsman and walk to start the seventh. Casey Fossum got the next batter and Joel Zumaya the two after that to get out of it. Zumaya then gave up a walk a single and a Ryan Garko RBI double for one run in the 8th to make it 8-4. Fernando Rodney walked Grady Sizemore in the ninth and he eventually came home on a wild pitch. So there was a lot of wildness and a little discomfort but they secured the win without involving Todd Jones.

Miguel Cabrera hit his 18th homer to put the Tigers up 1-0 in the second. The rest of the damage was done by the bottom three in the order, three batters who haven't done a lot this year. They scored three in the fourth on a two run double by Edgar Renteria and a double by Brandon Inge. They added two in the fifth on a two run double by Gary Sheffield. Inge then capped the scoring with a two run homer in the eighth.

The win combined with a White Sox 6-5 loss to the Twins moves the Tigers to 5 1/2 games back. The bad news is that the Twins are now just a half game back.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rodney preserves 6-4 win

When Joel Zumaya left the game in the eighth inning today with an injury (Don't panic. It's not the shoulder. It's right triceps tightness and he is day to day), new closer Fernando Rodney got a chance to close out a game. He slowly ambled to the mound, took the ball from Jim Leyland and then took forever to warm up. With the Tigers ahead 6-2 and one on and one out, he proceeded to get the first batter out but then walked two batters (one on a questionable call) and allowed a bloop single to Jim Thome for two runs. But you know how closers can't be bothered by non-save situations. Anyway, he got Paul Konerko to bounce out to third to end the inning.

On to the ninth. Rodney struck out the side with a blazing upper 90s fastball! How's that for a lock down closer? Well, it wasn't quite that simple. He went to 3-2 on all three batters and each of Nick Swisher, Alexei Ramirez and Juan Uribe swung at ball four. He did get the job done though and it's nice to see a closer who can strike guys out. On the down side, he threw 42 pitches which makes it unlikely he'll be able to come back tomorrow. Would Leyland go to Jones in the ninth tomorrow in a tight spot?

In his previous game, Zach Miner's performance was overshadowed by a 19 run explosion. This time, the bullpen shake-up took center stage but once again Miner might have been the most impressive Tiger of the day. He was very sharp again today allowing just two runs on five hits and no walks in six innings. That's two runs in twelve innings in his first two games since becoming the Tigers fifth starter.

The hitting stars for the Tigers today were:

Pudge Rodriguez - 4 for 4 (now batting .298)
Miguel Cabrera 2 hits and 2 more RBI (giving him 17 in his last 8 games)
Curtis Granderson - his 11th homer
Edgar Renteria - 2 hits (9 in his last 5 games)

Magglio Ordonez had only one hit today which stopped his streak of three hit games at four. John Lowe reports that the last Tiger to do that was Willie Horton in 1965. The last Major League player to get more than four was George Brett who had six straight three hit games in 1976.

The Tigers now head on a ten game road trip to Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Chicago. That could very well be the stretch that final breaks their season. If they manage to survive it however, they will have 29 of their final 47 at home.

Rodney is new Tigers closer

Jim Leyland announced before the game today that Fernando Rodney has replaced Todd Jones as the Tigers closer. Jones has allowed runs in six of his last twelve appearances and has blown three of his last seven save opportunities with the one versus the White Sox on Friday night apparently being the last straw.

Fernando Rodney has not exactly been dominant since his return form the disabled list - 8 walks in 14 innings and a 5.14 ERA. However, he has not allowed a run in his last five appearances and has 9 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings during that span. Rodney also has prior experience as a closer - at the end of 2005 and as a injury replacement for Jones in 2006.

The other option might have been Joel Zumaya but his control has been awful since his return from his shoulder injury - 15 walks in 16 1/3 innings. I think Rodney is the best choice at this point. Despite the move, I imagine they are still looking to trade for relief help as they have a serious need for middle relievers.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Another tough loss for Tigers

Like almost everything else this season, the much anticipated series with the White Sox has not gone as many of us had hoped. Playing in the Detroit Stars uniforms tonight, the Tigers lost 7-6, their second consecutive one run loss to the division leaders. It was their fifth one run loss to key divisional opponents since July 10, the other three coming at the hands of the Twins just before the all-star break. They are now 7 1/2 games out of first and 4 behind the second place Twins.

Tonight, it was ace Justin Verlander's turn to disappoint. Verlander had been pretty strong for the last couple of months after a slow start but tonight he did not have it. Although he held the Pale Hose scoreless for two innings, he struggled from the start and was approaching 100 pitches by the end of the fourth inning. He allowed four runs in the third including back to back homers by Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye. He surrendered three more in the fifth with some help from Bobby Seay (who later settled down and helped keep the game close).

The Tigers offense didn't quit in this one. They scored three in the fourth to tie the game at four, thanks, in part, to an Alexei Ramirez error and an infield hit by Miguel Cabrera. Down 7-4, Magglio Ordonez hit a solo homer in the sixth. They scored one more in the seventh on a wild pitch but Carlos Guillen ended the inning by striking out with runners on second and third. They got a lead off double from Ordonez in the eighth but Cabrera, Gary Sheffield (who earlier homered) and Marcus Thames left him there. Curtis Granderson doubled with two out in the ninth but Polanco struck out to end the game.

Why did Jim Leyland not pinch hit Matt Joyce for Edgar Renteria or Brandon Inge in ninth inning against Bobby Jenks? I'm not sure. Leyland has never been too fond of pitch hitting for his veterans.

They've got one last chance to avoid a sweep tomorrow when Zach Miner faces Javier Vazquez. That doesn't look like a great match-up for the Tigers but Miner did well in his first start so we'll see.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Crushing defeat for Tigers

We knew it was going to happen eventually. Todd Jones had only two blown saves before tonight but he has been pitching in and out of trouble all year, had more walks (15) than strikeouts (13) and had allowed 44 hits in 39 innings. He had allowed runs in 5 of his previous 11 games and Jim Leyland has been "keeping an eye on him". A couple times recently he wouldn't let him finish games that he normally would have. That's the Tigers closer. The roller coaster hasn't blown a lot of games but you had a feeling he was going to hurt us at the worst possible time and that came tonight.

What really stung the most was that he was one strike away from a 1-2-3 inning in the 9th. With the Tigers up 5-4, he retired the first two batters and had two strikes on Carlos Quentin. Quentin stroked a single past Placido Polanco to set up Jermaine Dye. Dye followed with a two run blast to right giving the White Sox a 6-5 lead which they kept.

It wasn't all Jones' fault tonight though. The Tigers had a 4-1 lead in the seventh thanks to six innings of one run ball by Nate Robertson. Robertson was far from dominant as he walked five batters but only one of the walks scored. Leyland probably should have called it a night for Robertson after six innings rather than risking him leaving men on base for a leaky bullpen. Nate promptly allowed singles to the first two White Sox batters in the seventh. Joel Zumaya then entered the game and allowed a single, a sacrifice fly and two walks. The tying run scored when Pudge threw a ball into left field after mishandling a pitch for a passed ball. So add Pudge, Zumaya and perhaps Leyland to people we can blame tonight.

The Tigers did get the lead back in the bottom of the inning on a home run to right by Carlos Guillen but it wasn't enough. They should have scored more runs tonight. They had nine hits, three walks and the White Sox made two errors in the first six innings. With all that they only managed four runs thanks to some over aggressive base running and lack of timely hitting.

If the Tigers fall out of the race, we may remember this game as the one Todd Jones blew and he did blow it but he got plenty of help.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday Links

Here are some interesting articles from around the net:

RotoExperts has a profile on Rick Porcello which includes videos of him pitching.

Sky King is generating quite a bit of buzz with his list of top 25 position players in baseball.

Eddie B has essentially cracked the Elias formula for ranking free agent catchers and he reports that Pudge Rodriguez will almost surely be a Type A free agent. This means that the Tigers could get two first round draft picks if they offer him arbitration, he fails to accept, and signs with another team.

Eddie also has has put together an eligibility list for free agents and arbitration. The list covers not only the Tigers but their entire system. Eligible free agents include Kenny Rogers, Todd Jones, Casey Fossum, Pudge Rodriguez, Vance Wilson and Edgar Renteria. Arbitration eligibles will likely include: Fernando Rodney, Bobby Seay, Marcus Thames, Ramon Santiago, Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya and Aquilino Lopez.

Not perfect but a sweep

Armando Galarraga retired the first eight Royals this afternoon before allowing a clean single to right to David Dejesus leading off the seventh. So, the Big Cat didn't pitch a perfect game but the Tigers had a near perfect series pounding the Royals 19-4 on Monday night, 7-1 on Tuesday night and 7-1 today.

Galarraga went seven innings allowing one run on three hits while striking out a career high seven batters and walking one. Armando had probably his best slider of the year today getting batters to swing and miss at balls in the dirt and also inducing eight ground balls. Many have been predicting some regression for Galarraga down the stretch due to his low and probably not sustainable batting average on balls in play and high walk rate. His ground ball rate has just been average but if can keep the slider working like he did today, that could start going up.

The Tigers staked Galarraga to a 5-0 lead after three innings scoring two in the first, one in the second and two in the third. Placido Polanco paced the Tigers 13 hit attack with three hits apiece. Miguel Cabrera had two hits and three RBI giving him 10 for the three game series.

The Tigers could not gain any ground on the White Sox who came from behind to beat the Rangers 10-8 today so they are still 5 1/2 games out. The second place Twins lost their third straight to the Yankees and are now 2 1/2 games behind.

After an off day tomorrow, the Tigers host the White Sox in a big three game series at Comerica.
A sweep of the the White Sox seems unlikely but they really need two win this series. The scheduled pitchers are Nate Robertson, Justin Verlander and Zach Miner for the Tigers versus Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Javier Vazquez for the White Sox. With the day off tomorrow, the Tigers could skip the struggling Robertson and have Kenny Rogers pitch the third game. I don't know how likely that is but I'd like to see it happen.

Saving runs for tomorrow

Does it seem as if a team that explodes for 12 or 15 or 20 runs one day inevitably gets shut out or held to one run the next day? Is this a real effect? Does a team become too relaxed after a big game and thus get shut down in the following game? Or perhaps the opposing team gets embarrassed and plays for revenge the next day? Should we really wish that out favorite team saves some runs for the next game?

In order to determine whether a team that scores a large number of runs in one game tends to get held down in the next one, I looked at all games from 2003-2007 using the retrosheet databases. First, I needed to determine a cut off to be used for an unusually high score. Table 1 below looks at the distribution of runs scored in all games during the period: Teams were shut out 5.2% of the time, held to one run 9.3% of the time, etc. We can see that teams rarely scored 12+ runs in a game - only 3.5% of the time - so that seems like a good cut off.

Table 1: Distribution of runs scored in all games (2003-2007)

Runs Scored

Percent of Games

Cumulative Percent

0

5.2

5.2

1

9.3

14.5

2

12.0

26.5

3

13.3

39.8

4

13.1

52.9

5

11.6

64.5

6

9.8

74.3

7

7.6

81.9

8

5.5

87.4

9

4.2

91.7

10

2.8

94.5

11

2.0

96.5

12+

3.5

100.00



In Table 2, we can see that there were 848 games between 2003-2007 where a team scored 12 or more runs. I calculated the expected runs in the next game as follows: Suppose the Tigers scored 14 runs in a game. The expected runs in the next game would be the team average runs scored for that season with that game removed. That is:

Expected runs = (Team total runs scored for the year -14)/161.

Table 2 shows that the average of the expected runs in the follow-up game to a 12+ run game is 4.88. The actual average is also 4.88. Suppose we choose a more extreme cutoff such as 15+ runs. Once again , the average of the expected runs (4.88) is almost identical to the actual average (4.86). It appears, in general, that scoring a lot of runs in one game has little effect on what happens in the next game.


Table 2: Expected runs versus actual runs in follow-up game

Runs in game 1

Games

Expected avg. runs in game 2

Actual avg. runs in game 2

0-2

6,399

4.71

4.63

3-5

9,170

4.74

4.71

6-8

5,542

4.79

4.87

9-11

2,189

4.82

4.99

12+

848

4.88

4.88

15+

200

4.88

4.86



The point is further illustrated in Table 3 which shows the distribution of runs scored in games following 12+ run games. We can see that it is very similar to the distribution for all games in Table 1. For example, teams scored two runs or fewer 26.9% of the time in follow-ups to high scoring games as compared to 26.5% in all games. It certainly does not look as if teams have a tendency to get shut down the next game after an offensive explosion.

So, the next time you see the Tigers score 19 runs in a game, don't fret about the next game. Just enjoy it.


Table 3: Runs scored in game following a 12+ run game

Runs Scored in game 2

Percent of Games

Cumulative Percent

0

6.2

6.2

1

8.5

14.7

2

12.2

26.9

3

11.9

38.8

4

13.4

52.2

5

9.7

61.9

6

9.8

71.7

7

7.3

79.0

8

6.0

85.0

9

5.7

90.7

10

3.7

94.3

11

1.9

96.2

12+

3.8

100.0


The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by
Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at "www.retrosheet.org"

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tigers maul Royals

The Tigers had scored just eleven runs against the Royals in six games this year, all of them losses. Tonight, the Bengals exploded for 19 runs on 18 hits in a 19-4 rout over the Royals in Kansas City. They built up a 19-0 lead by scoring five in the third, two in the fifth, two more in the seventh and finally ten in the eighth. The three through five batters in the order - Carlos Guillen, Miguel Cabrera and Matt Joyce combined to go 12 for 16 with 13 RBI and 10 runs scored. This how it broke down individually:

  • Guillen - 3 hits and 5 runs scored
  • Cabrera - 5 hits and 6 RBI, both tying career highs
  • Joyce - 4 hits, 5 RBI and a double short of the cycle
  • Granderson - 3 hits and 4 runs

The pitching victims were Luke Hochevar, Robinson Tejeda and Jimmy Gobble who combined to give up all the runs. Gobble had a particularly ugly outing allowing all 10 runs in the ugly eighth. The best Royal pitcher tonight was infielder Tony Pena Jr. who easily retired the side in the 9th and threw a few pitches 90 MPH or better.

Even more encouraging than the Tigers big offensive explosion was Zach Miner's start. Miner went six shutout innings allowing just three hits and one walk. It was only his second start in two years since his fairly successful stint as Mike Maroth's replacement in 2006. He'll be making more starts this year. In fact, the fifth starter job is his to lose right now.

The Tigers gained ground on both the White Sox and Twins for the second straight day. The Twins lost to the Yankees12-4 and the White Sox lost to the Rangers 6-1. The Tigers are now 5 1/2 games behind Chicago and 5 behind Minnesota.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blog Poll - AL Awards (week 15)

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. Ian Kinsler
2. Josh Hamilton
3. Milton Bradley

Who thought at the beginning of the season that three Rangers would top the voting?

Cy Young

1. Cliff Lee
2. Justin Duchsherer
2. Roy Halladay

And who thought Lee and Duchscherer would be the CY Young leaders?

Rookie of the Year

1. Evan Longoria
2. Jacoby Ellsbury
3. Nick Blackburn

I voted for Armando Galarraga (third place vote) this week but I may have been the only one.

Tigers Sabermetric Leaders

Here are some Tigers sabermetric leaders from Lee Sinnis' Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia:

Runs Created = Projection of runs produced by a player based on singles, doubles, homers, walks, stolen bases and other things that a player does offensively.

Cabrera 60
Guillen 52
Granderson 52
Ordonez 51
Polanco 49

Runs Created Per Game = A projection of how many runs a team would average if every player on the team was cloned to that player (at least 150 plate appearances).

Granderson 6.65
Thames 6.61
Cabrera 5.93
Ordonez 5.81
Guillen 5.66

Offensive Winning Percentage = Projected team winning percentage if each offensive player was cloned to that player and the team had average pitching/defense (at least 150 plate appearances).

Granderson .602
Thames .600
Cabrera .551
Ordonez .542
Guillen .530

Runs Created Above Average = A difference between a player's Runs Created total and a total for the average player who used the same amount of his team's outs (no plate appearance limits).

Granderson 11
Thames 7
Santiago 7
Joyce 7
Cabrera 6

Support Neutral Wins (and Losses) = Projected number of wins (losses) given league average offensive support

Verlander 9-7
Galarraga 7-4
Robertson 6-8
Rogers 6-7
Bonderman 4-3

Runs Saved Above Average = Number of runs saved by a pitcher over an average pitcher's runs allowed.

Galarraga 13
Verlander 6
Bonderman 2
Rogers -1
Robertson -15

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Orioles outslug Tigers

Luke Scott belted a walk off home run in the bottom of the 10th off Freddy Dolsi as the Orioles beat the Tigers 11-10. The Tigers should have scored the go ahead run in the top of the 1oth when Placido Polanco doubled (his fourth hit of the game) and Sheffield (three hits on the night) apparently singled him in but the umpire made the wrong call. The throw by center fielder Adam Jones beat Polanco to the plate but Placido clearly avoided the tag. We could dwell on that but the real problem was the pitching.

The Tigers scored six runs in the first inning and another in the second but Nate Robertson and reliever Aquilino Lopez gave it all back and more. The Orioles scored two in the bottom of the first, six more in the third and one in the fourth to take a 9-7 lead. Robertson allowed seven runs on eight hits and 2 1/3 innings and saw his ERA balloon to 5.67. I've been pretty supportive of Robertson but he is having the worst year of his career. Lopez followed by allowing 2 runs on 5 hits in 1 1/3 innings.

The middle relievers did well with Casey Fossum and Fernando Rodney combining for three scoreless innings and the Tigers scored three in the sixth to take a 10-9 lead. Rodney looked about as good as he has since returning striking out three in 1 1/3 innings. Joel Zumaya was striking them out today as well - four in two innings - but he gave up a game tying homer to Ramon Hernandez leading off the ninth. I'm not sure why Jim Leyland left him in to pitch the ninth. It wasn't a terrible move after the 1-2-3 eight by Zoom but I figured Todd Jones would automatically enter the game with a save situation in the ninth.

In addition to the big nights for Polanco and Sheffield, Miguel Cabrera hit a three run homer in the first and Jeff Larish followed two batters later with a two run blast. With Carlos Guillen still at home with his wife and Inge catching, Larish got his first start at third base. He made no egregious errors but did show lack of range on one ball down the line.

The only good news tonight is that the White Sox lost again tonight keeping the Tigers 7 1/2 games out of first. The Tigers will try to salvage a split of the series tomorrow afternoon with Ace Justin Verlander facing Brian Burres.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tigers come off break with win

The Tigers came out of the gates after the all-star break with a 6-5 win over the Orioles tonight. It was a seesaw affair that saw the Tigers go ahead for good when Brandon Inge belted a two run homer in the sixth inning making it 5-4 at the time. Most of the Tigers runs came on homers tonight. Earlier, the slumping Gary Sheffield clubbed a two run shot in the second inning and Marcus Thames capped the scoring with a solo blast in the 7th. Sheffield just missed another homer later in the game when Jay Payton made a leaping catch at the wall. Edgar Renteria, another struggling Tiger, had two hits on the tonight.

Kenny Rogers was not sharp tonight allowing 4 runs on 11 hits in 6 innings but the bullpen bailed him out. Bobby Seay, Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya combined for two scoreless innings leading up to Todd Jones' grand adventure in the ninth. Jones loaded the bases with one out, tied his shoe, allowed a sacrifice fly to deep center field and then got the final batter to ground out to third. Even the last out was not easy though as Inge nearly threw the ball away but Cabrera made a sweeping tag of Kevin Millar for the final out. Despite the final play, it was a great night for Inge who was making brilliant plays all night long. He was playing in place of Carlos Guillen who was with his wife who needed surgery due to complications from giving birth last week.

The win left the Tigers 6 1/2 games in back of the first place White Sox. They will play the Orioles again tomorrow night with Armando Galarraga facing Jeremy Guthrie.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blogger collaborations and Clete Thomas

I was recently asked to participate in some all-star break collaborations with other bloggers. First, Jeeves at Life in the Cell (a White Sox blog) compiled a Mid-season summary of the AL Central teams. The Tigers representatives were Kurt at Mack Avenue and myself.

Then, Blake at Spot Starters asked a group of Tigers bloggers to answer several questions on the state of the Tigers at the break. Participants included Kurt, Billfer, Ian and myself.

In other news, the Tigers have optioned Clete Thomas to Toledo to make room for Magglio Ordonez who will return to the Tigers line-up tomorrow night. I had thought they might send back Jeff Larish but they probably need him to back up first baseman Miguel Cabrera who is still dealing with a strained hip flexor. If they need to add a 12th pitcher later in the week, then Larish may go back then.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What to do about Gary Sheffield?

Gary Sheffield has had what should be a Hall of Fame career. In 2,417 games over 21 seasons, he is batting .294 with 2,564 hits and 485 homers. He has a lifetime OBP of .395, a .517 slugging percentage and a 142 OPS+. He has also played in nine all-star games and has finished in the top ten in MVP voting 7 times.

When the Tigers acquired Sheffield for three pitching prospects immediately after the 2006 season, they hoped that he would be the middle of the order hitter which they lacked in the second half of the season. They immediately signed him to a two year $28 million extension through 2009. After a slow start in April, 2007, he was one of the hottest hitters in the league for the next couple of months. His batting line for the first half of the season was .303/.410/.560.

However, he injured his shoulder in an outfield collision on July 21, 2007 and has not been the same since. He batted a woeful .203/.324/.299 after the all-star break last year. Off-season surgery does not seem to have helped much as he is batting .217/.323/.338 in 55 games this year. After spending time on the disabled list with an oblique strain , he appeared to be the Sheffield of old in a series versus the Cardinals lashing line drives all over the park for six hits and two homers including a walk off. It was short lived however and he is currently mired in an 8 for 49 slump with one extra base hit since June 26.

The former all-star appears to be pretty much done but his contract is not. None of the pitchers they traded for him has reached the majors and they don't appear to be headed towards great careers. The problem is Sheffield is owed about $20 million through the end of this year and next making it hard to release him or even bench him. He has been rested a couple of times recently with more time going to Matt Joyce, Clete Thomas, Marcus Thames and Jeff Larish. Joyce, Thomas, Thames and Ryan Raburn for that matter are all hitting considerably better than the 39 year old Sheffield but Gary is still the designated hitter most days and there has been no indication that this is going to change any time soon.

With Magglio Ordonez coming off the disabled list after the all-star break, the outfield/designated positions will become even more crowd. If he continues to struggle as he has, how long can they stay patient when superior options are available? The loyal Jim Leyland tends to stay faithful to his veterans through tough periods and there is the feeling among some that the Tigers will not be a serious contender down the stretch unless Sheffield gets hot. However, his problems have been going on for a year now and it is becoming increasingly apparent that he has little left in the tank.

What can they do? I think it's pretty clear that they won't be able to trade him. Would they release him? It's easy for fans to talk about cutting losses and dumping his salary but not so easy for Mike Illitch and Dave Dombrowski. I think he'll get more days off down the stretch but I don't think he'll be going away this year.

What about next year? Is it possible that he'll retire after the season? Not too many players walk away from $14 million so I don't know how likely that is. It would certainly help the Tigers if they could use that money to get some pitching help. Regardless, unless he suddenly finds himself down the stretch this year, I can't see the Tigers bringing him back next year. Playing out the end of a disappointing season is one thing but bringing him back to start a fresh new season is another.

For now though, I think we'll be watching Sheffield a little longer.

Blog poll - NL awards (week 14)

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. Albert Pujols

Cy Young

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

Rookie of the Year

1. Geovanny Soto
2. Jair Jurrjens
3. Joey Votto

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Verlander, Thomas, Joyce prevent sweep

After losing three excruciating one run games to the Twins, the Tigers avoided a sweep with a 4-2 victory this afternoon. Justin Verlander pitched seven strong innings allowing two runs on four hits and striking out eight. After an awful start which saw his ERA climb above 6.00 in early May, Verlander has posted a 2.71 ERA and 63/27 strikeout/walk ratio in his last 73 innings.

The two rookies outfielders - Clete Thomas and Matt Joyce - led the way offensively. Thomas smashed a two run homer, the first of his major league career, in the second and later added a double. Joyce continued his robust hitting by belting his fourth home run in five games. This time, it was a monumental 430 blast to center field in the eight inning. Matt now has nine homers and 17 extra base hits in just 94 at bats.

The win, combined with a White Sox loss to the Rangers, leaves the Tigers at 47-47 and seven games out of first place at the all-star break. So, they are right where they were at the beginning of the week before their six game home stand. It's nice that they didn't lose ground but at this point a 3-3 home stand is not good enough. After the break, they have a six game road trip to Baltimore and Kansas City.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Numbers don't add up for Twins

A few times each year, I present a team summary for the Tigers showing where they rank in lots of different statistical categories. This generally gives us a fairly clear picture of team weaknesses and strengths. It works for most teams in most seasons. So let's take a look at the Twins. First their offense (among American League teams):

7th in on base base percentage
8th in slugging
8th in OPS
13th in homers
8th in stolen bases
13th in Stolen base percentage
11th in walks

So they don't get on base that much or hit for much power and they don't steal a lot of bases. But they are third in runs scored! That's because they are batting an incredible .311 with runners in scoring position (the league average is .268).

What about their pitching? The Twins always have a good bullpen. Right? Here are the numbers (among American League teams):

10th in Starting pitchers ERA
8th in bullpen ERA.

So, they aren't doing it with pitching. The Twins are not stealing bases but they are a fast team and they always stress defense so they must be doing well there. Here are the ranks (among Major League teams):

26th in Revised Zone Rating
24th on the +/- stat

Thus, they aren't fielding well either. The numbers say they have no team strengths. They are average to below average in offense, pitching and defense. But they are fifth in the league in the stat that counts: 52 wins. They are pretty good at winning close games (27-21) but not extraordinarily so. The big reason for their success seems to be their high batting average with runners in scoring position. This is something that is very difficult to maintain over a full season even for a strong offensive team. It doesn't add up. You keep thinking it can't last.

It looked like they might be finally running out of gas when they got swept by the Red Sox this week. They then went on the the road to face the Tigers, a team on a three game win streak and coming off a dramatic come back win over the Indians. But so far the magic or witchcraft continues for the long time Tigers nemesis.

The Twins came from four runs down to beat the Tigers 7-6 in 11 innings yesterday afternoon. Tonight, they edged the Tigers 3-2. They haven't even even had such great situational hitting in the series - leaving 11 on base with 6 in scoring position on Thursday and 12 on base with 6 in scoring position tonight. They just keep winning though. In a series the Tigers really needed to win, they now need to win the last two games just to split.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tigers come way back to beat Indians

The Tigers were down 6-0 in the sixth inning against nemesis Paul Byrd and it looked like a sure loss to the reeling Indians. They broke up the shutout in the sixth on a double by Matt Joyce and a single by Edgar Renteria but they were still down 6-1. They then broke loose with a five run seventh with most of the damage coming off of reliever Rafael Betancourt. The key hits were a two run double by Carlos Guillen and a game tying homer to right field by rookie Matt Joyce. It was Joyce's third hit of the game. He had a four hit game a week ago in a win over Seattle.

The winning blow came in the bottom of the ninth off the bat of red hot Miguel Cabrera who hit a laser to left field for a two run walk off homer. Cabrera now has two walk homers and a walk off double this year. In the last five games, Miguel has gone 11 for 23 with 5 homers and 8 RBI.

Much of the credit for this one goes to the bullpen. After Eddie Bonine was rocked for 5 runs on 9 hits in 3 2/3 innings, Casey Fossum kept the the Tigers within striking distance with 3 1/3 strong innings. He got out of a jam in the fourth by getting the last out after Bonine left with two on base. He then created his own mess loading the bases with nobody out in the fifth but just when it looked like the game would get out of control, he struck out the side. In all, he allowed one run on three hits and struck out six.

Joel Zumaya then pitched a scoreless eighth and Todd Jones a scoreless ninth to keep it tied at six. Jones was helped out by Guillen who made two outstanding plays on rockets hit to the third baseman. Guillen did make an error earlier but he sure made up for it in the ninth. He has been a pleasant surprise at third in recent weeks.

The win gave the Tigers a two game sweep over the badly slumping Indians who have lost 10 in a row. The Bengals are 6 1/2 games behind the White Sox pending the outcome of their game with the Royals tonight. They currently lead the Royals 7-6 in the eighth inning. The Twins lost to the Red Sox today and are now three games behind. The Tigers have a crucial four game series with the Twins starting tomorrow. With the way the White Sox are playing , the Tigers really need to take three of four from Minnesota.

Blog Poll - AL Awards (week 13)

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. Armando Galarraga finished fifth in the Rookie vote.

MVP

1. Milton Bradley
2. Josh Hamilton
3. Carlos Quentin

Cy Young

1. Cliff Lee
2. Roy Halladay
3. Justin Duchsherer

Rookie of the Year

1. Evan Longoria
2. Jacoby Ellsbury
3. Greg Smith

Monday, July 07, 2008

Around the Minors

Over the past couple of years, coverage of Tigers minor league teams has expanded quite a bit. Today, I'm going to give a brief tour of some of the more informative sites:

I'll start with the excellent minor league forum at MotownSports.com. One recent example of the kind of detailed information you can find there is Tony's recent look at some of the top prospects in the Tigers system. Tony humbly claims that he is unqualified to rank prospects but it looks like a good list to me and it's a very interesting read.

Matt Wallace at Take 75 North writes something (usually a lot) about the Tigers minor league system daily. This includes detailed recaps of each game, transactions, feature stories on prospects and some other things. Matt is very informative and also a good writer.

Mike Cassidy also does recaps at Tigers Minor League Baseball Blog. One great feature which was added to that blog this year was Andrew Hess's minor league diary. Andrew is a pitcher for the West Michigan White Caps and he frequently blogs about his experiences.

Chuckles and Potthole cover the White Caps in detail at The Surge. They do recaps, write player profiles, conduct player interviews and more.

Deran and Kyle write about the Lakeland Flying Tigers at Lakeland Flying Tigers Blog. Among other things, they provide photos and videos of important prospects and rehabbing Tigers.

Speaking of photos of Tigers prospects, expert photographer Hueytaxi has hundreds of them at his Flickr site.

Eddie's Detroit Tigers Thoughts is not exclusively a Tigers minor league site but some of his best work involve analysis of the the Tigers system. In one recent post, he started to scan the pitchers in the Tigers system. He has made it through Detroit, Toledo and Erie so far.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Bizarre win ends tough road trip

The Tigers beat the Mariners 2-1 in 15 innings today to finish off a 3-4 road trip to Minnesota and Seattle. With the score tied 1-1, Seattle manager Jim Riggleman sent backup catcher Jamie Burke to the mound in the top of the 15th. Miguel Cabrera greeted him with a double to the gap in right center. After one out and a wild pitch, Marcus Thames put the Tigers in front 2-1 with a sacrifice fly to right.

Todd Jones hit the first batter he faced in the bottom of the 15th but then settled down to get the save. Jones also saved himself the potential embarrassment of losing to a backup catcher. The last time a non-pitcher won a game was On August 22, 2000 when Rockies catcher Brent Mayne pitched the 12th inning of a win over the Braves.

Using Burke in a tie game was a strange move given that the Mariners had only used six real pitchers and still had relievers in the bullpen. Riggleman probably didn't want to use his closer Brandon Morrow because he had pitched in the last two games. Im not sure why he chose not to use Arthur Rhodes who had actually warmed up earlier in the game. Perhaps, he was injured. The other possibility might have been to use knuckle baller R.A. Dickey, although he pitched last night.

Nate Robertson pitched perhaps his best game of the year today allowing just one run on four hits in nine full innings. Joel Zumaya, Freddy Dolsi, Aquilino Lopez and Jones then combined for six shutout innings. It was the third good start in a row without a decision for a Tiger starter. Kenny Rogers and Armando Galarraga pitched well enough to win the previous two nights but failed to get hitting support and, in Galarraga's case, relief support. Both of those games resulted in Tigers losses.

So the Tigers went 1-2 versus the Twins and 2-2 versus the Mariners and lost ground on the division leaders. They are seven behind the Twins and six behind the White Sox. They now have a day off followed by a six game home stand versus the Indians and Twins. Tuesday night's game was supposed to be a match-up of Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia but Sabathia has been traded to the Brewers. That's a break for the Tigers.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Prospect Update

I haven't had much time to discuss prospects lately but today I'll evaluate the progress so far this season of the consensus pre-season Top 20 prospects. The following consensus list is based on prospect ranking by Baseball America, John Sickels, Tigs Town, Tigers Corner and Eddie B's fan poll.

Rick Porcello - Pitching in Lakeland at the age of 19, Porcello has a 2.79 ERA and a 47/23 strikeout/walk ratio in 84 innings. That's not an impressive strikeout rate for a youngster touted as a power pitcher but a report in the Detroit News indicated that there might be a misconception about what kind of pitcher he is. While he can reach the high 90s if he needs to, he considers himself more of a sinker ball pitcher who pitches best in the low 90s. Even a sinker baller should get more strikeouts in A ball but he's too young for it to be a big concern yet.

Jeff Larish - The 25 year old power hitting first baseman has a .263/.363/.557 line with Toledo. Earlier, he had a brief call-up to the Tigers where he batted .200 in 40 at bats. He is has a left-handed bat which the Tigers need but he is blocked at first base by Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers want him to become more versatile and he has played some third base for the Mud Hens recently.

Michael Hollimon - Hollimon missed the first part of the season with a dislocated shoulder but came back to hit for an OPS of .863 with 12 homers in 184 at bats for Toledo. He became the Tigers utility infielder when Ramon Santiago went on the disabled list and is batting .280 with 4 extra base hits in 23 at bats. He might be good enough to be a regular second baseman in the majors but he could also end up as a utility player.

Danny Worth - The 22 year old Worth has a reputation as a slick fielding shortstop. However, his offense needs work as he is batting just .245/.321/.381 for AA Erie. I wouldn't expect to see him in Detroit before 2010.

Scott Sizemore - The 25 year old second baseman is batting .286/.365/.409 for Lakeland. His 24/44 BB/K ratio is not as impressive as it has been in the past (73/60 last year). He is currently out with a wrist injury.

Yorman Bazardo - It was hoped that Bazardo could help the Tigers as a reliever/spot starter this year but he has had a disappointing season. After getting hit hard in a brief stint with the Tigers, he has compiled a 6.47 ERA and allowed 12 home runs in 65 innings for Toledo.

Casey Crosby - The 5th round pick in in the 2007 amateur draft is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Brandon Hamilton - The 19 year old first round supplemental pick from last year's draft walked 28 batters in 32 1/3 innings at West Michigan and is now pitching for the Gulf Coast League Tigers. He pitched well in his first GCL start today (three hits, one walk , one run in 6 1/3 innings) but is a very raw talent who has a long way to go.

Matt Joyce - The left-handed hitting corner outfielder has made good progress so far this season. He batted .270 with 13 homers and 28 extra base hits in 200 at bats for Toledo earning him a call-up to the Tigers. He is batting just .239 for the Tigers but has shown good power with 5 homers in 67 at bats. He has also showed off his fine defensive skills including a rocket arm.

James Skelton - The 5-11 165 pound left-handed hitting catcher has been an on base machine for Lakeland but has shown virtually no power. He has an OBP of .425 but has only 6 extra base hits in 141 at bats. It will be hard for him to maintain a high OBP at higher levels with so little power but I still think he's an interesting prospect. He has a reputation as a solid defensive catcher.

Charles Furbush - After an impressive professional debut for the GCL Tigers and West Michigan last year, the 22 year old left-hander has undergone Tommy John surgery and is out for the season.

Deik Scram - After emerging as a serious prospect last year with a solid season at West Michigan/Lakeland, Scram has had a tough time at AA Erie this year. The 24 year old left-handed hitter is batting .231/.322/.338 with 76 strikeouts in 295 at bats.

Francisco Cruceta - The much ballyhooed Cruceta has shown flashes of talent this year but has also been very wild. He walked 10 batters in 11 2/3 innings for the Tigers and is now back at Toledo. The 27 year old right-hander has posted a 4.34 ERA and a 28/9 K/BB ratio for the Mud Hens.

Virgil Vasquez - It was hoped that The 26 year old right-hander could be an injury replacement starter for the Tigers this year but so far he has struggled for Toledo. Vasquez has displayed his usual good control (71/19 K/BB ratio) but has a 4.56 ERA and has allowed 15 homers in 94 2/3 innings.

Cale Iorg - In his first year of professional ball after two years of missionary work in Portugal, Iorg has had a pretty good year as a shortstop for Lakeland. The 22 year old son of former major leaguer Garth Iorg is batting .259/.336/.406. He is still likely a couple of years from the big leagues.

Jordan Tata - It was hoped that the 26 year old right-hander could provide bullpen depth to the Tigers this year but he started the season on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder and a fractured right hand (caused by punching a door). He has had a very difficult time with his control since returning walking 22 batters in 15 innings for the GCL Tigers and Lakeland.

Duane Below - The 22 year old left-hander had a very good season for West Michigan last year but will be tested at each level because he does not have dominating stuff. He has had another solid season for Lakeland this year posting a 3.54 ERA and 77/34 K/BB ratio in 83 innings.

Brent Clevlen - The slow developing 24 year old outfielder seems to have taken a step forward this year. After struggling mightily for Erie and Toledo the last two years, Clevlen has batted .298/.385/.551 for the Mud Hens this year. He still strikes out a lot though - 88 K in 272 at bats. He appeared briefly for the Tigers batting .208 in 11 games.

Clete Thomas - The 24 year old left-handed hitting outfielder has been a pleasant surprise this year batting .313/.383/.414 in 99 at bats for the Tigers. The speedy Thomas has also shown the ability to play all three outfield positions very well. His .238/.319/.408 line at Toledo has been puzzling but the fact that he has had success in multiple stints with the Tigers is encouraging.

Wilkin Ramirez - The toolsy 22 year old outfielder had a breakout season for AA Erie this year batting .301 with 12 homers and 30 extra base hits in 276 at bats. He has struggled since his promotion to Toledo batting .083 in 36 at bats. He still needs to cut down his strikeouts - a combined 98 K in 312 at bats for Erie and Toledo.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Mid-season Fielding Bible stats

Earlier in the year, I described several play by play fielding systems and combined the results on all the systems to come up with one fielding rating for each player at each position. Links to descriptions of the systems and results can be found here. The unfortunate thing is that the three systems which are arguably the best systems - Ultimate Zone Rating, Fielding Bible and Probabilistic Model of Range have not been available during the season. Also, Ultimate Zone Rating and Fielding Bible have been only partially available after the season.

The Fielding Bible data is now available on Bill James Online but it's a subscription site. It's a relatively new site and still a work in progress. It already provides quite a few stats which you won't find anywhere else during the season such as the Fielding Bible data and base running data (e.g How many times did Curtis Granderson go from first to third on a single? second to home on a single? , etc.) It is still lacking in articles but they are working on that. You can figure out for yourself whether it is worth $3.00 per month by taking their free tour.

I can't go into a great deal of detail because it's premium content but Table 1 below presents a brief summary of the fielding data for the Tigers through yesterday. Using Placido Polanco as an example, we can see that he has a +/- of +1 meaning that he has made one play in his zone above what the average second baseman has made. He ranks 11th in the majors so far. All of the Tigers regulars rank roughly somewhere close to average on this stat. The biggest surprise is Granderson who usually ranks well above average of range stats. In fact, he ranked 5th in 2006 and 4th in 2007 on this particular system. The sample sizes are still small for outfielders though (especially one who missed most of April). We'll see where he ranks after a full season of data.

Table 1: Fielding Bible data (through July 3, 2008)

Player

Position

+/-

Rank

Miguel Cabrera

First base

-5

23

Placido Polanco

Second base

+1

11

Edgar Renteria

Shortstop

-1

19

Carlos Guillen

Third base

-4

18

Curtis Granderson

Center fielder

0

19

Magglio Ordonez

Right fielder

0

14

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Mid-season runs created update

One of my favorite summary stats for hitters is Runs Created (RC). Runs Created is an estimate of a team's runs which were produced by an individual player. It is calculated from the number of walks, singles, doubles, triples, homeruns and other things that a player does to score runs. Bill James showed in his Baseball Abstracts many years ago that runs created is highly correlated with runs scored. This tells us that runs scored are essentially the sum of other team statistics and are not, in general, accounted for by unmeasured factors. There are many runs created formulas but they all have the same basic structure:

RC= (A*B)/C

where A= number of runners on base, B=advancement of runners and C=opportunities to do A and B.

One of the first runs created formulas was developed by Bill James in 1979. It was simply:

RC= ((hits+walks)*total bases)/(ab+walks).


That version is still useful for some purposes but the formula has evolved over the years and more recent versions are more accurate in estimating runs scored. Sabermetrician DanFox gave a brief history of runs created on his blog. The RC figures presented here were abstracted from Lee Sinnis' Complete Baseball Encyclopedia. I believe the formula he uses is:


RC = (((2.4*C+A)*(3*C+B))/(9*C))-(.9*C)


where


A = H+BB+HBP-CS-GIDP
B = TB+.24*(BB-IBB+HBP)+.62*SB+.5*(SH+SF)-.03*SO
C = AB+BB+HBP+SH+SF


Runs Created can also be found at ESPN and The Hardball Times. You may notice that the runs created listed on those two sites are slightly different from the ones calculated by Sinnis' program. That is because they incorporate batting average with runners in scoring position into their algorithm. I prefer the version which does not use batting average with runners in scoring position. Table 1 below lists the RC for Detroit Tigers batters and where they rank among American League regulars as of July 1.


Table 1: Runs Created for Tigers batters (through July 1, 2008)

Rank

Player

PA

RC

18

Ordonez

335

52

21

Guillen

328

49

21

Cabrera

344

49

43

Polanco

317

43

39

Granderson

253

39

69

Thames

166

33

75

Rodriguez

264

31

77

Renteria

307

30

120

Sheffield

196

20

120

Inge

171

20

139

Thomas

99

16

153

Santiago

47

11

162

Raburn

88

9

166

Joyce

64

8



As you can see, only three Tigers - Magglio Ordonez (18th), Carlos Guillen (21st) and Miguel Cabrera (also 21st) rank among the top 40 in the league. They are still ranked third in the league in runs scored though because their regular line-up does not have a lot of black holes and they are getting good contributions from role players.

RC favors players who play in a lot of games. This is not a bad thing but sometimes we want to know the rate in which a player creates runs in games that he does play. For this, we have Runs Created per 27 outs (RC27). For example, Magglio Ordonez has 6.30 runs created per 27 outs. Theoretically, this means that a team of 9 Magglio Ordonez's would score 6.30 runs per game. Table 2 lists the runs created per 27 outs for the Tigers and how they rank among 117 American League regulars with 200 or more plate appearances.


Table 2: Runs Created per game for Tigers batters (through July 1, 2008)

Rank

Player

PA

RC27

---

Santiago

47

11.42

---

Thames

166

8.03

---

Thomas

99

6.97

24

Ordonez

335

6.30

26

Granderson

253

6.16

27

Guillen

328

6.15

32

Cabrera

344

5.73

36

Polanco

317

5.56

---

Joyce

64

4.60

71

Rodriguez

264

4.48

---

Inge

171

4.46

---

Sheffield

196

3.86

---

Raburn

88

3.74

98

Renteria

307

3.67



You can see that the list is headed by players with fewer than 200 plate appearances. Ramon Santiago has created 11.42 runs per 27 outs this season. That is the highest total in the league for any player with at least 20 plate appearances! Santiago only has 47 plate appearances but he has done very well in his limited opportunities.

In 166 plate appearances, Marcus Thames has a very impressive 8.03 runs created per game. That ranks him sixth in the league among players with at least 150 plate appearances. That seems like a good reason to keep on giving him regular at bats until he cools off.

Among the regulars, the Tigers have no players in the top 20 but five players between 24th and 36th. If they can keep everyone healthy, they should create and score more runs in the second half. I would expect Cabrera, and possibly Granderson and Ordonez to get into the top twenty before the season is over. I also expect some improvement from Gary Sheffield and Edgar Renteria. Some of their role players like Thames and Thomas should cool off but I think we'll see move players improving or staying the same than regressing in the second half.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Mid-season FIP update

Today, I'll continue my mid-season analysis of the Tigers looking at Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP or FIP ERA). FIP is a measure of how well a pitcher performs in events which he can control without the influence of fielders - home runs, strikeouts, walks and hit batsmen. The formula is

(HR*13+(BB+HBP)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor added to make it equivalent to a real ERA.

While real ERA is affected by fielding, FIP gives you an idea of how well a pitcher performed regardless of how much fielding support he received. FIP was invented by Tangotiger.

Table 1 below indicates how Tigers starters rank among 48 American League starters with 80 or more innings pitched so far this year. The data were extracted from the Hardball Times site. The columns of the table are described below:

ERA = actual ERA.

FIP = Fielding Independent Pitching ERA

DER = the Defensive Efficiency Ratio (proportion of balls in play converted into outs) of the team when the given pitcher is on the mound.

FIP-ERA = FIP minus ERA.

LOB% = percentage of runners put on base which have been left stranded.

The table shows that none of the Tigers are in the top half of the league in FIP. Justin Verlander (4.09) and Nate Robertson (4.11) lead the Tigers and are ranked 27th and 28th respectively. Since FIP tends to be a decent indicator (more so than ERA) of future success, this would normally be a bad sign for the second half. The good news is that most of the damage was done early and they are pitching a lot better now.

Armando Galarraga's FIP (4.39) is about a run higher than his ERA (3.40) which suggests that he is probably not pitching as well as his ERA indicates. The component which drags down his FIP is his 3.3 walks per game which is in the bottom ten in the league. One factor which is likely helping his ERA is his .774 DER (third in the league). This indicates that he may be benefitting from some combination of above average fielding support and luck. I would expect his actual second half ERA to be closer to 4.39 than 3.40.

In contrast to Galarraga, Robetson's FIP (4.11) is more than a run lower than his actual ERA (5.23). Despite his third worst in the AL ERA, Robertson has a good BB/ 9 IP ratio (2.5) and a respectable K/ 9 IP ratio (6.0). Unlike The Big Cat, Nate has a very low .661 DER (third worst in the AL) so he may be getting poor fielding support or perhaps has been unlucky.

In conclusion, the Tiger starters have done well so far this year even if they have improved substantially since mid-May. In the second half, we can probably expect Robertson's ERA to improve and Galarraga's ERA to regress based on their ERA/FIP differentials. I would also expect Verlander and Rogers to have better ERAs in the second half simply because they are pitching better now than they were in the first half of the season.


Table 1: FIP for Tigers starters (through June 30, 2008)

Rank

Pitcher

IP

ERA

FIP

DER

FIP-ERA

LOB%

27

Verlander

108

4.42

4.09

.729

-0.33

67.2

28

Robertson

96 1/3

5.23

4.11

.661

-1.12

69.4

36

Galarraga

82

3.40

4.39

.774

0.99

69.4

43

Rogers

100

4.59

4.90

.702

0.31

70.8

---

Bonderman

71 1/3

4.29

4.98

.709

0.69

74.0

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