Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tigers Total Runs by Position: 2008 vs. 2009

In previous posts, I looked at the Tigers offense and defense by position in 2009. Today, I will compare their offense and defense by position in 2008 and 2009.

Table 1 below shows how their 2008 offense compared to their 2009 offense using the weighted runs above average statistic (wRAA) at FanGraphs. As a team they were 74 runs above average in 2008 and plummeted to 8 below average in 2009. That's an 82 run drop or approximately 8 wins.

Most positions in the Tigers line-up created more runs in 2008 than 2009, the only exceptions being first base (35 wRAA in 2008 vs. 39 in 2009), left field (-1 vs. +7) and DH where they were a putrid 10 below average both years. So, designated hitter has been a sore spot for two years now. DH is not usually the first position you look to upgrade in the off-season but it's something they need to address either by getting another hitter or by using the position more efficiently. The positions where they lost the most offense between 2008 and 2009 were right field (23 runs), second base and shortstop (16 runs), catcher (15 runs) and third base (14 runs).

Table 1: Tigers Batting Runs Above Average - 2008 vs. 2009

POS

2008

2009

C

-10

-25

1B

+35

+39

2B

+12

-4

3B

+6

-8

SS

-5

-21

LF

-1

+7

CF

+19

+10

RF

+28

+5

DH

-10

-10

Total

+74

-8


Table 2 presents the fielding runs above average for Tigers by position in 2008 and 2009. With the exception of catcher, all of these numbers are Ultimate Zone Ratings extracted from FanGraphs. The 2008 fielding runs number for catcher was taken from the Driveline Mechanics blog and 2009 number was the Total zone measure for catchers from Baseball-Reference.

The Table illustrates that they made up for the declines in offensive runs with large defensive upgrades at every single position. Their biggest improvements in fielding runs were at third base (20.7 run increase), right field (19.1), catcher (12.3) and second base ( 11.9). As a team they improved from 38 runs below average to 58 runs above average, an increase of 96 fielding runs or almost 10 wins.

Table 2: Tigers Fielding Runs Above Average - 2008 vs. 2009

POS

2008

2009

C

+1.0

+13.3

1B

-4.1

+3.7

2B

+0.4

+11.5

3B

-14.0

+6.7

SS

-0.8

+5.9

LF

-5.7

+4.1

CF

-6.2

+2.9

RF

-8.8

+10.3

DH

0.0

0.0

Total

-38.2

+58.4


Using the Runs Above Replacement (RAR) procedure at FanGraphs, we can combine the offense and defense at each position. In order to get RAR, we first need to add the batting runs above average and fielding runs above average from Tables 1 and 2. Then we add or subtract runs from each position according to the difficulty of the position defensively. For example, shortstops get 7.5 runs added and first basemen get12.5 runs subtracted. To move from the average baseline to replacement baseline, 20 runs per 600 plate appearances are added to each position.

Overall, it might surprise some that their position players contributed comparable numbers of runs above replacement in 2008 (226) and 2009 (244). Despite their offensive woes in 2009, their position players were actually slightly better overall in 2009. They improved the most in left field (17.6 run increase) thanks mostly to Ryan Raburn. They also improved substantially at first base (+12) and third base (+8.8) largely because they had players playing in the right positions this year. The biggest drops in total runs were at shortstop (-8.1) and second base (-4.2) where improved defense was not quite enough to make up for the offensive decline.

Finally, the below replacement numbers at designated hitter both years add to one of my themes of the winter: Make it a priority to get more offense out of the DH position next year.
Not only is it a position they need to improve but it would be a fairly easy way to upgrade the offense without sacrificing defense.

Table 3: Tigers Total Runs Above Replacement - 2008 vs. 2009

POS

2008

2009

C

+25.3

+21.6

1B

+41.5

+53.6

2B

+39.9

+35.7

3B

+15.7

+23.8

SS

+21.9

+13.1

LF

+10.3

+27.9

CF

+41.0

+40.7

RF

+36.0

+33.0

DH

-5.4

-5.7

Total

+226.2

+243.7



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