Saturday, November 28, 2009

Arbitration Decisions Looming for Tigers

Teams have until Tuesday at midnight to offer arbitration to potentially departing free agents. This means that the Tigers need to make decisions on Placido Polanco, Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon. If they offer arbitration to any of the three players and that player signs with another team, then they will be compensated with one or two picks in the 2010 first year player draft.

Since Polanco is a Type A free agent, the Tigers would get the signing team's first round pick unless that team has one of the first 15 picks in the first round. In that case, the Tigers would get the team's second round pick. In either case, Detroit would also get a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds. Rodney and Lyon are Type B free agents which means the The Tigers would get a sandwich pick if they sign elsewhere.

The gamble for the Tigers is if they offer arbitration and the player accepts then they will have to carry the player for another year at a salary which is potentially higher than they would like. With Polanco, there is the additional risk that the potential compensation pick might make him less attractive to other teams and more likely to accept arbitration. Since the Tigers seem prepared to give rookie second baseman Scott Sizemore a starting job next year, the Tigers may be reluctant to offer arbitration to Polanco.

There is less risk involved in offering arbitration to Rodney and Lyon as the signing team would not have to compensate the Tigers. The Tigers would simply receive an extra pick after the first round. I also believe that they would be more likely to get a multi-year deal than Polanco and thus less likely to accept arbitration. The only risk to the Tigers in offering arbitration to Rodney or Lyon is that would have to pay them for another year. Since they need relief pitching though, that is probably not a big concern.

Dave Dombrowski does not like the arbitration process and the Tigers have never received a compensation pick for losing a free agent during his tenure. However, there have not been a lot of potential free agents that they wanted to keep. Lynn Henning believes they will keep all three. I hope he is correct because I want the Tigers get draft picks if they lose players. I'd also like to have Rodney and Lyon back next year. Also, while I'd like to see Sizemore get a shot at the second base job, I also would not mind if Polanco came back for another year.

I'm a little less optimistic. My guess is that they will offer arbitration to both Rodney and Lyon but pass on Polanco.

Friday, November 27, 2009

2010 Fantasy Baseball Book Introduced


John Burnson, the creator of HEATER magazine, has published his annual Graphical Player 2010. It is a book primarily geared towards fantasy baseball owners and it's one of the most informed and comprehensive fantasy baseball resources available. It includes statistical trends, fantasy values, player forecasts, future projected rosters and more. In all, over 1,000 major and minor league players are profiled. It also incudes player commentary by writers who closely follow each team. I provided the comments for all the Tigers. If you wish to preview the book, there is a 16 page peek here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gehringer and Whitaker Dominate at 2B

Today, we'll continue the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) series using Sean Smith's WAR database to rank Tigers second basemen. Other parts of the series including an explanation of WAR can be found in theWAR folder.

As expected, Charlie Gehringer (80.9) and Lou Whitaker (69.7) head the list of Tigers second baseman in career WAR. 1960s second baseman Dick McAuliffe finished third at 35.3. The rest of the top ten are shown in Table 1.

It was difficult to determine a position for super sub Tony Phillips as he did not have a regular position during most of his time in Detroit. His most frequent positions were left field (217 games), second base (203) and third base (170). I decided to include him among second basemen rather than left fielders mostly because the Tigers had more good left fielders than second basemen. It also didn't seem right to stick a versatile player like Phillips in with the more one dimensional left fielders.

Every position has some players who may be recognizable to many fans. The highest ranking lesser known player on this list is Frank Bolling. Bolling played six years on some nondescript and mostly unsuccessful Tigers teams between 1954-1960. His best years were 1958 and 1959 when he had 3.4 and 3.2 WAR respectively. He was a better fielder than hitter with only one year exceeding an OPS+ of 100 (108 in 102 games in 1956).

Table 1: Tigers Top Ten Second Basemen by WAR


Player

PA

WAR

Charlie Gehringer

10,096

80.9

Lou Whitaker

9,787

69.7

Dick McAuliffe

6,772

35.3

Tony Phillips

3,280

24.6

Placido Polanco

2,789

17.5

Damion Easley

3,473

14.9

Frank Bolling

3,206

9.6

Jim Delahanty

1,529

8.1

Eddie Mayo

2,418

5.9

Germany Schaefer

2,397

5.0


Switching from career performance to yearly averages, Table two lists the second basemen with the most WAR per 600 PA (WAR600). Gehringer also led this list at 4.81 but Phillips edged out Whitaker 4.50 to 4.27.

Table 2: Tigers Top Five Second Basemen by WAR600


Player

PA

WAR600

Charlie Gehringer

10,096

4.81

Tony Phillips

3,280

4.50

Lou Whitaker

9,787

4.27

Placido Polanco

2,113

3.76

Jim Delahanty

1,529

3.18

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Book Excerpt: Billy Martin

Chris Jaffe, a writer for the Hardball Times, has written a book entitled "Evaluating Baseball's Managers, 1876-2008" which will be released in December. An excerpt about former Tigers manager Billy Martin can be found at The Hardball Times. He does a good job describing Martin's unique managerial style and competitive nature and explains how he won despite going against sabermetric principles. If the rest of the book is like this article, then it should be a great read. It can be purchased here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

All-time Top Ten Tigers Catchers by WAR

If you are looking for information on the four minor league players just added to the Tigers 40 man roster, Billfer has all the details on Scott Sizemore, Ryan Strieby, Brennan Boesch and Audy Ciriaco.

I'm going to live in the past and continue my historical Wins Above Replacement (WAR) series using Sean Smith's WAR database. Other parts of the series including an explanation of WAR can be found in the WAR folder.

Today, I'll look at the top Tigers catchers of all-time based on WAR. FanGraphs has not yet added catcher defense to their WAR statistic but Sean Smith has evaluated catchers based on handedness of pitchers, stolen bases, caught stealing, pickoffs passed balls, wild pitches and errors for years where those statistics are available. That doesn't describe all of catcher defense but it's a start. In this analysis, I included all players whose primary position was catcher. That is, the position at which they played the most games as a Tiger.

You can see in Table 1 that Bill Freehan is the run away leader at catcher with 43.3 WAR. He is followed by Lance Parrish (27.5), Johnny Bassler (16.7) and Mickey Tettleton (14.9). You'll also notice that the Tigers are not deep in the catching position which is why short Tigers career players like Matt Nokes and Mike Heath made the top ten.

Table 1: Tigers Top Ten Catchers by WAR

Player

PA

WAR

Bill Freehan

6,397

43.3

Lance Parrish

4,674

27.5

Johnny Bassler

2,763

16.7

Mickey Tettleton

1,706

14.9

Ivan Rodriguez

2,523

14.2

Mickey Cochrane

1,350

12.2

Brad Ausmus

1,392

7.2

John Wockenfuss

2,101

5.7

Matt Nokes

1,248

5.5

Mike Heath

1,467

5.1



Some people might find it odd that Mickey Cochrane only finished sixth among Tigers catchers. That is because longevity carries a lot of weight in WAR and Cochrane had only 1,350 career plate appearances as a Tiger. In order to get a rough idea of which players contributed the most wins per year, I calculated WAR per 600 plate appearances (WAR600). Table 2 shows that Cochrane was the clear winner with 5.52 WAR per 600 PA.

Table 2: Top Five Tigers Catchers by WAR600

Player

PA

WAR600

Mickey Cochrane

1,350

5.52

Mickey Tettleton

1,706

3.84

Bill Freehan

6,397

3.81

Johnny Bassler

2,763

3.75

Lance Parrish

4,674

3.57

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Curtis Granderson Primer

With all the trade rumors swirling around Curtis Granderson, I thought I would put together a Curtis Granderson trade primer to clear up some of the confusion about his value to the Tigers and any team that might acquire him.

I'll start with the Tigers financial situation. Contrary to many national rumors, the Tigers are not the Pirates of the American League drastically forced to slash payroll. Nobody knows their exact budget but keep in mind that they recently allowed Magglio Ordonez's $18 million contract to vest and then added Jarrod Washburn and Aubrey Huff for the stretch drive. That doesn't sound like a team in dire financial straits. Next year, they'll be able to cut a lot of payroll with Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson, Jeremy Bonderman, most likely Ordonez and others coming off the books. General Mananager Dave Dombrowski said this is not a fire sale and I believe him.

Many have written that Granderson is about to become very expensive. He's not. He'll be paid $5.5 million in 2010, $8.25 in 2011 and $10 million in 2012. That's a relative bargain given his likely production. His Salary should not be a huge issue for the Tigers. For teams trying to acquire him, his contract should be a plus.

Tigers fans may have overrated Grandy a bit in the past but now some seem to be going out of their way to underrate him. He was not awful last year. He had an OPS+ of 100 which is exactly average and that was a bad year for him. In the past four years, he has put up the following numbers:

2006 98
2007 135
2008 123
2009 100

So, he's average in a bad year and significantly above average in a good year. He does have major problems against left-handers. He has a career OPS of .614 against them but makes up for it with a tremendous .894 OPS versus right-handers. Is he a platoon player? Perhaps but would he be a better player if he batted .828 versus both LH and RH? .828 for a good center fielder makes him something more than a platoon player I think.

On the bases, Curtis has stolen 66 bases in 82 attempts in four years for an excellent 80% success rate. Some have said he should steal more but Jim Leyland does not give him the green light so it's hard to blame him for that. Besides, there is more to base running than stealing bases. Going from first to third on singles for example. Overall, he's been a good base runner according to the Baseball Prospectus Equivalent Base Running Runs (EqBRR) statistic:

2006 +1.8 runs above average
2007 +6.6
2008 +5.8
2009 +1.9

Now, on to his fielding. Taking the average of his +/- and UZR statistics, here is how he stacks up against other center fielders in terms of runs saved above average:

2006 +10
2007 +12
2008 -6
2009 +2

Other than the blip in 2008, he has done well at a demanding position where many teams focus on defense.

So, basically, he is above average at everything but not great any anything. Miguel Cabrera is currently the Tigers best position player but Granderson is their most complete player and, over the last four years, their most productive. He would be very hard to replace if they traded him.

Actually, I wasn't quite right. He is great at one thing. He's an outstanding person and was just named Man of the Year by his peers. He's a great ambassador for the Tigers and for MLB in general and I think that has some value to any team that might acquire him. He is humble and genuine enough to appeal to midwest fans and confident and savvy enough to handle New York.

Will he be traded? Since I don't think the Tigers are in deep financial trouble, it's going to take an awful lot to pry him away. If you think your favorite team will get him for second tier prospects in exchange for salary relief, you will will probably be disappointed. It will take a really good young player or two to make it happen. I think Dave Dombrowski is just exploring his market value. If some team, makes a great offer, he may pull the trigger but he does not have to make a deal. I believe the odds are against a trade happening.

By the way, if you want some insight into what happened to him offensively in 2009, check out this great article at Detroit Tigers Weblog.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

All-Time Top Twenty Tigers Pitchers by WAR

Last week, I looked at the all-time top 20 Tigers position players based on Sean Smith's WAR database. This week, I'll present the pitchers based only on their time with the Tigers (Table 1).
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for pitchers is based mostly on innings pitched, strike outs, walks and home runs.

The Tigers pitchers are less impressive than the batters as the number one hurler, Hal Newhouser (55.3 WAR) would have finished only 8th on the position player list. Newhouser is followed by Tommy Bridges (50.7), Mickey Lolich (44.2), Dizzy Trout (42.2) and Jack Morris (34.5). There is one current Tiger on the list with Justin Verlander coming in 18th at 17.2. Note that I took Verlanders 2009 WAR from FanGraphs as Smith's database only goes up through 2008 at this point.

Table 1: Top Twenty Tigers Pitchers by WAR

Rank

Pitcher

WAR

1

Hal Newhouser

55.3

2

Tommy Bridges

50.7

3

Mickey Lolich

44.2

4

Dizzy Trout

42.2

5

Jack Morris

34.5

6

Frank Lary

28.9

7

Bill Donovan

28.6

8

John Hiller

28.2

9

Jim Bunning

27.9

10

Virgil Trucks

26.7

11

Hooks Dauss

26.7

12

George Mullin

26.0

13

School Boy Rowe

23.3

14

Fred Hutchinson

22.7

15

Ed Killian

19.3

16

Earl Whitehill

19.1

17

Denny McLain

18.9

18

Justin Verlander

17.2

19

Bobo Newsome

17.2

20

Al Benton

16.5

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Granderson, Jackson, Others on the Block?

The trade rumors started trickling out of the general managers meetings on Tuesday night. First, it was reported that the Tigers were listening to offers for pitcher Edwin Jackson. This was a little surprising but I already had it in my mind that if a big trade was going to happen this winter, he might be the centerpiece. Jackson and Justin Verlander will be eligible for free agency after 2011 and locking up both of them to long term deals might be difficult for the Tigers.

Later on Tuesday night, it was announced that catcher Gerald Laird was possibly on the block. This was not upsetting news because Laird is coming off an awful offensive season and they've got Alex Avila and Dusty Ryan waiting in the wings. They would certainly miss Laird's throwing arm but he's not indispensable.

The really disconcerting news for Tigers fans came on Wednesday when it was rumored that center fielder Curtis Granderson was available. Granderson has his faults to be sure. He is slump prone and is terrible versus left-handed pitchers but he is also the only Tiger who is capable of performing above average both offensively and defensively. He can hit for average (some years) and power, is a solid(sometimes spectacular) defender at an important position and can run the bases. Very few Tigers in the past couple of decades have been able to do as many things as Curtis can do.

Off the field, he is the perfect ambassador for the Tigers and for all of Major League Baseball. He just won the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award for all his charity work and everything else he does. His internet presence has made him particularly appealing to bloggers and fourumites. Even beyond the internet though, his work in the community and the way he carries himself have made him perhaps the most popular Tiger player at this time.

My first reaction to the Granderson news was similar to Samara's tirade:
Curtis Granderson stays. Period. End of sentence. END OF SPECULATION ABOUT SOMETHING SO HORRIFIC AS THE DEPARTURE OF CURTIS GRANDERSON FROM THIS DETROIT TIGERS TEAM. I hate to get fuzzy on you here, but he is really the heart and soul of the squad, he is one of the most popular guys on the team with the fans (if not THE most popular), he is amazing for the community and for baseball and HE IS A DETROIT TIGER, HE STAYS. HE DOES NOT LEAVE. IT IS NOT ALLOWED.
Curtis has been a personal favorite of mine ever since I saw him play for Oneonta in 2002. He is my favorite Tiger since the days of Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell. I'm usually very analytical logical and rational (maybe to a fault at times) but the thought of him playing for another team is something which is difficult for me to process.

Are the Tigers having a fire sale? GM Dave Dombrowski says no and I believe him. I still believe that owner Mike Illitch wants to win now and there have been no indications that they he wants to slash the payroll. He didn't spend big last winter but he didn't cut much either. One MotownSports poster brought up the point that he allowed Magglio Ordonez's option to vest and gave Dombrowski the freedom to pick up Jarrod Washburn and Aubrey Huff at the trading deadline. I don't think all of that would have happened if there was a major financial crisis.

So, I'm not expecting a situation where the Tigers dump salaries in exchange for the best set of prospects they can find. Those types of typically don't work out too well for the teams acquiring prospects. Rather, I think Dombrowski is exploring ways to make the team stronger in 2010 and beyond without raising the payroll any higher. That could mean moving salaries around in order to acquire a young major league shortstop or a player at another position of immediate need. Those trades are difficult to make but worth exploring.

Oh yes, in case you did not know, Brandon Inge is also reportedly on the block. If nothing else, all the rumors make for some interesting discussion. Here is what others are saying:

Billfer
Kurt
Ian
Tigers Tracks
Lynn Henning

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