Monday, November 29, 2010

Miner designated for assignment

The Tigers designated Zach Miner for assignment this morning to make room for recently signed Victor Martinez on the 40-man roster. Miner had a 4.24 ERA and 4.49 FIP in 357 innings between 2006-2009.  This included 35 starts and 122 relief appearances.  He missed all of the 2010 season due to an injured elbow and had surgery in May.

Designated for assignment means that the Tigers have 10 days to trade or release Miner or ask him to go to the minors, an assignment which he can refuse.  He likely is not tradeable coming off surgery and might not be ready to pitch by opening day, 2011.  They may attempt to assign him to the minors and invite him to spring training.

Friday, November 26, 2010

And Now the Left Fielders

In part seven of my series on fielding metrics for 2010, I'll look at the left fielders.  Other parts of the series can be seen at the following links:

Series intro and third basemen
Shortstops
Second basemen
First basemen
Center fielders
Right fielders

The table below looks at four fielding measures and takes the average for each player.  For a more detailed explanation, you can look at the Series intro and third basemen article.


The top two averages belonged to Brett Gardner (16 runs better than average) and Carl Crawford (12).  Note that there was a lot of disagreement among measures for Crawford in particular.  He was 19 better than average on UZR and +1 on Total Zone. 



This was not much disagreement on Carlos Lee's inability to convert batted balls into outs.  He did very poorly on all measures with a composite score of -15.

Table 1: Aggregating Fielding Measures for Left fielders in 2010

Bruce and Suzuki Top Right fielders on Defensive Metrics

In part six of my series on fielding metrics for 2010, I'll cover the right fielders.  Other parts of the series can be seen at the following links:

Series intro and third basemen
Shortstops
Second basemen
First basemen
Center fielders

The table below looks at four fielding measures and takes the average for each player.  For a more detailed explanation, you can look at the Series intro and third basemen article.

The top two averages belonged to Reds right fielder Jay Bruce (15 runs better than average) and Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki (13).  Each did well on every measure including Fan Scouting

Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier had the worst average by far - 13 runs worse than average. 


Table 1: Aggregating Fielding Measures for Right fielders in 2010 

Martinez will be Tigers Primary DH

The Tigers officially announced today that Victor Martinez has been signed to a four year contract.  The more interesting news was that general manager Dave Dombrowski confirmed that Alex Avila will be the primary catcher and that Matinez will catch two or three times per week:
"We expect Victor to be in our lineup on a daily basis, serving primarily as our club's designated hitter and catching two to three times a week," Dombrowski said. "He also has the ability to fill in at first base, and his versatility allows us to keep a premier bat in our lineup every day.
So, we can estimate that Avila will catch about 100 games and Martinez 60.  Of course, that could change if Avila shows that he's not ready for regular catching duties. 
 
The left-handed batting Avila will likely start against most right-handed starters.  The switch hitting Martinez will catch against left-handed pitchers and serve as the designated hitter the rest of the time.  The value of having Martinez being the primary DH is that it should allow them to keep his bat in the line-up more often.  Without the wear and and tear of catching, he also might actually be a better hitter.  When Martinez is catching , the DH spot will probably be split between Cabrera, Carlos Guillen and others.  

Martinez will bat either third or fifth in the line-up with Cabrera keeping his cleanup spot.  The Tigers are also expected to add a corner outfielder this off-season.  There are still some rumblings about premier free agents Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, but I think they are long shots to sign with the Tigers.  Magglio Ordonez is the odds on favorite, but a trade is also a possibility. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Contest Winner

We finally have a winner in the book contest.  KGB guessed that Victor Martinez would be the first player from outside the organization added to the Tigers 40-man roster.  Since nobody guessed Joaquin Benoit or Alberto Alburquerque (Shame on you guys!), KGB wins a copy of Beyond Batting Average.  Congratulations KGB!

KGB, Please e-mail me at Tiger337 (at) comcast (dot) net with your address, so I can send the book to you.   


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tigers Close to Signing Victor Martinez

The Tigers are reportedly close to signing catcher Victor Martinez to a four-year deal worth $50 million.  There is no report on what role Martinez would play on the Tigers.  One thought is that he would be the primary catcher for a year or two, while Alex Avila eases into the position.  However, the Tigers have stated a couple of times that they are committed to Avila as their starting catcher next year. My guess is that there would be a platoon with Martinez catching when the opponent has a left-handed pitcher on the mound. The rest of the time Martinez would be the designated hitter.    

The switch-hitting Martinez has batted .302/.368/.486 over the last two years and his 48.2 batting runs during that period ranks second in the majors to Joe Mauer among catchers.  He has a career OPS of over .800 versus both left-handers and right-handers.  There is no doubt he is one of the premiere hitting catchers in baseball.  For more on Martinez, check out my earlier article

I had expected the Tigers to sign Martinez and I think a four-year deal is reasonable.  Any more than that would be pushing it.  The downside to the deal is that the Tigers would lose their first-round draft pick as Martinez is a Type-A free agent.

This signing would likely eliminate the Tigers from the Adam Dunn sweepstakes as they no longer would have a need for a full-time designated hitter.  Assuming they do sign Martinez, there is a possibility they will now pursue Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth to play a corner outfield spot, but I suspect they will sign a cheaper option.  My guess is Magglio Ordonez.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Jackson All Over the Place on Defensive Metrics

In part five of my series on fielding metrics for 2010, I'll cover the center fielders.  Other parts of the series can be seen at the following links:

Series intro and third basemen
Shortstops
Second basemen
First basemen

The table below looks at four fielding measures and takes the average for each player.  For a more detailed explanation, you can look at the Series intro and third basemen article.

Using one year of defensive metrics can be a problem, especially for outfielders who generally have less chances than infielders.  Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson is a good example of how the metrics can disagree:

DRS = 21 runs saved better than average
UZR = 5
TZ = -4
FSR = 8

You can see that not only don't the metrics agree on how good Jackson was, they can't even agree whether he was good or not.  The systems had him anywhere between saving the Tigers 21 runs and costing them 4 runs.  That's the danger of small sample sizes.  What can we do when that happens? In some cases, we can look back at past years to give us a bigger sample.  In Jackson's case, he has no past data, so observation becomes more important. 

The fans rated Jackson as an above average center fielder, but not necessarily elite.  Perhaps, they noticed that, while he has outstanding range, he could stand to improve coming in on the ball.

The metrics agree that Astros center fielder Michael Bourn (+16) and Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez (+12) were well above average. They were also the gold glove winners.  Interestingly, the fans also chose them as the top two center fielders.  So, the fans have agreed with the managers and coaches on every position so far except the infamous Jeter vote. 

Table 1: Aggregating Fielding Measures for Center fielders in 2010 



Friday, November 19, 2010

Prediction Contest: Win a Free Book (Updated)

UPDATE: Since nobody selected Joaquin Benoit or Alberto Alburquerque as the first new Tiger, the book contest described below is still open.  Your old predictions are still valid going forward.  However, new guesses are welcome this weekend.  Also, if anyone wants to change their previous guess, that is allowed this weekend.  Again, if two people select the correct player, the first person who made the guess wins.  Please enter you prediction for the next player added to the Tigers roster from outside the organization in the comments below. 



As many of you know, I published the book Beyond Batting Average earlier this year.  It is a comprehensive and accessible sabermetrics primer for knowledgeable baseball fans, who want to learn more about all of the old and new baseball statistics.  You can read more about the book at Lulu.com and Amazon.com.   

I am going to give away a free book to the first person to correctly predict the first player added to the Tigers 40-man roster from outside the organization this off-season.  Please put your answer in the comments below.  If more than one person guesses correctly, then the first person who answers correctly gets the book.

Tigers Add Six to 40-Man Roster

The Tigers  announced today that they have added six players to fill out their 40-man roster.  They purchased the contracts of left-handed pitcher Charlie Furbush and shortstop Cale Iorg from Triple-A Toledo.  They also added right-handed pitchers Lester Oliveros, Jose Ortega and Brayan Villarreal and left-handed pitcher Duane Below from Double-A Erie.

Since the 40-man roster has already reached its limit, players will have to be dropped as the Tigers add new players through free agency and trades.  There is going to be a lot of movement this winter.  Right-hander Zach Miner and infielder Audy Ciriaco seem to be two of the more likely names to be dropped at some point this winter. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tigers Close to Signing Benoit

According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Tigers are close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit to a multi-year contract.  The 33-year-old right-hander was one of the top set-up men in baseball last year pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays.  He posted a spectacular 1.34 ERA and 75/11 K/BB ratio in 60 1/3 innings with the Rays last year.  He will set up closer Jose Valverde in the Tigers pen.

My favorite Joaquin Benoit statistic?  He led the majors with a 86% clean outing percentage last year.  According to The Bill James Handbook, a clean outing is any appearance in which a reliever does not allow a run to score and does not allow an inherited run to score.  In 63 appearances, he had 54 clean outings. 

Another good thing about the signing is that Benoit is a type B free agent meaning the Tigers will not have to surrender a draft pick for him.  Also, the Tigers are not done searching for relievers as they plan to sign an experienced left-hander as well.  Dave Dombrowski is clearly making the bullpen a priority this winter and that's a good thing.

While this is a great signing for the Tigers, Benoit does not come without risks.  Pitching for the Rangers between 2001-2008, he struggled with his control walking 4.3 batters per nine innings.  More recently, he missed all of the 2009 season after undergoing rotator cuff surgery.  Still, he came back as a better pitcher last year, so he's a good risk.

When was the last time the Tigers had a duo like Valverde and Benoit at the back of the bullpen? Willie Hernandez and Aurelio Lopez?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Barton and Davis Lead First Basemen in Fielding in 2010

In part four of my series on fielding metrics for 2010, I'll take a look at first basemen.  Other parts of the series can be seen here:

Series intro and third basemen
Shortstops
Second basemen

The table below looks at four fielding measures and takes the average for each player.  For a more detailed explanation, you can look at the Series intro and third basemen article.

First, you should keep in mind that the advanced fielding metrics don't work as well for first basemen as they might for other infielders because they don't address the ability of a first baseman to take throws from infielders.  That being said, the overall leader was Darin Barton of the Athletics at 12 runs better than average.  He did better on the pure statistical measures (20, 12, 10) than he did on the Fan Scouting Report (5).

The National League leader was Mets rookie Ike Davis at 8 runs better than average.  Like Barton, Davis fared better on the metrics (13, 10, 4) than on the fan voting (3).

Gold Glove winners Albert Pujols (3) of the Cardinals and Mark Teixeira (2) did just a little better than the average first baseman.  They did, however, do better on the fan survey (8) than any of their peers.  So, the fans once again agreed with the managers and coaches who made the Gold Glove selections.  So far they have agreed at every position except for AL shortstop.

As for our own Miguel Cabrera, the metrics all ranked him below average (-8, -6, -5), while the fans gave him a +1. Personally, I think his range is pretty good, but he doesn't always use it wisely.  He frequently goes too far to get balls which the second baseman should be handling.  

Table 1: Aggregating Fielding Measures for First Basemen in 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

What's a Good OPS?

Many fans like the traditional statistic batting average because they are so familiar with its values.  They know right away that a .300 average is excellent, a .220 average is poor and a .400 batting average is both fantastic and rare.  One problem many fans have when they are introduced to a new measure is that they don't know what values of the statistic are good and bad.  When they hear about OPS for the first time, for example, they might ask: "What's a good OPS?"  

One of the most popular features of my book Beyond Batting Average is a series of simple percentile charts which help give an idea as to which values of a statistic are good and bad by comparing them to batting average.  The table below shows the percentiles for  some of the less traditional statistics and puts them next to the equivalent percentiles for batting average.  This makes it easier for fans to grasp some of the newer statistics.  The chart includes all MLB regulars or semi-regulars with 400 or more plate appearances in 2010.

One can see from the table that the 75th percentile for batting average was .286.  This means that 75 percent of these players hit below .286 and 25 percent hit better than .286.  A player with an Isolated Power (ISO) of .197 would also be at the 75th percentile.  So, we can say that an ISO of .197 is as good as a batting average of .286. Similarly, an ISO of .081 would be bad because it's equivalent to a .243 batting average (10th percentile).  One might also call this a batting average equivalency chart.   

The statistics in the chart can be found on FanGraphs.com. They are defined as follows:

BA = Batting Average
OBP = On-Base Percentage
SLG= Slugging Average
OPS = On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging Average
ISO = Isolated Power = Number of Extra Bases Per AB = (2B + 2 x 3B + 3 x HR)/AB
BB%= Base on Balls Percentage = % of PA resulting in walks
K%= Strikeout Percentage = % of AB resulting in strikeouts

I'll provide batting average equivalency charts for more statistics in later posts.  

Table 1: Batting Average Equivalencies for 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fans Agree with Gold Glove Selections at Second Base

Today, I'll continue my fielding series with second baseman.  Other parts of the series can be seen here:

Series intro and third basemen
Shortstops

The table below looks at four fielding measures and takes the average for each player.  For a more detailed explanation, you can look at the Series intro and third basemen article.  The only difference here is that there were so few second basemen with over 1,000 innings that I lowered the limit to 900 innings.

According to the aggregate of the measures, Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley finished on top with +10 or 10 runs better than what you would expect from the average second baseman.  The American League leader was Orlando Hudson of the Twins at +9 runs. 

The gold glove winners both finished above average - Brandon Phillips of the Philles (+7) and Robinson Cano of the Yankees (+4).  Interestingly, these two finished one and two in the Fan Scouting.  So, at this position, the fans agreed with the managers and coaches who selected the Gold Gloves.  The two of them also did better on fan scouting than they did on the more objective measures.

I posted the third basemen before the Gold Gloves came out, but the fans also agreed with the managers and coaches on their selections of Evan Longoria and Scott Rolen.  The fans also concurred with the choice of Troy Tulowitzki as the National League shortstop.  The only one they haven't agreed with so far is the American League shortstop, but that's no surprise. 

The bottom two second basemen were Skip Schumaker of the Cardinals and Dan Uggla of the Marlins at -9. 


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Gold Glove Shortstop Ranks Poorly on Fielding Measures

The American League Gold Glove Awards were announced today and the most criticized selection of the day has been, not surprisingly, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter winning his fifth gold glove award.  I'm going to examine this choice by averaging the results of four defensive measures as I did for third basemen earlier in the week.  The four measures are as follows:

Defensive Runs Saved (DRS)
Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR)
Total Zone (TZ)
Fans Survey Runs (FSR)

For all of the above measures, the result is the estimated number of runs that a player saved/cost his team with his fielding compared to an average player at his position.  The DRS, UZR and FSR metrics can be found at FanGraphs.com.  TZ for 2010 is at Baseball-reference.com

The table below lists all shortstops with 1,000 or more innings in 2010.  Jeter was below average on all measures: -13 on DRS, -5 on UZR and -10 on TZ.  Even Yankees fans ranked him at -9.  The average of the ranks is -9 which indicates that he cost his team an estimated 9 runs with his glove compared to the average shortstop.  Only Royals shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt (-14) and Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins (-11) ranked lower.

Table 1: Aggregating Fielding Measures for Shortstops in 2010




Jeter winning the Gold Glove while ranking low on the metrics is not a new phenomenon.  He won three Gold Gloves from 2004-2006 despite doing poorly by most defensive metrics.  I've  seen a couple people point the finger at the mainstream media for their choices, but they aren't the ones who select the Gold Glove Award winners.

Instead it's the managers and coaches who vote for this award.  A couple of years ago, Jim Leyland admitted that some managers don't like to give the award to weak hitters.  Rafael Palmeiro won the award in 1999 playing mostly as a DH and only 28 games at first base.  That there should tell you how seriously we should take the voting. 

Other highlights:


The top shortstops in the game in 2010 according to the metrics were Brendan Ryan of the Cardinals (+16), Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies (+12) and Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox (+12).

The statistics disagreed most on Betancourt, although all them had him below average:  He was just -2 on TZ but was -25, -21, -10 on the other numbers. 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Evaluating Third basemen in 2010

In recent posts, I have been looking at fielding measures for present Tigers and some free agents.  Because there is a good deal of disagreement between measures, I have been computing averages across measures instead of relying on just one measure.  Now, I'm going to start a series of posts looking at four measures and computing averages for all regulars in the majors in 2010.

The four measures are:

For all of the above measures, the result is the estimated number of runs that a player saved/cost his team with his fielding compared to an average player at his position.  All of the metrics can be found at FanGraphs.com.  The exception is that TZ is not yet available for 2010.  I got that number at Baseball-Reference.com.  TZ is called Rtot over there. 

I have a couple of goals in mind as I do this series.  First, I want to compute averages for each player in order to arrive at a conservative estimate of a fielder's runs saved/cost.  What we are doing in effect is regressing to the mean.  This will dampen the effect of a really large number on one measure which disagrees with other measures.

For example, if a player has a +16 on UZR and 0, 1, 3 on the other three measures, he'll have an average of +5.  So, instead of just going with UZR and taking +16, we have a less extreme estimate.  What if this particular player really is close to +16 though?  Don't we come up with a worse estimate by using the average?  Yes, but I think if we are going to plug these numbers into WAR, I'd rather err in the middle than err at the extremes.    

The other purpose of this exercise is to look at which players disagree most across measures.  This is important to know because I think we can be less certain about a player with a lot of disagreement across measures.

The third basemen with 1,000 or more innings (INN) in 2010 are listed in the table below.  I'll use Brandon Inge as an example:

DRS = +2
UZR = +3
TZ = +8
FSR = +16

The first thing you might notice is that the fans rated him better than any of the statistics did.  His average (AVG) is +7, so we estimate that he saved 7 runs compared to the average third baseman in 2010.  The second to the last column of the table gives the standard deviation (SD).  This number tells us how close the four estimates were to each other.  A low number indicates a lot of agreement between the four measures and a high number indicates a good deal of disagreement.  Inge's SD is 6.4 which indicates a moderate amount of disagreement.   

Table 1: Aggregating Fielding Measures for Third basemen in 2010


Here are some highlights:
  • The top third basemen according to the average is Evan Longoria (+15), Chase Headly (+14) and Ryan Zimmerman (+13).
  • The bottom three are Aramis Ramirez (-9), Michael Young (-8) and David Wright (-7).
  • The player with the most disagreement across measures is Jose Lopez: 15, 8, 17, -7.  The fans apparently did not think he was as good as his numbers suggested.  

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Tigers Close to Two-Year Deal with Peralta

The Tigers and Jhonny Peralta are reportedly close to a two-year deal worth $11.25 million.  I gave my thoughts on Perlata a couple of weeks ago.  His decent offense for a shortstop and slightly below average defense make him an adequate filler until someone better is available.  However, I don't really see the urgency to sign him to a two-year deal.  There are not a lot of shortstops available this year, so I can see signing him to a one-year deal.  I wish they had left their options open for 2012 though. 

From a fans perspective, they don't seem to be saving much by declining his option.  Instead of $7.5 for one year (which is what he would have made if his option kicked in), they will be giving him $5.6 million each year for two years. 

Their infield looks like this:

1B. Miguel Cabrera
2B. Will Rhmyes/Scott Sizemore
SS. Jhonny Peralta
3B Brandon Inge

So, they now have below average defenders at first and short, an unproven second baseman and a third baseman with declining range. This concerns me when they are counting on a big year from Rick Porcello, an extreme ground ball pitcher.

If saving money is the reasoning for the Peralta deal, I hope they make good use of the money saved this winter because they have a lot of holes to fill.  Specifically, they need a DH, a corner outfielder and some pitching help.  I don't want to judge the Peralta signing too harshly though before I see what else they do. 

Friday, November 05, 2010

How Would Werth Fit with the Tigers?

Slugging outfielder Jayson Werth will be one of the most highly sought after free agents this off-season.  He'll be expensive though, especially since he just hired Scott Boras as his free agent last month.  He's 31years old and will probably look for a deal of at least four years.

What could Werth bring to a team like the Tigers?  Detroit needs a middle of the order hitter and right field is open with the departure of Magglio Ordonez.  So, he would be a good fit on that basis.  In the past three years, the six-foot-five inch 222 pound Werth has batted .279/.376/.513 and has been second among major league right fielders with 91.2 Batting Runs.

Defensively, he has a strong arm and decent range for a big guy.  Table 1 shows his fielding statistics for 2008-2010.  It includes

DRS = Defensive Runs Saved (John Dewan)
UZR = Ultimate Zone Rating (Mitchel Lichtman)
TZ = Total Zone (Sean Smith)
FSR = Fan Survey Runs (Tom Tango)
Avg = Average of the four statistics

Table 1: Jayson Werth Fielding Runs Saved, 2008-2010



There is a general consensus among the statistics (including fan observations) that he has been slightly above average for the last three years.  The final estimate is 6 runs better than the average right fielder.  There is some suggestion that he is on the decline (10 in 2008, 6 in 2009 and 1 in 2010) but single year outfield fielding runs statistics are not reliable enough to say that with great confidence.  For the time being anyway, he seems better than adequate defensively.  In other words, better than Ordonez.

One drawback for the Tigers is that Werth bats right-handed and they would prefer a left-handed batter.  For that reason, they may pursue Carl Crawford, Victor Martinez, Adam Dunn or even someone like Jim Thome.  However, they would probably take Werth if the price is right.

A bigger issue might be moving from hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia to the more neutral Comerica Park.  Over the past three years, the bearded right fielder has a .920 OPS at home and .859 on the road.  So, we probably wouldn't get quite the same hitter in Detroit, although he'd still be good.  There is some thought the switch in leagues could be a problem, but his .919 OPS in 314 career plate appearances in interleague play does not appear to indicate trouble.   

Because he is right-handed and would be moving to a more difficult hitting environment, he might not be worth the Matt Holliday type contract Boras is rumored to want.  However, he would be an excellent addition to the Tigers line-up if they could get him.  It's hard to guess what will happen with a Boras client except that he'll probably make his decision later rather than sooner.  So, expect him to be one of the last big-name free agents inked to a contract.

Baseball Links

I've got a couple more baseball links I wanted to pass along:

Fans who followed the Tigers minor league games last season the last couple of years might be interested in Thomas Nelshoppen's interview with Shawn Roof

For those interested in college baseball, Paul Lonardo has written Strike IX, an excellent book about the elimination of the Providence Baseball program in 1999.  After hearing the shocking news that their program would be dropped, the team pulled together and won a championship. 

Sparky Links

Here are some my favorite links to articles on Sparky Anderson:

Rogo of DesigNate Robertson tells his Sparky Anderson story. 

Mike McClary of the Daily Fungo remembers the day the Tigers signed Anderson.

Samara at Roar of the Tigers gives her tribute.

Chris Jaffe, the author of Evaluating Baseball’s Managers, gives his thoughts on Sparky's career.

Tim Kurkjian writes about Anderson at ESPN.

Lynn Henning Gives his Thoughts.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Sparky Anderson Passes Away at 76

Long-time Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson passed away today in Thousand Oaks , California the age of 76.

George Lee Anderson lasted only one year as a light-hitting second baseman with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1959, but later became a legendary manager for a quarter of a century.   He won 2,194 games over 26 years which ranks him eighth in wins among all managers.  His teams won seven pennants and three World Series and he was the first manager to win championships in both the American and National Leagues.  He was inducted into the hall of fame in 2000.

He managed the Big Red Machine to six pennants and two championships between 1970-1978.  That team of Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and company was among the best and most exciting of my lifetime.  He then went on to manage the Tigers from 1979-1995 winning a World Championship in 1984 and a division title in 1987.

When I think of baseball managers, the first image that comes to mind is the charismatic Anderson.  He was small in stature at 5-9 170 pounds, but he always seemed to be in control. There was never a doubt that players both loved and respected him. As a fan, I always got the feeling that the Tigers would have a good team as long as their white-haired leader was in charge.  And I'm pretty sure he was born with white hair. 

Some of my fondest memories of Sparky are his quotes such as "If you don't like Dave Rucker, you don't like ice cream" and "A little pain never hurt nobody."  Those and many other memorable quotes still pop into my mind today on a regular basis.

I also remember his bold projections for young players.  Kirk Gibson was going to be the next Mickey Mantle.  Barbaro Garbey was the next Roberto Clemente.  Chris Pittarro and Torey Lovullo were future all-stars.  None of those predictions were realistic, but there was something about Sparky that made you believe everything he said.  How could you not believe him? 

There will never be another Sparky.

Rest in Peace Mr. Anderson.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Can the Tigers Get Carl Crawford?

I recently wrote that catcher Victor Martinez would be a good acquisition for the Tigers and that I thought the Tigers had a reasonable chance to sign him.  While he may be the most realistic option for the Tigers, he wouldn't my first choice.  That would be free agent left fielder Carl Crawford, who was recently linked to the Tigers by Ken Rosenthal

Unfortunately, Crawford has also been linked to deep pocket teams such as the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees.  I'm sure there are plenty of other teams interested as well.  I'm not going to write the Tigers off just yet.  Dave Dombrowski and Mike Illitch will likely make a strong pitch for the talented outfielder and it won't be impossible for the the Tigers to get him.  However, they have no history of being able to beat out the big boys of New York, Boston and Los Angeles for the most attractive free agents in the market.

Dombrowski has said that the Tigers are primarily interested in acquiring a power hitter to bat behind Miguel Cabrera.  However, they really need any kind of hitting they can get.  With the departures of Johnny Damon and perhaps Magglio Ordonez, that includes guys that can get on base and hit for average.  Crawford is not a classic power hitter or on-base man, but rather does a little bit of everything.  Over the last three years, he has batted .297/.349/.454 and has averaged 23 doubles, 10 triples and 14 homers per year.

In addition to his hitting, he has averaged 44 steals in 55 attempts per year over the last three years. He was also sixth in the majors with 7.5 Equivalent Baserunning Runs(EQBRR) in 2010.  That means he produced an estimated 7.5 runs with his baserunning beyond what you would expect from the average player in the same opportunities.  Center fielder Austin Jackson ranked ninth, so that would certainly give the Tigers a dynamic duo on the bases, something they haven't had in decades.   

Defensively, Crawford is one of the premiere left fielders in baseball.  He and Yankees speedster Brett Gardner are tied for first with 14 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS).  Using the Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) Statistic, Crawford (19) is second to Gardner (23).  Crawford would be particularly useful in Comerica Park's big left field.  I'm sure flyball pitchers such as Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer would be especially happy to see Crawford and Jackson running all over the outfield.

Crawford is said to be overrated as a hitter by some, but there is little question that he is an outstanding all around player.  He is currently just 29 and probably has three or four more all-star type seasons in him. It's probably going to take six years and a boatload of money to land him, but he'd make a substantial impact on any team that can sign him.

Can the Tigers get him? Yes, it's possible.  They have a lot of money coming off the books and they will probably be aggressive.  Will they get him ? I think it's unlikely, simply because there will be so much competition.  It's certainly fun to think about though.

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