Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Thoughts

I was at work and couldn't watch the the opener today, but I was able to listen to parts of the game on the radio. I also checked Game Day whenever I got the chance.  I'll list my thoughts on the 6-3 loss to the Yankees below:

Jim Leyland started the left-handed Will Rhymes and Alex Avila versus a tough left-handed starter in CC Sabathia.  I don't know whether this is going to be a regular practice or whether he just wanted his main starters in there for opening day.  Whatever the reason, it didn't go well today.  Rhymes went 0 for 3, although he did get down a bunt and reach on an error which helped lead to a run.  Avila had a miserable day striking out three times and failing to block three wild pitches.

By most accounts, Verlander threw well today, but he made one big mistake - a three run homer to Mark Teixeira in the third.  He settled down after that, but threw too many pitches - 114 in six innings.  The Yankees do that to a lot of pitchers, but this has been a problem for Verlander throughout his career. 

One of the reasons Curtis Granderson is no longer a Tiger is his inability to hit lefthanders.  Today, Leyland brought in southpaw Phil Coke to face the former Tiger with the score tied at three in the seventh.  Grandy hit a go ahead homer and the Yankees never looked back.  There has been a lot of talk about Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long helping Granderson with his stroke versus lefthanders. It will be interesting to see how that works out.

The Yankees bullpen out pitched the Tigers bullpen today getting three perfect innings from Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano and Marian Rivera.  Meanwhile, Coke and Ryan Perry allowed three runs in one inning.  The Tigers will need to find ways to get the game to Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde. 

One of the key things to watch this year is whether Austin Jackson can cut down his strikeouts.  Jackson was his usual all or nothing self today with three strikeouts and a single. That gives him a BABIP of 1.000.

After a day off tomorrow, the Tigers face the Yankees again on Saturday.  Brad Penny will get the start against AJ Burnett. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Forecasting The Division Winners

It's late, but I wanted to post some quick predictions on opening day eve:

Division Winners

AL East: Boston
AL Central: Detroit
AL West: Texas
AL Wild Card: New York

NL East: Philadelphia
NL Central: St. Louis
NL West: Colorado
NL Wild Card: Atlanta

Pennant Winners

Boston
Philadelphia

World Champion

Philadelphia

Awards

MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols
Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay

Monday, March 28, 2011

Community Playing Time Forecast

One of the problems of projecting player performance based on mathematical algorithms is that computers are not very good at knowing how many games players will play.  Fans following their favorite teams closely every day probably know more about potential playing time than computers do.  Thus, their input is helpful in making more accurate performance projections.  So, Tom Tango collects Community Playing Time Forecasts annually.  I just Entered my estimates for the Tigers and it only took a minute or two.  The aggregate results should be interesting and useful, so I urge you to participate as well.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ten Predictions for Tigers Pitchers

Yesterday, I gave ten predictions for Tigers batters.  Today, I'm going to make guesses for the pitchers.  I say "guesses" because pitching is such a crapshoot that it's difficult to make accurate projections.

Unpredictability is why I think people see pitching as so vital compared to other components of the game.   I don't think pitching is more important than hitting and fielding in winning games, but it is certainly more unpredictable.  Thus, whichever teams can avoid injuries and fluky bad seasons on their pitching staffs tend to win more games than those who are less fortunate.  The resulting impression is that pitching is more important.  However, I think it's just a case of pitching being more variable than hitting. 

Anyway, here are my predictions for the Tigers 2011 staff, followed by a final win total for the Tigers team:

Justin Verlander will avoid his usual slow start and have the best year of his career to this point.  He will pitch 240 innings, amass 250 strikeouts and get his ERA under 3.00 for the first time.  He will be rewarded with a Cy Young Award for his efforts.  I don't like the pitcher wins statistic but, in case somebody asks, I'll say 20! 

Max Scherzer will have his ups and downs, but will finish with 190 K and a 3.75 ERA in 200 innings.

Rick Porcello will throw more breaking pitches and finish above 6 K per nine innings for the first time.  He will also have excellent control and be among the leaders in ground ball percentage.  However, he'll be the victim of mediocre infield defense and finish with a 4.20 ERA.

Brad Penny will stay healthy for the most part and prove to be a valuable addition.  He will throw 170 innings with a 4.20 ERA.

Phil Coke will start strong but struggle in the relief role as the season progresses and spend some time in the bullpen.  He'll go 140 innings with a 4.65 ERA. 

Andy Oliver will make eight starts with mixed results and a final ERA of 4.70.  Jacob Turner will make a couple starts in August.  He'll show flashes of his potential, but will not be quite ready.

Jose Valverde will bounce back from his shaky second half last year and once again become a top reliever - 35 saves and a 2.75 ERA.

Joaquin Benoit will be a dominant set-up man with a 2.30 ERA and 10/2 K/BB ratio in 65 innings.

The Tigers staff will allow 700 runs, 5th lowest in the league.

The Tigers go 88-74 and win a thrilling three-team race by one game over the Twins and three over the White Sox.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ten Predictions for Tigers Batters

Now that the rosters are set and opening day is near, I'm going to make some predictions for the Tigers season.  These are not mathematical projections, but rather a mix of science and intuition.  I'll start by offering ten predictions for Tigers batters:

Austin Jackson will continue to whiff and his batting average will drop to .275.  He'll make up for it with increased power (10 homers), better use of his speed (35 stolen bases) and a few more walks.  His defense will be even better and he'll earn a Gold Glove for his efforts.

There will be a revolving door at second base all year long with Will Rhymes, Ramon Santiago, Carlos Guillen, Danny Worth and Scott Sizemore all seeing action.  Rhymes will bat .270 with a .325 OBP but have little power and only average defense.  Guillen will try to come back in May but will re-injure himself and finish his career as a Tiger on the disabled list.  Sizemore will have an outstanding first half for Toledo and then win the the Tigers second base job in the second half (.275/.330/.400).
   
Magglio Ordonez will be limited to 400 PA due to injuries, but bat .300 with a .820 OPS when he plays.  Casper Wells will get most of the at bats in his absence and have a nice season as a role player - .270 BA and 16 homers in 350 PA.

Miguel Cabrera will have another MVP caliber season - .320/.410/.620 with 40 homers.  The off field news will stay quiet.

Relieved of much of his catching duties, Victor Martinez will have a big year with the bat hitting .300, slugging .500 and making good use of his many opportunities with 105 RBI. 

Ryan Raburn will not quite be a full-time starter, but he'll reach 475 PA.  He'll be streaky , but hit for an .800 OPS and 20 homers.  He'll also commit fewer defensive gaffes with more steady playing time.

Jhonny Peralta will be a disappointment with a .300 OBP and sub-par defense.  He'll hit 15 homers, but will lose some playing time to Danny Worth later in the year.  

Brandon Inge will bat .240 and lead the league in check swing strike threes, but will regain some of his power.  He'll hit 20 homers in drive home 75 runs. 

Alex Avila will be a solid defender and improve at the plate - .250/.336/.400 with 12 round trippers.

The Tigers will finish fourth in the American league with 780 runs scored.

Tigers Make Final Cuts

The Tigers reduced their roster to 25 this morning by optioning infielder Danny Worth to Toledo and reassigning outfielder Andy Dirks and pitcher Adam Wilk to minor league camp this morning. These moves mean that pitchers Enrique Gonzalez and Brayan Villareal and outfielder Brennan Boesch will be heading north. Outfielder Casper Wells has also officially made the team, although that's been pretty obvious all spring.

Since Gonzalez needs to be added to the Tigers 40-man roster, somebody else will need to be dropped.  That will most likely be infielder Audy Ciriaco.  Ciriaco was once a promising teen-age prospect with good raw tools, but he has never hit at any level and is now 23-years old.

Tigers' 25-Man Roster

Starters:
Justin Verlander
Max Scherzer
Rick Porcello
Phil Coke
Brad Penny

Relievers:
Jose Valverde
Joaquin Benoit
Ryan Perry
Daniel Schlereth
Brad Thomas
Enrique Gonzalez
Brayan Villarreal

Catchers:
Alex Avila
Victor Martinez

Infielders:
Miguel Cabrera
Will Rhymes
Jhonny Peralta
Brandon Inge
Ramon Santiago

Outfielders:
Magglio Ordonez
Austin Jackson
Ryan Raburn
Casper Wells
Brennan Boesch
Don Kelly

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rhymes will be Starting Second Baseman

Jason Beck, Tom Gage and Mario Impemba have all tweeted that Will Rhymes has won the second base job to start the season. Jim Leyland is not guaranteeing that he will start opening day versus the left-handed CC Sabathia though. So, it could be somewhat of a platoon situation.  Anyway, the starting line-up looks like this:

Austin Jackson CF
Will Rhymes 2B
Magglio Ordonez RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Ryan Raburn  LF
Jhonny Peralta SS
Brandon Inge 3B
Alex Avila C

When they face a left-hander, Casper Wells would probably replace Avila in the line-up and perhaps Danny Worth or Ramon Santiago would replace Rhymes.   In that case, Raburn would probably bat second, Wells sixth and the second baseman ninth.

Surprise Cuts by the Tigers

Thought by many to be the favorite to win the second base job, Scott Sizemore was reassigned to Toledo this morning.  This leaves Will Rhymes and Danny Worth to battle for the keystone position.  Or perhaps they will platoon.  Other reassignments include relievers Robbie Weinhardt and Fu Te-Ni, outfielder Clete Thomas and catcher Max St. Pierre.  Weinhardt is also a surprise since some saw him as a lock for the opening day bullpen.

With 28 players still in camp, the Tigers need to make three more cuts before the regular season starts. One will be a reliever and it seems that Enrique Gonzalez, Adam Wilks and Brayan Villarreal would be battling for the final two spots.  With Phil Coke starting the season in the bullpen, it's possible they might go with 11 pitchers the first week.  In that case, they would have to cut two more pitchers.

They will also drop one or two position players by the end of spring training.  Players probably still on the bubble are outfielders Brennan Boesch, Andy Dirks and infielders Will Rhymes and Danny Worth.  Leyland has already said that Don Kelly will make the team.  Otherwise, I would have put him on the list too.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Knee Jerks Podcast Appearance

I appeared on the knee Jerks podcast with Greg Eno and Big Al Beaton Monday night.  It was basically a 45-minute preview of the Tigers season.  I'm better at writing than talking, but it was fun and the 45 minutes flew by for me.  If you want to hear it, you can check it out here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What's Happening with the Tigers Infield?

You may be wondering why Ramon Santiago is starting at second base for the second consecutive game.  It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense given that Scott Sizemore, Will Rhymes and perhaps Danny Worth are competing for the second base job.  Steve Kornacki of MLive is asking the same question and has some interesting quotes in today's article. 

Manager Jim Leyland said that he is happy with the backup outfielders and relievers as the spring winds down.  However, he also says:
“There’s only one thing that sticks out and it sticks out like a sore thumb.”
He would not elaborate, noting that reporters should be able to figure it out.

Leyland also gives a lot of praise to Danny Worth:
“Danny Worth quietly has had a nice spring,” Leyland said. “He can play defense with anybody. He’s one of the best young defensive infielders in baseball.”...
“He has a cannon for an arm. And he’s hit the ball well this spring. He’s a pretty good player now. He’s awfully good, so we have to wait and see.”
It sounds to me as if Worth is going to make the team.  So, what's "sticking out like a sore thumb?" One thought is that Worth may have passed Sizemore and Rhymes and seized the second base job.  If that were the case, then why has Santiago started at second base the last two games?  Is he he the new second baseman? 

Santiago taking over at second wouldn't be the first infield surprise that Leyland has given us during his tenure. He has shifted Carlos Guillen all over the place the last few years. A more likely possibility is that the Tigers are shopping Santiago.  The Phillies and Orioles are known to be looking for infield help gives the health of their starting second basemen Chase Utley and Brian Roberts respectively.

Who could the Tigers get for Santiago?  Probably not much more than a fringe prospect, maybe one of those hard throwing double-A relievers that Dave Dombrowski loves.  Given the not ready or just not very good options at the back of the pen right now, this guy could even make the opening day roster. 

The trading of Santiago is pure speculation, but it looks like some kind of little surprise is going to happen in the infield before opening day.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Alburquerque is going to Toledo.

Some fans  were hoping that right-handed reliever Alberto Alburquerque would make the Tigers roster just because they like his name.  That possibility came to an end this morning when he was re-assigned to the minors along with left-hander Charlie Furbush, shortstop Argenis Diaz and first baseman Scott Thorman.  Alburquerque and Furbush had shots at making the opening day roster at one point, but they both need to work on their control.  Diaz and Thorman never had any real chance of making the team barring catastrophic injuries.

With Carlos Guillen and Joel Zumaya heading to the disabled list and 33 others still in camp, the Tigers now have eight more cuts to make before spring training.  They have 15 pitchers still competing for a roster spot and they will carry 12, so there are three more moves to made there.  Locks to make the team are

Justin Verlander
Max Scherzer
Rick Porcello
Brad Penny
Phil Coke
Jose Valverde
Joaquin Benoit
Ryan Perry
Brad Thomas.

That leaves six pitching battling for three spots:

Daniel Schlereth
Robbie Weinhardt
Brayan Villarreal
Enrique Gonzalez
Fu-Te Ni
Adam Wilk

Schlereth and Weinhardt are the safest bets unless Schlereth's control issues of his most recent appearance linger into the next game or two.  Beyond that, it is anyone's guess.  Brayan Villareal has the advantage of being on the 40-man roster and he also the most upside of the remaining candidates.  However, they may prefer that both he and Wilk get more work in the minors.  I'm going to guess they go with Gonzalez , who has MLB experience and the ability to eat up a few innings at a time. 

They will also carry 13 position players with the following players a virtual lock for the opening day roster:

Alex Avila
Victor Martinez
Miguel Cabrera
Jhonny Peralta
Brandon Inge
Ramon Santiago
Don Kelly
Austin Jackson
Magglio Ordonez
Ryan Raburn
Casper Wells

The Tigers have not said that Wells is going to make the team, but it's difficult to see how he won't.  He plays all three outfield positions, hit well at the end of last year and continued his hitting this spring.  Most importantly, they need a right-handed hitter to play when Avila sits versus lefties and Wells is the only one available.  So that leaves seven players for two spots:

Scott Sizemore
Will Rhymes
Danny Worth
Brennan Boesch
Clete Thomas
Andy Dirks
Max St. Pierre

St. Pierre is not going to make the team so it's really six players.  He is mainly still around because they need an extra catcher to handle all the pitchers still in camp.

One spot will go to the starting second baseman which manager Jim Leyland says is still undecided.  I don't think either Rhymes or Sizemore has done anything to firmly seize the job this spring.  So, I still think they will go with Sizemore, who has more potential as a hitter.  Danny Worth can't be ruled out yet, but he's more of a utility infielder.

The last spot will most likely go to a left-handed hitting outfielder - Boesch, Dirks or Thomas.  I don't think they'll clear space on the 40-man roster for Dirks, so he is probably out.  So, it comes down to Boesch's power potential versus Thomas's defense.  I've gone back and forth on this, but I'm now leaning towards them keeping Boesch and hoping that he recaptures last year's first half magic.  I'm still rooting for Thomas though.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Best Tigers Outfields since 1930

In an earlier post, I looked at the best outfields in the history of the game according to Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Offense Wins Above Replacement (oWAR).  Both statistics are explained in the previous post.  We saw that the Tigers outfields of the early 20th century did quite well.  These outfields including stars such as Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Harry Heilmann and Bobby Veach had three of the top 15 combined WARs and five of the top 15 combined oWARs.

My next post was going to be the top 15 Tigers outfields of all time, but it turned out to be the same cast of characters.  In fact 13 of the top outfields by WAR and 14 of the top 15 by oWAR involved Ty Cobb. That wasn't a very interesting list, so instead, I'm presenting the top 15 Tiger outfields by WAR since 1930 in Table 1 below.  I also lowered the plate appearance requirement to 250 for each outfielder.

The best Bengals outfield since 1930 was Al Kaline, Roky Colavito and Bill Bruton in 1961.  They combined for 18.7 WAR which means that they were about 19 wins better than a trio of replacement players.  They finished fourth on the Tigers all-time list.  This group was an important part of a team that won 101 games and finished in second place behind the Yankees.  As we saw in the previous post, those Yankees had the fourth best outfield ever with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra combining for 21.5 WAR.

Number two on the Tigers post-1930 list list was the 2007 triplet of Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson and Marcus Thames.  Most of you remember Ordonez putting up MVP quality numbers that year but finishing second in the voting to Alex Rodriguez who had an even better season.  It was also the year of Granderson's quad twenty - 20 homers, 20 triples, 20 doubles and 20 stolen bases.  They were 15th on the Tigers overall leader board. 

The 1967 - 1969 outfields of Kaline, Willie Horton and Jim Northrup finished third, fourth and 15th.  Kaline's name shows up a lot on this table - nine times to be precise.  

Fans of the 1980s Tigers will notice that the 1983-1984 outfields did quite well.  Chet Lemon and Larry Herndon were part of each of those outfields.  Glenn Wilson and Kirk Gibson completed the outfields in 1983 and 1984 respectively.


Table 1: Best Tigers Outfields by WAR since 1930


Year
Player 1
WAR
Player 2
WAR
Player 3
WAR
Total WAR
1961
Al Kaline
8.3
Rocky Colavito
7.9
Bill Bruton
2.5
18.7
2007
Magglio Ordonez
8.9
Curtis Granderson
6.3
Marcus Thames
0.6
15.8
1968
Willie Horton
5.6
Jim Northrup
5.6
Al Kaline
3.7
14.9
1967
Al Kaline
7.3
Willie Horton
3.3
Jim Northrup
2.7
13.3
1959
Al Kaline
6.0
Harvey Kuenn
4.5
Charlie Maxwell
2.5
13.0
1962
Rocky Colavito
5.8
Al Kaline
4.2
Bill Bruton
2.6
12.6
1955
Al Kaline
9.0
Bill Tuttle
2.5
Jim Delsing
0.3
11.8
1984
Chet Lemon
6.0
Kirk Gibson
5.1
Larry Herndon
0.7
11.8
1950
Hoot Evers
4.4
Vic Wertz
4.1
Johnny Groth
2.8
11.3
1940
Hank Greenberg
6.4
Barney McCosky
4.0
Bruce Campbell
0.8
11.2
1983
Chet Lemon
5.7
Larry Herndon
3.3
Glenn Wilson
2.0
11.0
1958
Al Kaline
6.1
Charlie Maxwell
2.5
Harvey Kuenn
2.0
10.6
1966
Al Kaline
5.8
Willie Horton
2.3
Jim Northrup
2.3
10.4
1936
Goose Goslin
3.6
Gee Walker
3.6
Al Simmons
3.1
10.3
1969
Jim Northrup
4.7
Al Kaline
2.9
Willie Horton
2.6
10.2

Next, I'll drop the fielding portion of WAR and rank the Tigers outfields since 1930 by oWAR.  Table 2 shows that the 2007 outfield finished first while the 1961 outfield finished second.  The 1959 threesome of Kaline, Harvey Kuenn and Charlie Maxwell was third.

One of the great things about doing a historical list like this is seeing the names of childhood favorites.  With fielding removed, two of my favorite outfields from the 1970s appeared on this list.  The 1976 outfield of Ron Leflore, Rusty Staub and Ben Oglivie finished eighth.  Right after that at number nine was Leflore, Steve Kemp and Champ Summers in 1979. 

I can't provide anything here for fans of the 1990's Tigers, but most of us would prefer to forget those years anyway.  Just about every other era is represented in one or both of these tables.

Table 2: Best Tigers Outfields by oWAR Since 1930


Year
Player 1
oWAR
Player 2
oWAR
Player 3
oWAR
Total oWAR
2007
Magglio Ordonez
7.4
Curtis Granderson
5.9
Marcus Thames
0.5
13.8
1961
Al Kaline
5.4
Rocky Colavito
6.0
Bill Bruton
1.6
12.9
1959
Al Kaline
5.3
Harvey Kuenn
5.5
Charlie Maxwell
2.1
12.8
1968
Willie Horton
5.8
Jim Northrup
3.6
Al Kaline
3.2
12.7
1955
Al Kaline
8.0
Bill Tuttle
3.1
Jim Delsing
1.2
12.3
1940
Hank Greenberg
6.6
Barney McCosky
4.0
Bruce Campbell
0.8
11.4
1950
Hoot Evers
4.0
Vic Wertz
3.9
Johnny Groth
3.3
11.2
1976
Ron LeFlore
5.0
Rusty Staub
4.5
Ben Oglivie
1.5
11.0
1979
Steve Kemp
4.5
Ron LeFlore
3.4
Champ Summers
3.0
10.9
1967
Al Kaline
6.2
Willie Horton
2.8
Jim Northrup
1.9
10.8
1936
Goose Goslin
3.9
Gee Walker
3.4
Al Simmons
2.9
10.2
1984
Chet Lemon
4.0
Kirk Gibson
5.1
Larry Herndon
1.1
10.2
1966
Al Kaline
5.8
Willie Horton
2.6
Jim Northrup
1.3
9.7
1962
Rocky Colavito
4.0
Al Kaline
3.4
Bill Bruton
2.3
9.6
1965
Al Kaline
4.4
Willie Horton
3.1
Don Demeter
1.7
9.2

Sabermetrics Book

Sabermetrics Book
One of Baseball America's top ten books of 2010

Blog Archive

Subscribe

501 Baseball Books

501 Baseball Books
Recommended by Tiger Tales

Stat Counter

Site Meter