Thursday, May 17, 2012

Week 6 Report: Tigers Continue to Underperform Offensively

The Sixth week of the season may have been the most frustrating week yet for Tigers fans.  They went 3-5 versus the Athletics, White Sox and Twins and are now 18-20 for the season.  The recent two-game sweep at home at the hands of the lowly Twins is probably the low point of the season and they have now dropped four games behind the first-place Indians. The fact that the Tigers started last season at 25-26 before turning it around is becoming less comforting as the weeks go by. 

Despite the inconsistency of Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer who failed again in recent outings after seemingly turning their seasons around,  the Tigers starting rotation looks good.  They lead the league in FIP (3.63), xFIP (3.54) and SIERA (3.58), three statistics which tell us what a team's ERA should be based on events that pitchers can control - strikeouts, walks, hit batsmen, home runs and batted ball types (ground balls, fly balls, pop ups and line drives).  For those who still prefer to use ERA to evaluate pitching performance, they are even doing pretty decent there - fifth in the league at 3.90.

As you probably noticed, the relief staff is a different story.  The bullpen is 11th in FIP (4.08), 10th in xFIP (3.68) and 11th in SIERA (4.09) and dead last in ERA (5.17).   Part of that is too many innings for Luke Putkonen and Collin Balester, who seem destined for Toledo.  Closer Jose Valverde, who seems to be reluctant to throw anything other than his fastball, is also struggling.

The fielding has been a disaster all year and seems to be getting worse with the infield helping to boot away two games versus the Twins.  The Tigers have the worst Defensive Efficiency Ratio in the league converting just 67% of batted balls in play into outs. The league median is 70%.  According to more advanced fielding metrics (UZR, DRS, Total Zone), the Tigers fielders have cost the team an estimated league-worst 24 runs runs compared to an average team.  I shudder to think how they will function if center fielder Austin Jackson is out for any length of time.     

The biggest disappointment to most Tigers fans though is the offense which is seventh in the league with 4.4 runs scored per game.  Table 1 shows that most of the team has under performed their projected OPS according to Dan Szymborski's ZIPS system.  The last column of the table represents the ratio of Actual OPS to projected OPS.  For example, Any Dirks has 1.049 actual OPS/.688 ZIPS OPS = 1.52 or 152.  This means that he is hitting 52% better than projected.  The only other regular who has over performed his ZIPS projection is Jackson with a 137 score.

A score of 100 would indicated that a player is hitting the same as his projection.  Anything less than that means he is performing worse than his projection.  Not surprisingly, the Tigers worst under performer is second baseman Ryan Raburn with a score of 62 indicating that he is only batting 62% as well as expected.  He has a lot of company though including regulars Delmon Young (79). Brennan Boesch (82), Miguel Cabrera  (89), Prince Fielder (92) and Jhonny Peralta (92).

 Table 1: Tigers Over and Under Performers

Player
ZIPS OPS
Actual OPS
Actual/ZIPS
Dirks
.688
1.049
152
Jackson
.697
.958
137
Laird
.638
.752
118
Peralta
.742
.679
92
Fielder
.898
.824
92
Avila
.768
.700
91
Cabrera
.955
.853
89
Boesch
.770
.632
82
Young
.758
.599
79
Kelly
.681
.501
74
Santiago
.684
.440
64
Raburn
.737
.457
62

Note: Statistics for this post were extracted from Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com

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