Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tigers Get Their Young Shortstop in Jose Iglesias

The Tigers biggest long-term need has been to acquire a young shortstop who can play defense.  With the news that Jhonny Peralta is likely to get suspended for 50 games for Performance Enhancing Drug Use, the future need became an immediate emergency.  The Tigers have filled that hole with the acquisition of defensive whiz Jose Iglesias in a three-team trade with the Red Sox and White Sox.  The other major parts of the trade are reportedly Jake Peavy going to the Red Sox and outfield prospect Avisail Garcia to the White Sox, but there will be more prospects involved.  

The 23-year-old Iglesias was hitting .330/.370/.410 for the Red Sox, but he is not that kind of hitter.  In fact, he has an OPS of .457 in July.  He will likely be more Adam Everett than Alan Trammell with the bat as his career minor league line is .257/.307/.314.  By all accounts, his fielding is exceptional though.  Here are what some of the experts are saying:

Mark Anderson, Baseball Prospect Nation:
He is the best defensive infielder in the minor leagues, and frankly, it’s not very close. Iglesias is a jaw-dropping defender and he is worth of a big-league roster spot thanks to those skills alone. 
Baseball Prospectus Annual:
Iglesias shows great range , a strong arm, quick reflexes, incredible fluidity,. soft hands, amazing body control, and the ability to turn water into wine.  Scouts hurried to grade his fielding an 80 (the highest possible using the 20-80 scale).
Baseball America Prospect Handbook
Rated as the International League's top defensive shortstop for two years running, he has exceptionally quick hands and feet.  His arm is strong and former manager Bobby Valentine said Iglesias has more range than Rey Ordonez, the gold glover he had with the Mets. 
Assuming he is indeed suspended, Peralta's bat will be missed.  He is currently batting .308 and is surprisingly second on the team in OPS at .823.  However, with the slow-footed Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the corners, defense at shortstop is important and Iglesias will provide a lot more of it than the steady but immobile Peralta. 

Even if he turns out to be another Everett-type hitter, Iglesias will probably remain as Tigers shortstop next year and beyond.  If nothing else, his speed and defense certainly changes the dynamic of the roster.  It's going to fun to see how this develops. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More on Jose Veras

Danny Malter, who writes for Ariball.com, sent me an article on Jose Veras today which you can find here.  Ariball is a relatively new site run by former Dodgers General Manager Fred Claire and MLB consulatant Ari Kaplan.  Anyway, Malter's piece talks about Veras' pitch selection and location among other things.  Most notably, the new Tigers reliever has an excellent curve ball with a whiff rate of 38% (versus an MLB average of 26%).  His most frequent pitch is a sinker, but he prefers to use his curve ball with two strikes. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tigers Acquire Jose Veras from Astros

As originally reported by Ken Rosenthal, the Tigers acquired Jose Veras from the Astros this morning for outfield prospect Danry Vasquez.  Veras was closing games for Houston but he will not take that role on the Tigers.  Joaquin Benoit will remain the closer with Veras and lefty Drew Smyly setting up.  Detroit will be the seventh major league stop for the well traveled Veras.

The 32-year-old Dominican had a 2.98 ERA and 44/14 K/BB ratio in 43 innings with the Astros this year.  His RE24, a measure of overall effectiveness including situational pitching, was 6.80.  This indicates that he saved the Astros an estimated seven runs over an average pitcher.  This would rank him third on the Tigers staff behind Smyly (the MLB leader at 20.0) and Benoit (14.9).  The rest of the Tigers relievers are below zero meaning they have cost the team runs.

Veras has a history of control problems with 4.7 walks per nine innings in his career, but is down to 2.9 this year.  He has been especially sharp in recent weeks having held opponents to zero earned runs in 18 of his last 19 outings.  He also has walked just four batters during that period.

This deal adds depth to the Tigers bullpen for now, but it does not come without risks.  Vasquez is a consensus top ten Tigers prospect with a high upside. The 19-year-old Venezuelan outfielder is a raw talent with a .281/.331/.390 line at low A West Michigan.  I got a chance to see him last year when he played for the short season Connecticut Tigers.  I do not have scouting skills, but his athleticism stands out right away and the experts agree that his hitting tool is excellent.

If he develops power and a little plate discipline, Vasquez has the potential to be a middle of the order hitter.  He is very far away from the majors though and chances are that he'll flame out before he gets there.  He has more value to a team like the Astros that needs to stock pile such talents and hope that a couple of them pan out. The Tigers, on the other hand, want to win now and Veras will help them do that.

Tigers Second Half Ticket Price Overview

Starting today, you will see a new periodic feature on this site.  I have reached an agreement with TiqIQ which will be providing information regarding trends for Tigers tickets sold on the internet.  TiqIQ is a secondary ticket market aggregator which gives a listing of tickets throughout all the major ticket markets on the web.  What I like about them is that they also do quantitative analysis of ticket sales for all teams.   I don't generally do these kinds of partnerships, but it seems like a good fit, so I'm giving it a try.  Hopefully, you will find their data informative and useful.  The first installment  follows.

By Jesse Lawrence
Special to Tiger Tales

The 2013 baseball season is more than halfway over, and the analysts over at TiqIQ shared some interesting data on how prices for Detroit Tigers tickets compare with last year’s figures. Not so surprisingly, last year’s World Series run and a first-half spent atop the AL Central, has raised prices this season compared to last.

Overall, 2013 Tigers tickets at Comerica Park are averaging $64, a 52% increase over their $42 average from 2012.  For the second half, that trend continues to hold true. The average price for post-All-Star break games in Detroit is $66, 47% more than last year’s second half average of $45.

Their second half schedule is highlighted by several big series, including match-ups against the Nationals, Phillies and Athletics. The most important being their three-game set against the second place Indians from August 30th to September 1st. Tickets for that series are currently averaging $67 per seat. Surprisingly, their most expensive series of the second half is the final one, a three-game set against the last-place White Sox to end the regular season home schedule. Currently, that series carries an average price of $98, nearly 50% above their home average.

With just a three-game lead over the Indians in the Central, and some big matchups coming up on the home schedule, don’t be surprised to see the average price jump into the $70’s as the dog days of summer roll along.

For all tickets to all Tigers games from sellers all over the Web, visit TiqIQ.com

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Which Tigers Have The Will to Win?

Yesterday, I introduced The Will To Win (TWTW) statistic which tells us which players have the most grit, heart and will to win. We saw that second baseman Omar Infante is among the major league leaders with a TWTW of .220.  So, they will need their fearless scrappy infielder back from the disabled list soon if they want to continue their winning ways.

Table 1 below shows TWTW for the rest of the Tigers.  Back-up catchers are known for their grit and Brayan Pena has a good amount of it checking in at .193.  Not surprisingly, right fielder Torii Hunter (.181) also has a lot of will to win, which is something that we've been told by broadcasters for years.  The amazing Miguel Cabrera (.171) not only has an abundance of talent, but also has a lot of heart.

The Tigers batter with the lowest TWTW is catcher Alex Avila at .-168, but I think he's an outlier.  If you've been around the game long enough, you know TWTW when you see it and Avila has it even when he's not producing.  No statistic is perfect and TWTW is no exception.   Sometimes you just have use your eyes.  The next lowest TWTW belongs to Avisail Garcia, but it takes rookies a while to master the intangibles.  That's why teams want to have veterans for the pennant race and post-season. 

Table 1: Tigers TWTW Leaders



Player
TWTW
Omar Infante
.220
Brayan Pena
.193
Torii Hunter
.181
Miguel Cabrera
.171
Victor Martinez
.124
Don Kelly
.114
Andy Dirks
.074
Prince Fielder
.069
MLB Average
.063
Jhonny Peralta
.059
Austin Jackson
.056
Ramon Santiago
.011
Matt Tuiasosopo
.010
Avisail Garcia
-.012
Alex Avila
-.168

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Giants Still Have The Will to Win


 Photo credit: SouthsideAsylum.com

It's often been said that there is no way to measure heart, grit, scrappiness, or any such intangible possessed by baseball players.  Earlier in the year, baseball lifer Hawk Harrelson told ESPN analyst Brian Kenny that baseball is not ready for sabermetrics and that TWTW (The Will To Win) trumps all metrics.  Various Bloggers have attempted to measure GRIT in the past with interesting results.  For instance, Chuck Dickens (linked above) determined that Craig Biggio and David Eckstein were the GRITtiest players of all time, which makes sense.

Just like everyone has their own WAR statistic, we can all have our own GRIT statistic too, but I'm going to call mine TWTW.  My goal is to create a metric which which will incorporate many of the things that fans, broadcasters and writers talk about when they praise players for having grit or heart or the will to win.  I want to keep it simple enough so the The Hawk can understand it.  So, I'm going to only use basic counting statistics with no fractional multipliers or any other fake made up stuff like ballpark factors or normalization.

A player gets one TWTW point for each of the following:
  • Hit - A hit is always good because it means the batter is putting the ball in play and making something happen.  A player does not get extra credit for extra base hits, because getting doubles, triples and home runs involves more talent than grit.  It some cases, a home run is even considered to be a selfish act.
  • Bunt hit - A player gets extra credit for a bunt hit because there are not too many things more scrappy than legging out a bunt.
  • Infield hit - A player also gets credit for an infield hit.  Hits are nice, but an infield hit shows that a player hustled to beat the throw to first base.
  • Hit By Pitch - Getting hit by a pitch proves that a hitter is a team player willing to risk injury to help his team win.
  • Sacrifice bunt - This might not seem as good as a bunt hit, but just bunting is a good thing and sacrificing yourself for the team is even better.
  • Sacrifice fly - This involves making contact with a runner on third and sacrificing yourself for the team, both admirable things.
A point is subtracted for each of the following:
  • Strikeout - A strikeout is a big negative because there is no chance to make anything happen when you whiff.  Also, players who strike out a lot often do so because they are swinging for the fences all the time.
  • Double play - When a player hits into a double play, it means he either hit the ball hard (which is talent rather than TWTW) or didn't hustle to get to first base (a definite no no).
Two events which you might be wondering about which are excluded:
  • Walks - Walks are not bad, but winning players don't stand at the plate waiting for a walk.  They put the ball in play.
  • Stolen bases - Stolen bases sometimes show a will to win, but the stolen base leaders are usually gifted speedsters and not necessarily gritty. Besides, players are already getting credit for bunt and infield hits which require more grit than stealing bases.
So, we have H + BUH + IFH + HBP + SH + SF - SO - GIDP.  Leaving the statistic like that without a denominator would make it slightly biased in favor of players with more playing time.  Gritty players are not necessarily full-time players, so I divide by at bats.  You could divide by plate appearances, but at bats is preferable because it makes it seem more like a batting average (a winning statistic) rather than an On-base percentage ( which includes those overrated walks).  So, the final formula is:

TWTW = (H + BUH + IFH + HBP + SH + SF - SO - GIDP)/AB

All teams are ranked by TWTW in Table 1.  Right away, we can see how useful this metric is as the last two world champions are right on top.  The Giants are not having a good year this year, but their batters still have more TWTW (.111) than any other team.  Surely, this explains how they dominated the Tigers in the 2012 World Series.  The team with the least TWTW is the Astros (-.001), so they have no talent and don't want to win, a deadly combination.

Who says the Tigers don't care? They are ranked fifth in the majors in TTTW.  They don't do a lot of the little things, but they hit for a high batting average and don't strikeout much which means they are always making things happen.  The only American league teams higher than them are the Royals and Orioles. 

Table 1: Teams Ranked by TWTW

Team
AB
TWTW
Giants
3470
.111
Cardinals
3416
.109
Royals
3207
.101
Orioles
3586
.098
Tigers
3604
.097
Rangers
3526
.096
Dodgers
3342
.095
Angels
3465
.094
Brewers
3366
.090
Rockies
3296
.086
Rays
3509
.079
Cubs
2730
.077
Diamondbacks
3576
.072
Reds
3550
.072
Yankees
3251
.071
Red Sox
3547
.069
Blue Jays
3468
.068
Phillies
3474
.066
Padres
3472
.056
White Sox
3361
.052
Indians
3436
.049
Marlins
3388
.047
Nationals
3433
.040
Athletics
3499
.038
Twins
3442
.034
Braves
3361
.032
Pirates
3396
.027
Mariners
3513
.021
Mets
3225
.017
Astros
3328
-.001
Multiple teams
2507
-.031
 Data source: FanGraphs.com

Table 2 shows that the individual TWTW leader is Norichika Aoki of the Brewers at .361.  Aoki is an exciting five-Intangibles player (hits, bunt hits, infield hits, hit bastsmen and sacrifice bunts) who does everything he can to will his team to victory.  It's not surprising to see the scrappy Marco Scutaro and Ichiro Suzuki also among the leaders.

While players with a lot of TWTW are not necessarily super talented, there are some well known stars among the leaders such as Yadier Molina and Dustin Pedroia.  We already knew those two men had heart and this confirms it.

The only Tiger among the top twenty is Omar Infante ranked 12th in MLB at .220.  I'll do a complete analysis of the Tigers Will To Win in the next couple of days. 

Table 2: MLB TWTW Leaders

Player
Team
AB
TWTW
Norichika Aoki
Brewers
385
.361
Marco Scutaro
Giants
338
.281
J.B. Shuck
Angels
232
.259
Ichiro Suzuki
Yankees
351
.256
Jean Segura
Brewers
406
.254
Matt Carpenter
Cardinals
385
.249
Ben Revere
Phillies
315
.244
Yadier Molina
Cardinals
349
.244
Shane Victorino
Red Sox
269
.230
Ian Kinsler
Rangers
302
.228
Erick Aybar
Angels
308
.224
Omar Infante
Tigers
291
.220
Dustin Pedroia
Red Sox
403
.218
Adrian Beltre
Rangers
407
.216
Juan Pierre
Marlins
269
.208
Buster Posey
Giants
347
.205
Michael Brantley
Indians
354
.203
Mark Ellis
Dodgers
260
.200
Alberto Callaspo
Angels
283
.198
Placido Polanco
Marlins
278
.198

Data source: FanGraphs.com

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