Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tigers Opening Day Lineup




It's here! Jason Beck revealed the Tigers opening day starting line-up this morning:

Ian Kinsler 2B
Torii Hunter RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Austin Jackson CF
Alex Avila C
Nick Castellanos 3B
Alex Gonzalez SS
Rajai Davis LF

My first thought is that Jackson might not be a good man to bat behind Cabrera and Martinez given that he has not hit well with runners on base (.260 versus .288 with the base empty) in his career.  So, swapping Hunter and Jackson might make sense.  Those kinds of splits tend to even out over time though, so it may not matter.

Another observation is that Davis has been inserted as the number nine hitter versus a right-handed starter.  At first glance, it might seem that the speedy Davis would be a good "second lead-off man", but he has a .650 OPS lifetime versus right handers lifetime (as opposed to .779 versus lefties).  The lefty/right split is not one that is likely to correct itself, especially not after 1,758 plate appearances versus righties.  So, why not see what the lefty hitting rookie Tyler Collins can do?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ten Predictions for Tigers Pitchers

Al Alburquerque will help to bail out a leaky Tigers bullpen in 2014
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

In a recent post, I gave 10 predictions for Tigers batters.  Now, I'll do the same for the pitchers:

  • Justin Verlander will re-establish himself as the dominant ace of the staff with a 2.75 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 230 innings.   Since I know people will ask about wins, I'll say he'll win 19 games.  He'll earn another Cy Young Award for his efforts.  
  • Max Scherzer will be almost as good as last year posting a 3.25 ERA and 215 strikeouts in 205 innings.  Some fans will view his season negatively though because he wouldn't sign a long-term deal and because his win total will drop to 16 with less run support. 
  • Anibal Sanchez will miss a few weeks with a minor arm injury, but will still finish with a 3.50 ERA and 170 punch outs in 165 innings. 
  • Rick Porcello will pitch 180 innings, post a 4.10 ERA and reach 150 K's for the first time.  This will make him a solid and durable back end starter, but fans will continue to be impatient with his performance. 
  • Drew Smyly will start strong, but fade a little in the second half as he pitches more innings than he ever has.  For the season, he'll post a 4.00 ERA in 160 innings.
  • Joe Nathan will be stabilizing force in the bullpen with a 2.75 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 38 saves in 40 opportunities. 
  • Al Alburquerque will keep himself healthy enough to pitch 55 innings with an amazing 75 whiffs.  
  • Joba Chamberlain and Phil Coke will be awful and won't be on the roster at the end of the season.  The good news is that this will force the Tigers to make a significant addition before the trade deadline.  
  • Every bullpen has some booms and busts.  We've covered the disappointments.  The surprises will be Blaine Hardy and Evan Reed who will be impressive in middle relief. 
  • The entire staff will allow 665 runs.  That coupled with 750 runs scored will give the Tigers 89 wins and another Central Division title.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ten Predictions for Tigers Batters in 2014


Will Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson bounce back this season?
(Photo credit: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

I'm a little less optimistic about the Tigers now than I was at the beginning of spring training, but I still think they are are good shape even with all the injuries.  How good? I'll try to answer that by making some predictions for the 2014 season.  These are not mathematical projections, but rather a mix of science and intuition.  I'll start by offering ten predictions for Tigers batters: 

Alex Avila has regressed two consecutive seasons due to health problems (most notably concussions) which are threatening to shorten his career.  We will never repeat his 2011 season, but I expect him to rebound somewhat this year.  He will hit .250/.350/.400 with 15 round trippers and continue to be good at framing pitches and working with the pitching staff.

Miguel Cabrera will have another MVP caliber season batting .330/.400/.590 with 40 home runs.  He will not win the MVP again this year though.  That's going to Mike Trout on an improved Angels team this year.  

Ian Kinsler will overcome his fluky Arlington home/road split and do just fine in his new home: .270/.340/.400 with 20 stolen bases.  He will continue to be a slightly above average defender at age 31. 

Alex Gonzalez will start out as the primary shortstop and hit five home runs in April.  He will however bat .220 and have limited range at shortstop at age 37.  He'll get hurt by May and they will juggle Andrew Romine and Danny Worth until they find a better solution during the summer.  They will sign Stephen Drew to an expensive half-year deal some time after the draft (allowing them to avoid draft pick compensation). Ultimately, Jose Iglesias will be missed more than either outfielder Andy Dirks or reliever Bruce Rondon.

Nick Castellanos will be at the center of Rookie of Year discussions with a great first two months.  The pitchers will then catch up to him, but he'll still have a solid rookie campaign batting .275 with a .330 OBP and 20 homers.  He'll be in the bottom third of third basemen defensively but won't embarrass himself.   

Torii Hunter will have a rough year hitting .275 with a .750 OPS as his career winds down.  Even worse, he will continue to struggle defensively. 

Austin Jackson will split the difference between his excellent 2012 season and somewhat disappointing 2013 season ending with a final line of .285/.335/.440.  His defense will also get back to being above average.

Rajai Davis will not be the primary left fielder for the most part, but with the injury of Andy Dirks and un-readiness of Tyler Collins, he'll get the most playing time of any left fielder. He'll bat .260 with 40 stolen bases in 320 PA and numerous pinch running opportunities.  

Victor Martinez will start slow and finish strong again, but not be quite as durable as he was in 2013.  He will bat .300 with a .790 OPS in 140 games.

The Tigers will score 750 runs in 2014.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mark Fidrych Book Contest

http://www.amazon.com/The-Bird-Life-Legacy-Fidrych/dp/1250004926#reader_1250004926

Last year, I wrote a review of the Mark Fidrych biography written by Doug Wilson: "The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych".  I still highly recommend this book.  It is a great read for all Tigers fans whether you remember seeing him pitch or not.

I happen to have an extra copy of the book, so I have decided to give it away in a simple prediction contest.  Here is the question:

Which Tiger will get the first home run of the 2014 regular season.  Give the game, the inning and number of runners on base. 

The tie breaker question is:

Which Tiger will get the first stolen base of the 2014 regular season.  Give the game and the inning.

The winner gets a free copy of the book.  Please put your predictions in the comments section.  You have until 1:00 PM EST on Monday, March 31 to submit a guess.  I will announce the winner once he/she is determined and we'll arrange to get the book sent.  The person who won last year's Mark Fidrych book contest is not eligible, but he is free to guess.     

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Jose Iglesias Likely Out for Season. What Now?

Should the Tigers sign free agent shortstop Stephen Drew to replace Jose Iglesias?
(Photo credit: Associated Press)

According to the Detroit Free Press and several other sources, The Tigers confirmed today that young shortstop Jose Iglesias would be sidelined with stress fractures in both shins.  General manager Dave Dombrowski went so far as to hint that Iglesias would probably miss the entire season:
“The reality is that he will be out basically for at least five months,” Dombrowski said. “Perhaps back late in the year, but in my thought process that’s more unlikely than likely at this time.”
This is a disappointing development to say the least as he was the centerpiece of the teams new emphasis on infield defense.  Not only does this cut into the Tigers projected edge in the American League Central, but it also deprives us of being able to watch perhaps the most acrobatic Tigers shortstop of most of our lifetimes.

The Tigers do expect the 24-year-old Iglesias to be back for next season, but they have a big void to fill for 2014.  It shouldn't be a crushing blow as they are still heavy favorites to win the division, but it's a substantial loss.  The Tigers are considering internal options to replace Iglesias - probably some combination of spring training invitee Danny Worth, rookies Hernan Perez and Eugenio Suarez and utility man Steve Lombardozzi.

That arrangement might work for a few weeks, but contending teams don't usually do shortstop by committee and it's hard to foresee any of those guys emerging as their starting shortstop for the full season.

So, I'm expecting them to aggressively pursue a replacement from outside the organization.  The most obvious choice would be free agent Stephen Drew.  The catch there is that the Tigers would have to give up a first round draft pick to sign him which is not usually a good idea for a one-year stop gap.

I've gone back and forth on Drew, but now that we pretty much know that Iglesias is gone for the season, I would be in favor of a one-year deal or two years at most.  The draft pick is important, but it's less important than trying to win it all this year. Keep in mind that draft picks in the second half of the first round have much lower odds of success than picks earlier in the first round. 

Other rumors involve Mariners middle infielder Nick Franklin (mostly a second baseman) and Diamond Back's shortstop Didi Gregorius.  Either would likely cost one or two of the Tigers top prospects which would be more than the likely value of a first round pick.  Since the Tigers do not have a deep farm system, this would limit their ability to add more help at other positions before the trading deadline.

Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney has also been mentioned as a possible replacement.  He's an elite defender at the keystone position, but probably not at shortstop. He doesn't hit much, so if he is only average or tick above defensively, then he won't be much of an upgrade over the internal candidates.  The Cardinals Pete Kozma?  He's a good fielder, but he had a .548 OPS last year which is not acceptable at any position.

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is one more option.  He'd be cheaper in terms of players because the Phillies would move him for salary relief.  The problem with him is that he has a no-trade clause and has no interest in leaving Philadelphia.

So, there is no easy answer, but I am confident Dombrowski will make a move.  If not, then they might start the season with a spring training invitee (Worth) and two rookies (third baseman Nick Castellanos and outfielder Tyler Collins) in the starting line-up. That's too much uncertainty for a team with post-season aspirations.  So, they'll likely do something and I'm guessing they'll work something out with Drew.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

2014 Forecast: Tigers Going All the Way This Year


The Tigers have a new manager and a very different line-up in 2014, but expect more of the same.
(Photo credit: Paul Sancya, AP)

With opening day about two weeks away, it's time for my predicted standings for 2014.  The pre-season standings you see at places like Fan Graphs and Baseball Prospectus where almost all the teams are targeted for between 70 to 90 wins are projections rather than predictions.  Everything is regressed to the mean which results in few players having great seasons and few teams winning a lot of games.

I like to use those kinds of projections as a baseline rather than a final forecast.  Realistically, some teams will have more players having great seasons than others and those are the teams that will win 93+ games and probably make the playoffs.  The goal here is to figure out which teams.

My predicted standings are below.  There are no big surprises here.  I actually arrived at the same ten playoff teams as FanGraphs which is coincidental as I used the Baseball Prospectus projections as my base.  If I was going to pick a dark horse, it might be the Minnesota Twins who have a lot of interesting young talent.  I don't think they are ready to move up though. My National League candidate would be the San Diego Padres.

Most importantly, I'm picking the Tigers to easily win the American League Central with 93 wins.  That is the same number of wins as last year.  Don't they have less talent this year though with the trades of Prince Fielder and Doug Fister?  Yes, but their run differential last year suggests that they should have won 98 games.  They won five less games than they should have due to losing a lot of close games which I think was mostly random.  Thus, they should make up for reduced talent by having better situational performance.

Finally, since the playoffs are largely a crapshoot, there is no reason to not pick the Tigers to win the World Series.  So, that is my forecast: Tigers win the World Series.

Predicted MLB Standings 2014

AL East
W
L
PCT
Tampa Bay*
93
69
.574
Boston#
86
76
.531
New York
81
81
.500
Toronto
79
83
.488
Baltimore
75
87
.463




AL Central
W
L
PCT
Detroit*
93
69
.574
Cleveland
81
81
.500
Kansas City
78
84
.481
Minnesota
71
91
.438
Chicago
70
92
.432




AL West
W
L
PCT
Los Angeles*
95
67
.586
Oakland#
87
75
.537
Texas
83
79
.512
Seattle
79
83
.488
Houston
62
100
.383




NL East
W
L
PCT
Washington*
96
66
.593
Atlanta#
89
73
.549
New York
74
88
.457
Philadelphia
73
89
.451
Miami
65
97
.401




NL Central
W
L
PCT
St. Louis*
93
69
.574
Pittsburgh#
86
76
.531
Cincinnati
84
78
.519
Milwaukee
74
88
.457
Chicago
68
94
.420




NL West
W
L
PCT
Los Angeles*
99
63
.611
San Francisco
84
78
.519
Arizona
82
80
.506
San Diego
78
84
.481
Colorado
72
90
.444

*Division winner
#Wild card

Playoffs

Wild Card Games
Oakland over Boston
Pittsburgh over Atlanta

Divisional Series
Oakland over Los Angeles (AL)
Detroit over Tampa Bay
Los Angeles (NL) over Pittsburgh
St. Louis over Washington

Championship Series
Detroit over Oakland
St. Louis over Los Angeles (NL)

World Series
Detroit over St. Louis

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