A statistical look at the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, Red Wings, Spartans and Wolverines
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
End post. The Sox won. Lets take care of business and pound him like we should.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
- 8 K's, 7 ground ball outs and only 2 fly ball outs. Rick Porcello faltered in the 6th inning like a young pitcher is prone to do, but the potential he flashed tonight is enough to forget it. He was simply masterful for 5 innings and mowed down the Mariners lineup. Another good sign... he was still throwing 92+ in the 6th inning. Once his velocity has gone down in the past, he rarely recovered that strength. Bottom line, if Porcello develops into a high K man while staying an extreme ground ball pitcher then we will be looking at something incredible special in a few years. This kid is good.
- Ryan Perry was masterful as well. He worked us out of the jam in the 6th with the bases loaded and struck out the side in the 7th. His slider has been deadly since his return from Toledo.
- Bobby Seay was off all night and definitely did not deserve the win. The hit Ichiro got off him was just sick, but falling behind roughly every batter is not a recipe for success.
- Might as well talk about Rodney. Truly an impressive display against Lopez and he got the job done again. Only 1 blown save and we are past the middle of August. I never, ever would have thought that was possible at the beginning of the year.
- Offensively, we were going against King Felix Hernandez. Good luck with that. After he departed, we tore Lowe to shreds. Avila got a HR and Cabrera got the go ahead RBI. We should mash tomorrow against Snell.
- As for Huff's debut... 1 hit on 4 tries, and it was a missile. Obviously, it is too early to comment on his production with us, yet.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Hochevar has an above average K/BB ratio of 2.54, a GB/FB ratio of 1.33 and a FIP of 4.73 that is inflated by a HR/FB ratio of 14.1%. Assuming that regresses, and his strand rate of 65.5% creaps up to league average, then his ERA should drop the rest of this season. Essentially, he has a lot of talent and he has pitched better than his ERA would suggest. Still, he has not pitched anywhere near like he has been expected too.
He is basically a 3 pitch pitcher with a fastball, curve, and slider. According to Fan Graphs, his slider has been the only plus pitch that he has had this season. Looking at his splits, right handed batters hit slightly better against him. They have an OPS of .838 off him and lefties hit for an OPS of .747. All in all, not a big difference so it will be interesting to see how Leyland sets the lineup tomorrow. One extremely positive thing for us is that Hochevar has been brutal on the road. He has a 7.34 ERA in 6 starts on the road. Could Comerica Park signal some trouble for him?
It is a small sample size but a couple of our hitters have had success off him in the past. Miguel Cabrera, in particular, has owned Hochevar. He has gone 5 for 6 off him for an OPS of 1.833. Marcus Thames has hit a HR off him and Grandy has 2 hits and 2 walks off him in 6 plate appearances.
Friday, August 14, 2009
-Courtesy of Brooks Baseball, that is the strikezone plot for Jarrod Washburn tonight. An overwhelming majority of his pitches were either roughly in the middle of the plate or down in the zone. Washburn is a "pitch to contact" pitcher and he has to be able to keep the ball low and away and hit those spots in order to induce lazy fly balls or ground balls. He did it tonight and will need to continue to do that during his tenure here.
-As Jimmy Leyland said in the post-game presser, this was a perfect baseball game. Great defense, great pitching by Washburn and Lyon and a HR to win it. And, despite our lack of hits, we had a good approach at the plate tonight. We induced 4 walks off Zack Greinke even though his stuff was good most of the night. Some more thoughts...
-In the last 30 days, here are some offensive totals for certain players on our club...
Inge has a .533 OPS and .248 wOBA
Laird has a .516 OPS and .234 wOBA
Everett has a .354 OPS, and .159 wOBA
-on the other hand...
Ordonez has a .881 OPS and .378 wOBA
-It did not really matter tonight as Inge was the one who got the big hit, but this is a sampling on why our offense has been so putrid lately and on the road. Everett and Laird are simply terrible offensive players and the injury that has been bothering Inge has reduced him to a negative player since the All Star break.
-Back to back gems from Verlander and Washburn certainly will help an anemic offense. The Royals have an even worse offense and Jackson has a chance to redeem himself after a poor start last time out.
Monday, August 10, 2009
This season, he has been better but is still a disappointment in what has become an incredibly disappointing starting rotation for the Red Sox. He has a 5.20 ERA that is fairly representative of his play. He has a below average FIP of 4.58, a xFIP of 5.01, 5.06 tRA and 5.18 tRA*. Putting all of these numbers in context, Penny has been a below average pitcher this season and the predictive stats are not high on him reclaiming old glory anytime soon.
Penny has a 2.14 K/BB ratio that is slightly above average but he has mysteriously lost his ability to get ground balls at the same rate that he used too. For his career, Penny has a GB/FB ratio of 1.29. This season, though, his GB/FB ratio is 0.94. This has occurred during the same year that his fastball velocity is actually the highest of his career.
He is a 3 pitch pitcher this season. He throws his fastball roughly 73% of the time, his curveball 19% of his pitches and his split finger fastball roughly 8% of the time. In past years, he also used his changeup but he has since gone away from that and used his split finger in place of the changeup (hello, Jeremy Bonderman). According to Fan Graphs, his curveball has been dreadful this year and is -15.2 runs below average.
Penny's splits this year are nearly identical. Right handed batters hit for an OPS of .833 against him and lefties hit for an OPS of .812 off him. Also, in 3 of his last 4 starts, Penny has allowed at least 5 runs. So, he has struggled recently.
As for today's game, most guys on our team have not faced off against Penny too often. Polanco has 22 AB's and a .917 OPS against him, and Miggy has 11 AB's and a 1.545 OPS off him. Other than that, no one on the team has more than 7 AB's against him, and you really cannot gather too much from small sample sizes. Considering right handed hitters and lefties have hit Penny virtually equally as well this year, it will be interesting to see how Leyland will set his lineup. Laird is expected to play, and I would think that Everett would get the call over Santiago. Does Guillen DH? Is Maggs in RF, again? How about Thames, Raburn and Thomas?
Game time is at 7:10 on ESPN. Edwin Jackson is on the mound tonight and looking to build off his last start against Baltimore.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Scott Baker, though, is legit and his 4.59 ERA is worse than it should be. He has a 4.11 FIP, 4.16 xFIP, 3.82 tRA, and a 3.93 K/BB ratio that is good for 4th in the AL behind Verlander, Halladay and Greinke. That is some pretty good company.
Baker is a fly ball pitcher with a 0.76 GB/FB ratio this season and that identical GB/FB ratio for his career. Partly b/c of that, he will allow some long balls. He has a 1.41 HR/9 ratio. As alluded to above, though, he will not walk many batters. A 1.91 BB/9 ratio is very, very good.
Baker incorporates all 4 of his pitches into his starts. He features a fastball that averages 91 MPH, and a good slider that comes in at 82 MPH. His curve and changup are used much less frequently and those are actually his two worst pitches according to Fan Graphs. Interstingly enough, though, Baker threw his changeup and slider 21 times apiece in his last start against us this season. On the other hand, he never even threw a curveball. It will be interesting to see if that same game plan is in place against us this time around.
He has reverse splits on the year as right handed batters hit much better off him than lefties do. The OBP is nearly identical but right handers have a .508 slugging percentage against him and lefties only have a slugging percentage of .348 off him.
Baker is coming in on a bit of a hot streak. In his last 4 starts combined, he has only allowed 4 ER. Also going for him is the fact that his ERA is a run and a half lower on the road than it is at home. Going for us, though, is that a number of our batters have some real good success against him. Thames, Guillen and Ordonez all have at least 18 PA's against him and all 3 of them have an OPS above 1.000 against him. Grandy has a .912 OPS against him in 37 career AB's. At least 3 of those guys should be in the lineup tomorrow. Inge and Polanco, though, have been brutal against Baker in their career. Each have at least 25 PA's against him and an OPS below .430 against him. So, we have been a little hit or miss against him with certain parts of our lineup.
In Baker's last start against us, he allowed 5 ER and 8 base runners in 6 innings of work during a 6-5 Twins victory on May 14th. I'll gladly take the 5 ER from him again, and hope that Jarrod Washburn is a little sharper in his second start for us.
1. It seemed that JV was way off tonight. His fastball, especially, appeared to be a pitch the Twins dug in on tonight.
2. The Twins ran on Grandy twice on judgment calls from the 3rd base coach. That tells you what the scouting report on Grandy's arm is. And Fan Graphs agrees. It is slightly below average this season.
3. Nick Punto was especially impressive to me tonight. He has been a great defender his whole career, but only slightly above average this season according to UZR. It was only one game but he passed the eye test for me. He had real good instincts at 3rd and seemed light on his feet.
4. We should have scored on Grandy's bloop hit (I didn't know if Everett or Lamont was to blame for that b/c I just focused on the ball dropping in) and we loaded the bases one other time. So, with some luck, we could have scored a couple runs off Pavano. Still, 4 straight starts like that against us is hard to deal with.
5. I've been calling for Simons to come up since mid June. They've already tried Dolsi, Fien and Lambert. I have to think he might be next. Maybe DD will come out of left field and promote a guy like Weinhardt. I doubt it but I also didn't think Avila would see any time this season.
Oh well. I said coming into this home stand that we needed to take 5 of 7. Thus far, we have taken 4 of 6. Take the series tomorrow and this forgettable game can be forgotten.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
"The Detroit Red Wings are bringing back a familiar face.-More to come on him and Eaves and where this puts us for next season in a few.
The team signed free agent forward Jason Williams to a one-year contract on Thursday.
Williams, 28, originally was signed by Detroit in 2000, but traded in 2007 as part of the Kyle Calder deal. In 233 games with the Red Wings, he had 49 goals and 67 assists. His best season with Detroit came in '05-06, when he set career highs with 21 goals, 37 assists and 58 points.
Williams (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) has solid offensive skills and can play the point on the power play.
Williams spent last season with the Atlanta Thrashers and Columbus Blue Jackets, and finished with 19 goals and 28 assists.
In 376 career NHL games, Williams has 205 points (85 goals, 120 assists).
He also played 128 games for the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League in '00-01 and '01-02 under the direction of current Red Wings coach Mike Babcock."
That was Jackson's stat line before the 9th when he allowed a 2 run blast to Adam Jones. Regardless, this was a fantastic start for Jackson and you can hardly fault Leyland for letting him try to go the distance. His game score (a stat developed by Bill James) was a 74. Based on that, this would be his 3rd best start of the year, behind his 8 inning, 0 ER performance against Baltimore on May 31st and his stingy complete game against the Angels on June 6. After a rough outing against the Indians when he only lasted 4 innings, allowed 9 base runners and 3 runs, this was a much needed start for him.
It was a fairly good mix for Jackson as he K'd 8 batters, induced 9 ground ball outs and 10 fly ball outs. He flirted with a high pitch count for awhile but a 8 pitch inning in the 7th and a 7 pitch inning in the 8th has a way of alleviating that concern. And, you have to love his pitch speed graph courtesy of Brooks Baseball...
As Leyland likes to say, he is a horse. There is no noticeable drop off as the innings pile up in a game and that is really, really good to see.
- Our offense was the victim of a lot of bad luck yesterday. Adam Everett had several good at bats and swings before finally getting a single late in the game. Magglio had 3 great swings on the ball but one of them ended up going for a double play. Granderson hit the ball hard, Polanco hit a lined shot to the 2nd baseman in one inning, etc. We deserved more runs off Guthrie and more than 4 runs for the game. Oh well. We will see if that performance can continue today.
- It was nice to see Maggs look good against a right handed pitcher. His HR off Guthrie might have been the best hit he has had all year. But, I am not proclaiming him back. He had good career numbers entering the day against Guthrie (4 for 7 with 2 doubles) and he has failed far too often against right handed pitchers for him to see many more of them the rest of this year.
- Rodney did allow 2 baserunners but his stuff was pretty filthy and I had no problems with him walking Luke Scott. He continues to be a very good closer for us this season.
- We needed to win this series and we are 1 win away from doing that. 2 down. Now, lets take the afternoon game today and get this home stand started off right.
Hernandez is 6'3" 215 lb right handed pitcher who is a rookie at the age of 24. This season he has a 3.28 ERA and has gone 5 innings or more in all but two of his 8 starts. In the minors, Hernandez was a huge strikeout pitcher with K/9 totals of 9.54, 10.40 and 10.60 in the past 3 minor league seasons.
By painting that good picture of Hernandez, I think it is time to bring him down to Earth a little bit. While he did strikeout a bunch of batters in the minors, he has just a 4.93 K/9 ratio in the big leagues. Combine that with a 3.47 BB/9 ratio and his K/BB ratio of 1.42 leaves much to be desired. So too do his other peripheral numbers and/or predictive stats. He has a 4.71 FIP (roughly a run and a half higher than his ERA) and even that is deflated by an unsustainable HR/FB ratio of just 6.8%. Thus, his xFIP of 5.86 . Hernandez also has a tRA of 5.05 (noticing a trend here). Without crunching the numbers, he has to have one of the most deceiving ERA's in all of baseball. A lot of that is helped out by a LOB % of 84.9. History would suggest that that is in no way sustainable.
Despite a HR/9 ratio of just 1.09, Hernandez has been an extreme fly ball pitcher. His GB/FB ratio is 0.55. Hernandez is basically a 3 pitch pitcher with a 93 MPH fastball, 78 MPH slider and 84-945 MPH changeup. Thus far on the year, Fan Graphs tells us that his fastball has been his only plus pitch. His splits are virtually identical. Given the small sample size, I'm not sure how much to read into that. But, lefties hit for an OPS of .745 off him and right handed batters hit for an OPS of .786 off him.
Hernandez made a start against us on May 28th (his first big league start... ever). Somehow, he managed to only allow 1 ER. In 5.2 IP, he allowed 5 hits and 4 BB. The Orioles won that game 5-1. Given the small sample size, I would not read too much into that one start against us. But, Grandy did go 2 for 2 with a BB against him. Clete Thomas and Maggs also had hits off him. Inge drew a walk and Thomas did, as well.
As for today... as always, it is hard to say with this offense. We are a league average offense against flyball pitchers with a OPS+ of 100. When we face a pitcher for a second time, our OPS+ is just 91. On the other hand, Cabrera, Thames, Inge, Granderson and Polanco are all plus hitters when facing a flyball pitcher. Given that, and the predictive stats that suggest that he has actually not pitched well this season, he could be due for a huge fall today.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Guthrie is a 6'1" 196 lb right handed pitcher who has been a part of the Orioles and Indians organizations during his career. In the previous two years, he had posted an ERA of 3.70 and 3.63, respectively. This year, however, he has fallen off the mat a little bit with a 5.37 ERA and the peripheral numbers that suggest that his ERA is no fluke.
Guthrie also has a 5.77 FIP, a .277 BABIP, a LOB % of 69.5, 5.60 tRA, and a 5.36 xFIP. Looking at all of these numbers and putting them into their proper context, there is really nothing to suggest that Guthrie has been the recipient of bad luck. His LOB % is slightly low but so is his BABIP. Guthrie has just not been a good pitcher this year.
Guthrie has a 5.37 K/9 ratio and a 2.94 BB/9 ratio. So, he strikes out fewer batters than the average pitcher will and walks fewer, as well. He has been a fly ball pitcher this year with a 0.80 GB/FB ratio.
Given his lack of strikeouts one might expect that Guthrie is a soft tosser. Instead, he will come at batters with a 93 MPH fastball, 84 MPH slider and 85 MPH changeup. Historically, his fastball and slider have been plus pitches. This year, though, Fan Graphs tells us that his slider has been his only plus pitch.
Guthrie has traditional splits and lefties have mashed him this year to the tune of a .922 OPS. So, we should see Guillen, Thomas and Granderson return to the starting lineup today. He also has a 6.39 ERA on the road this season, so that is another plus for us. So too is the fact that both Grandy and Inge have 8 or more plate appearances against him and have an OPS at 1.000 or higher.
In summary, Guthrie has an ERA that is nearly 2 runs above what he has posted in previous years, and his peripheral numbers suggest that is no fluke. In addition, he has been terrible on the road this year, lefties have crushed him and Grandy and Inge have had a lot of success against him. However, he probably still possesses the stuff that he held in previous years. Assuming that is the case, we just have to hope that he does not have a turn-back-the clock game tonight.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
-More to come later. Good signing, though. High reward-type player if it all clicks.
"The Detroit Red Wings announced today that the club has signed free agent forward Patrick Eaves to a one-year contract. In accordance with team policy, additional terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Originally a first round pick (29th overall) of the Ottawa Senators in the 2003 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Eaves has played in 242 career games with the Senators and the Carolina Hurricanes. He scored 20 goals in just 58 games in 2005-06, his rookie season in the NHL. Eaves followed his impressive debut with career highs in assists (18) and points (32) in 2006-07."
- Justin Verlander channeled his inner Jeremy Bonderman in the first inning and was blasted for 5 ER. Then, he went into total shutdown mode and did not allow another ER the rest of the game. A strikeout an inning and just 1 walk on the night is impressive, and despite the rough start, this has to be considered one of JV's best outings. The Verlander in 06, 07 and 08 would probably not have bounced back from that rough first inning. What he did after that first inning just shows you how much he has improved this season.
- Miguel Cabrera has the talent to really carry this team during the stretch run like Manny Ramirez did last year for LA, and Justin Morneau did for the Twins in 2006. The game-tying HR, a great defensive play that robbed Tigers killer Luke Scott of a hit, and a double that knocked in 2 runners is a heck of a start.
- Clete Thomas is my hero.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
This year, he has returned to being at least a respectable back of the rotation starter. He has a 5.66 ERA, but he has peripheral numbers that suggest his ERA should decline as the year goes on. He does allow a .303 batting average against but his FIP of 4.36 comes with a real high BABIP of .335 and a criminally low LOB % of just 63.2%. His K/BB rate of 3.82 is outstanding. In other words, do not just look at his ERA when evaluating his pitching this year. Even with his drop in velocity in recent years, his peripheral numbers would suggest that he has rebounded nicely from the injuries. He could be a guy that Jeremy Bonderman could look to and mirror his style.
Pavano is a three pitch pitcher with a fastball, change, and slider. Both his slider and change have been plus pitches this year. Pavano has reverse splits this year with right handers hitting for a better OPS than lefties do against him. Ordonez, Inge and Everett all have an OPS above .800 against him, and both Clete Thomas and Ryan Raburn had good games against him earlier this year. It will be interesting to see what Leyland does today with Ordonez. With the reverse splits and decent career numbers, Maggs could potentially get the call.
Pavano has already face us twice this year and both times he faced off against Armando Galaragga. Both results were the same. Pavano pitched 7 innings in one start and 7.1 in the other while only allowing 2 ER in each of the two starts. He also has yet to issue a walk against us this year in 14.1 IP. After losing both of his last starts against us by one run, one would think that the third time would be the charm today for Armando Galaragga and the Tigers. Right?
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Sowers is a 6'1" 180 lb lefty with a 5.15 ERA and the peripheral numbers that suggest that his ERA is no fluke. He has a 4.77 FIP and a rather low LOB % of 67.7. On the one hand, that would suggest that his ERA might come down some. On the other hand, his xFIP is 5.27 and his tRA is 4.95. His ERA might come down a little, but he is no world beater. At best, he is a serviceable back of the rotation starter, and I am not a big fan of his "stuff."
Sowers has a K/9 ratio of 4.45 (well below average) and a BB/9 ratio of 3.76 (slightly above average). Put the two together and a K/BB ratio of 1.19 leaves much to be desired. His WHIP and opp. batting average are also above league averages.
Sowers has a 1.07 GB/FB ratio, so we should see a mixture of groundballs and flyballs. He also is the type of pitcher that we have struggled with at times this season. While he is a lefty and that is a good matchup for us, we have just an OPS+ of 96 against FB/GB pitchers and an OPS+ of 93 against finesse pitchers. This finesse lefty is exclusively a 3 pitch pitcher. Sowers comes at hitters with a 88 MPH fastball-type pitch nearly 75% of the time. He also relies on a slider and changeup. According to Fan Graphs, his slider is his best pitch this season, and even that pitch is just slightly above 0 runs saved.
As for what we should expect tonight... we should see a lot of contact made on his pitches. He does not strike out a lot, and opposing batters connect on 87% of his pitches (the average is a little below 81%). He also has traditional splits as right handed batters fare better against him than lefties do. So, we should see Maggs, Thames, Everett and Raburn in the lineup today. Something that does not go in our favor is that Sowers has been a much better pitcher at home this season. He has a 4.38 ERA at home and a 6.18 ERA on the road. On the other hand, we have fared very well against him in the past. In his previous 5 starts against us, he has a 6.66 ERA. Granderson (surprisingly?), Thames and Cabrera all have 8+ at bats against him and an OPS above 1.000. Ordonez, for whatever reason, is just 1 for 8 against him and has a .425 OPS.
In summary, Sowers is a below league average starting pitcher who is a soft tossing lefty that performs better at home. This season, we have struggled against some guys like that but the past success against him is encouraging. I am going to go against my better judgement and guess that we are going to give Porcello a lot of run support tonight.
Washburn is a dependable arm at the back of a rotation who will eat innings and give us a reasonable chance to win games. He also will throw strikes and he won't beat himself with walks. For a team that had two rookies in its rotation and Galaragga pitching like a #5 starter, there is a lot of value in that. We needed another starter and he was a good one to get.
But, I don't have any delusions about Washburn and I am not fooled by his ERA. And, I hope others are not. Essentially, he is an ideal #4 starter. His FIP has been roughly 4.7 the last 3 years and that is a number that most good #4 starters will post. This year, he is having a career season and could be a good #3 for us. But, he has an incredibly low BABIP and high LOB % and was helped out immensely by the best defensive outfield in baseball in Seattle and their spacious ballpark. His ERA makes him look like a top of the rotation starter, but he is not. Think Nate Robertson circa 2006. That is what Washburn is.
His FIP of 3.75 looks great but that should also rise when his HR/FB % rises. In fact, his xFIP is 4.66. Also, we will need Thomas and Granderson in the outfield on the days he pitches and they are going to need to cover some ground b/c he is a flyball pitcher. Washburn will definitely make our defense work.
On a side note, he has the best fastball-type pitch (split finger fastball) this year according to Fan Graphs. He is also on pace to post the best WAR of his career (if not, it will be a close second to his season in 2002). Even if/when he reverts back to his career norms as a 4.5 ERA-type pitcher, I really don't see anything wrong with that. He will eat a lot of innings for us and Leyland is going to lean on him a lot to make sure our bullpen stays rested for Galaragga and Porcello. I expect to see a lot of 100+ pitching performances for Washburn. But, I just hope that people are not expecting greatness from this guy. He has been a league average to slightly above league average starter most of his career. That is what he is and that is what should be expected of him during his brief 2 month stint with us.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Last year, Verlander was the talk of Detroit. But, it was for all of the wrong reasons. He ended the season with a 4.84 ERA, 17 losses and the most walks issued in his 3 year career. He had gone from the No-hitter and All Star golden boy to the fans whipping boy. Of course, those who looked at his peripheral numbers (like his 4.18 FIP) would have noticed that his numbers did not defer much from the season he had in 2006 when he was the talk of baseball, and won rookie of the year. Alas, more was expected of Verlander last year and he failed to deliver.
Flash forward to this season, though, and everything is turning up aces (pun intended). Verlander has the 4th best FIP in MLB at 2.71, the 2nd best K/9 ratio, 11th best K/BB, 10th best tRA, 7th best WPA, and his 5.1 WAR (maybe my favorite stat) is 4th best in the game. Basically, by nearly every advanced measure, Verlander has turned into a legit shutdown ace this season. He is without question one of the top 10 pitchers in the game and has been in the top 5 this season in the AL with the likes of Greinke, Halladay, Josh Beckett and Felix Hernandez.
So, what has changed? Before this season, Verlander's career best FIP was 3.99 in 2007. That is generally reserved for good #2 starters (Edwin Jackson, for example, has a FIP of 3.89). Now, he has the 4th best FIP in the game. What caused such a resurgence? For one, Chuck Hernandez is gone. The days of trying to adjust Verlander's arm slot appears to be over and he seems to work well under new pitching coach, Rick Knapp. Knapp came to Detroit from the Minnesota Twins organization which prides itself on throwing strikes. That hardly seems like a revolutionary concept but considering that the Tigers had the 4th worst BB/9 ratio in MLB last year, then it became a much needed philosophy. At the time of the hire, it seemed like a perfect fit. Take a guy from an organization who rarely walks batters (lowest BB/9 ratio in MLB last year) and put him with flamethrowers who can strike out and walk the park. Then, with a little magic, the hope was that Knapp's influence would keep the K rates the same (or even better) and drastically cut down on the walks. If nothing else, the hire has been a match made in Heaven for Verlander. He has dropped his BB/9 ratio from 3.90 last season to 2.66 this season. Meanwhile, he has upped his K/9 ratio from 7.30 to 10.65. All told, his K/BB ratio has improved from 1.87 ( 64th last year among 88 qualified starters) to 4.00 this season.
Ok, so he has struck out more and walked less. He also has not had a pitching coach attempt to change the mechanics or arm slot angle of that golden arm of his. Surely, that cannot be it. And, it isn't. Last season, Verlander threw his fastball at an average of 93.6 MPH. This season, he has wowed the ladies with a fastball that averages 95.5 MPH. That 2 MPH increase in velocity and improved movement and location has led to a fastball that has saved 17.8 runs this season, according to Fan Graphs. Of the qualified pitchers, Verlander's fastball has been the 4th best fastball in MLB this season. In comparison, last year, Verlander had a fastball that saved just 0.4 runs.
Another change with Verlander has been the difference in his pitch selection compared to last season and his career norms. Verlander was always a plus curveball pitcher and it has been his second best pitch over his career. This year, he is throwing his curveball and fastball more than at any other point in his career. On the other hand, he is throwing his changeup just 8.5% of the time this season. That is a far cry from the changeup he elected to throw nearly 16 % of the time last season. In addition to that, Verlander is also throwing his slider now more than he ever has before. It is still nowhere near a plus pitch but the experimenting with a 4th pitch, an increased reliance on his deadly fastball and curveball and a reduced reliance on his changeup might be one of the telling points in his comeback season.
Looking at the plate discipline stats for the batters that Verlander has faced, the improvement he has made this season is even more telling. For one, batters are swinging at 27.8% of pitches outside the stike zone. That is a 3% increase from last season. Also, batters are swining at his pitches inside the strike zone less so than they have at any other point in his career. Thus, the ensuing stats are not surprising. A batters O-Contact % against Verlander (percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown outside the strike zone) is down a full 10 % from last season. Batters are connecting on just 56% of those pitches. The opposing batters are also hitting pitches inside the strike zone less so then at any other point in Verlander's career. From Verlander's perspective, he is throwing 55.5 % of his pitches for strikes (just 50% last year), and his first strike % of 63.1 is a 5% increase of his total last year.
In summary, Verlander is/has ...
- Striking more guys out
- Walking fewer batters
- Increased the velocity on his fastball by 2 MPH
- Improved the location, command and movement on his fastball
- Relied more heavily on his fastball and curveball while throwing half as many changeups
- Throwing more strikes within the zone that batters are not swinging at
- Inducing the most swing and misses of pitches outside of the strike zone of his career by a substantial margin.
- Not being coached by Chuck Hernandez
- Being guided by Rick Knapp
All together, it accounts for the numbers that bear repeating: Verlander has the 4th best FIP in MLB at 2.71, the 2nd best K/9 ratio, 11th best K/BB, 10th best tRA, 7th best WPA, and the 4th best WAR. He has turned himself into maybe the rarest thing in baseball... a true, shutdown ace. Now, as fans, all we can do is sit back and enjoy the pleasure that is watching him pitch. The scary thing? He's only 26 and has another decade of terrorizing hitters left in him. Good luck, American League hitters.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Padilla is a 6'2" 220 pound right handed pitcher whose play has been fairly consistent since 2003. The 32 year old has had an FIP between 4.25 and 5.25 in every single season. This season has been no exception. He has a 4.67 ERA that is very representative of his abilities and a 4.48 FIP. Like Tommy Hunter last night, Padilla should not strike us out too much. Whether or not that will be the case remains to be seen. He has a K/9 ratio of just 4.86. His K/BB ratio of 1.33 leaves much to be desired. Based on the ERA, FIP and other peripheral numbers for the majority of his career and in this season, Padilla is essentially a #4 starter.
Padilla is a groundball pitcher with a 1.58 GB/FB ratio. He is also almost exclusively a fastball pitcher. He throws his 91-92 MPH fastball nearly 75% of the time. After that pitch, he throws a mixture of a slider and a curveball. As you might expect, his fastball is a plus pitch for him. Like Hunter, and as mentioned above, Padilla pitches to a lot of contact. Inside the strike zone, an opposing batter will make contact with his pitch nearly 92 % of the time. That is roughly 3% above league average. So, we should be putting the bat on the ball quite a bit tonight.
As for what to expect tonight...Padilla has traditional splits. Right handed batters only hit for an OPS of .601 against him. On the other hand, lefties hit for an OPS of .883 against him. Guillen, Grandy and Thomas should all be in the lineup tonight. Ramon Santiago is a plus fastball hitter and is also a lefty so he may see a spot in the lineup ahead of Adam Everett tonight. Also, in his last 7 starts, Padilla has gone at least 5 innings. However, he is prone to some bad outings. Two of his last 3 starts has seen him rocked for 5 ER. So, we may be catching him at the right time. B/c he is an extreme fastball pitcher, Miguel Cabrera should have a very favorable matchup. Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago are also plus fastball hitters, and Marcus Thames especially feasts on groundball pitchers. Overall, Padilla does not match up well with our offense. I hate to predict an offensive explosion tonight for us but the numbers indicate that that could be the case.
Monday, July 27, 2009
- In my pre game post, I should have made special note of the fact that we are an even worse offense on the road than we are at home. I correctly pointed out that Grandy should have a big night (a HR and two other singles) and he did. But, other stats are screaming at me right in the face and really cannot be ignored much longer. As a team, we have an OPS+ of 92 on the road (average is 100). At home, we have an OPS+ of 106. I guess I can take solace in the fact that we have more home games remaining than road games, but at some point our offense needs to kick it in high gear. Yes, even on the road.
- Perhaps the one player who most personifies our troubles on the road is Miguel Cabrera. At home, Miggy rakes to the tune of a 1.147 OPS. On the road, he has an OPS of .766. Now, Comerica Park has turned into a bit of a hitters park, but that should not explain such a dramatic drop off for him on the road. Tonight, with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the 5th inning, Cabrera had another chance to deliver on the road. Instead, he swung at ball 4 twice and eventually struck out on a high fastball that should have made the score 2-0. After that AB, the game changed, the Texas hitters started teeing off on Galaragga and that was all she wrote. Obviously, the usual caveats apply. One cannot expect a player to deliver in every situation and it is important to not make too much of one at bat. However, at some point, Cabrera needs to stop being cut slack. In addition to his poor numbers on the road, he bats worse with runners on and with runners in scoring position then he does in other situations. Lee at Tigers Tales also wrote a great post the other day that summed up Cabrera's "clutch" numbers. In short, they are the worst on the team with a "clutch" rating of -1.36. He needs to pick it up. Plain and simple.
- This will go down as one of our worst offensive performances of the year. Hunter came into the game with a lower K/9 ratio then the one Rick Porcello has posted this year. No matter. He still struck us out 6 times in 7 innings. His stuff was minimal at best and he even allowed Maggs to turn on a fastball for a double. Jim Leyland was not quick to salute him in the postgame show on FSN and this was not a game where one tips their cap to the opposing pitcher. Last night against Richard we were a little unlucky. I'm not sure what you call our performance tonight.
- Galaragga went 7 innings, allowed 7 baserunners and 4 ER. He threw 61 strikes on 100 pitches and threw first pitch strikes to half of the 28 batters he faced. I felt that the Rangers hitters bailed him out several times in the first couple innings when they should have been more patient at the plate. Then, once they settled down, Galaragga came unglued in the 6th inning. Basically, it comes down to this for Armando: he is a #5 starter and an average one at that. He is durable, eats innings and gives us a reasonable chance to win. There is value in that, but we might need more than that with Porcello's recent struggles.
- Ryan Perry was hit hard tonight for his first bad outing since he came back from Toledo. I won't read too much into that.. A couple more outings like that, though...
- White Sox lost so we are still up by 2 games. Twins are now just down by 3 games.
Hunter is a 6'3," 255 lb right hander who is technically a rookie (though, he did pitch some last season in Texas). In 5 starts this season, Hunter has a 2.17 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 4.21 tRA. So, on the surface, it appears that his ERA should climb much higher as the season progresses. His other peripheral numbers also suggest that his 2.17 ERA is a fluke. He has a LOB % rate of 87% and a BABIP of .256. His K/9 ratio of 4.66 is Rick Porcello-like. He has had decent command this season and throughout his minor league career so his BB/9 ratio of 3.10 is probably a little high for him. But, the book on him remains the same... he won't strike out many and he should not walk that many. A "here it is, hit it" type of pitcher.
Hunter is a flyball pitcher with a 0.74 GB/FB ratio. His HR/FB% of just 4.2% is due to increase at some point this season. Still, he does not allow many HR's as his 0.62 HR/9 ratio would suggest. Throughout his minor league career, he always had good HR/9 ratios.
Despite his big frame, Hunter does not feature electric stuff. He comes at the hitters with a 89 MPH fastball and cutter and a 78 MPH curveball that is his best pitch. He does throw his 4th pitch, the changeup, about 9 % of the time, so Hunter does incorporate all 4 of his pitches into his starts.
As you might expect by looking at his ERA, Hunter has been solid lately. In his last 4 starts, he has not allowed more than 2 runs in any start, and only 1 HR. He also has pitched until at least the 6th inning in all but one of those starts. He has never faced the Tigers, so it is hard to predict what will happen tonight. Hunter does have traditional splits as lefties hit him for an OPS of .749 and right handed batters only hit for a .544 OPS against him. So, we should see Grandy and Thomas in the lineup tonight. We also have a mixed bag of stats about how we should perform against him. On the one hand, we have below average OPS+ against right handed pitching and an OPS+ of just 86 against finesse pitchers like Hunter. On the other hand, we do our best against pitchers we see for the first time with an OPS+ of 105 and we hit flyball pitchers like Hunter like an above average offense, as well. Brandon Inge, Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Raburn are our best combined hitters against flyball and finesse pitchers. Curtis Granderson also does well against flyball pitchers and has a good matchup with Hunter as a lefty, so he may be one to watch tonight.
- The Rangers rank 8th in the AL in wOBA, OPS and runs created. Digging deeper into the numbers, we are able to get a better grasp of the type of offense they are. Essentially, they are free swingers who can mash. The Rangers are 2nd to the Yankees in slugging percentage, and tied for first with the Yankees in ISO at .194. On the other hand, the Rangers rank last in BB/K and 3rd to last in OBP. So, they are not that patient at the plate but they make up for that with a power that is nearly unmatched in MLB. Lately, though, the Rangers have not shown the promise that one might expect with that lineup. Their OPS+ in June was only 84, and their OPS+ in July is currently at 96. Both are below average and well below what they posted in May and April. It is also interesting to note that their OPS+ goes down below average between the 7th and 9th inning.
As far as the splits go, the Rangers have a higher OPS+ against right handed pitching. They also absolutely mash finesse pitching (the Yankees are the exact opposite) to the tune of a 136 OPS+. They are only league average against power pitchers so that does set up well for Justin Verlander. Luke French, though, might be in some trouble tonight.
3B Michael Young, RF Nelson Cruz and 2B Ian Kinsler are all above average hitters at their position. CF Josh Hamilton would be as well but he has struggled mightily with injuries this year. They are receiving well below average offensive production from 1B (Blalock and Davis), and below average production from catcher (Saltamacchia) and SS (Elvis Andrus).
-I will break down the 3 starting pitchers they have going in this series in a separate post, so I will just focus on their bullpen in this installment. Based on the numbers, the Rangers have an average bullpen. They rank 9th in the AL in FIP, 10th in K/BB and 7th in HR/9. One thing going in their favor is ranking first in WPA (win probability added) at 6.19. As a reference point, the Red Sox rank second in that stat.
A big reason for that WPA stat is b/c of their closer, Frank Francisco. He has a 3.60 FIP, 3.23 tRA, and a 4.00 K/BB ratio this season. On the other hand, his month of July has been awful. He is sporting a 7.26 FIP this month and a 5.40 BB/9 ratio. Also in their bullpen, Darren O'Day and C.J. Wilson have been two of the best relievers in the AL. O'Day is a 27 year old right handed pitcher who is built at 6'4, 225. He came over from the Mets this season and has posted a 1.75 ERA, 3.89 K/BB ratio, 0.75 HR/9, 3.28 FIP and 3.39 tRA in 41 appearances. It does not get much better than that for a middle reliever. Meanwhile, C.J. Wilson is also one of the best lefty relievers in the game. In 43 appearances, he has a 2.86 ERA, 2.22 K/BB, 0.61 HR/9, 3.56 FIP and a 3.52 tRA. Again, that is some good stuff. They will be difficult to get to late in a game so it would behoove the Tigers to get up on the Rangers early. Other bullpen arms for the Rangers include the veterans Jason Jennings, Eddie Guardado and our old pal, Jason Grilli. All 3 have been inconsistent this year. Grilli and Guardado have not allowed an ER yet this month, though.
-Overall, the Rangers have a very good defense and that has probably been one of the main reasons why they have a very good record despite an average offense, slightly below average bullpen and a starting rotation that scares no one. They currently are 4th in the AL in UZR at 22.4 (the Tigers are 3rd). In the infield, they have 3 plus defenders in 1B Hank Blalock, 2B Ian Kinsler and SS Elvis Andrus (he could be the winner of multiple Gold Gloves in his career). On the other hand, Michael Young is arguably the worst defender at 3B in the AL with a -10.5 UZR. The ageless Omar Vizquel, my generations version of Ozzie Smith, is still providing sick defense as one of the best backup infielders in baseball. In the outfield, Nelson Cruz might win a Gold Glove in RF and Josh Hamilton has produced a nice defensive season when healthy. The platoon they have in LF with David Murphy and Marlon Byrd has been below average this season. Saltamacchia is a roughly average catcher defensively and throws out runners at 23.6 % (Laird throws out runners at a 42% clip).
- They have one of the best power offenses in baseball who feasts on finesse pitchers.
- Their offense is not that patient and should strike out a lot without taking too many walks.
- C.J. Wilson and Darren O'Day have been two of the best middle relievers in the AL and Frank Francisco has been a good closer this season despite a very bad July.
- Jason Grilli pitches for them
- They have a very good defense with plus defenders at 5 positions.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
With that said, his peripheral numbers suggest he is basically a #5 starter. Going into tonight (and this number is higher now), Procello had a 5.14 FIP. That is good for 139th in MLB among starters with at least 50 IP. Essentially, that is an average total for a #5 starter (150 starters in MLB and that number would fall slightly below the median of 121-150.) Considering we are counting on him to be our #3 (and that is the organizations fault; not his), that is not good enough. Also, Armando Galaragga, our #4 starter, has a FIP of 5.26. That is 144th among MLB starters. Our back of the rotation has been a concern all year and it will probably continue to be so the rest of this season. Are there some positive signs? Yes. Galaragga has been better in his last 5 starts and Luke French has a FIP below 4 in his first 4 starts. As mentioned above, Porcello will not continue to be this unlucky. But, we have a less stable back of the rotation than the White Sox and Twins have and that might put us at a disadvantage going forward. Ideally, another starter would be added to be our #3 starter. Jarrod Washburn would be ideal but he might be too expensive to get. Jon Garland and Zack Duke could be other options.
Offensively, we were a bit unlucky tonight. Thames crushed two balls that were eventually caught and a large number of our hits were going directly at the Sox position players. But, we were probably due for a night like that after we were the beneficiary of several lucky bounces in the first 3 games of this series. 8 innings and only 1 ER for Richard sounds like a dominating performance. But, it was not one. He only struck out 3 and had 11 fly ball outs. I'm not going to knock the kid. He has decent stuff, a real nice build and will be a dependable back of the rotation starter (at worst) for the Sox for a long time. But, it is important to not overreact to this. Nights like this one happen quite a bit to a baseball team's offense.
As I mentioned in my last game recap post, though, Ryan Raburn's playing time has got to be hanging on a string. He made 2 errors on one play in the 6th inning and basically ended our chances of a comeback with a killer double play late in the game when Richard appeared to be on the ropes. We need a new LF and I am confident that Dombrowski will acquire some sort of upgrade over Raburn.
So, where does this leave us? Well, we took the series from the Sox and are now 2 games up on them and 4 up on the Twins. Those two rivals will square off next and we will take on Texas. It is Galaragga vs. Tommy Hunter tomorrow night at Texas.
Clayton Richard is on the verge of losing his spot in the starting rotation to Bartolo Colon. Tonight he is receiving a spot start tonight in place of John Danks. Richard has a 5.00 ERA, and that is fairly representative of his play. He has a 4.51 FIP,a BABIP of .323, and a LOB % of 69.0. Technically, that would mean that his ERA will drop. However, the Tigers are not facing an elite pitcher tonight. As of today, Richard is what he is: a bottom of the rotation starter or an arm out of the bullpen. His 1.53 WHIP, .280 opponent batting average and 1.11 HR/9 ratio are all below average for a typical big league starter. His K/BB ratio of 1.80 is also below average. And, his tRA of 4.96 also shows his true ability this season. This is a pitcher the Tigers could light up.
Richard is a ground ball pitcher with a GB/FB ratio of 1.41. He is almost exclusively a 3 pitch pitcher with a fastball, changeup and slider. He features a 91 MPH fastball with good sink to it. However, according to Fangraphs, Richard does not feature one plus pitch.
Richard is coming off his best start of the year when he went 8 strong innings and allowed only 1 ER against the Rays. However, for the most part, he has been disappointing lately. Other than that start, he has not lasted longer than 6 innings in any start and has an ERA over 6 since the start of June.
As for what we should expect to see tonight... Richard has natural splits with righties hitting better off him than lefties. B/c of that we should see a right handed heavy lineup. Maggs, Thames and Everett should all be back in the starting lineup tonight. The Tigers batters, overall, have done well against Richard. In his last start against us, he allowed 10 baserunners in 4.2 IP and 3 ER. It is a small sample size, but Ordonez, Inge and Everett have an OPS over 1.000 against him.
Rick Porcello is going for us tonight after 3 straight rough starts. Despite the rumors on the radio, Porcell0's velocity has not dropped but the bite on some of his pitches have. Porcello has a 4.40 ERA that is beginning to reflect how he has pitched the majority of this season. Rick has a 5.14 FIP and his WHIP, opponent batting average, HR/9 and K/BB ratio all come out below league average. However, it should be noted that Porcello has been getting a little unlucky in recent starts as a HR/FB % of 18.1 is not likely to continue. In fact, his xFIP of 4.43 would suggest that we could start to see a leveling out of his ERA.
Porcello continues to be a good grounball pitcher with a GB/FB ratio of above 2, and his sinker remains a plus pitch. His splits are traditional as lefties hit better off him than right handed batters. So, Jim Thome will be one guy tonight that he will especially have to be careful with.
As for what to expect tonight... well, Porcello has never faced the White Sox. He has allowed at least 9 baserunners and 4 ER in each of his last 3 starts (none of which lasted longer than 5 innings). However, there are some numbers to suggest that he might be getting a bit unlucky with some of those batted balls in play. Could tonight be a night where he turns in a good start against a team trying to avoid a sweep? Lets hope so.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
- Guillen's impact has been felt immediately. A home run in his second game back, working the count in nearly every one of his at bats, and the game winning hit today is certainly a welcome site to Leyland. I had mentioned previously that we would have a nice platoon at the DH spot with him batting against right handed pitching and Thames continuing to rake against lefties. So far, my hope has been answered.
- Guillen's resurgence leaves us with one spot in our everyday lineup that I do not feel comfortable with: LF. Some guys in the lineup struggle offensively but make up for that by excelling defensively (Laird, Everett, Polanco). Three regulars were All Stars and are not going anywhere (Grandy, Cabrera and Inge). And, we now have two platoons with our rotation at DH and RF that have worked well, thus far. That leaves us with Raburn and the current state of LF. In 19 PA's since the All Star break, he has 2 hits and 1 BB. He also was the victim of a defensive gaffe and a baserunning error in today's game and appears completely overmatched at the plate. Going forward, it may be a bit too much to expect a career bench player to be an everyday left fielder during the stretch run. I also am not keen on the idea of Thames or Guillen seeing time out there (and Guillen probably has no choice in that matter). Finding an upgrade in LF before the deadline is undoubtedly at the top of Dombrowski's wish list.
- What else can one say about the starting pitching since the All Star break? Verlander continues to shut up the critics this year and now ranks in the top 10 of virtually every advanced pitching statistic. Jackson, meanwhile, continues to rank up there with Jon Lester and Matt Cain as the premiere #2 starters in the game. He did not have his best stuff today but somehow battled through it and posted his 7th straight quality start. He has not allowed more than 3 runs in a start since May 4th. Unreal. Eddie Bonine also deserves credit. Only 3 runs in a spot start against a division rival? We really could not have asked for more.
- The relief pitching, likewise, has been stellar in this series. Ryan Perry continues to impress after his stint in Toledo, Rodney was nails the past two games, and Seay, Lyon and Ni all have done their job this series. The bullpen is really starting to round into form. So is the starting rotation. The defense continues to impress. As I continue to suggest, that combination will keep us in contention until the end.
Friday, July 24, 2009
- Good pitching performance by our starter? Check. French struck out a career high 6 batters and was very good until he started to get hit around in the 6th inning. As always, he threw strikes, got ahead of the hitters, etc. His spot in the rotation is secure for the time being.
- Good work from the bullpen? Check. Ryan Perry struggled a little bit with his command in the 6th and 7th innings. Then, he was nails in the 8th. A great outing for him after that brief stint in Toledo. An electric arm that can throw strikes is an incredibly dangerous weapon. If/when Zumaya gets back healthy and throwing strikes again... man, we could really have something here. Until then, though, it has been frustrating to watch talented arms like Perry and Zumaya struggle with their command. Hopefully, this is the sign that Perry is turning things around.
- Threaten in the first inning before leaving a couple guys on base? Check.
- A miserable effort offensively filled with lazy fly balls and weak ground outs? Check.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Washburn has always been a guy I have enjoyed watching pitch and is the sort of pitcher that I hoped Nate Robertson would develop into. This season he has a 2.87 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in what appears to be a career season for him. Historically, he has had only one season where he had a FIP below 4 and is basically an ideal back of the rotation starter. He is a lefty, eats a lot of innings and is dependable for a 4.5 ERA or so. His peripheral numbers this year, at 34 years of age, is some of the best of his career. However, they do suggest that he should be due for a fall in the second half of this season. Washburn has a 3.77 FIP (nearly a run higher than his ERA), a low BABIP of .259 and a high LOB % of 78.2. If those numbers revert back to his career averages then his ERA should rise roughly a run in the second half of this season.
As usual, Washburn does not strike out many and does not walk many batters. His K/BB ratio of 2.12 is respectable. His GB/FB ratio of 0.93 suggests that we may see a little more flyballs today. For his career, he has a 0.81 GB/FB ratio. What type of pitches does he do to induce both flyballs and groundballs? According to Fan Graphs, he is the rare pitcher who actually incorporates 5 pitches. He throws his 88 to 89 MPH fastball nearly 60% of the time, and then mixes in a slider, cutter, changeup and curveball. His fastball, slider and curveball have been his best pitches this season and they have been the majority of his career.
As of late, Washburn has been great. He has a 1.82 ERA in July and a 2.81 ERA in June. In his last 10 starts, he has gone at least 6 innings in every start and has allowed 2 or fewer runs in 8 of those starts.
As for what to expect today, we should see a right handed heavy lineup. Right handed batters have an OPS nearly .200 above what left handed batters do against him. Inge and Thames, in particular, have been great against Washburn. They each have an OPS above 1.000 against in over 15 at bats.
Luke French is going for us today. Thus far, he has been a provided some nice stability in the back of our rotation. In his 3 starts, he has a 2.25 ERA in 16 IP. He has allowed 17 hits and 6 BB while striking out 8 batters. Thus far, he has been almost exclusively a flyball pitcher. He has 43 flyball outs compared to 14 groundball outs.
While his ERA looks good, it is a small sample size and his peripheral numbers have not looked that promising. His FIP is 4.68 and his LOB % is above 90. Needless to say, his ERA should go up substantially based on those numbers alone. However, if/when it does, that is ok. We just need French to solidify that #5 spot in our rotation and give us 6 or so innings while keeping the ER to 3 or below in each start.
Like Washburn, French is a soft tossing lefty. His fastball averages 87-88 MPH, and he has been a 3 pitch pitcher this season with a fastball, a plus slider and a 75-76 MPH changeup.
As for today, Seattle has never seen him so the batters are unfamiliar with him in live action. Right handed batters hit for an OPS of .805 against French, and lefties hit for an OPS of .499. B/c of that, Seattle should field their best right handed hitting lineup. If anything, this matchup may bode well for French. Seattle's two best hitters (Branyan and Ichiro) are both left handed. If he can keep those splits against lefties up, he could minimize the potential damage that guys like Branyan, Ichiro, Griffey Jr. and Hanahan might provide.
Provided that the rain does not come, game time is at 1:05. Early word is that Inge is going to play. I would expect Laird to sit today in favor of Dusty Ryan.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Why is that exactly? Am I just numb to what is developing into a full-blown below average offense? I don't think so. Felix Hernandez is one of top 10 pitchers in MLB, and Seattle's bullpen tonight featured some nasty, nasty stuff. Sometimes, the opposing pitchers are just better. Tonight was one of those nights. Am I just accepting the fact that this is not a championship contending club? No. Our offense this year is very similar to the offense we featured in 2006 that was good enough to reach the World Series. OBP is the exact same at .329, and wRAA is the exact same at 5. Our wOBA this year is .330 compared to .332 in 2006. Our OPS is .752 this year, and it was .777 in 2006. If it was good enough then...
Ok. So, our offense compares to 2006. And, we know our defense does after putting together another great performance tonight. (Just for a reference point: we are 3rd in the AL in UZR this year and we were second in UZR in 2006). How about our pitching? Well, in 2006 we had a FIP of 4.32. This year, we have a FIP of 4.39. The one thing that is holding our overall pitching staff back in comparison to that year is a dependable starting pitching staff. That year we had a top 4 as good as any in the game. This year we have a top 2 as good as any in the game, but Porcello, Galaragga and a mixture of pitchers we have thrown in the #5 slot have been very up and down (although, I do like Luke French). Hence, in order to continue to resemble that 2006 team, we need Galaragga and one of Porcello or French or some other unknown pitcher to step up. For 5 straight outings now, Armando has done that. Tonight he was not perfect and was a little lucky. He walked 4 batters, only struck out 3 and had 12 flyball outs. Defying baseball odds he ended with just 1 hit. And, Seattle is a terrible offense. Still, though, Armando did his job and is quietly turning into exactly what we need: a dependable back of the rotation starter who can eat innings and give us a chance to win. To me, that development far outweighs the loss tonight.
Going forward, we probably need another bat. Guillen might be that guy. Our bullpen is rounding into form with Lyon, Seay and Ni earning more time and Rodney providing stability as the closer. We also may have found a dependable pitcher in Armando Galaragga. If Porcello or French can handle the pressure of the second half as rookies and become our 4th dependable pitcher, then I like our chances.
King Felix has been a top 10 pitcher in MLB this season. He has a 2.51 ERA (5th in MLB) and the peripheral numbers that suggest that this season has been no fluke. He also sports a 2.83 FIP (7th in MLB) and a near-average BABIP of 2.96. Similarly, his 1.12 WHIP (9th in MLB) and 0.54 HR/9 (9th in MLB) ratio is exceptional. He also strikes out batters at nearly a batter an inning, and has a K/BB ratio of 3.49 (15th in MLB). To top it off, he has a WAR of 4.2 (7th in MLB). Notice a trend here? The guy is top 15 in every stat. He is a lethal pitcher that is on the same level as Greinke, Halladay and Verlander, etc. Just as a fan of the game, tonight should be fun watching this guy pitch.
Hernandez has a GB/FB ratio at 1.60, which is actually the lowest of his career. So, he is a guy who can induce a lot of groundouts and can get the strikeout. Nothing better than that. He also sports 4 plus pitches according to Fan Graphs. His fastball averages between 94-95 MPH and is the 8th best fastball this season. After dropping 95 MPH on a batter, he then can throw a changeup at 89 MPH that is also one of the top 10 changeups in the game. A plus slider and slightly above average curveball round out his pitchers.
He sports traditional splits as lefties hit him better than right handers would. Still, lefties only have an OPS of .665 against him. This guy is dynamite regardless who is coming to the plate. That is especially true in his last 10 starts. 9 of those 10 starts lasted at least 7 innings (and in the one that didn't he threw 6.2 innings) and he has a 1.314 ERA during this stretch. So, we are not exactly catching him at a good time. Additionally, he has an ERA of 1.97 on the road.
We have 7 batters on our team with at least 10 AB's against Hernandez. Granderson, Polanco and Laird each have an OPS of at least .800 against him. Grandy, in particular, has been great against Hernandez. He has a stat line of .444/.444/ .667 against the King. That is not particularly surprising as Laird and Grandy are two of our best changeup hitters. Look out for Ryan Raburn, as well (assuming he plays). He is a plus fastball and changeup pitcher. He might get a lucky shot off Hernandez tonight.
Going for the Tigers tonight is Armando Galaragga. His last 4 starts are "good enough" starts for a bottom of the rotation starter. He has gone no fewer than 6 innings and allowed no more than 4 runs. Tonight, more of the same is needed. We need him to eat some innings and keep the ER down to roughly 3-4 runs. Armando has really started to use his changeup a lot more recently, but still is overwhelmingly a fastball-slider pitcher. According to Fan Graphs, his slider and changup have both been plus pitches. His fastball, on the other hand, has been disastorous with a pitch type value of -18.5. His K/BB ratio of 1.51 is still too low, and his FIP of 5.36 leaves much to be desired.
On the plus side, I guess, is that Galaragga is relatively new to Seattle. Only one batter (Franklin Gutierrez) has more than 3 AB's against him. And, he's not playing tonight. Lefties rake Galaragga to a tune of a .944 OPS, so we should see a heavy lefty lineup for Seattle tonight. Specifically, Russell Branyan, a lefty, is one to watch because he is a plus, plus fastball hitter. So too is Ichiro.
All in all, this is why I love baseball. On paper, Hernandez should take care of us tonight. He has been lethal his last 10 starts, has some of the best natural stuff in baseball, our offense has been anemic, and we have a guy who is basically a #5 starter going for us. But, the games are not played on paper and random events happen. Lets make one happen tonight.
So, lets break down this Ronald Curry for Orien Harris deal.
- Statistically speaking, Curry was the 5th worst WR in the NFL last year among receivers with 10-49 catches, and was a negative contributor to the Raiders. At the time when we acquired him, we needed bodies at WR. That is no longer the case. Bryant Johnson and Dennis Northcutt were each among the top 60 most productive WR's in the game and are legit #2 and #3 receivers. Just as a reference point, Northcutt was 45th in DYAR( Defense Adjusted Yards above replacement) which was one spot ahead of Terrel Owens and caught passes at a 65% catch rate (Calvin Johnson was at 52% last year). FA signee Bryant Johnson was 53rd in DYAR and ahead of WR's like Jason Avant, Santonio Holmes, Marvin Harrison and Devin Hester (who may be the #1 receiver for Chicago this year). He, like Northcutt, also had a high catch rate of 60% (of the 79 receivers qualified for the stat with at least 50 catches, only 33 had a catch rate of 60% or higher). Additionally, with the draft day selection of do-everything player Derrick Williams and a holdover like John Standeford, Ronald Curry became extremely expendable.
- So, what should an organization do when a player becomes expendable? Trade him for a position player that you lack depth at? Sounds good to me. Schwartz likes big, big bodies in the middle to clog up the ground game. Hence, the reason they signed Grady Jackson. Orien Harris is another big body and we need some of those. In 14 games with the Bengals last year, he started 1 game and registered 14 tackles. He is 26 years old and is a 6'3" 300+ lbs DT who was a big recruit in high school before playing for the Miami Hurricanes. Is he the cure all to our DT problems? Heck no. We are still very, very weak on the D line. Frankly, Grady Jackson, Landon Cohen, Chuck Darby, Andre Fluellen, Orien Harris and may be the worst DT rotation in the game. But, we are better today than we were yesterday, and that is a start. Expect next off season to include a heavy emphasis on DT, OL and in the secondary.
-Yahoo! Sports reports that Boston offered the Pistons big man Glen Davis and guards J.R. Giddens and Gabe Pruitt for Jason Maxiell and a first-round pick. Evidently, the Pistons, Trail Blazers and Hornets have tried to work a sign-and-trade deal for Big Baby. All reports suggest that the Pistons turned down the first deal and for good reason. Even if one assumes that Davis is better than Maxiell, he is not worth a 1st round pick that could turn out to be a lottery pick. But, back to the Davis vs. Maxiell debate. Should there even be one?
- Based on nearly every advanced statistic, Davis was one of the worst big men in basketball last year and was an inferior player to Maxiell. Maxiell had a superior true shooting percentage (TS %), rebound percentage (both offensive and defensive rebounding), PER (15.8 to 10.7), win shares and WARP (3.5 to -0.3). As of today, it is not even close. Maxiell is a vastly superior player. Could that change in a few years? Sure. Davis is taller, younger and may have the potential to actually be a starter one day, while Max does not.
- But, I feel as if this hype for Davis is just that: hype and no substance. Even if you compared Davis' second year numbers to Max's and the numbers from his playoff run of this year to Max's 2nd trip to the playoffs (last postseason), Max still looks good in comparison to Davis. Other than win shares, Max would have a superior PER, TS%, TRB%, B% and defensive rating. Also, his playoff numbers in the 2008 playoffs are superior to what Davis had this year. PER is basically identical (15.1 to 15.2), but TS%, TRB%, B%, Stl%, offensive and defensive rating all favor Max and win shares is nearly identical (1.1 to 1.3). The Pistons still need a starting center but they are not in such a desperate need for a big man that they ship out a bench player for another inferior bench player.
But, we have to be careful in evaluating these numbers and realize that while Prince's and Hamilton's defensive numbers did not suffer, it is hard to project these numbers for a lot of minutes. Would they hold up if given 30-35 minutes at those spots a night, every night? Also, did Rasheed's presence in the middle of the paint have a subtle effect that we may have missed? Villanueva played center in 11 % of Milwaukee's minutes and allowed an opposing PER of 27.4. Clearly, then, our defense would suffer with such a weak defensive player in that position. We could give Kwame Brown some minutes there in the smallball lineup b/c he is a superior defensive player, but then that would eliminate some of the mismatches we would be hoping to create with the smallball lineup. I do think, however, that it could be a potential wrinkle that Kuester will throw out every now and again against the Pistons opponents.
-The Wages of Wins Journal is a basketball site that attempts to predict the wins for a given NBA team based on the individual performances of each player and the number of wins a player can provide for that team. He generally is within +- 3 of his projected win total and a further explanation to this madness can be found at his site. Below is his take on the Pistons roster as currently constructed...
-Just for reference, an average player posts a 0.100 WP48. Also of note, since 1978 no team has won an NBA title without one regular player (minimum 41 games played, 24.0 minutes per game) posting at least a 0.200 WP48. Only one team (the 1978-79 Seattle Super Sonics) managed to win a title without a regular player crossing the 0.250 threshold. Based on that, we are a ways away from winning a title.
PG: Rodney Stuckey [4.0 Wins Produced, 0.077 WP48]
SG: Richard Hamilton [1.9 Wins Produced, 0.040 WP48]
SF: Tayshaun Prince [7.3 Wins Produced, 0.114 WP48]
PF: Charlie Villanueva [3.6 Wins Produced, 0.082 WP48]
C: Kwame Brown [2.4 Wins Produced, 0.117 WP48]
PG: Will Bynum [1.2 Wins Produced, 0.071 WP48]
SG: Ben Gordon [4.9 Wins Produced, 0.078 WP48]
SF: Austin Daye [Rookie]
PF: Jason Maxiell [2.9 Wins Produced, 0.098 WP48]
C: Chris Wilcox [0.2 Wins Produced, 0.008 WP48]If you add up the 2008-09 Wins Produced by the veteran players all you get is 28.4. So unless Austin Daye is suddenly one of the top five players in the NBA – or these veterans become much more productive players — it looks like the Pistons are in trouble."
You can tell from that what he thinks of Rip Hamilton's overall game and Kwame Brown surprisingly graded out very well. In essence, he is projecting between 25 and 32 wins for the Pistons. Now, this is by no means a perfect statistic or predictor of what will happen. The schedule, a relatively weak East after the first 3 teams, injuries to key components on rival teams, and the development of guys like Stuckey, Gordon, Villanueva, etc. into better and more productive players would throw his projection for a loop. But, it is something to consider. Sadly, he may be on to something...
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
As Lee has mentioned, the Tigers are a vastly superior team at home, and that proved true tonight. What also proved true is that Olson is really not a good pitcher and kind of compares to the last guy the Tigers annihilated offensively in Bruce Chen. So, I'm not going to go dancing down the street b/c of the win tonight and I'm not going to proclaim that the Tigers bats are alive after a brief nap in NY. But, I will give some credit in a few of my post game thoughts...
- Marcus Thames had the best 0 for 3 game in a long time. He drew two walks and nearly hit the ball out of the park twice. I predicted a long ball for him and Cabrera and I just missed.
- Miguel Cabrera, on the other hand, swung a good stick and his numbers showed up in the box score. 3-3 with a home run, a double and 2 drawn walks. A good start to the series for a guy who has been receiving a lot of criticism on local talk radio.
- Magglio Ordonez can still rake against left handed pitching. He had an OPS of .843 against lefties before he tonight and he added to that with a grand slam that really put the game out of reach (despite some scary moments at the end of the game).
- Kudos once again goes out to Fernando Rodney. He put runners on second and third with just 1 out before he issued a strikeout and then a long, long fly ball to Clete Thomas to end my heart attack and to ensure that the Tigers could sleep easy tonight. Officially, he is 20 for 20 in save opportunities. Eventually, he is going to walk that tight rope one too many times and he will blow a save. But, even when that happens, he has been so solid this year in save situations that I won't even cause too much of a stink over it.
- Brandon Lyon and Zach Miner also did their jobs tonight out of the pen. Ni was hit hard tonight for maybe his worst outing as a Tiger (2 hits, 1 ER in 0.2 IP), and Bobby Seay finally gave up a HR this year. Seay has been as steady as Tiger Woods on a Sunday, so I'm not going to worry too much about that.
- To me, though, the story of the night is Rick Porcello. Our offense should destroy Olson. And, we did. I'm more interested to see if they can rake against Felix Hernandez. For Porcello, though, this was a chance to make up for the previous two outings. Again, though, he struggled. At times, he looked real good (as evidenced by the 4 k's in just 5 innings). But, anytime a pitcher allows 9 hits and 5 ER, it is not a good start. His peripheral numbers suggest that he is a back of the rotation starter and not a #3. His pitching on the mound has started to reflect that recently. In his last 5 starts he has not lasted 6 innings and I detailed the horror that has been his last 3 starts just a post below this one. Against the Mariners and Olson, he and our team can get away with a start like that. But, we are going to need Porcello's best stuff on Sunday night against the White Sox. A national TV audience will get a chance to see him that night. A great performance on that stage may be the shot in the arm he needs to get going in the second half of the season. A 4th straight bad outing, though, may take this stretch from being a mini slump to an outright concern going forward. Until then, rest that golden arm and try to keep the thoughts of Jim Thome, Carlos Quentin, Jermain Dye and Paul Konerko walking up to the plate from keeping you up at night, Rick.
The Golden Boy is going tonight, looking to bounce back from two poor outings. Seattle has a below average offense, so this might be a good start to get Porcello going again.
Update: Guillen is being sent to Toledo. When his return will occur is still up in the air.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Joe Dumars does not buy into that logic. At least, none of his actions as the GM for the Pistons for nearly a decade suggests that he does. Instead of getting a superstar player, he built the championship team in 2004 around the "5 beats 2" model. In other words, a great starting 5 will beat a superstar and a great complementary player. And, for one season, he was absolutely right. On the way to building that team, he made one of the greatest free agent signings in recent NBA history with the signing of Chauncey Billups, fleeced some guy named Michael Jordan in the Jerry Stackhouse-Rip Hamilton deal, made a great draft pick with the selection of Tayshaun Prince, picked up Ben Wallace in a sign and trade for Grant Hill and watched him become the best defensive player in the game, and acquired a Hall-of-Fame talent in Rasheed Wallace for a bag of popcorn and a breath mint. He also fired Rick Carlisle and hired a vagabond coach and one of the truly great teachers of the game in Larry Brown. And with that, he created a core that would be a top 5 team in the game for 6 straight seasons and an NBA champion in 2004. Critics be damned, Joe D. proved that he could go against conventional wisdom and still win an NBA title.
I don't want to make it seem like Joe D. was perfect or anything prior to the start of that run. He had failed failed draft picks (Mateen Cleaves and Rodney White) and allowed Michael Curry to stick around on the team for too long. But, he was damn near perfect. Since 2004, much of his work has been spotty, at best. The free agent signing of Antonio McDyess was a great one. Letting Ben Wallace walk away to the Bulls by not matching their offer was also a good move. Drafting Rodney Stuckey may turn out to be a good pick. He also acquired a guy who looked like Fabio and who doesn't like that? Other than that, though, he has left much to be desired since the end of the 2003 season. The Darko pick prevented the Pistons from adding Hall of Fame wing players like Carmelo Anthony or Wade or an ideal complementary big man like Chris Bosh. The pick of Carlos Delfino prevented the Pistons from acquiring an elite scoring SF off the bench like Josh Howard or another big man like Kendrick Perkins. Joe D. also never adequately replaced Ben Wallace (Nazr Mohammed, Chris Webber and Kwame Brown?) and never found a competent backup to Prince/a good wing player off the bench (Fabio, Maurice Evans and Flip Murray come to mind as failed options). Needless to say, his drafts since 2003 have also been disappointing, as Stuckey is the only impact player he has drafted in that time frame.
With all that said, Joe D. has earned the right to rebuild this team and he is looking to correct 4-5 years of poor moves by going back to a familiar model: the "5 beats 2" model, as I like to call it. Dumars is banking on Rodney Stuckey to become the modern day Chauncey Billups and become the leader of this team. Can John Kuester, a Larry Brown disciple, turn Stuckey from a potential combo scoring guard like Chauncey was into an elite NBA PG like Chauncey became? Joe D. is obviously hoping lightening strikes twice. He is hoping that Ben Gordon develops into what Rip Hamilton was/still is: a dependable scorer who can get you 20 a night and be a prime-time scorer and shooter in the clutch. He is also hoping that Charlie Villanueva becomes the good Rasheed Wallace. You know, the one with Hall of Fame talent who featured one of the best post up moves in the game, could stretch the defense with the threat of the 3, and play solid one-on-one defense down low while cleaning up the glass. In essence, Joe D. has 3 pieces of his puzzle and needs 2 more. He will try to get those with the eventual trading of Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince and possibly the development of Austin Daye. Dumars probably sees Daye as a better offensive and worse defensive version of Prince. A 6'9"-6'10" beanpole with a metabolism that makes nearly every other American jealous, and a jack-of-all trades player who can handle the rock and break people down off the dribble. If Daye does become that player, then he would become piece #4 in Joe D's mad concoction of a championship contending team. Piece #5 could come with the trading of Rip or Tay or possibly both for a defensive stalwart at the center position. Then, with that, Joe D., in his mind, would have re-created the 2004 team as close as he possibly could in today's NBA.
Could lightening strike twice? Could Joe D. really be that smart that he would outwit 29 other GM's again? We'll see. It should be a bumpy ride along the way but it will all be worth it if it ends up being fun in the end.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
NBA free agents: The Detroit Pistons sign Chris Wilcox - ESPN
Cap space is now pretty much gone. This is our roster as of right now, I believe.
SG-Hamilton, Gordon, Washington
SF-Prince, Daye, Summers (3/4)
PF- Charlie V., Maxiell, Jerekbo
C- Brown, Wilcox
-Obviously, there will be some interchanging of the positions. But, that is our roster. A 3rd PG and signing Ben Wallace to the vet minimum is all that is left to fill out the roster barring a much needed trade for a big man.
Much more later.