A statistical look at the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, Red Wings, Spartans and Wolverines

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The rise of Justin Verlander

With all of the talk centering around the Tigers turning down a deal for Roy Halladay, lets look at what our current staff ace has done this season...

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 ...
  1. Striking more guys out
  2. Walking fewer batters
  3. Increased the velocity on his fastball by 2 MPH
  4. Improved the location, command and movement on his fastball
  5. Relied more heavily on his fastball and curveball while throwing half as many changeups
  6. Throwing more strikes within the zone that batters are not swinging at
  7. Inducing the most swing and misses of pitches outside of the strike zone of his career by a substantial margin.
  8. Not being coached by Chuck Hernandez
  9. Being guided by Rick Knapp
  10. Awesome

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

Know the enemy: Vicente Padilla

Vicente Padilla has the Swine flu and is pitching tonight. Obviously, it must not be an extreme case or else he would not be pitching. So, I wish him well with his health and on to the breakdown of his pitching performances this season...

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

Tigers offense follows its leader into the ground against Rangers

The Tigers lost tonight 5-2 to the Texas Rangers in the opening game of this 3 game series. Thoughts on the game follow...

  • 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.
It it Vincente Padilla against Luke French tomorrow night. Padilla has the Swine Flu and Texas kills finesse pitchers like French. That should make for an entertaining game.

The book on Tommy Hunter

The Tigers are squaring off against Tommy Hunter tonight in Texas. Lets take a look at him in this preview post...

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.

Previewing the Texas Rangers

The story the past couple of years about the Texas Rangers is that they are usually a great offensive team with next to nothing in the pitching department. This season, b/c of injuries and some unexpected slumps for some players, the Rangers are roughly an average offense in the AL. As usual, the pitching staff has been below average. Somehow, they have managed to post a 54-42 record and are just 3.5 games back of the Angels in their division. Lets break it all down...


- 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

Porcello struggles again in loss to Chi Sox

In the beginning of the season, Porcello was pitching over his head. His BABIP was well below normal and his FIP was well above his ERA. He was due for a heavy fall and that has come. Now, he has been incredibly unlucky in his last 4 starts as most of his flyballs are going for HR's and his BABIP has been very high the last 4 starts. Eventually, his luck in the beginning of the year and his bad luck recently will regress to the mean.

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.

Two young kids going tonight for Sox and Tigers in prime time

Well, well, well. ESPN is jumping on the bandwagon tonight and showcasing the Tigers and White Sox battle tonight. It should be an interesting battle between the two young starters tonight in Rick Porcello and Clayton Richard.

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

Tigers take a series (already) against White Sox

In a pivotal series (if there is such a thing in July), the Tigers have bounced back a bit in this series with a rejuvenated offense and a pitching staff and defense that continues to impress. Some quick bullet points...

  • 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.
-It is Porcello vs. Richard tomorrow night on prime time. We rocked Richard in our last meeting with him and this is a very important start for Porcello as he looks to bounce back from 3 straight rough starts.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Per Jason Beck's Twitter... Guillen recalled, Josh Anderson DFA'd

In other words, this could spell the end of Josh Anderson as a part of the Detroit organization. We needed to see what Guillen might be able to provide us before the trade deadline so the fact that he is being called up after just a couple of games in Toledo is not that surprising.

Ho hum, Tigers lose 2-1.... again

For the fourth time this week, we lost 2-1. By now, I think I got these games all figured out...

  • 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.
Oh well. We are tied for first in our division on July 24th. If you would have offered me that before the season, I would have taken it. Leyland, Dombrowski, etc. would have taken it too. Up next is a big 4 game series tomorrow. Verlander and Jackson are going in this series and we are missing the White Sox ace in Mark "Prefect Game" Buehrle. Our offense will eventually wake up. As long as our pitching and defense maintain its success, we will be ok in the long run.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Game 93 preview: Tigers look to take series against Mariners

After a tough loss last night, the Tigers are getting back to work this afternoon against Jarrod Washburn and the Seattle Mariners.

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

Sometimes life happens and tonight, baseball happened

Over the course of a 162 game season a lot of wins and a lot of losses occur. Some are beyond frustrating and painful (like the game Zumaya blew against the Yankees). Some wins stand out more so than others (like the win over the Twins in extra, extra innings). On the other hand, a lot of games blend together and are forgotten. In a way, I compare it to dating. Some dates stand out as being great. Others stand out because either the girl broke up with you or you broke up with the girlfriend. On the other hand, the 17th date I went on with a girl I dated in high school is not something I will remember. Over time, dates like that blend together. For me, the Tigers game tonight was one of those games.

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.

Game 92 preview: King Feliz takes on Tigers offense

After tearing up Garrett Olson last night, the Tigers welcome Felix Hernandez into Comerica Park. Good luck with that? Well, lets look at the numbers...

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.

In a "moneyball" move, the Lions trade Ronald Curry for Orien Harris

The Lions new coach, Jim Schwartz, is the NFL's version of Billy Beane. He is a statistical genius with an economics degree from Georgetown and knows more about the stats on Football Outsiders website then possibly any other coach or front office mind in the NFL. This latest move, and a couple of the previous moves made by the Mayhew/Schwartz tag team, provides evidence for this.

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.

Mad Max for Big Baby, the return of smallball and 28 wins ?

Lets look at some recent links around the Pistons blogosphere and various media outlets...

-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.
-Kevin Sawyer at Detroit Bad Boys is in favor of the return of smallball. This would have Stuckey at PG, Gordon at SG, Hamilton at SF, Prince at PF and Villanueva at C. A lot has changed in the NBA in recent years. Centers are becoming less and less prominent and spacing the floor, being able to handle the ball, run up and down the court and to shoot it from the outside is a highly valued trait for big men. Villanueva and Prince both would cause matchup problems at the 4 and 5 spot. However, a team still needs to be able to defend, and that is one of the supposed downfalls of smallball. It is interesting to note, however, that our best 5 man defensive unit last year was a smallball unit which featured Iverson as the PG, Stuckey at SG, Hamilton at SF, Prince at PF and Rasheed Wallace at center. It is also interesting that the opposing players PER stayed the same for Hamilton at the 3 spot and Prince's opposing PF had a PER of 12.6 (15 is average). So, on paper, this might make some sense.

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...

"First Team:

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]

Second Team:

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."
-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.

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

Ordonez, offense muscle up for much needed victory

Well, there you go. More Tigers crossed home plate tonight than the entire series against the Yankees in a 9-7 victory. Nothing like an off day, a return trip home to Comerica and the delight that comes with facing soft-tossing lefty, Garrett Olson, to wake up the bats.

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.
-Its King Felix Hernandez against Armando Galaragga tomorrow night. Obviously, this is a mismatch of epic proportions on paper. But, its a home game and Hernandez has been prone to bouts of inconsistency/ really poor outings from time to time. Considering it has been a long time since an elite pitcher has done that against us, we may be due. Here's hoping, right?

It is official: I cursed Rick Porcello

3 straight poor starts for the Golden Boy since I wrote this post...

How much longer can Porcello keep this up?

Since I cursed Porcello, he has pitched 13.1 innings, allowed 25 hits and has a 9.62 ERA.

My bad.

Is Garrett Olson ready for the wrath of the Tigers offense?

Garrett Olson is a terrible big league pitcher. No long preview needed. Olson has a FIP of 5.69 (5.13 and 5.90 the last two years), a really low BABIP of .244 (compared to a career average of .322) and has a HR/9 ratio of 1.81. Its time to make an opposing pitcher get embarrassed and he is a prime candidate. Thames and Cabrera might be playing some long ball tonight, and its time to tee off on a pitcher for 7 to 8 runs and win in a runaway. Enough is enough.

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.

Guillen recalled

Carlos Guillen has been recalled from his brief rehab stint in Lakeland. He saw some time in LF there and went 3 for 12 with 4 walks and a double. There had been reports that he was experiencing some trouble while swinging right handed, so this is a bit of a curious move. An update will come when a corresponding move has been made. I imagine that Josh Anderson, Magglio Ordonez and Ryan Raburn are on the chopping block. Raburn does have a minor league option left (although he would have to clear revocable waivers).

Update: Guillen is being sent to Toledo. When his return will occur is still up in the air.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dumars going against the "NBA way" again

Since Magic and Larry Bird have entered the NBA, superstars have ruled the league. In fact, they haven't just ruled the league they are so big that they make other 1 name stars like Prince, Cher and Madonna wince. Magic, Bird, Kareem, MJ, Shaq, Kobe and Duncan have been the names synonymous with NBA titles in the last 30ish years. Other stars like Dr. J and Moses Malone or Isiah Thomas or Hakeem or Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have also snuck in and won a title or two. But, the prevailing philosophy has always been: get the supersar, build around that superstar and get that said superstar a great complementary player and you have the recipe for a championship contending team.

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

Wilcox to the Pistons

According to ESPN, we have found our "replacement" for McDyess.

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.

PG-Stuckey, Bynum
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.

Loss of Zumaya should be golden opportunity for Bobby Seay

In sports, injuries happen. That much is obvious. What follows an injury to a player is one of my favorite things about sports... an injury to one player often gives an opportunity for another player to prove that they are worth more to the team than originally thought. What that player does with that opportunity defines a lot about them. If they perform well in the expanded role, then more expectations and responsibility will be placed on their shoulders. If they fail in their new role, they often drop back into obscurity and resume with their lesser role that they previously held. With Zumaya's injury , I imagine that Brandon Lyon will pick up a lot of his playing time. He has been a closer in the past and has pitched in pressure packed moments. In addition to Lyon, it is also time to take the kids gloves off of Bobby Seay and let him become more than a situational lefty.

One of the concerns with using a lefty in a late inning role is the threat that a right handed batter will pose. This season, though, right handed batters have struggled mightily against the lefty. In 39 PA's against right handed batters, Seay has issued 3 walks, 5 singles and just one extra base hit (a double). Their stat line against him goes like this... .167/.220/.194. That is a .414 OPS. Lefties only have a .564 OPS against him, so it is not like he has dramatic reverse splits.

How good has Seay been recently? In his last 20 appearances, he has not allowed a run. How good has he been this season? He has the 5th best FIP (2.56) for all qualified relievers in the AL. The guys he is between are Andrew Bailey and David Aardsma, two strikeout kings who have been widely regarded as two of the best relievers in MLB this season. He even has a better FIP than Mariano Rivera. He is one of just seven qualified relievers to not allow a HR this season. In addition to not allowing a home run all year, he also is allowing line drives at an all time low (14.6%). His 1.00 WHIP is 5th best in the AL. He is tied for 1st in holds in the AL with Matt Guerrier and Hideki Okajima.

Seay also has the talent to succeed in such a role. He was once a 1st round pick and has 2 plus pitches with a 91 MPH fastball that he throws for strikes and a good slider. It is clear that he has more than deserved this proposed promotion. It is certainly not a guarantee that he will succeed. He has never really been put in this situation before. And yet, at 31 years of age, it is time to see what Seay is made of. Can he handle the pressure of throwing against a Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau or Jermain Dye in the 8th inning of a 1 run game? Will he continue to keep a good K/BB ratio as the spotlight on him becomes greater? These questions and many more surrounding Seay are unknowns. What is known, however, is that he deserves this opportunity to sink or swim. FWIW, I think he will swim quite well.

Well, scratch my plan... Zumaya is probably headed to the DL

Courtesy of Tom Gage at Det News...

"Says his shoulder is throbbing, heard a pop. can't lift his right arm and is returning to Detroit for an MRI"
-If true, that is bad, bad news. He needs work down in Toledo. He does not need another trip to the DL. And, if there was a pop heard, then this could be a long term injury and we still need him during the stretch run.

-Ryan Perry will probably be brought up if/when Zumaya hits the disabled list.

Update: Zumaya has been placed on the DL and Ryan Perry has indeed been recalled. Perry was sent down to Toledo to work on his command and on his slider. His BB/9 ratio of 6.91 is the worst in the AL among qualified relievers. And, his 1st pitch strike percentage of just 39.5% is the worst in baseball. Needless to say, he has to improve on those numbers. He has the talent, the fastball and the nautral ability to get the all-important strikeout. We all know that. Whether he can do that while cutting down on his walks allowed has yet to be seen. Again, I imagine he will be our 7th inning guy, at best. He is not ready to be put in with the game on the line, yet.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Lets just forget this game and get this post game out of the way.

  • Luke French pitched well enough for a #5 starter against the best offense in baseball.
  • Josh Anderson made a play in the outfield a 2003 Tiger would have made, and then guns down Posada an inning later. Thank you, Yankee 3rd base coach for sending a catcher when the ball was hit right to Anderson in LF. Anderson also kept his bat on his shoulder tonight and drew two walks.
  • Granderson's HR surge this year continues.
  • Zumaya should be done for this series, at least.
  • Ni continues to pitch well.
  • I have already had enough of Rod and Mario slobbering over Jeter. He is going to be in the Hall of Fame, has accumulated a large amount of wealth during his career, he's good looking and can date any woman he wants. He doesn't need our Tigers announcers saluting him with every play he makes.

Verlander vs. Sabathia tomorrow. Pain shall be delivered to the Yankees lineup.

Know thy enemy: CC Sabathia

After signing that unbelievably lucrative long-term deal, Sabathia is having his worse season since 2005 and has really not lived up to the billing in NY. His 3.86 ERA and 3.72 FIP are both good, but more was expected for someone who is being paid like a pitcher who should be a Cy Young candidate every year. In the first year in his deal, that has not happened.

His K/9 ratio of 6.66 is his lowest since 2004 and his BB/9 ratio of 2.66 is his worst since 2005. That is obviously not a good sign. On the other hand, his WHIP is right in line with what it has been the last 3 years and his BABIP and LOB % are at a career low. If both of those revert back to normal, then his numbers should begin to look a lot better.

His GB/FB ratio is 1.08, but his career average is 1.25. He is a 3 pitch-pitcher and all of his pitches qualify as plus pitches. He relies on his slider and changeup for nearly 40% of his pitches. His fastball is then used nearly 60% of the time at an average velocity of 94.1 MPH. Historically, his slider and changeup have been absoltuely sick pitches. His slider has not been as effective as it has been in the past but his changeup has been the 3rd best changeup in baseball this year, according to Fan Graphs. If his slider returns to what it once was and his BABIP and LOB % revert to his career norms and/or the league average, then he could be a candidate for a real strong second half and is capable of completely shutting down the Tigers today.

Raburn, Granderson, Santiago, Thames, Polanco, Inge and Ordonez have all had at least 10 AB's against him. Of these, Thames, Polanco and Ordonez have an OPS all above .800 against him. In just 6 at bats against Sabathia, Miguel Cabrera has 4 hits, a HR, 6 RBI and a 1.833 OPS.

Zumaya blows lead and should pack bags to Toledo

For the fourth time in his last 9 outings, Zumaya blew a save and allowed at least 2 ER. He can no longer be counted on in any situation, and he has absolutely no command. With his minor league options remaining and Ryan Perry pitching well in Toledo, it seems obvious what the next move will be. Zumaya should be sent down to Toledo to work on his command and Perry should be brought up to take over Zumaya's role as the 7th inning guy. Lyon and Seay should split duties in the 8th and Rodney will close the 9th.

As of today, Zumaya reminds me of Matt Anderson. He can throw it 100 MPH but he throws pitches just with the hope of them ending in the strike zone and aims his pitches. His confidence appears to be shot and who can blame him? He has been one of the worst late inning relievers in the last month in MLB and he is now tied for the major league lead in blown saves. Here is what I wrote about Zoom Zoom just a few weeks ago after he blew the game against the Cardinals...

"These inconsistent efforts are becoming far too common, especially for a guy who was branded as our closer of the future in 2006. That day is coming. Rodney will be a FA this offseason, and will command a big raise. The Tigers may or may not want to give him a big money, long term deal. This is, essentially, his tryout to be our closer for 2010. It is also his tryout to be our shutdown 8th inning guy for this year. If he continues to struggle to throw strikes or keep the ball in the park, then Lyon, Seay and even Miner will be trusted more in those crunch moments in September and October.

As I said in a previous post about Verlander, it is time for Zumaya to step up. Again, it is all laid out there on the table for him. He's got the fastball. He's got the curveball. He's got the closer job in the future if he performs. He can be the shutdown guy to hold the lead for Rodney this year. But, he needs to throw strikes."
-That tryout to be our future closer is turning up in smoke, right now. It is amazing that he has not lost any velocity off his fastball even with his injury history. But, the honeymoon is over and the gig is up. It is time to pack his bags and head down to the Mud Hens for a mid-season break and an opportunity to get things straightened out. The world is not over for Zumaya. He still possesses the talent to succeed at the this level. But, 2006 is becoming a distant memory and his lack of command is just downright disturbing.

With all that said, Jim Leyland is not free from my rath. Let me break this down...

  • As I mentioned in my preview of the Yankees team, they mash power pitchers to an OPS+ of 141.
  • Lefties hit for an OPS 0f .944 against Zumaya
  • Yankee Stadium is perfectly built for a left handed hitter with that short porch in right field.
  • He was at least going to face left handed hitters, Johnny Damon and Mark Teixera (who each mash right handed pitching).
-The result was not surprising. Leyland put Zumaya in a position to fail and he did just that. Jeter led off the inning with a single, Damon just missed a home run and ended up with a double, and Teixera launched a majestic home run to effectively end the game. Then, Zumaya was inexplicably left in to load the bases before eventually getting out of the inning. I like Leyland, but there is no excuse for putting Zumaya in a situation like that. It was an incredibly predictable result that should have never been allowed to happen.

Know the enemy: AJ Burnett

After signing a lucrative contract to be Robin to Sabathia's Batman, Burnett has been a little bit of a disappointment thus far. He does have a 3.77 ERA but his peripheral numbers suggest a fall is coming in the second half. He has a 4.55 FIP and a LOB % that is reasonably high at 79%. He continues to strike out a lot of batters but his command has really slipped this year. As a result, his K/BB ratio of 1.91 is his worst since 2003. Likewise, his 1.38 WHIP is his worst total since 2003. What has been the difference? For the first time since 2002, his GB/FB ratio is under 1.50. This year, it sits at 0.98. Thus far, gone is the pitcher who could strike out at a near 9.00 K/9 ratio AND induce ground balls.

Burnett, though, is still a flame thrower. His average fastball velocity is 94.2 MPH. He is basically a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball that has been beaten up this year and a curveball that is truly one of the best in the game. Expect to see the curve a lot tonight when he needs a punchout. Not surprisingly, when a player swings at a ball outside the strike zone against Burnett, they usually come up empty. His O-contact % of 50.5% is outstanding.

According to his splits, right handers have hit better off Burnett this year. Right handed batters have a .785 OPS compared to a .689 OPS for lefties. He has been on a bit of a roll lately, as well. He had a 2.10 ERA in June and has a 2.70 ERA this month after shutting down the Twins in his last start.

Magglio Ordonez, Brandon Inge and Gerald Laird have an OPS above 1.000 against him. Polanco and Granderson, meanwhile, have particularly struggled against Burnett. Specifically, Grandy has 1 hit in 11 tries against him. Cabrera and Thames are our best curveball hitters and are both right handed, so they could have a favorable matchup against Burnett.

The hated Yankees bring great offense to series

-With the highest payroll in baseball, the Yankees better have the best lineup in baseball. And, they do. They lead all of MLB in wOBA, OPS, OBP, SLG, runs created... you name it. The only players with an OPS below .800 are Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner, and both of their OPS totals are above .750. They also absolutely mash power pitchers to a tune of an OPS+ of 142. So, it will be a good battle of power vs. power mashers when Verlander and Jackson meet up against the Yankees.

-Defensively, the Yankees are below average, and would be flat awful if Brett Gardner did not get playing time in CF. They rank 20th overall in UZR at -12.9. Gardner is a plus, plus defender with similar defensive numbers to Franklin Gutierrez. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano are slightly above average defenders this year. Ever so slightly. Among the regulars, A-Roid and Johnny Damon have been two of the worst defensive players at their respctive positions this year.

-I will profile the starting pitchers seperately, so I will just look at their bullpen. In the last 30 days prior to the All Star break, the Yankees had the 4th best ERA among bullpens in MLB and have improved as the season has progressed. Obviously, we all know about Mariano Rivera. He has a K/BB rate of 14.33 this season. which is by far the best of his career. One blip in his resume is the 1.22 HR/9 ratio, which is the highest of his career. Phil Coke (a lefty), Phil Hughes and David Robertson are the next most used relievers. Robertson has a sick 13.50 K/9 ratio but he also walks the park with a BB/9 ratio of 6.35. He has the best ERA and FIP of the three but a WPA of -0.86. Hughes is the incredible prospect who has yet to pan out, but poses a big threat out of the bullpen. Brian Bruney has been lethal against lefties and may be counted on to get a guy like Granderson out this weekend. The veteran Brett Tomko, long reliever Alfredo Aceves and little-used reliever/promising prospect Mark Melancon round out the bullpen.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tigers at the break: Lets do some grading

A number of blogs have given their takes on the Tigers season thus far. One blogger, in particular, gave out individual player grades. A Manager's Lament is a newer blog about the Tigers by a well-informed baseball fan. Here are his grades for the team, pitchers and hitters.

What follows will be my take on individual players based on their role on our team and how the player compares to other players at their respective position...



Gerald Laird: C+.
-Laird leads AL catchers in fewest attempted steals against per game, caught stealing percentage, and is tied for first in fewest throwing errors. He is only 4th in fielding percentage for catchers, but he should still be in the running for a gold glove this year. On the other hand, he has been below average this season offensively. For catchers with at least 200 PA's, he ranks 9th in wOBA, 10th in OPS, 9th in VORP, 9th in EQA, and tied for 8th in runs created. So, he has been very good defensively and below average offensively. WAR means less for catchers b/c it does not account for their defense. He ranks 9th in that stat. Overall, it has been a good trade that DD made when acquiring Laird. I value the defense/game calling a catcher can provide more so than any offense they can provide. So, instead of splitting the difference between good defense and good offense, I will give a slight nod to his D and give him a C+.

Dusty Ryan and Dane Sardihna: Inc
-These guys really have not played enough to grade them. Pineapple may be one of the worst hitters I have ever seen at the major league level, but he only played in 12 games. Ryan, meanwhile, needs to play more in the second half to ensure that Laird does not tire out.


Miguel Cabrera- A-
-It has been the year of the 1st baseman this year in the AL. Morneau Teixeira, Branyan, Youkilis and Cabrera have all been outstanding. In most offensive statistics, Cabrera comes in 4th. He ranks 4th in wOBA, OPS, EQA, VORP, and tied for 5th in runs created. But, the differences in these statistics is miniscule and Cabrera could just as easily finish 1st in all of these stats at the end of the season. He also is improving everyday as a 1st baseman and will win a Gold Glove one day. In addition, his WAR of 2.7 is barely behind Youkilis' 3.1. He could easily become the top 1st baseman in the AL with a second half like he had last year. To make that happen, he might need to start hitting better in "cluctch" situations. He ranks in last place in that stat on Fan Graphs, and is just 11th in WPA. The Tigers will need him to come up big in these situations in the second half. B/c of that and b/c he is not a top 3 first baseman, he gets an A- with the potential to earn an A at seasons end.

Placido Polanco: C+
Polanco is turning in gold-glove caliber defense as he leads all of 2nd baseman in UZR, is 1st in the "clutch" stat offensively and is 7th in WAR. Overall, though, he has stuggled offensively. He is 11th in wOBA, 12th in OPS, 9th in runs created, and 12th in VORP. This season compares very favorably to what he turned in 2006. Like Laird, I will give him the benefit of the doubt b/c of his great and dependable defense. A C+.

Ramon Santiago: C-
-A backup like Santiago is always tough to grade. Do I grade him based on his role on the team? In that sense, he would grade higher than Everett and Polanco. On the other hand, there is a reason he is not trusted with more playing time. I am going to split the difference and give him a C-. He has been a negative defender this year, but he has made up for some of that with a good bat. An OPS above .750 is very good for a backup infielder. He is on pace for roughly 90-100 games. He's played well enough to warrant that playing time but has not provided the defense needed to supplant Everett or Polanco in the starting lineup.

Adam Everett: C
-Everett has always been an all-glove, no-bat type of player. He should have a couple Gold Gloves but is usually terrible with the bat. This season, he has surprised me with his bat and disappointed me somewhat with his glove. With that said, he has still been above average defensively and below average offensively. So, split the difference and we get a "C" for steady Everett. His UZR/150 of 4.5 is his worst since 2002 but SS is a very tough position. He still ranks 3rd in the AL for that stat. Offensively, he has been compared to other SS. He ranks 12th in VORP, 13th in runs created, 13th in wOBA, and 12th in OPS. Like Laird and Polanco, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and because he is a plus defender at a position that requires it, I will give him a C.

Brandon Inge: A
-Along with Edwin Jackson, his development this year has had the most impact on us becoming a contender in the AL Central. He has easily been the 2nd best 3rd baseman in the AL this season and should have been voted in the All Star game by the players. He ranks 3rd in the UZR/150 stat and second in WAR at 3.5. Not only has he provided gold glove defense but he has also been a force offensively. He ranks second in wOBA, OPS, runs created and slugging percentage and 1st in the "clutch" stat. He does rank 4th in EQA and 6th in VORP, but his overall offensive numbers may make him the 2nd best offensive 3rd baseman in the AL, thus far. Defensively, he has been on par with Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria and Joe Crede. He has far outshined the defensive play of A-Rod, Michael Young, Chone Figgins and Scott Rolen. Truly a career season for Inge. He has struggled in the 2nd half in his career, but he performed better in the 2nd half during 2006. I see no reason why that cannot happen again.

Jeff Larish: Inc
-I've never been a fan of Larish. With Cabrera locked up for almost a decade, where does he fit in our future plans? A DH? Trade bait?


Magglio Ordonez: F
-Lets get this out of the way quickly. He is a negative defender who has the worst OPS of any RF in the AL. He has a WAR of -0.5. Technically, he should owe us money with that performance. Don't let him face a right handed pitcher again and keep him from hitting those incentives in his contract and I will be a happy man.

Curtis Granderson: B+
-In a weak year for CF in the AL, Grandy made his first All Star game in what is shaping up to be his worst season since 2006. Maybe he will never be able to have another season like 2007, but this year has been good in its own right. He is 3rd in WAR, and in UZR (although he is nowhere near Gutierrez or Upton defensively). Offensively, he is scrambled around in a lot of statistics but is probably 3rd overall behind Adam Jones and Torri Hunter. He is 5th in OPS, 4th in wOBA, 5th in SLG, 3rd in RC, and 4th in EQA. B/c it is a weak year overall for CF in the AL and he has taken a step back from both 2007 and 2008, I am going to give him a B+.

Josh Anderson: D
An OPS just north of .600 for a corner outfielder is downright awful. But, he has the highest UZR/150 of any OF on our team. Limit his at bats by a considerable amount and use him in just a defensive role and as a pinch runner, and that would be perfect. As it is, he is a terrible offensive player who's defense is just good enough to earn a passing grade.

Clete Thomas: B
-After being sent down to Toledo to work on shortening his swing, he has been on an absolute tear. Overall, this season, he has a .808 OPS and has been nails in the OF. His UZR of 6.0 in RF would project to 20.9 over 150 games. Along with Anderson, they have been great defensively as corner outfielders. B/c of him, Ordonez is finally in a platoon and has seen his at bats decreased. His offense has been a notch below Raburn's but his defense has been better and he has a higher WAR. He gets a B.

Ryan Raburn:B-
-For now, he is our everyday LF. I never thought I would say that. His OPS of .842 is better than Granderson's and he has been a plus fielder in LF. He also has the second highest WPA of all of our position players. He has been clutch, swinging a good bat and providing solid defense. Cannot ask for much more than that. As mentioned above, he gets a grade lower than Thomas.

Don Kelly: Inc
-A nice cup of coffee up here. Nothing more than that.

Marcus Thames: B-
-Basically, he has been our DH. And, he has been good. An OPS of .875 is great and a wOBA of .361 is nothing to sniff at. If not for early season injuries, his standard numbers would look much better. With that said, Thames is an interesting case. He actually had an OPS of .882 in 2006, so the potential is there for him to do it again. And, I don't think he has declined as a hitter. On the other hand, his BABIP of .305 is ridiculously high for him. As a result, his numbers should decline in the second half like they always do (post All Star break in his career, his OPS is .200 lower than pre All Star Break). I see him going into a platoon of sorts when Guillen comes back. For now, though, he gets a B-. We have needed his power and he has been a pretty good DH.



Justin Verlander: A
-The man, the myth, the legend. A guy who has the natural stuff to be the best pitcher in the game has finally taken the next step in his maturation process. The scary thing is, he should only get better this season and hopefully beyond. His 3.38 ERA does not even begin to describe the story. His K/9 rate of 10.96 is the best in baseball and his 2.70 FIP is tied for 4th in the game. His K/BB rate of 3.92 is 11th in baseball and easily the best of his career. Even better news? His BABIP of .333 should come down and his LOB % of 72.6 is nearly league average. He also has had the 6th worst defense behind him when he pitches. Considering how great our defense has been, that is incredibly unlucky for Verlander. Other than a history of struggling in the second half and wear and tear on his arm, there is nothing to suggest that his numbers will not improve in the second half. Other than Greinke and Hallday, he has been the best pitcher in the AL.

Edwin Jackson: A
-When the trade was initially made, I viewed Jackson as a reliable back of the rotation starter. And now, here we are. He has the 5th best ERA in the game and the best WHIP in the AL. Without him this year, we are not in first place at the break. And, his lack of run support has been well documented. Thus, his number of wins should be much higher. On the other hand, Jackson has been the beneficiary of some luck. His FIP is nearly a run higher than his ERA and his BABIP of .254 is very low. His LOB % of 77.8 is also quite high. In addition, he has been the beneficiary of playing in front of the 3rd best defense on the day he pitches. So, his ERA will probably rise. But, even if it does, he will still have an ERA and the peripheral numbers of an ideal #2 starter. He and Verlander have been arguably the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball.

Rick Porcello: C-
-If I was grading him simply based on his performance as a 20 year old, he would have an A. His ERA is very similar to one posted by Clayton Kershaw last year as a 20 year old pitching for the Dodgers. On the other hand, this is the majors, and I am grading him in comparison to other major league starting pitchers. By that comparison, he is below average as a #3 starter. His FIP of 5.03 is something a #4 or #5 starter should have. His K/9, K/BB and WHIP and HR/9 numbers are all below average. B/c of the 4.14 ERA, I will give him a little break. If he could be counted on as a back of the rotation starter and if we acquired a reliable #3 starter then I would sleep a lot better at night (well, not really, but you get the point). Still, the kid is 20. The Golden Boy will only get better. He is something special.

Armando Galaragga: D
5.09 ERA and a 5.38 FIP with a below average K/BB, K/9, BB/9, HR/9, and WHIP. Not good. Especially for someone we were counting on as a #2 or #3 starter this year. As a back of the rotation starter, I like what he can bring. He can eat innings. I like his build. He is a 3-pitch pitcher. But, he has to show it this year. Again, if we could bump him down to our #5 starting pitcher, then he would be performing in line with other #5 starting pitchers. We need to acquire another starter for that to happen, though. Until then, he needs to pitch better and drop his ERA by a half a run by the end of the year.

D-Train: F
-I hated the contract extension when Dombrowski gave it to him. Now? I look like a genius. Willis has 1 win in 2 years and will not pitch for the rest of the year for us. If it is truly an anxiety disorder that is causing his problems, then he can overcome it. I am rooting for him hard. He has one more year to carve out a niche on our team.

French/Figaro: Inc
-Still too early to judge either of them. I felt Figaro was overamatched and I think French can give us good innings out of that #5 starter slot. We will see if I am a genius or an idiot.


Nate Robertson: F
-Lets get this out of the way. If I had this blog before this year, then everyone would have known that I was a big fan of Nate's. To me, he was the ideal back-of-the rotation starter and I likened him to Jarrod Washburn. I would have been a big supporter of his last year. And I would have thought he was on his way to a comeback this year in the bullpen. Now? I look like an idiot. My 3 year old nephew gets left handed batters out at the same rate he does. He might never pitch for the Tigers again. He pitched 21 games too many for us this year. Thanks for Gum Time, Nate.

Fernando Rodney: B
-Tough to grade. He has been lights out when it matters. 19/19 in save opportunities (with the loophole in the rule book), and a WPA of 1.77. On the other hand, he is not a Mariano Rivera, Papelbon, etc. He has a 4.12 FIP and a terrible K/BB ratio of 1.79. In non save situations, you need to hide the wife and children. During save situations, you can let them watch once he gets to two outs b/c he continues to deliver when he has too. Fernando Rodney has brought a sense of stability to our bullpen. I never, ever thought that I would say that. Hat tip to him.

Joel Zumaya: D
-He has the talent to be one of the best closers in the game. Problem is, here he is in his 4th season with us and he has not seized that role. He has the second worst WPA on the team for relievers, an FIP of 5.00 and a K/BB ratio of a miserable of 1.43. And, he is near the league lead in blown saves. He should not be the 8th inning guy. But, hey, he can throw it 100 MPH.

Bobby Seay: A
-Near the league lead in holds, a 2.57 FIP and he can throw strikes. He has been our best reliever and needs more innings. If he can't handle them, then you can take them away from him. But, he has earned the right to get the ball more. This has been his best season as a Tiger and he is starting to show why he was once a 1st round pick.

Brandon Lyon: D+
-Recently, he has been great. But, this is a grade for the whole season and he has barely been better than Zumaya, imo. He has the worst WPA on the team, and sports a terrible 1.33 K/BB ratio. His 4.86 FIP is better than Zumaya and he has been a lot more reliable lately. Hence, the better grade than Zumaya.

Zach Miner: C-
-A 4.36 FIP is decent, but the 4.56 BB/9 ratio, 1.68 WHIP and -0.41 WPA is not good at all. He will have several good outings and then one where he just flat struggles for some reason. Slightly better than Lyon this season and he got some spot starts.

Ryan Perry: D
-The somewhat controversial first round pick of last year has been in Toledo working on his slider and his command. His 1.25 K/BB ratio is Nate Robertson-like and his 1.65 WHIP is not good. He has probably been the worst right handed reliever we have had, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt b/c of age and being rushed to the majors. He gets the same grade as Zumaya.

Eddie Bonine, Clay Rapada, Juan Rincon, Ni, Dolsi: Inc
-Ni has been far and away the most impressive of this bunch. Rincon is no longer even with the organization. Rapada might be called back up in September.