Motor City Sports

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Know thy enemy: Ian Snell

By any stat this year, Ian Snell has been downright awful. You want traditional stats? He is 2-9 with a 5.84 ERA in his 18 starts. And, his peripheral numbers are also awful. His 1.09 K/BB ratio is one of the worst in MLB and so to is his 5.17 FIP and 6.06 tRA. On top of that, all 4 of his pitches this year have been negative pitches according to FanGraphs.

End post. The Sox won. Lets take care of business and pound him like we should.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rick Porcello flashes untapped potential and Tigers pull off comeback

  • 8 K's, 7 ground ball outs and only 2 fly ball outs. Rick Porcello faltered in the 6th inning like a young pitcher is prone to do, but the potential he flashed tonight is enough to forget it. He was simply masterful for 5 innings and mowed down the Mariners lineup. Another good sign... he was still throwing 92+ in the 6th inning. Once his velocity has gone down in the past, he rarely recovered that strength. Bottom line, if Porcello develops into a high K man while staying an extreme ground ball pitcher then we will be looking at something incredible special in a few years. This kid is good.
  • Ryan Perry was masterful as well. He worked us out of the jam in the 6th with the bases loaded and struck out the side in the 7th. His slider has been deadly since his return from Toledo.
  • Bobby Seay was off all night and definitely did not deserve the win. The hit Ichiro got off him was just sick, but falling behind roughly every batter is not a recipe for success.
  • Might as well talk about Rodney. Truly an impressive display against Lopez and he got the job done again. Only 1 blown save and we are past the middle of August. I never, ever would have thought that was possible at the beginning of the year.
  • Offensively, we were going against King Felix Hernandez. Good luck with that. After he departed, we tore Lowe to shreds. Avila got a HR and Cabrera got the go ahead RBI. We should mash tomorrow against Snell.
  • As for Huff's debut... 1 hit on 4 tries, and it was a missile. Obviously, it is too early to comment on his production with us, yet.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Know thy enemy: Luke Hochevar

A former 1st round pick with a huge signing bonus, Hochevar has not quite fulfilled those expectations, yet. He has had flashes of dominance, but the bouts of inconsistency has led to a 5.38 ERA in 15 starts.

Hochevar has an above average K/BB ratio of 2.54, a GB/FB ratio of 1.33 and a FIP of 4.73 that is inflated by a HR/FB ratio of 14.1%. Assuming that regresses, and his strand rate of 65.5% creaps up to league average, then his ERA should drop the rest of this season. Essentially, he has a lot of talent and he has pitched better than his ERA would suggest. Still, he has not pitched anywhere near like he has been expected too.

He is basically a 3 pitch pitcher with a fastball, curve, and slider. According to Fan Graphs, his slider has been the only plus pitch that he has had this season. Looking at his splits, right handed batters hit slightly better against him. They have an OPS of .838 off him and lefties hit for an OPS of .747. All in all, not a big difference so it will be interesting to see how Leyland sets the lineup tomorrow. One extremely positive thing for us is that Hochevar has been brutal on the road. He has a 7.34 ERA in 6 starts on the road. Could Comerica Park signal some trouble for him?

It is a small sample size but a couple of our hitters have had success off him in the past. Miguel Cabrera, in particular, has owned Hochevar. He has gone 5 for 6 off him for an OPS of 1.833. Marcus Thames has hit a HR off him and Grandy has 2 hits and 2 walks off him in 6 plate appearances.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Inge, Washburn win it for Tigers

-Courtesy of Brooks Baseball, that is the strikezone plot for Jarrod Washburn tonight. An overwhelming majority of his pitches were either roughly in the middle of the plate or down in the zone. Washburn is a "pitch to contact" pitcher and he has to be able to keep the ball low and away and hit those spots in order to induce lazy fly balls or ground balls. He did it tonight and will need to continue to do that during his tenure here.

-As Jimmy Leyland said in the post-game presser, this was a perfect baseball game. Great defense, great pitching by Washburn and Lyon and a HR to win it. And, despite our lack of hits, we had a good approach at the plate tonight. We induced 4 walks off Zack Greinke even though his stuff was good most of the night. Some more thoughts...

-In the last 30 days, here are some offensive totals for certain players on our club...

Inge has a .533 OPS and .248 wOBA
Laird has a .516 OPS and .234 wOBA
Everett has a .354 OPS, and .159 wOBA

-on the other hand...
Ordonez has a .881 OPS and .378 wOBA

-It did not really matter tonight as Inge was the one who got the big hit, but this is a sampling on why our offense has been so putrid lately and on the road. Everett and Laird are simply terrible offensive players and the injury that has been bothering Inge has reduced him to a negative player since the All Star break.

-Back to back gems from Verlander and Washburn certainly will help an anemic offense. The Royals have an even worse offense and Jackson has a chance to redeem himself after a poor start last time out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Know they enemy: Brad Penny

Once upon a time, Brad Penny was a very good top of the rotation starter. From 2003 to 2007, he posted FIP's of 3.92, 3.59, 3.64, 3.89 and 3.63, respectively. That is remarkable consistency and good, solid seasons. The last 2 years? Not so much. Last year, he battled with injuries, had a terrible 1.21 K/BB ratio and a 5.27 FIP.

This season, he has been better but is still a disappointment in what has become an incredibly disappointing starting rotation for the Red Sox. He has a 5.20 ERA that is fairly representative of his play. He has a below average FIP of 4.58, a xFIP of 5.01, 5.06 tRA and 5.18 tRA*. Putting all of these numbers in context, Penny has been a below average pitcher this season and the predictive stats are not high on him reclaiming old glory anytime soon.

Penny has a 2.14 K/BB ratio that is slightly above average but he has mysteriously lost his ability to get ground balls at the same rate that he used too. For his career, Penny has a GB/FB ratio of 1.29. This season, though, his GB/FB ratio is 0.94. This has occurred during the same year that his fastball velocity is actually the highest of his career.

He is a 3 pitch pitcher this season. He throws his fastball roughly 73% of the time, his curveball 19% of his pitches and his split finger fastball roughly 8% of the time. In past years, he also used his changeup but he has since gone away from that and used his split finger in place of the changeup (hello, Jeremy Bonderman). According to Fan Graphs, his curveball has been dreadful this year and is -15.2 runs below average.

Penny's splits this year are nearly identical. Right handed batters hit for an OPS of .833 against him and lefties hit for an OPS of .812 off him. Also, in 3 of his last 4 starts, Penny has allowed at least 5 runs. So, he has struggled recently.

As for today's game, most guys on our team have not faced off against Penny too often. Polanco has 22 AB's and a .917 OPS against him, and Miggy has 11 AB's and a 1.545 OPS off him. Other than that, no one on the team has more than 7 AB's against him, and you really cannot gather too much from small sample sizes. Considering right handed hitters and lefties have hit Penny virtually equally as well this year, it will be interesting to see how Leyland will set his lineup. Laird is expected to play, and I would think that Everett would get the call over Santiago. Does Guillen DH? Is Maggs in RF, again? How about Thames, Raburn and Thomas?

Game time is at 7:10 on ESPN. Edwin Jackson is on the mound tonight and looking to build off his last start against Baltimore.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Know thy enemy: Scott Baker

The Twins had a vastly overrated pitching staff heading into this season. Nick Blackburn is not as good as his ERA indicates, Liriano has struggled all year and Kevin Slowey is injured and done for the season. For the most part, the Twins have had one of the worst starting rotations in the AL.

Scott Baker, though, is legit and his 4.59 ERA is worse than it should be. He has a 4.11 FIP, 4.16 xFIP, 3.82 tRA, and a 3.93 K/BB ratio that is good for 4th in the AL behind Verlander, Halladay and Greinke. That is some pretty good company.

Baker is a fly ball pitcher with a 0.76 GB/FB ratio this season and that identical GB/FB ratio for his career. Partly b/c of that, he will allow some long balls. He has a 1.41 HR/9 ratio. As alluded to above, though, he will not walk many batters. A 1.91 BB/9 ratio is very, very good.

Baker incorporates all 4 of his pitches into his starts. He features a fastball that averages 91 MPH, and a good slider that comes in at 82 MPH. His curve and changup are used much less frequently and those are actually his two worst pitches according to Fan Graphs. Interstingly enough, though, Baker threw his changeup and slider 21 times apiece in his last start against us this season. On the other hand, he never even threw a curveball. It will be interesting to see if that same game plan is in place against us this time around.

He has reverse splits on the year as right handed batters hit much better off him than lefties do. The OBP is nearly identical but right handers have a .508 slugging percentage against him and lefties only have a slugging percentage of .348 off him.

Baker is coming in on a bit of a hot streak. In his last 4 starts combined, he has only allowed 4 ER. Also going for him is the fact that his ERA is a run and a half lower on the road than it is at home. Going for us, though, is that a number of our batters have some real good success against him. Thames, Guillen and Ordonez all have at least 18 PA's against him and all 3 of them have an OPS above 1.000 against him. Grandy has a .912 OPS against him in 37 career AB's. At least 3 of those guys should be in the lineup tomorrow. Inge and Polanco, though, have been brutal against Baker in their career. Each have at least 25 PA's against him and an OPS below .430 against him. So, we have been a little hit or miss against him with certain parts of our lineup.

In Baker's last start against us, he allowed 5 ER and 8 base runners in 6 innings of work during a 6-5 Twins victory on May 14th. I'll gladly take the 5 ER from him again, and hope that Jarrod Washburn is a little sharper in his second start for us.

Carl Pavano hates the Tigers

nothing to see here. Take the series tomorrow and we can forget about this game. Quick thoughts...

1. It seemed that JV was way off tonight. His fastball, especially, appeared to be a pitch the Twins dug in on tonight.
2. The Twins ran on Grandy twice on judgment calls from the 3rd base coach. That tells you what the scouting report on Grandy's arm is. And Fan Graphs agrees. It is slightly below average this season.
3. Nick Punto was especially impressive to me tonight. He has been a great defender his whole career, but only slightly above average this season according to UZR. It was only one game but he passed the eye test for me. He had real good instincts at 3rd and seemed light on his feet.
4. We should have scored on Grandy's bloop hit (I didn't know if Everett or Lamont was to blame for that b/c I just focused on the ball dropping in) and we loaded the bases one other time. So, with some luck, we could have scored a couple runs off Pavano. Still, 4 straight starts like that against us is hard to deal with.
5. I've been calling for Simons to come up since mid June. They've already tried Dolsi, Fien and Lambert. I have to think he might be next. Maybe DD will come out of left field and promote a guy like Weinhardt. I doubt it but I also didn't think Avila would see any time this season.

Oh well. I said coming into this home stand that we needed to take 5 of 7. Thus far, we have taken 4 of 6. Take the series tomorrow and this forgettable game can be forgotten.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Red Wings bring back Jason Williams

Here is our replacement for Sammy.

"The Detroit Red Wings are bringing back a familiar face.

The team signed free agent forward Jason Williams to a one-year contract on Thursday.

Williams, 28, originally was signed by Detroit in 2000, but traded in 2007 as part of the Kyle Calder deal. In 233 games with the Red Wings, he had 49 goals and 67 assists. His best season with Detroit came in '05-06, when he set career highs with 21 goals, 37 assists and 58 points.

Williams (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) has solid offensive skills and can play the point on the power play.

Williams spent last season with the Atlanta Thrashers and Columbus Blue Jackets, and finished with 19 goals and 28 assists.

In 376 career NHL games, Williams has 205 points (85 goals, 120 assists).

He also played 128 games for the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League in '00-01 and '01-02 under the direction of current Red Wings coach Mike Babcock."

-More to come on him and Eaves and where this puts us for next season in a few.

Edwin Jackson dazzles again in win over Orioles

8 IP, 2 hits, 0 ER, 2 BB and 8 K's.

That was Jackson's stat line before the 9th when he allowed a 2 run blast to Adam Jones. Regardless, this was a fantastic start for Jackson and you can hardly fault Leyland for letting him try to go the distance. His game score (a stat developed by Bill James) was a 74. Based on that, this would be his 3rd best start of the year, behind his 8 inning, 0 ER performance against Baltimore on May 31st and his stingy complete game against the Angels on June 6. After a rough outing against the Indians when he only lasted 4 innings, allowed 9 base runners and 3 runs, this was a much needed start for him.

It was a fairly good mix for Jackson as he K'd 8 batters, induced 9 ground ball outs and 10 fly ball outs. He flirted with a high pitch count for awhile but a 8 pitch inning in the 7th and a 7 pitch inning in the 8th has a way of alleviating that concern. And, you have to love his pitch speed graph courtesy of Brooks Baseball...

As Leyland likes to say, he is a horse. There is no noticeable drop off as the innings pile up in a game and that is really, really good to see.

Other thoughts...

  • Our offense was the victim of a lot of bad luck yesterday. Adam Everett had several good at bats and swings before finally getting a single late in the game. Magglio had 3 great swings on the ball but one of them ended up going for a double play. Granderson hit the ball hard, Polanco hit a lined shot to the 2nd baseman in one inning, etc. We deserved more runs off Guthrie and more than 4 runs for the game. Oh well. We will see if that performance can continue today.
  • It was nice to see Maggs look good against a right handed pitcher. His HR off Guthrie might have been the best hit he has had all year. But, I am not proclaiming him back. He had good career numbers entering the day against Guthrie (4 for 7 with 2 doubles) and he has failed far too often against right handed pitchers for him to see many more of them the rest of this year.
  • Rodney did allow 2 baserunners but his stuff was pretty filthy and I had no problems with him walking Luke Scott. He continues to be a very good closer for us this season.
  • We needed to win this series and we are 1 win away from doing that. 2 down. Now, lets take the afternoon game today and get this home stand started off right.

Know thy enemy: David Hernandez

For the 2nd straight game, the Tigers are squaring off against a pitcher who at least has a couple of starts under his belt at the big league level. Of course, it is just 8 big league starts. Regardless, we can still get a somewhat accurate picture of David Hernandez from these starts...

Hernandez is 6'3" 215 lb right handed pitcher who is a rookie at the age of 24. This season he has a 3.28 ERA and has gone 5 innings or more in all but two of his 8 starts. In the minors, Hernandez was a huge strikeout pitcher with K/9 totals of 9.54, 10.40 and 10.60 in the past 3 minor league seasons.

By painting that good picture of Hernandez, I think it is time to bring him down to Earth a little bit. While he did strikeout a bunch of batters in the minors, he has just a 4.93 K/9 ratio in the big leagues. Combine that with a 3.47 BB/9 ratio and his K/BB ratio of 1.42 leaves much to be desired. So too do his other peripheral numbers and/or predictive stats. He has a 4.71 FIP (roughly a run and a half higher than his ERA) and even that is deflated by an unsustainable HR/FB ratio of just 6.8%. Thus, his xFIP of 5.86 . Hernandez also has a tRA of 5.05 (noticing a trend here). Without crunching the numbers, he has to have one of the most deceiving ERA's in all of baseball. A lot of that is helped out by a LOB % of 84.9. History would suggest that that is in no way sustainable.

Despite a HR/9 ratio of just 1.09, Hernandez has been an extreme fly ball pitcher. His GB/FB ratio is 0.55. Hernandez is basically a 3 pitch pitcher with a 93 MPH fastball, 78 MPH slider and 84-945 MPH changeup. Thus far on the year, Fan Graphs tells us that his fastball has been his only plus pitch. His splits are virtually identical. Given the small sample size, I'm not sure how much to read into that. But, lefties hit for an OPS of .745 off him and right handed batters hit for an OPS of .786 off him.

Hernandez made a start against us on May 28th (his first big league start... ever). Somehow, he managed to only allow 1 ER. In 5.2 IP, he allowed 5 hits and 4 BB. The Orioles won that game 5-1. Given the small sample size, I would not read too much into that one start against us. But, Grandy did go 2 for 2 with a BB against him. Clete Thomas and Maggs also had hits off him. Inge drew a walk and Thomas did, as well.

As for today... as always, it is hard to say with this offense. We are a league average offense against flyball pitchers with a OPS+ of 100. When we face a pitcher for a second time, our OPS+ is just 91. On the other hand, Cabrera, Thames, Inge, Granderson and Polanco are all plus hitters when facing a flyball pitcher. Given that, and the predictive stats that suggest that he has actually not pitched well this season, he could be due for a huge fall today.