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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Red Wings free agency preview

First, the big news. It is being reported that Hossa has turned down the Wings offer of roughly $4 million a year for ten years. Holland has said countless times that this was basically a take it or leave it offer. Hossa left it and he is no longer a Red Wing.

So, where does that leave the Wings? Here is our current Red Wing roster...

Detroit Red Wings
#PlayerPosition2009-2010 Cap Hit2010-2011 Cap HitContract Length


13Pavel DatsyukC/LW$6,700,000$6,700,000thru 2013-14
40Henrik ZetterbergC/LW$6,083,333$6,083,333thru 2020-21
93Johan FranzenC/RW$3,954,545$3,954,545thru 2019-20
51Valtteri FilppulaC/LW$3,000,000$3,000,000thru 2012-13
11Daniel ClearyC/RW/LW$2,800,000$2,800,000thru 2012-13
96Tomas HolmstromLW/RW$2,250,000$xxx,xxxthru 2009-10
33Kris DraperC$1,583,333$1,583,333thru 2010-11
18Kirk MaltbyLW/RW$883,333$xxx,xxxthru 2009-10
43Darren HelmC$599,444$xxx,xxxthru 2009-10


5Nicklas LidstromD$7,450,000$xxx,xxxthru 2009-10
28Brian RafalskiD$6,000,000$6,000,000thru 2011-12
23Brad StuartD$3,750,000$3,750,000thru 2011-12
55Niklas KronwallD$3,000,000$3,000,000thru 2011-12
3Andreas LiljaD$1,250,000$xxx,xxxthru 2009-10
52Jonathan EricssonD$900,000$900,000thru 2010-11
22Brett LebdaD$650,000$xxx,xxxthru 2009-10
14Derek MeechD$483,333$xxx,xxxthru 2009-10


30Chris OsgoodG$1,416,667$1,416,667thru 2010-11
35Jimmy HowardG$716,667$716,667thru 2010-11

Projected Total:

Salary Cap:

Cap Space:
Red = Unrestricted Free Agent
Blue = Restricted Free Agent
Green = 35+ years old at contract signing, cap hit remains [almost] regardless

Free Agents
#PlayerPosition2008-2009 Cap HitFA Status


81Marian HossaRW$7,450,000UFA
37Mikael SamuelssonRW$1,200,000UFA
26Jiri HudlerLW/RW$1,015,000RFA
21Ville LeinoLW/RW$875,000RFA
44Aaron DowneyRW$575,000UFA
25Darren McCartyRW$575,000UFA
28Tomas KopeckyLW/RW$500,000UFA


24Chris CheliosD$750,000UFA


29Ty ConklinG$750,000UFA

-To summarize: Hossa is gone. Conklin is gone. Chelios is gone. Kopecky is testing free agency and might be gone. Downey and McCarty might get two-way contracts between Grand Rapids and Detroit for the league minimum. Jiri Hudler and Ville Leino are both restricted free agents who were given qualifying offers. Mikael Samuelsson has had contract negotiations with the Wings but will test free agency.

-So, we have 9 forwards under contract, 8 D-men and 2 goalies. Our D is set, but I would not be surprised to see Lilja placed on LTIR next season b/c of his persistent headaches. If that is the case, that would free up $1.25 million. Holland has also stated that he would trade one of his D-men if Lilja is healthy. So, either way, our salary cap space will increase. For next year, the cap is set at $56.8 million, and we have roughly $3.3 million available to use on at least 3 forwards.

-Leino will probably re-sign for $800,000 or so with the guarantee that he will be on the Red Wings roster all year. Then, I think Hudler will sign for about $2 million. I expect Samuelsson to walk and get a better deal elsewhere. That would leave us with $500,000 or so. But, with the inevitable trade of a defenseman, we will at least have another $1 million to spend on another forward.

-With $1 million, we will not get a top-flight forward. What we can get, though, is a veteran checking-line player. Think Dallas Drake in 2008. What follows are five players who I think the Wings will target with that money (and some have connections to our local area or Babcock).

-C Todd Marchant is a defensive wizard who made life a living hell for Datsyuk's line in that tough second round series against Anaheim. Here were his stats last year...

2008-09 ANAHEIM7251318-2340201010.2

He was on the shutdown 3rd line for the Ducks with Sammy Pahlsson and Travis Moen during their cup run in 2007. And, in the playoffs the year before that, he scored 13 points and was + 14. He is a legit playoff performer. He will be highly sought after for a 3rd/4th line role.

-W Travis Moen is a winger, and a similar shutdown-type guy like Marchant is. Like I mentioned above, he played with Marchant for a couple years, and has won a Cup after his stellar performance in the 2007 playoffs. Here are his stats from last year...

2008-09 TOTAL ANA/SJ827916-18910321010.20

He is a hard nosed player, as evidenced by the 91 PIM. He is only 27, is a great defensive player and has won the Cup before. He would be a great pickup for us, and may fit our team better than Marchant because we need wingers more than centers.

The following are a couple free agents profiled by Kyle at Babcock's Death Stare, with my comments following his.

"Ian Lapperiere – Heavily rumored to Detroit at the deadline, it looks like he wants out of Colorado. He’ll likely be the most sought after grinder of this year’s free agent class, so Detroit would likely sacrifice some scoring to nab him."
Stats last year:

2008-09 COLORADO74712190163000610.26

He had a salary of $1.15 million, so he is well within our price range. What type of player is he? Check the penalty numbers. He is a rough hockey player who is solid penatly killer and will get ou 10 goals and 10 assists a year. A real good 4th liner who is 35 and never sniffed the Cup. He wil be someone we target.

"John Madden – Why not, Wolverine trifecta in this section. He’s been slowly phased out by the Devils, and now, at 36, finds his 7 goals as his lowest career total. He still adds grit and leadership."

2008-09 NEW JERSEY7671623-7260121320.30

His salary was nearly $3 million, but he will get nowhere near that this time around. He is a former Michihgan Wolverine and won the Selke Award in 2001 as the best defensive forward in the game. He also is a veteran at 36 years of age who was an integral part of 2 Stanley Cup runs with New Jersey. But, I would prefer Lapperiere over him. Madden doesn't bring a physicaly presence and I fear that he is going the way of Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper. He has been a negative player in 3 of the last 4 years on a pretty good team, and that is a clear warning sign to me.

"Samuel Pahlsson – Pahlsson has always been a thorn in the side of Detroit’s type lines, and although he’s always been the enemy, perhaps he would be interested in joining many of his countrymen in Detroit."

2008-09 TOTAL ANA/CHI6571118-1734102880.28
Had a salry of $1.4 million last year. Babcock coached him for two years in Anaheim. He is the eptiome of a shutdown center who won a cup with Anaheim and gave us some trouble with Chicago this year. He is a better option than Madden. He doesn't bring the physical presence that Lapperiere does, but he is roughly 3 years younger and a better defensive player.

Any of these guys would be good gets, but because we need wingers and we might want to get a little tougher in our bottom 6, I think Moen and Lapperiere are the ones most likely to sign with us.

Then we are left with these possible lines:

Datsyuk | Zetterberg | Holmstrom
Cleary | Filppula | Franzen
Hudler| Helm | Moen/Lapperiere
Maltby | Draper | Leino

Lidstrom | Rafalski
Kronwall | Stuart
Ericsson | Lebda

Osgood | Howard

-Abdelkader will probably spend most of next year in Grand Rapids and come up in the postseason like Helm did.

-Obviously, these lines will be fluid and ever-changing. For example, Hudler might be on the second line, and Cleary might get bumped down to the 3rd line to play more of a defensive role. Or, Homer might get bumped off the top 2 lines entirely and Hudler and Cleary might each get bumped up a line. A lot could happen.

-As it stands, though, a top 6 forward group of Z, Pavel, Franzen, Cleary, Flip and Homer is still one of the best in the game. And, our top 5 on D is also one of the best in the game. This roster would be dimished in depth compared to this year's team. Players with the ability of Ericcsson, Leino and Helm will not be waiting in the minors anymore. That's what the Salary Cap will do to teams. Z and Franzen's salaries have now inceased and the Wings depth will not be as great as it once was.

But, this team would still be a top contender and a top 5 team in the league along with Anaheim, Chicago, Washington and Pittsburgh. As long as Holland is still our GM, you can never count out the Wings.

Pistons Odds and Ends and free agency preview

-Carlos Boozer elected to pick up his player option and is staying in Utah for next season. His salary will be $12.7 million, and it does make it harder for the Jazz to re-sign Milsap. They are currently at a little more than $70 million next year, so they would have to go above the luxury tax to keep Milsap. One thing that does work in Utah's favor is that Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Matt Harpring, and Kyle Korver are all coming off their salary cap for next season. Hence, in the short term, it will hurt them financially to keep Milsap. On the flip side, long term, it might be beneficial for them.

From the Pistons perspective, we could still get Boozer in a trade. But, Dumars has been adamant that he wants to land 2 impact free agents. Taking on Boozer's salary may prevent that from happening. And, on the surface it may appear that this makes it easier to land Milsap. But, we would still have to overpay for him. Anything under $10 million a year and the Jazz may very well match that offer.

-Drew Sharp provided his commentary on the Curry firing.

"The Detroit Pistons desperately need a significant free-agent infusion this summer, and they feared that the character assassination done on Curry within the players fraternity might cost them the coaches they’re targeting.

Curry became the easiest sacrifice."
I mentioned this below and I agree with Sharp. Curry is not well respected around the NBA and the fact that he was fired the day before free agency begins is not a coincedence.

"It was either him or Rip Hamilton. And when have you ever heard of the star player losing that debate?"
-In a sense, I agree with Sharp. I do think a lot of this firing had to do with Curry's inability to earn respect from his players. But, I do not think Hamilton is the type of player we should make our coaching decisions around. Now, I am no fool. The NBA, more than any other league, is a player's league and the star players run the league. But, Rip Hamilton is not one of those players. He is and has been a good player for awhile here. But, it is not like he is some irreplaceable player. If LeBron or Wade or Kobe or Howard want a coach out, then they get their wish. I do not think Hamilton has earned that type of privelage.

-Free agency starts tomorrow for the NBA. Feels great, doesn't it. NBA and NHL free agency opening day is one of my favorite days as a sports fan. The Pistons have roughly $18 million in cap room to go after the potential free agents. Here is a good general free agency preview provided by Hoopsworld.

Some points of interest...
"So, which teams are currently positioned to bid the most on the 2009 free-agent crop? After examining each team's salary commitments it is clear there are very few teams with much of cap space available this summer. And once you factor in guaranteed money owed to 2009 draft picks and minimum cap holds, you are essentially looking at only six teams with significant cap-room to make a run at a free agent. Here are the teams, along with their approximate cap space in parentheses: Detroit Pistons ($18 million), Memphis Grizzlies ($20 million), OKC Thunder ($15 million), Portland Trail Blazers ($8 million), Sacramento Kings ($12 million), and Atlanta Hawks ($9 million).

However, this certainly doesn't mean that all these teams will use the cap space afforded to them. If history is any indicator, franchises such as the Grizzlies and Thunder are in no hurry to spend their entire allowance and bump up against the cap. (Last season, the Grizz had the lowest payroll in the League). As far as Sacramento is concerned, the Kings owners, the Maloof brothers, have been hit hard by the economic downturn. And the Kings – while they have some nice young pieces on the roster - are certainly not going to compete for the title next season; so don't expect them to break the bank for top-notch, expensive talent. In addition, Atlanta's trade for Jamal Crawford will certainly eat into their expected maneuverability.

Thus, if you are one of the elite players in the 2009 free agent crop, you have to hope that the Pistons, Thunder, and/or Grizzlies are keenly interested and come calling."

-To put in bluntly, there is a reason why there are not many teams with cap space for this offseason. It is not too good, and there are not many great options available. With that said, we are the most attractive option for free agents and we can target basically whoever we want.

"Ben Gordon (U) - Gordon and the Bulls have been playing chicken for the last few years. It will all come to a head over the next few weeks. While he isn't a great defender and the Bulls haven't been overly successful during his tenure in Chicago, Gordon is a gifted scorer that can light up any scoreboard when he is locked in. As with almost every quality free-agent in this class, Detroit has been linked as a possible suitor (although that would require the Pistons moving Rip Hamilton as part of the process.)"
I already addressed the Ben Gordon to Detroit rumor here. If it does happen, Rip would almost certainly be traded for a big man (like Tyson Chandler or Chris Kaman). I will provide an in-depth breakdown of Gordon if indeed he does sign with us. But, for a brief preview, in the short-term it has both positives (can create own shot, better scorer than Rip) and negatives (terrible defensively and turnover prone). Long term, because of the difference in age, Gordon would get the edge.

"Hedo Turkoglu (ETO) – It was widely assumed that the Magic would do whatever they had to do in order to bring back Turk, who was an integral part of their Eastern Conference championship-winning puzzle. But after Otis Smith brought in Vince Carter via a blockbuster deal with Orlando, all bets are off. Hedo is most definitely in play. Rumors intimate that the Pistons are interested and will definitely kick the tires a bit."
-Turkoglu is an interesting option because he plays the 3/4 hybrid position that Dumars seems to be targeting now, as evidenced by his most recent draft picks. If Turkoglu signs, Prince would probably be dealt for a big man and Hamilton would stay. Turkoglu is a better player than Prince and would make roughly the same amount of money. This would be a win for the Pistons as long as Dumars does not get fleeced on the deal.

"Trevor Ariza (U) – No player has earned himself more money over the last couple months of the season than Ariza. Trevor proved he was a capable perimeter defender and consistently knocked down important three's on the Lakers march to the title. There will be plenty of interest league-wide; will the Lakers show Ariza the money?'
-He would be a cheaper and younger option than Turkoglu. He is also a superior defensive player. On the flip side, he is not the passer, shooter or scorer that Turkoglu is. And, in order to get Ariza, I think we would have to overpay for him more then we would have to overpay to get Turkoglu.

Charlie Villanueva (R) – Per the description of the Sessions situation above, many believe that the Bucks traded Richard Jefferson in order to clear up the cash to re-up both Charlie V and Ramon.
I addressed Villanueva in-depth here.

"Marcin Gortat (R) – Superman's backup could jump at a chance to get paid starter's money and play starter's minutes. Orlando would love to bring him back as insurance, but likely won't be able to afford his increased price tag. In a league literally starving for size and even adequate centers, Gortat's agent will be contacted by just about every team in the NBA."
If the price is reasonable, he is worth a look.

-Needless to say, this is a very important free agency for Dumars and the Pistons. Now, more than ever, this is a no win situation for Dumars. And, more than ever, the pressure is being turned on Dumars to make the right moves this offseason. If he hands out long term deals to the wrong players, it could hanicap the franchise for years to come.

Game 77: Tigers looking to bounce back against A's

After a disappointing game last night for the Tigers, it is a battle of #5 starters tonight. First, lets look at Armando Galaragga. I profiled the pitching staffs of the AL this morning, and while it was just a quick run down of ERA's and did not take into account a number of peripheral stats, it does provide a pretty clear picture of what we can expect from a #5 starter... an ERA over 5 and you will be lucky if you can get consistent innings from that starter. Thus far this year that has been Galaragga. Now, I do agree that more should be expected of him and I think he needs to make some adjustments (more on that later). His ERA is 5.65, and he has a 5.79 FIP and 1.61 WHIP. Needless to say, that is awful. His K/9 rate of 5.65 is well below the league average and his 3.84 BB/9 rate is above average. That is not a good combination. Also, his HR/9 rate of 1.81 is the worst on the team. Eeesh. Finally, his WAR is 0.0 so he is the epitome of a replacement level player.

So, what is the difference from last year when he had a 3.73 ERA? His BABIP was .247 last year and his FIP was 4.88. So, we should have expected some of this. But, his k/9, BB/9 and HR/9 rate are all worse than last year, and he is allowing line drives at a 4% higher rate than last year. More than anything, his slider has lost its bite and opposing hitters are hitting it more. After being a plus, plus pitch last year for him, it has been a negative pitch for him. His changeup has actually improved greatly from last year, and yet, he is throwing that pitch 4 % less than last year and throwing his slider and fastball more than last year. I would like to see him rely more on his changeup and cut back a little with the slider to see if that makes a difference. He did do that last start and his last start was good, outside of the Jake Fox 3-run home run in the first inning. Coincedently, the A's hit the changeup worse than any other team in MLB. I think Galaragga can exploit that tonight and provide a good outing for a #5 starter. 7 IP, 3 ER tonight out of Armando would be outstanding, and I think he can do it.

On to the A's starter tonight, Gio Gonzalez. Like Brett Anderson, he is a young southpaw (although, as you will see, he is much smaller than Anderson) who can make some bats swing and miss.

"Gonzalez has missed his fair share of bats in the past three seasons (two years at Double-A, one at Triple-A), and has struck out more than nine batters per nine innings. At Triple-A in 2008, Gonzalez allowed 106 hits in 123 innings and posted rates of 4.46 BB/9 and 9.37 K/9. He obviously needs to shave down the walk rate, especially after his MLB debut late last year that saw him walk 25 batters in 34 innings (6.62 BB/9). After allowing just 12 home runs in Triple-A, Gonzalez was lit up for nine (2.38 HR/9) in the Majors."
-How has he done this year? Well, he has only started once and pitched in three games. So, the sample size is so small it is almost not worth looking at the numbers. He does have an ERA of 8.01. But, he also has an incredibly high BABIP of .479 and his FIP is 4.18. So, his ERA looks bad, but he probably has not pitched as bad as it may appear. His K/9 rate of 9.49 is almost Verlander-like. Of course, his BB/9 rate of 6.57 is almost Willis-like. So, we better try to work the count tonight. He throws a lot of curveballs and you know he is going to throw a bunch at Granderson and a couple of our other guys. We have to be patient against this guy. If we are, he will throw a lot of walks and make the A's fans want to pull there hair out. I'm all for that.

Gonzalez is a three-pitch pitcher who throws his curveball and changeup a combined 36% of the time. The remainder of the time, he throws his fastball. His velocity is pretty good as his average fastball comes in at roughly 91 MPH (so, on FSN tonight, some red flags should be raised when it says he is throwing 95-96 MPH). His best pitch is his curveball. His splits would certaily suggest hitting every lefty we have against him. They have a 1.532 OPS against him. Again, though, it is such a small sample size, we should not read much into that. In the minors, lefties hit a little better than right handed batters against him.

So, it will be interesting to see if Leyland follows the stats tonight and sends out more left handed batters than he did last night. More than anything, we need to work the pitch count tonight and not let this guy look like Randy Johnson. Patience, Tigers. Patience. That is the name of the game tonight. We do that and we can hit this guy around tonight.

Breaking News: Michael Curry fired per 97.1 FM

More on this very shortly as I gather my thoughts. Until then, here is a post I made when Laimbeer was first made available. I think Avery Johnson will also be a candidate and maybe Jeff Van Gundy.


The day was June 10, 2008 and the Pistons had just hired Michael Curry to replace Flip Saunders. Saunders had several things going for him. Among them, he is a brilliant offensive mind, and a veteran NBA coach who has been through the grind of the NBA season. However, after taking over a Detroit team that had been to the NBA finals in the two years prior to his arrival, the Pistons failed to get by the conference finals for three straight years. The debacle against the Cavs in 2006 after starting the series up 2-0 will probably never be forgotten by Pistons fans.

So, to replace a great regular season coach who just could not get it done in the postseason, Joe Dumars hired.... a rookie NBA coach in Michael Curry who had been an NBA assistant for all of one year. And, for what?

"Most players who come in on a 10-day just want to survive," recalls Dumars. "Michael was different - he came in talking and had opinions and I thought 'Ok, this guy's got some leadership skills. He'll be out of here in 10 days, but he's got some leadership skills.'"

He stuck around a lot longer than Dumars and most people expected - 11 NBA seasons as a player, four years as NBA Players Association President, a two-year appointment as an NBA executive, an assistant coach for the Pistons and now - head coach.

Curry's leadership, toughness and tireless work ethic has earned him this opportunity, but it is his understanding of the organization and its expectations as well as his competitive drive that gives Dumars comfort in his ability to return this team to its roots - a team that goes to work and plays with passion - every night.

-Dumars believed that Curry's leadership and work ethic would make him a respected leader in the Pistons locker room. He thought he could handle Rasheed better and make him into a front court player who used his gifted post-up game like he should. Then, the Chauncey Billiups trade happened. The ultimate coach killer, Allen Iverson, and his "I ain't coming off the bench or playing defense" attitude, came to our team and Curry completely lost control of the team. "Small ball" and starting Hamilton at SF and Prince at PF was a disaster. Then, Curry decided to start Iverson ahead of Hamilton, and probably ruined whatever chemistry our team had. Eventually, Hamilton returned to the starting lineup, but the damage had been done. Curry couldn't handle all of the egos in the room and completely lost control of Wallace, who had arguably his worst season as a Piston.

We struggled to a 39-43 season and were swept in a series that was over as soon as LeBron stepped on the court for game 1. Still, Dumars expressed his support for Curry and declared him as fit to coach our team next season. Yet, in a move that is awfully similar to Millen firing Marty "The Bar has been raised" Mornhinweg about a month after his job was declared safe, Dumars fired Curry.

Now, there are several questions to ask and answer...

Did Curry deserve to be fired?
-He never should have been hired in the first place. This is Joe D. just admitting that he hired another poor coach. Curry had no experience as a coach and looked completely out of place as a head coach. This will go down as one of the worst hires in Detroit sports history. Not the worst. This is not Rod Marinelli or Mornhinweg or Dick Vitale. But, who didn't see this coming? Curry did not bring the leadership or demand the respect from the team that he was supposed to bring. We also finished the year 18-36, and agents and players didn't like him. Rip Hamilton, in particular, did not like him and felt that he was done wrong when Iverson was played in front of him. He needed to be fired, but he also never should have been hired.

What changed in the last month that led to this decision?
-As Joe D. was talking to agents of potential free agent players and the players themselves (yes, this is tampering, but everybody does it and everybody knows it) they expressed a concern about Curry. He is not respected as an NBA coach, and Dumars wanted to make us a more attractive option for free agents.

-We have a coach lined up and signed on the dotted line. I'm not sure who it is, but Dumars has someone lined up.

Who is the next coach of the Pistons?
Doug Collins is the front runner. He knows X's and O's better than anybody and Dumars loved him when Collins was our coach in the mid 90's. On the flip side, he cannot control his temper, players hate him and our players will turn on him faster than they turned on Michael Curry. He should have 5 or more NBA rings on his fingers, but he blew away the opportunity of a lifetime when he couldn't control himself while coaching Michael Jordan. He has failed with the Bulls, Pistons and Wizards. A fourth time will not be the charm and we can only hope that Dumars doesn't hire him.

-Whoever is hired, I will profile them in-depth. I have a feeling that coach will be introduced very shortly.

Chris McCosky provides the scoop on the situation.

"As I look at our situation and the transition that we are going through, it is clear to me that we need a more experienced hand at the wheel to help guide us through this," Dumars said. "Maybe I put too much on Mike as a first-year head coach."

The Pistons will pay Curry $5 million for the two remaining years on his contract.

Experience? It is Collins, Avery Johnson or Jeff Van Gundy. One of those three will be the next Pistons coach.

And, why did Curry get fired after Dumars said he was coming back?

"Though the timing of the firing was odd, it was not believed to be related to free agency, though certainly, with Curry gone, the Pistons might have a better chance of re-signing Antonio McDyess.

Curry very quickly lost the confidence of both his players and coaching staff last season. Dumars wanted to give Curry time this summer to mend some of those fences. When that hadn't happened, Dumars decided to pull the plug.

There is no deadline for hiring the new coach"
-I am only speculating, but I am guessing he was told to mend the fences with Rip Hamilton, McDyess and Stuckey. Apparently, it did not work.

Tigers #4 and #5 starters not as bad as some might assume

On the eve of another Armando Galaragga start, I think it would be interesting to see how other teams #4 or #5 starters have done in the AL and to examine if perhaps we have too high expectations for our back of the rotation guys. I will do a team by team breakdown in order of overall team starters ERA in the AL.


-They have the best ERA amongst starting pitcher ERA’s at 3.90, the best WHIP and third best FIP. So, they have a good starting rotation. No doubt about that. Erik Bedard has had some injury troubles this year but has posted a 2.47 ERA. Felix Hernandez has a 2.54 ERA and Jarrod Washburn has a 3.22 ERA. That is as good as it gets for your top 3 starters. But, how about their #4 and #5 starters? This is where it gets dicey. No other starter has more than 10 starts, and no one has an ERA below 4. Jason Vargas has been their best next starter with 9 starts and a 4.06 ERA. And, even he has a FIP of 4.91 After that, Seattle has just been piecing things together for their #5 starter. Morrow has been injured most of the year. That has left 3 #5 starters competing for starts (think Miner, Willis and Figaro) with a combined ERA of 6.75. Sound familiar? So, the best rotation in the AL basically has no true #5 starter and a #4 starter who is posting similar numbers to Porcello. The one true difference between our rotation and their rotation is that they have an additional top of the rotation starter and we do not. Jackson and Verlander would qualify as #1 and #2 starters for them, and Porcello and Galaragga would fit in with their #4 and #5 starters.

White Sox

-Second best ERA, 7th best FIP, tied for second in WHIP. They have an unusually low BABIP so their rotation numbers should start looking worse. For now, we will just breakdown what is a top 5 rotation, at least, in the AL. They have gone with six starters this year. I will count Clayton Richard and Bartolo Colon as combined #4 starters for them. Unlike the Mariners, the Sox only have one true front of the rotation starter in Mark Buehrle and his 3.26 ERA. John Danks and Gavin Floyd have been inning eaters, but they have similar ERA numbers to Porcello. So, we have a better top 3 than they do. Their #4 starters in Bartolo Colon and Richard have an ERA of roughly 4.3 so that is one advantage they have over us. However, like Seattle, their 5th starter is not good. Jose Contreras has a 5.19 ERA and has only been slightly better than Galaragga. To recap: we are fortunate to have Verlander and Jackson, while they basically have 1 #1 starter and 3 #3 starters. There #5 starter has struggled just like ours.


-3rd in ERA, 1st in FIP, tied for second in WHIP. Good rotation or the Zack Greinke show? The latter. Greinke is the Cy Young winner of today and I won’t dazzle you with all of his numbers. But, he does have a 1.95 ERA and it is legit. Gil Meche is their #2 starter and he has a 4.27 ERA. Brian Bannister has a 4.17 ERA but has 3 less starts. Kyle Davies is really their #4 starter with 14 starts. He has a 5.76 ERA. Luke Hochevar and Sidney Ponson are their #5 starters and they have an ERA of roughly 5.5. Again, Verlander and Jackson give us an advantage that few teams have. Porcello fits in nicely as the #3 starter and our #4 and #5 starters are similar to their starters.


Tied for 4th in ERA with the Tigers. 8th in FIP and 6th in WHIP. Like every year, the Angels have dealt with a lot of injuries. Jared Weaver is a bona fide #1 with a 2.65 ERA. Joe Saunders is their #2 with 15 starts and 3.66 ERA. So, our top #2 compares favorably to there top 2. Then, they have had to piece together the starts. I guess we can count the combo of Darren Oliver/ Sean O’Sullivan/ Kelvim Escobar/ Dustin Moseley/ Shane Loux as the #3 starters (even though that is Lackey). But, for our purposes, they have a combined ERA in their 14 starts of roughly 4.00. Again, Porcello looks like a legit #3 on all teams except Seattle. Lackey has been hurt a lot, has only 9 starts and has an ERA of 5.06. Matt Palmer is 7-1 but has an ERA of 5.11. Their #4 and #5 starters are slightly better than ours but they each have an ERA above 5.

Blue Jays

6th in ERA, 4th in FIP, 5th in WHIP. Good solid rotation. A true #1 in Halladay with his 2.56 ERA. Ricky Romero has only started 10 times but has a 3.20 ERA. Scott Richmond has a 3.64 ERA, and Brian Tallet has a 4.33 ERA. Before last night, we basically had the same top 3 as they did, in terms of ERA. We do not have a #4 starter like they do. But, 7 other guys have pitched for them and they have an ERA above 5. Again, that sounds like us. Quick recap, again. No #5 starter has an ERA below 5, yet. Our top 3 competes very favorably. Our #4 is below average.


-7th in ERA, 9th in FIP, 11th in WHIP. Second tier rotation with a lot of injuries. Sums up their season. Dallas Braden, Josh Outman (who is down with shoulder surgery now), Trevor Cahill are there #1, 2 and 3. Braden has a 3.26 ERA, Outman has a 3.58 ERA and Cahill has a 4.23 ERA. Anderson is their #4 starter with a 5.45 ERA. They do not have a set #5 guy, but Mazarro does have a surprising 2.95 ERA in his limited starts. The other starters, though, have a combined ERA above 6.


-8th in ERA, 13th in FIP, 8th in WHIP. Lowest BABIP in the league. Kevin Milwood’s numbers are going to drop. No doubt about it. But, for now, he has a 2.64 ERA. Scott Feldman has a 3.30 ERA. Vincente Padilla has a 4.75 ERA, Brendan McCarthy has a 4.92 ERA and Matt Harrison has a 6.11 ERA. They have had some injuries, but each of these guys have 10 starts or more. Like most teams, their #4 and #5 starters have ERA’s floating around 5 or above.


-9th in ERA ,5th in FIP, 4th in WHIP. Nick Blackburn has a 3.10 ERA. Not an ideal #1 starter but he has done the job so far. Then, they have a bunch of 3 or 4 starters. Slowey has a 4.41 ERA and somehow has 10 wins. Perkins has a 4.70 ERA, and Baker has a 5.17 ERA. Liriano continues to struggle after that great 2006. He has a 5.62 ERA. Our back end of the rotation, like it is to a lot of teams, is similar to there back of the rotation. Our top starters are head and shoulder above them.

Red Sox

-10th in ERA, 2nd in FIP, 11th in WHIP. Unbelievably high BABIP. Disappointing year for these set of arms, though. Beckett has a 3.48 ERA. Wakefield has a 4.18 ERA and Jon Lester has a 4.35 ERA. Brad Penny has a 4.79 ERA. Dice-K has been a mess with an ERA of 8.23. Justin Masterson has an ERA of 4.58 in his six starts. Still, they do not have a #5 starter after having moved Masterson to the bullpen. There back of the rotation is a disaster just like ours and they are a favorite to win the World Series. What they do have is one more reliable starter. What they don’t have is a 1-2 punch like Verlander and Jackson.


-11th in ERA, 10th in FIP, 10th in WHIP. Below average rotation. Sabathia has an ERA of 3.55. Chamberlain has an ERA of 3.81. Burnett has an ERA of 3.93. Pettite has an ERA of 4.38 with 90 IP and is a pretty ideal #4 starter. They have no #5 starter as Hughes and Wang have been absolute disasters. We have a better top of the rotation. They have an ideal #4. We each are without a #5 starter.


12th in ERA, 11th in FIP, 9th in WHIP. Below average rotation for a contending team. James Shields has an ERA of 3.41. Matt Garza has an ERA of 3.61, and Jeff Nieman has an ERA of 3.95. Until they started using David Price as a starter, they were without a #4 or 5 starter they could rely on. Andy Sonnanstine is one of the worst pitchers in the AL with a 6.61 ERA and Scott Kazmir has a 7.28 ERA. Having Price helps some of their problems, but they do not have a reliable #5 starter. Noticing a trend here?


-13th in ERA, last in FIP, 13th in WHIP. Yeah, they are awful. I’ll keep this short. The Orioles best starter, Bradley Bergesen, has a 3.76 ERA. Koji Uehara has a 4.05 ERA. Jeremy Guthrie has a 5.11 ERA. After that, they pick a name out of a hat and throw them out there to pitch. Combined ERA for their #4 and 5 starters of over 6.


-Last in ERA, 12th in FIP, last in WHIP. Terrible rotation even with a legit #1 in Cliff Lee. Lee has a 2.92 ERA and one of the top 10 pitchers in the game. After that, the Indians’ two most common starters are Carl Pavano and Fausto Carmona. Pavano has a 5.56 ERA and Carmona has a7.42 ERA. Those are supposed to be their #2 and #3 starters. I’m not even going to talk about their back of the rotation guys. Be thankful you are not an Indians fan this year.

Wow, that is a lot of info. To summarize…

  • -The only teams that have a 1-2 punch like us are Seattle, LA Angels, Blue Jays and Rangers. And, realistically, the Blue Jays and Rangers duo will not keep that up.
  • - Only the Mariners have a better #3 starter than we have in Porcello. He matches up well with the #3 starters or combined starters for the White Sox, Royals, Angels, Blue Jays and Athletics. We have a very good #3 starter as long as Porcello keeps this up.
  • -What we do lack is a true #4 starter. Seattle, the White Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers, Red Sox and Yankees all have more reliable #4 starters than we do. And, with Price now in the Rays rotation, they have a good #4 starter. The other teams, though, are just piecing together the rotation in that spot. If we can find another starter who can give us a 4.5 ERA or so, we will be right where we need to be in that regard.
  • - If we count Galaragga as our #5 starter, then we should actually be thankful that he has been eating innings. EVERY team in the AL has a #5 starter with an ERA above 5, and many do not have a guy they consistently throw out there and often have combined ERA’s above 6. If Galaragga is our #5, then we should be fine with that. His numbers suggest that we should be, anyway.
  • -If we find one more reliable starter, a guy who can be a true #4 with a 4.5 ERA and an innings eater (which is probably something Zack Miner would provide) we would have a rotation that is as good as any in the AL with all things considered. So, that is something to think about when evaluating Galaragga and our back of the rotation starters. No team has a reliable #5 starter and only half have a reliable #4.

Game 76: Worst fears for Porcello realized, Anderson delivers for A's

-Well, I feared this start was going to come for Porcello. I am by no means suggesting that I expect Porcello to continue to have a 4.1 IP, 9 H, 2 BB, 0 K, 5 ER stat line. But, I do expect his ERA to continue to rise into the 4's, and it is time for Leyland to get him some rest. We have a favorable schedule coming up with some off days and the All Star break worked in, and I think it will be extremely beneficial for the young guy to skip a start or two over this stretch. Considering how he has pitched recently, I think it is the best thing for our team both in the short term and long term. All of his peripheral numbers suggest that he is basically a 4.5 ERA-type pitcher this season. Sit him for a start, let him clear his head and rest that golden arm before the second half of the season, and let's see if he can turn those numbers around into his favor. His month of April was rough, and he turned it around with a 1.50 ERA for the month of May. Similarily, he can turn this poor end in the month of June to a good month of July.

- Too early still to judge Ni. He gave up a home run to Sweeney but it was not a bad pitch. I would have preferred it to be down and away rather than down and into Sweeney's sweet spot but sometimes you have to give the hitter credit. He threw 27 pitches and got 21 strikes. His curveball needs work. But, he is better than Nate Robertson.

-Freddy Nolsi went two innings without allowing an earned run. He threw strikes in 20 of his 30 pitches and in 4.2 innings up here, he has only had 1 BB. If he keeps that up, he has a shot to stick here for awhile. Of course, stick him in a tight game and everything might change. Like Ni, it is too early to make an assessment on Dolsi's stay up here this year.

-I didn't think Brett Anderson was overwhelming, but the kid does have good stuff. A little wild? Sure. And we helped him out a few times swinging at fast balls out of the zone (they must have watched Pudge do that too much in the Houston series). But, whenever you face a top prospect like he was or someone with the natural "stuff" that he brings, sometimes you are the team on the other end of a good pitching performance. Anderson is a potential #1 ace in the future.

-With that said, we were not as patient as we should have been tonight and we did help the kid out more than we should have. Everett was the only guy with 2 hits, and even he missed out on a big opportunity in the 6th inning to get us within 2 runs. And, 14 SO's is unacceptable. Tip your cap to the A's? A little bit. But, I didn't see Randy Johnson on that mound. Way, way too many K's. That stops tomorrow.

-I mentioned in my pre game post that Anderson was worst against left handed batters. Yet, we only had one left handed batter in the lineup and Granderson always struggles against lefties. Sometimes going against the stats work. Sometimes it doesn't. Today, it didn't work.

-So, about that terrible offense for Oakland... ouch. Galaragga will be good tomorrow and those bats will show their true colors. I think.

-And, completely OT, Tim Lincecum is amazing. 3 CG in his last 4 starts, and he has an ERA of 2.37 that is as legit as it gets. Verlander, are you taking notes? That can be you.

-I'll be back tomorrow with a preview of the A's starter tomorrow, Gio Gonzaelez. To be brief, he is a young lefty who has been terrible ths season and has the stuff to be better. Sound familar? I also could disect the A's batters to see how Galaragga might attack them tomorrow if there is interest in a highly analytical analysis.

-Finally, here is the minor league recap, courtesy of Detroit Tigers Weblog. Quick recap: every team in our organization lost tonight. As they say, it was just one of those nights.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Red Wings Odds and Ends

George Malik provided us with an up to date link tonight on where things stand for the Wings just two nights before the start of free agency.

Earlier this evening, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported that the Red Wings have upped their offer to Marian Hossa...

June 29, TSN: With less than 48 hours until the NHL free agency period begins, the first big question is how many of the marquee free agents will even get to the open market. ... Marian Hossa has to decide whether he will accept Detroit's non-negotiable offer of an annual cap hit of less than $5 million..
-George Sipple of the Free Press is still reporting that the Wings are offering $4 million, and McKenzie never mentioned a specific number so it is probably right in between $4 and $5 million a year.

The Free Press's George Sipple, however, reports that the Red Wings continue to offer him a deal at or around the $4 million mark, and if he doesn't sign, they expect him to walk on Wednesday at noon:

June 29, Detroit Free Press: "I'm willing to move a player or two if the cap number makes sense for us," Holland said Monday night. "Other teams can offer a lot more money. We've made our decisions. I'm very comfortable with the core of our team. We've put our best foot forward with Marian. They know it. Marian and (agent) Ritch Winter have to look at all their options."

If the Wings just sign restricted free agents Jiri Hudler and Ville Leino, they can still field a competitive team. Signing them gives the team 12 forwards. Eight defensemen are locked up, and Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard are in net.

Holland said he wanted to see how Andreas Lilja, who missed the playoffs with a concussion, looks in training camp before making a decision on his defensive corps.

"I want to make sure Lilja's healthy," he said. "We're going to trade one defenseman. We're going to do nothing till we get to camp."

-Of course, if we sign Hossa for even $4 million, we would not have any money for Leino or Hudler so we would have to move a player or two like Holland suggested. What is interesting, though, is Holland's assertion that a defenseman will be traded. I always thought they would go with 12 natural forwards and use Meech as a #8 defenseman and #13 forward but that does not appear to be the case.

-Khan also chimes in with a general preview of free agency. No new information really provided.

Kwame Brown returns to Pistons and Dumars quietly weeps

It was a foregone conclusion already, but today he made it official. Kwame Brown will take his $4 million check next year, thank you very much. Let me sum up the career of Kwame Brown for you... he went from a former #1 draft pick to having to take his $4 million option year b/c he would risk losing several million a year if he didn't.

His FT % last year was actually his highest in 4 years, and he shot 52%. That should probably come down next year. His PER of 11.57 is terrible. And, his defense is overrated. His oppenents averaged a PER of 19.1 against him. Also, his Roland Rating was a -4.4. What does that mean? That means, on a team that could not even finish .500, we performed 4.4 points better in point differential when he was on the bench. Only Walter Sharpe had a worst rating on the team. On the plus side, he is a good rebounder with a 31.9 rebounding rating and he does do a good job of drawing fouls with a 25.2% rate. Ideally, he only plays when we are in foul trouble and only for about 5 minutes a game when we need his rebounding. But, having him out there for longer stretches is asking for trouble and less than ideal. Unfortunately, we are not in an ideal situation as he is our only active center on the roster. Needless to say, Dumars will be targeting big men in free agency.

Villanueva a free agent and potentially a Piston

In a somewhat surprising move, the Bucks have let Charlie Villanueva become an unrestricted free agent. This comes on the heels of the Keith Langolis story on Pistons.com that suggested that Joe Dumars might end up pursuing Villanueva in free agency.

It’s curious that Carlos Boozer, who said several months ago that he would opt out of his contract, has yet to inform Utah he’ll do so. Even though negotiations can’t take place until July 1, agents can sniff out what the market will bear. Boozer is due nearly $13 million next year. Agent Rob Pelinka must have at first thought he could get him a contract starting at close to that and escalating upward from there. But maybe he’s less confident now. And maybe Joe Dumars, sensing Pelinka will shoot for the moon, is looking elsewhere to fill his frontcourt needs.

Enter Villanueva. Until the Bucks dealt Richard Jefferson to San Antonio earlier Tuesday for three spare parts – Oberto, Bruce Bowen and Kurt Thomas – it was widely believed Milwaukee would lose at least one, and potentially both, of its restricted free agents, Villanueva and Ramon Sessions. The trade – and the ability to buy out Bowen and, perhaps, Thomas – gives Milwaukee greater flexibility.

-On the surface, this makes sense. Depending on who you believe, Boozer is seeking a $15 million a year deal. The Pistons have roughly $20 million to give out, and Dumars has been adamant that he wants to land two impact free agents. Signing Boozer for that much would take away that possibility.

I imagine there are 5 free agents that we will specifically look at. Ben Gordon, Villanueva, Hedo Turkoglu, Boozer and Paul Milsap are guys who will all get looks from Dumars. In this post, we are going to take a look at Villanueva.

First, lets provide a little background on Villanueva. He is 6'11" 232 and has been a well-known name in the world of basketball for awhile. He was one of the top recruits in the nation in high school before eventually signing with U Conn. After leaving early from U Conn, he was picked by Toronto with the 7th pick in the first round of the 2005 NBA draft. In his rookie year, he was a runner up for Rookie of the Year after averaging 13 points and 6 boards a game. That offseason he was traded to Milwaukee. In '07 and '08 he averaged roughly 12 points and 6 boards.

It was this past season where Villanueva had his best NBA season. In just 26.9 minutes a game, he averaged 16.7 points a game and nearly 7 boards a game. He also had a PER of 18.64 (15 is considered average, and 20 is at a near All Star level). So, lets go beyond the box score and dig deeper into his game...

According to 82games.com, Villanueva had a rebounding rate of 26.9, which put him at 30th in the league, and just ahead of Varejao and Pau Gasol. For comparisons sake, McDyess was in the top 10 in this ranking for the league with Dwight Howard obviously number one. Rasheed Wallace had a rating of 24.4. While that does not sound so bad, remember that there are 60 starting PF and C in the league. He ranked right in the middle. So, as a #2 rebounder on your team, he would be pretty good. But, if you are counting on him to be your best rebounder, then more than likely, that team would be greatly disappointed.

He had a 3.3 passer rating, which tied him with several players, including Pau Gasol. According to the media, Gasol is considered a good passing big man, but I never really saw that with Villanueva. I think a passing rating for a big man can be skewed somewhat just like a rebounding rate can be skewed for guards. I will remain neutral on this and say he is an average to slightly above average passing big man.

He had a free throw percentage of nearly 84%, so this is a strong point of his game. He shot nearly 45 % from the field, and 35 % from 3 point land. He does have a good jump shot, and he can score the ball as evidenced by scoring nearly 17 points a game in just 27 minutes.

Shot selection
This is big in my mind. Rasheed Wallace took jump shots away from the basket 89% of the time last year. That is way, way too much. Villanueva, on the other hand, shot inside 36% of the time. He is not a traditional back-to-the-basket player, so he will float around a little bit on the perimeter. But, this is not too bad of a rate.

Ok, so he is a decent rebounder and passer, and a pretty good shooter with a somewhat acceptable shot selection for a big man with his style of game. Defensively? Meh. Playing at the center position, his opponent had a PER of 27.4. So, at all costs, we cannot let him play at center or he would be a complete mismatch. At PF, he is a lot better but still a below average defender. His opponent averaged a PER of 18.3 against him. As a PF, he averaged a PER of 20.7. So, he is a plus player even with that defense.

Other important info
It is interesting to note that Milwaukee's best 5 man unit last year, by a substantial margin, was with Villanueva on the bench. That is something to consider. His Roland Rating (which takes into account how well the team performs when the player is off the court as opposed to when he is on the court) was +0.2. For comparisons sake, Rasheed had a Roland Rating of 0.0, and Iverson had a rating of +0.1 It should also be wise to point out that he draws fouls about 9% of his shots, or the same rate that Tayshaun Prince does. Finally, Villanueva has a very high usage rate of 26.0. That ranks 14th in the NBA. Other than Lou Williams of Philly and Will Bynum, the players above him are all #1 options on their teams. What does that tell you about Lou Williams, Bynum and Villanueva's game? For a guy who is clearly not a #1 option or even a #2 option, he requires the ball too much to perform well imo.

Villanueva might sign for the mid level exception for a contender. We are not a contender. So, we would have to pay him probably $7 to $8 million or so a year to land him, if not more. Looking at the numbers, he is a good #2 rebounder on a team (but we do not have a #1 rebounder if McDyess leaves), a good scorer who can play a hybrid position like Dumars apparently is leaning towards going to more. And, he appears to be a decent passing big man. There is more than meets the eye, though, with Villanueva. He is a below average defender who does not draw fouls at a rate you would like from a PF. Also, his team did not suffer when he was on the bench. Finally, his usage rate is dowright startling, and I have no idea how he and Bynum would exist on the same court.

Still, he is only going to be 25 next season and his natural talent is undeniable as he will probably be a 20 point a night scorer when he gets the minutes, and get you 8 boards a night. Assuming the price is not outrageous, we only play him at the PF spot, and we acquire a very good rebounder and defensive center to make up for his shortcomings defensively, then he could be an intriguing option going forward. To me, though, that is asking a lot and I am not sure that Villanueva is the answer.

Game 76 Preview: Tigers vs. A's

For everyone who follows minor league baseball, the MLB draft, and prospects, this is a dream pitching matchup. Both Rick Porcello an Brett Anderson were consensus top 20 prospects in the game before the season. I profiled Porcello below about his lack of impressive peripheral numbers, but he has more than done his fair share this year. And, going against a terrible lineup like the A's, Porcello has a better than average chance of improving on those numbers and on his already good ERA.

Brett Anderson, on the other hand, has struggled a bit in his rookie season. First, let's provide a little background on this once top prospect who is only 21 years of age. He is the son of Oklahoma State coach Frank Anderson and he slipped to the second round because of signability issues (sound similar to Porcello?). Eventually, the Diamonbacks got him. After dominating in the minors for a year, he was included in the Dan Haren deal before last season, and did not dissapoint last year with a 11.03 K/9 rate at the AA level with a 2.97 FIP and a 2.61 ERA.

Since getting the call up, though, those impressive numbers did not translate to prime time. He is 4-7 with a 5.74 ERA, 1.51 WHIP and 5.11 FIP. Not too good to say the least. He has a slightly below average k/9 rate of 5.87 and a slight above average BB/9 rate of 2.35. Worse than anything, though, he has an awful 1.70 HR/9 rate. We could play some long ball with him on the mound. (Is this the game Thames snaps out of the slump with a long shot to left?) And, batters are hitting .307 off him.

According to fangraphs, he has one plus pitch with a pretty good slider. His fastball, which does have some sink to it, has been crushed this year. He throws that fastball only about 52% of the time, and uses his slider roughly 32% of the time. His changeup comes in at an average of 83 MPH, and throws it 11 % of the time. His curveball is rarely used. His velocity is ok. The fastball comes in at nearly 92 MPH, and his slider and chageup come in at roughly the same speed. Hence, there is probably some deception there for the hitter and that leads to a tough slider to hit.

Anderson, perhaps because he is only 21 and on a strict pitch count, has only gone beyond the 6th inning twice. His last three outings he has not gone through 6 innings and he has allowed a combined 14 runs in just 14.2 innings. Despite the fact that he is a big lefty, his splits are actually worse against left handed batters. They hit .356 against him with a .967 OPS compared to right handed batters hitting .281 with a .804 OPS. In his previous start against us he went 3.1 IP, allowed 6 hits, and 3 earned runs. It should be noted, though, that nine runs were scored with him on the mound (but that was a 4 error performance by his defense).

Based on the numbers, this guy is not a good pitcher. Clearly, though, he does have talent and we just have to hope that this is not the day he shows it. So, does Leyland follow the numbers and go with a left handed lineup? If he does, Santiago and Kelly or Anderson should get in the lineup. If he doesn't, we can expect Everett and Ordonez in the lineup. I would argue that Raburn, who hit a grand slam off Anderson in our last meeting, should get the nod over Ordonez. On the other hand, if this is a last-chance type deal for Ordonez, it might be time to see if he will sink or swim.

Oakland A's bring good bullpen, decent defense, and terrible offense against Tigers

Following a much-needed win against Houston, the Tigers look to continue their impressive season against the A's. We come into this series with a 42-33 record and a 4 game lead over Minnesota and a 5 game lead over the White Sox in what is turning into a 3 team race for the division title. With a series against the Twins at that joke of a stadium following this one, the Tigers need to take at least 2 of 3 in this series to ensure that they will at least hold a share of the division lead at the halfway point of the season. And, while baseball is always a tough game to predict, the A's are a struggling team and it is time to bury them.

The A's come into this series having lost 5 straight games and with the second worst record in the AL at 31-43. The biggest culprit? An offense that is flat out terrible. They have the worst batting average in the AL at .238, the worst wOBA at .300, the worst OPS at .673, and are the only team in the AL with a slugging percentage below .400 at .361. Their OBP of .312 is tied for last in the AL. They have the fewest HR's, tied for last in triples and 3rd to last in doubles. Despite all of this they are still only the 3rd worst team in the AL in terms of runs scored. All signs point to them eventually taking over dead last in that regard. Bottom line, this is an atrocious offense we are about to face. Other than Matt Holliday (who is having a down year for him) and Adam Kennedy (who is having one of his best seasons) they do not have any hitters that should strike fear in an opposing pitcher.

How about the pitching staff? Not bad, not bad at all. B/c I will profile each of their starters in the game previews, I will just focus on their relievers. Their relievers have a 4.03 ERA, which is sixth in the AL and better than the Tigers. Even better, they have the best FIP in the AL at 3.64. The A's also have the second best K/BB rate in the AL for relievers at 2.16. They have the sixth best WHIP and a BABIP of .304 so there is not much to suggest that this is a fluke. They appear to have a legit bullpen. Mike Wuertz, Andrew Bailey, and Brad Ziegler are their three best bullpen arms.

Defensively, I am sure we all remember the 6 errors they gave to us in our last series. Overall, though, they are a decent fielding team with a 5.1 UZR. Individually, Orlando Cabrera is one of the worst defensive SS in the game with a -7.6 UZR. Jack Hannahan is a good defender at 3B, Matt Holliday is a good defender in LF, and they have a good platoon in CF defensively with Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney.

I'll be back later with a preview of their starting pitcher tonight, Brett Anderson.

How much longer can Porcello keep this up?

We have all heard the story about Porcello. He was considered, arguably, the best high school pitcher since Josh Beckett and the Tigers thanked their lucky stars that he fell to them because of signability concerns. After a good year at Lakeland where he posted an ERA below 3 and was widely regarded as a top 10 prospect heading into this season. The general consensus around the league was that Porcello would spend most, if not all, of this year in Erie to continue to refine his pitches. Instead, because of our lack of pitching depth, the Tigers pushed the 20 year old to the majors with the hopes that he could handle the pressure and deliver. So far, he has. He is 8-4 with a 3.55 ERA, and the Tigers have been very careful with his arm as he has yet to throw over 100 pitches.

The question, of course, is can he keep it up. Based on his peripheral stats, that answer would be no. Looking at the majority of the stats, he has been a league average pitcher thus far in the season. His K/9 rate of 5.03 is well below the league average of 6.88. His BB rate of 3.09 is above average, but his K/BB rate of 1.63 is below the league average of 1.93. In fact, it is the 8th worst rate in the AL amongst qualified starters. His HR/9 rate of 1.26 is also high as the league average is 1.04. He has a WHIP of 1.36, which is slightly above average (1.39). His FIP is 4.82, which is well below the league average of 4.32. In fact, of the 42 pitchers in the AL who qualify for these stats (b/c of a certain amount of starts) he has the 36th lowest FIP. According to this Pitch F/x data and analysis Porcello has one great pitch with his sinker, and then has several average pitches.

So, what explains his low ERA? Porcello has a BABIP of .280, compared to the league average of .300, and his LOB % is nearly 8% higher than the league average. So, Porcello appears to be helped out greatly by arguably the best defensive infield in the league, and the opposing batters struggling more than normal with runners on base. Will that continue? The latest projections by Zips have him finishing with a 4.48 ERA, nearly a run higher than he is currently allowing.

Based on his peripherals, which suggests that he is a league average pitcher other than his ERA, it appears that we might have to be prepared to see Porcello struggle a little bit more than he has in his seamless transition to the big leagues. Let's just hope that does not start tonight.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dumars is in a no win situation this offseason

The NBA draft, as they say, is an inexact science. I still remember every draft analyst praising the Pistons for drafting Darko and Carlos Delfino back in 2003. How did that work out? I also distinctly remember Dick Vitale screaming into the camera ripping Orlando's selection of Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor. Yeah. If nothing else, it provides us with good entertainment.

Another thing I noticed about the NBA draft or drafts in general is that the fans reaction to the picks is directly correlated with how that team or organization is performing. The Detroit Lions, regardless who they pick, will always be questioned and criticized by their fans. The Red Wings, on the other hand, could pick a 27 year old math teacher from Topeka, Kansas and the fans would claim that Ken Holland had done it again and this player was going to revolutionize hockey. That is the way it goes, I guess. Of course, in two years, if the Wings are only a middle-of-the pack team, then Holland will be scrutinized like no other. I still remember the countless fans who thought he was overrated, helped out by Illitch's pocket book and that he could only make trades with our draft picks. Then, 2008 happened and everything is gravy.

Now, I guess, it is Joe Dumars turn to be questioned. For a few years the man walked on water. I still remember the deal that brought Carlos Arroyo to the Pistons and fans were ecstatic. Why? B/c our recent success had clouded our judgment, and we trusted everything he did. Maurice Evans, Carlos Delfino, Flip Murray, etc were all brought in to be our top wing player off the bench. Other than Delfino, none had a chance to work out but we were blindly loyal in Dumars and because our team was a threat to win it all, we believed in him. Now, the tables have turned.

So, no matter what Joe D. does this summer he will be questioned. He was ridiculed for passing on Blair, an undersized and overweight PF with troubled knees. The other picks were scrutinized because they were not big men and played more of the 3/4 hybrid position. Did the Pistons need help on the front line? Sure, but there was no one available other than maybe B.J. Mullens who would have fit our need. This was what it was. A terrible draft with a lot of flawed players. So, Dumars grabbed a couple players who can fill multiple roles and shoot the lights out of the gym. But, the criticism will rain down regardless who Dumars picked in the draft and regardless who he signs in free agency.

That is fair in some respects. No one is above criticism or questioning. There are some who want the Pistons to sit on their money and save it for 2010. Of course, if we do that, we will be a lottery team next season and what free agent would choose to go to a lottery team when plenty of other viable teams are out there to choose? Unlike this offseason, most teams next year have positioned themselves to be big free agent players in 2010. This offseason, we can almost pick and choose which free agents we want to play for us. That will not be the case next year.

Then, as you go down the list of potential free agents, how may do we have a realistic shot at if we stand pat this offseason and become a lottery team?

  • Would Joe Johnson come here? Atlanta will definitely have a more attractive roster.
  • LeBron James and Wade are not coming here. Scratch them off the list.
  • Dirk Nowitzki is not leaving Dallas.
  • Yao Ming or Chris Bosh will team up with LeBron. You can scratch one of them off our list.
  • Steve Nash would certaily not be the answer at his age.
  • That would leave us with Bosh or Ming, Amare Stoudamire, and a washed up Tracy McGrady or a guy like Josh Howard.
  • Bosh/Ming/Stoudamire- Why would they come to a lottery team when they could go to Miami with Wade and Beasley? Answer: they wouldn't. So, one of these guys goes to LeBron, another one goes to Miami, and then we are left with the leftovers? Not bad, still, right? Well, Chicago has a more attractive roster than us. So, would Portland and Oklahoma City. They would be a more viable candidate than us. Tough reality, but its the truth.
That leaves us with Howard or McGrady. The leftover of the leftovers. Not good, folks. Bottom line is, we have to get the free agents from this year's class.

With that established, even when Dumars does that, he will be scrutinized. Boozer? Too injury prone and not worth the money they will say. Gordon? No defense and a turnover machine. Turkoglu? 30 years of age and at the tail end of his career. Regardless what he does, he will be criticized. That is the nature of sports and that is why Dumars is getting paid the big bucks. What do I think happens?
  • We sign Gordon and trade Rip for a big man. Chandler, Camby, Kaman, and Randolph are just some of the free agents available.
  • I think we sign either Boozer or Milsap.
That leaves us with a lineup that looks like this:
PG- Stuckey/Bynum
SG- Gordon/Aaflalo
SF- Prince/Walter Sharpe
PF- Boozer or Milsap/Maxiell
C- Chandler/Kwame Brown
  • Or I think Turkoglu is signed, Rip is kept, Prince is traded for a big man, and Milsap or Boozer are signed
Are these championship contending lineups? Probably not. But, it would be good for 4th or 5th in the East, at worst. And, it would be a young lineup that could continue to improve as they all reach their primes (with the exception of Prince). To me, and probably to Dumars, that is a better alternative than going into the lottery with no hope of getting better.

Figaro down, French up to the big leagues

As I had speculated after last night's game, Figaro was sent down to Toledo and French was called up to replace him in the rotation against Minnesota. Leyland did not seem too happy with Figaro and he felt that he was not aggressive enough in his last start. I agree with that, but I also think he is over matched at this point in his career against good big league hitters. He can throw strikes and he does have some good velocity. But, Tejada, Berkman, Lee, et al were teeing off on him. I don't think they could afford to come out against the Twins in that stadium when it is likely that Mauer and Morneau would each have huge nights against him.

With that said, I am not implying that Luke French is the answer. He may pitch Friday and get rocked. But, I do think that he is better equipped to handle the #5 spot than Figaro is. French has a 2.98 ERA, .291 BABIP and 3.16 FIP so this is not a fluke. He is just throwing some good baseball at Toledo. He is also only 23 and 6'4" 220 and left handed. French was up earlier in the year and pitched 3 innings of scoreless relief. He did allow 3 BB, but in the minors he has a good K/BB rate of 3.60. He is a fastball and slider pitcher who throws his changeup sparingly. And, unlike the guy he is replacing in the rotation, he does not throw heat. His fastball averages about 89 MPH.

This could potentially be a move where we find our #5 starter for the rest of the season. Or, French, like I fear about Figaro, might not be ready for prime time. If that is the case, I have to think that Miner gets the call. But, with the trade deadline only a month away, the Tigers have to find out where they are. They know Robertson is not going to be counted on to get lefties out in September and October. They have to find out if Ni can do that. They also have to figure out the back end of their rotation to see if they might need to acquire another starter. French will get a couple starts to see if he can.

Game 74: Tigers avoid sweep with Inge HR

Post game thoughts:

-Another pretty good performance by Jackson. 7 innings, 3 ER, no walks and 5 K's should be good enough for a win. Unfortunately, he stays stuck at 6 wins. Regardless, he continues to impress and as we reach the halfway point of the season, he has a 2.49 ERA. It was basically two triples that hurt him today and 2 HBP. Both of the Astros he hit ended up ended up crossing home plate.

-According to Brooks Baseball, Jackson threw 69 fastballs today with an average speed of 94.3 MPH, and a strike percentage of 71.01%. He threw his slider15 times today with his curve and changeup only accounting for 12 of his pitches. So, he really relied on his fastball today. He had three innings where he threw more than 15 pitches and two innings where he threw 8 or less. Here is the location of his pitches in a normalized strike zone:

-So, he had about 10 or so pitches that were not close to the plate. Other than that, though, he had good control. Hence, the 0 walks today.

-Seay and Rodney delivered again at the back end of the bullpen. Seay has a 0.00 ERA in June ad Rodney has 17 saves already without one official blown save. Those two, in addition to Lyon and Miner have each had great months of June.

-Houston's decision to bat Ortiz in the bottom of the 7th with a runner on third and just a 1 run lead came back to bite them. They essentially gave away that at bat and were hoping that the one run lead was going to stick. With Miguel Tejada on the bench and waiting to pinch hit, that is unacceptable managing and the Tigers ultimately benefited.

-Inge will get the glory, but how about Thames working the walk before the home run. Thames is definitely in a bit of a slump as he only has 3 hits in his last 7 games, but that was a crucial walk.

-Did I mention that Inge should be an All Star?

Player Performances:

Laird- Just missed on a home run that sent Inge home. Called a good game and I give him credit for playing the day after he had to be taken out because of back spasms.
Cabrera- He has multi-hit games in 8 of the last 12 games. Today was not one of those games as he went 0 for the day. He did have a couple good defenisve plays.
Polanco- Not a good game for Polanco. He did get a hit, but his swing and a miss in the first inning led to Granderson getting caught stealing. And, he made a poor relay throw to home in the 7th that led to the Astros 3-2 lead. It might not have mattered if it were on target, though.
Everett- As I mentioned in my pre game post, he did not match up well with Ortiz, and I was worried about his play in this game. He went 0 for 3.
Inge- What more can you say? This guy better be in the All Star game.
Thames- Slump continues and he made several poor swings with the ball out of the strike zone. But, he worked that crucial walk. I'm not complaining.
Granderson- I had mentioned in the pre game post that he is our best slider and cutter hitter and should do well against Ortiz. Sometimes the events on the field don't play out like they would on paper. Today was not one of those games. Grandy went 3 for 3 against Ortiz and hit a HR to tie the game.
Ordonez- He is a statue in RF and he went 0 for the day again. What more can I say? His trip to the DL or his outrigtht release is inevitable.

-I'll have a post tomorrow sometime previewing the A's. I will say this, though. 3 LH starters are going against us and we do have Porcello and Verlander going. Oakland is a good matchup for us. The Twins in the Metrodome are not. We need to get some wins in this series before we play Minnesota in that stadium.