Verlander, Granderson, Maybin and More

Justin Verlander Thwarts Running Game

One of my favorite baseball columns is Dave Studemund’s “Ten Things I Didn’t Know Last Week” piece he writes for Hardball Times. This week’s column highlights just how hard it is to run on Justin Verlander. We know about his lightning quick pick-off move that has gunned down 5 victims. You may not know that only 1 base has successfully been stolen off of Verlander. What may be even more impressive is that only 4 runners have tried. So he has more pickoffs than attempted steals, which my intuition tells me is rare. What makes it all the more incredible is that he is doing it right handed. Those numbers are what you expect from the top southpaws.

Curtis is the clutchiest

Another tidbit from the same column points to a blog that looks at WPA data from Fangraphs and regular batting data to determine who has been “clutch” this year. It essentially looks at what a batter’s line would typically contribute in terms of wins, and compares it to WPA wins.

For the Tigers Curtis Granderson has contributed 1.462 wins more than his batting line would indicate making him the clutchiest Tiger so far. At -1.2 Chris Shelton has been least clutch. In a strange twist, Placido Polanco has been the second clutchest Tiger. While his WPA total is only .329 wins, his overall poor offensive contributions are good for -.618 wins. So Polanco is making the most of the offense he has provided.

Cameron Maybin likes the opposite field

The website has batted ball charts for minor league players. I took a look at Cameron Maybin’s and noticed some interesting trends.

First, he pulls the ball less than the average right handed hitter, and less than he hits it to right field. On balls hit in the air, only 7% have gone to left or left center while 15% have gone to right or right center.

Second, he is really putting his speed to work. He is hitting .422 on ground balls hit to the left side where the average right hander hits .258. In Maybin’s case that is an additional 7 hits more than the typical player.

Third, the man hasn’t bunted yet this year.

The Tigers don’t need a position player

Nate Silver wrote a very interesting piece at Baseball Prospectus that took a look at the big 3 bats available (Bobby Abreu, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee) and the 7 teams that would have a shot at acquiring them. The piece is premium so I’ll just give you cliff notes (but really a subscription to BP is something you should consider).

Silver looked at what the incremental gain would be of adding said player over what that player would be replacing. The Tigers are expected to get more production from Monroe/Thames/Young than any of the other contenders are getting in their current situations. This means that while any of the 3 would be an upgrade, it would be less of an upgrade for the Tigers (who are actually getting slightly above average production).

Second, he took a look to see which teams had the most to gain in terms of securing a playoff spot. Because the Tigers are already at 95% to make the playoffs, the incremental value of adding anyone is pretty small.

The bottom line is that from this analysis the Tigers have very little to gain by acquiring one of these players – at least in terms of making it to the playoffs.

Now this is just one analysis and is dependent on players performing like they would be expected to perform, and it doesn’t take into account the psychological aspects of adding or not adding to a team. But it is interesting nonetheless.

10 thoughts on “Verlander, Granderson, Maybin and More”

  1. Excellent information Bill. The idea that a BIG BAT would only incrementally help the Tigers make the playoffs was something I’d wondered about. I’m glad to see some statistical analysis about it.

    But in the playoffs–in a short series–I wonder how lethal or potent the bat of a Soriano or an Abreu or Lee would be? I wonder if the Monroe/Thames/Young combo might even provide some strategic flexibility for Leyland that a reliance on only one player might disallow.

  2. Polanco didn’t surprise me. He puts the bat on the ball a lot and has been pretty successful because of it. He was either first or second in % of runners driven in from second or third base when I looked at it earlier this month. I feel pretty good with Polanco at the plate and runners on.

    Good finds!

  3. Regarding JV holding runners: being a baseball coach, I can tell you it’s a myth that left-handers hold runners better than right handers. The advantage left-handers have is they are FACING the runner, which is more psychological than anything else. The problem with that is it makes the throw to first weaker, or take longer to get good velocity. A LH pitcher would have to rotate back so they are facing 2B before they could make a hard throw to first. Since a RH pitcher has his back to 1B, the throwing rotation is part of the move and going TOWARD the runner. Those 2 things tend to cancel themselves out when you average EVERYONE. The bottom line is that LH pitchers make runners take a shorter lead, and RH pitcher can make a stronger throw. Any other preconceived ideas are DOGMA. JV obviously has a good move to first; combine that with Pudge’s reputation behind the plate and that adds up to a great combination. I’d like to know what is the fewest number of stolen bases off a pitcher (with at least 162 IP) in one season.

    Regarding Granderson: great stuff. It makes me wonder what is his strikeout ratio with bases empty vs. runner on. If his actualy production is higher than his predicted production I would guess he is striking out with the bases empty a lot. Is this another reason to expect him not to be a leadoff hitter his whole career? Personally, I like him batting first.

    Side note: what happened to Nook Logan? I mean, I know he was sent to AA, but for 2 years in a row he was batting over .300 after 200 at-bats. His tail-spins made me think he didn’t have the endurance for a major-league season, but he seemed a fine hitter when he was fresh. If he could learn to work the count like Curtis can (or Tony Phillips for the very optimistic) he would be an ideal leadoff batter. Leadoff batters shouldn’t be judged by batting average, rather, by on-base percentage. If he could pull off a .350 OBP consistently he would score 100 runs every year (I’m remembering Ron LeFlore).

    In 5 years the Tiger outfield could be Granderson, Logan, Maybin. THAT’S what they had in mind when they built the ridiculous fences at Comerica for the 2000 season.

  4. As indicated in the article below, the only reason DD makes a trade is to improve the Tigers’ odds of winning the whole thing–not just making the playoffs.;coll=1

    As I’ve argued before, you can’t assume the Tigers will be in this sort of position again in the next 5 years. They should be good, but more than likely won’t be this good again.

    Heard Buster Olney on the Mike and Mike show this morning. He says the Nationals aren’t getting the sort of multi-prospect offers they’re hoping for (surprise, surprise). He thinks (1) Bowden will cave before the deadline and (2) he’d be crazy not to take Sanchez for Soriano.

  5. Re: Maybin. The high batting avg. on ground balls to the left is interesting. I’ve seen him play a couple times now. Didn’t do anything spectacular either game, but it was clear that he has lightning speed. Not sure what a good comparison to an MLB player would be right now. High avg. Little HR power. Very fast. Strikes out a lot.

  6. during all this trade talk bs, I’ve always felt the Tigers should just stand pat – there wasn’t enough out there for us to “salivate” at…..unless somebody makes us an “offer we can’t refuse” type thing. I certainly wouldn’t trade any young arm for ANYBODY, and especially Soriano. The Tigers DO have a chance to be a good team for a long time, a la the Braves, as long as Dombo keeps signing good young arms in the farms. That’s what Schuerholz did, along with a good position player at the proper time (Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones). I’m glad somebody did some serious analysis on the subject; it validates what I felt, anyway…. 🙂

  7. Jim,

    Everything you said re: pick-offs was insightful, but I think you are discounting the illegal moves that most lefties get away with. Every ump is different, but I don’t remember the last time I saw a balk called because a lefty threw to first after his knee already broke the plane.

  8. Here’s a question while we’re discussing Verlander’s move:
    Has he ever thrown over after getting to the set position?

    I know his “A” move is the snap throw while coming to the set, but I’ve never seen him go to the set, pause, then throw over.

  9. Has he ever thrown over after getting to the set position?

    If he hasn’t, he’ll soon need to. If he didn’t show that part of his repetoire from time to time, they could just wait until he comes to the set before taking the rest of their lead.

  10. I was at the 2-0 game when he outdueled Santana, and he picked somebody off at that game. He used the “snap before set” move and I’m pretty sure the runner had not yet taken his full lead. If he had, he still wasn’t very far off the bag and couldn’t get back regardless.

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