Happy Halloween

Magglio Ordonez Pumpkin

My son requested a Tigers pumpkin this year, and Magglio Ordonez is “his Tiger” so a couple hours later this is what we came up with.

Tigers on pace for club record payroll

I did some long overdue updates to the payroll information. And already the Tigers have $90 million committed to next season, and that’s with only 15 players under contract.

My total is a tad under the $90 million mark, but I don’t have the data for Cameron Maybin’s contract which has to be in the vicinity of one million.

I’ve also tried to do my best to update the players’ status. When players are under club control I had to estimate when there arbitration years would kick in, so that is subject to change.

The Tigers have a number of players eligible for arbitration this year. Nate Robertson is a lock to be back, and at least one of Bobby Seay or Tim Byrdak (I’m thinking both) will be retained as well. I’m also inclined to believe the chances of the Tigers keeping Marcus Thames are pretty strong as well. So to resign those 4 players will probably require $10 million, give or take 2 million. At that point the club is at $100 million.

A veteran pitcher will be inked, either Kenny Rogers or someone else meaning the Tigers will commit another $8 million or so. And then there is the Todd Jones question, and whether or not the Tigers retain Jones, stay inside, or sign an established reliever on the open market. I think they’ll probably be spending $6 million or so to answer that question.

That raises the Tigers payroll over the $110 million mark. A utility infielder should be cheap, and relievers Joel Zumaya and Zach Miner should also be cheap. But Curtis Granderson is another matter. I still need to do some analysis on Grandy, but I think it is a given that it is in the Tigers best interest to lock him up for the next 5 years. While the big bump would come later in the contract, Granderson is still due to make double what he made last year. (also worth noting it would make Grandy the only player signed in 2012).

Aready the Tigers are poised to shatter their previous record payroll that was set this year. And that is without the club spending for a left fielder or left handed bat which is still a strong possibility.

As for when the free agent shopping starts, and arbitration decisions are made, we still have some time. The complete calendar of important dates is available from MLB.com.

The above spreadsheet is kept fairly up-to-date and can always be found on the Payroll page.

Tigers Acquire Edgar Renteria

The Tigers traded for Edgar Renteria. They’ll send the Braves Gorkys Hernandez and Jair Jurrjens.

I’ll have more on this later when I digest it, but wow. Renteria is a nice player and affordable, but the Tigers just traded 2 of their top 4 prospects for a shortstop on the wrong side of 30. This team just got a lot older.

Renteria of course has ties to Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland, and Dombrowski has shown a preference for the familiar. Renteria was signed as an amateur free agent in 1992 by Dave Dombrowski (I think Al Avila was a scout at the time, but not sure if he was the one who signed him). And of course Renteria was part of the 1997 Marlins team managed by Leyland.

UPDATE: It appears that the Braves are sending some cash to the Tigers. I find this odd, since the contract is fairly manageable with $9 million owed next year and an $11 million option for 2009. Are the Tigers going cheap now, saving money for another big free agent, inking Granderson/Verlander long term? Odd for cash to change hands in this one.

More later…

It’s later…

Analysis

I continue to waffle on this trade. All along I liked picking up Renteria, but was having a hard time getting comfortable with the price. Granted Jurrjens was likely a 3 or 4 guy in a rotation, but since when did that designation carry an “only” with it? Especially for someone that comes cheap for the next 6 years. But that’s only half of the price.

The Tigers also shipped Gorkys Hernandez, their 2nd best positional prospect. A guy who held his own in the Midwest League at the age of 19. He’s someone with Granderson’s feel in the outfield with Cameron Maybin’s speed. Granted he doesn’t project with a ton of power, but for his age and the park he played in the .391 slugging doesn’t bother me.

Now I can try to balance with my natural fan tendency to overrate my own team’s players by drawing on the negatives in Jurrjens and Hernandez’s profiles. Gorkys needs to add some walks and some power, plus he shouldn’t be expected to contribute at the MLB level until 2010. Jurrjens has dealt with some neck issues each of the last 2 seasons. Maybe it’s a chronic thing?

And I can also justify it by looking at all the Tigers are adding.

More offense?

So in the lineup the Tigers are essentially swapping Sean Casey for Renteria. I’m not too worried about Renteria’s one awful season in the AL. I don’t know if it was a Boston thing, or just a bad season. Either way at this point I’d call it coincidence.

Renteria is coming off the second best season of his career with an impressive .332/.390/.470 line good enough for a 125 OPS+. Since it was an exceptional year, maybe it makes sense to look at Renteria’s performance over the last 3 years which was 298/360/437 – still a nice line. It is 264 runs created and 5.9 runs created per 27 outs.

Sean Casey had 197 runs created over the same span, but battled some health issues so his RC 27 is 5.5. Now I used the quick and dirty TB*OBP calculation, so the difference is probably a little greater when you factor in Renteria’s 37 stolen bases (and 12 caught stealing) versus Casey’s 4 stolen bases and 3 caught stealings.

So the difference in offense between Casey and Renteria over 145 games is about 1 win.

More defense

Acquiring Renteria was necessitated by Carlos Guillen bottoming out defensively. He appeared to have decent range early in the year but various errors (botching routine plays, errant throws, bobbling the transfer) and knees that turned creaky later int he year torpedoed what range he had.

Ultimate Zone Rating data which was released in July had Guillen rated at -26 runs per 150 games. Edgar Renteria at the time was rated at -13 runs per 150 games. Of course Guillen would be a longshot to make it 150 games at short, but if he did the result would likely be worse than -26 runs. And in 2006 Renteria was +6, but in 2005 he was -14. So perhaps the -13 wasn’t a sign of a trend. The fans scouting report rated Renteria a 61 in 2007, but only a 53 in 2006 so I’m not sure where the truth lies. But for the sake of argument let’s use the partial season data rated at 150 games and call it 13 runs or a little more than a win.

Net impact

So in terms of performance the Tigers have added 2 to 2.5 wins. For a team that is on the playoff bubble though that isn’t inconsequential. And Renteria comes with an affordable price tag with $12 million guaranteed over the next 2 years which could go to $20 million if the Tigers exercise a club option. Nate Silver has broken down the dollar implications of the deal and says both teams won in this trade.

Yay or Nay

A tentative yay. I like the acquisition but I don’t like the cost, but I’m not alone in that sentiment. I also agree with Lee who notes that this is a trade we could be talking about for years to come.

Other stuff to consider:

  • This ends any A-Rod speculation before it barely got started. I was kind of looking forward to that. It also means that there will be no Jack Wilson speculation which I had my fill of this summer.
  • The tigers do have some shortstop candidates in Danny Worth, Mike Hollimon, and Cale Iorg and at least one of the three should be ready by 2010.
  • Renteria has the Carlos Guillen seal of approval so there shouldn’t be animosity about the position switch for Guillen.
  • Maybe this means that the Tigers are happy with what they’ve seen from other outfield prospects like Deik Scram and Matt Joyce. They aren’t nearly as toolsy as as Hernandez but maybe there is more there than I’m seeing.

Other Coverage

links for 2007-10-29

Playing in the spray

I love looking at spray charts of batted balls and seeing where hitters have success. I’m funny like that. Fortunately Dan Fox, proprietor of his own blog and writer for Baseball Prospectus has released an application that shows ball in play distributions for the last 4 years and he just released the updated version including 2007 data. With the heavy lifting done for me, I thought I’d take a look at 3 of the Tigers more interesting hitters from the last year.

Brandon Inge

First up is the ever controversial Brandon Inge. Inge had an awful season at the plate as he posted a meager 236/312/376 line. Part of his problem was what seemed to be an endless supply of check swing strikeouts. And that appears to be the largest difference over the past few years. Inge’s batting average on balls in play was .334 which wasn’t out of line with his past performances. His batted ball distribution didn’t differ greatly from his fairly productive 2006 season.

BABIP GB FB LD PopUp
2003 R 0.262 44.8% 31.3% 17.9% 6%
2004 R 0.344 42.6% 30.3% 19.4% 7.6%
2005 R 0.333 39.5% 34.3% 18.7% 7.6%
2006 R 0.324 39.9% 34.1% 15.1% 10.9%
2007 R 0.334 37.9% 31.8% 20.6% 9.7%

Inge actually upped his line drive rate and had a small improvement in his pop up rate, yet his overall performance dipped.  Maybe he was a little unlucky like he claimed earlier in the season?

Another complaint about Inge is that he became too pull happy.

Left Center Right
2005 41.0 28.3 30.6
2006 48.1 27.0 24.8
2007 48.1 22.0 29.8

Inge did become more of a pull hitter in 2006 and it worked to his benefit as he slugged .463 and 27 balls left the park.  He pulled just as much in 2007 but with a lot less success and a lot less power.  We also saw Inge go to the opposite field more often, but it was at the expense of going up the middle.  Based on observation and the data, it seems like it was more a function of Inge being late than looking to punch the ball to right.

Curtis Granderson

Nobody complained about Granderson pulling the ball too much, and he actually was more likely to pull the ball than Brandon Inge was. Of course, when you’re among the league leaders in extra base hits it doesn’t really matter where you hit the ball.

GB FB PU LD %
Left 25 45 26 16 25.2%
Center 25 57 4 19 23.6%
Right 116 40 10 62 51.2%

With Granderson’s proclivity for pulling the ball on the ground, it wouldn’t surprise me to see more teams shifting the shortstop closer to second base. I wouldn’t expect an Ortiz type shift because of Granderson’s speed and ability to bunt, but Curtis did hit .600 on grounders through the middle in 2007.

Magglio Ordonez

It seems that any look at Tigers performances isn’t complete without at least glancing at how Ordonez fared. It was a popular refrain from Rod Allen that Maggs was using the whole field, and it really was true. Ordonez hit 42% of his line drives to right field. And overall he hit the ball to right field as much as he hit it to left.

GB FB PU LD %
Left 126 14 8 34 37%
Center 32 51 4 30 24%
Right 62 65 18 46 39%

That kind of balance made it impossible for any team to load up one side. And in a spacious outfield like Comerica Park that gave Ordonez a lot of room to work with. Now granted he was still lucky in 2007. You don’t exceed career norms by that much without some things going your way. In the case of Ordonez it was a .318 batting average on ground balls and a .361 batting average on fly balls. MLB norms for the last 4 years were .233 and .272 respectively.

There’s a ton of information available, and it’s all free. So thanks to Dan Fox for his hard work, and let me know if you see anything interesting.

Tigers have 3rd best draft in 2007

While it is probably a little premature to rate any draft after only 4 months, this is especially true in baseball. In many cases drafted players haven’t played in a league type setting, or if they have the experience has been limited to short season ball. Still, Baseball America likes the early returns for the Detroit Tigers in this year’s amateur draft.

BA rated the Tigers as having the 3rd best draft behind the Nationals and Rangers. Detroit ranked ahead of the Giants and Yankees who rounded out the top 5.  The full article is premium content, so I’ll just hit the highlights.

The Tigers draftees received some individual accolades on a variety of top 5 lists including:

  • Danny Worth – 4th best defensive player
  • Rick Porcello – 2nd best fastball
  • Rick Porcello – 4th best secondary pitch
  • Colin Kaline & Cale Iorg – 3rd and 4th most intriguing backgrounds
  • Rick Porcello – 5th closest to the majors among high schoolers

There was also a draft all star team selected based on performance and level of play.  No Tigers made the team. 

In terms of early returns I’d have to say that Charlie Furbush (61 2/3 innings, 2.35 ERA, 69K, 14 BB at GCL and West Michigan) and Danny Worth (251/325/363 in High A ball) had the strongest debuts.  While Worth’s numbers weren’t dazzling, he gets extra credit because he debuted at such a high level for a new draftee.

Of course the strength of the Tigers draft was in the players who signed late and haven’t yet competed outside of the instructional league. In addition to Porcello, players like Casey Crosby, Iorg, and Matt Hoffman are who helped earn the Tigers such a high overall ranking. They are also the players who will hopefully make for an entertaining minor league season.

BaseballAmerica.com: Draft: 2007 Draft Report Cards Overview
2007 Tigers Draft – The Baseball Cube

links for 2007-10-25

  • Mark Anderson, former pitcher and now managing editor of Tigstown.com did a chat last night on Motown Sports where he covered a number of topics, especially the minor leagues.
  • The players cast their votes for outstanding player in each league and Magglio Ordonez and Curtis Granderson finished 2nd and 3rd. I’m surprised by Granderson’s finish, not that he doesn’t deserve it, just that he was recognized for his season.

Bang for the buck

Net Win Shares Value is Dave Studeman’s attempt to assess the value of a player and their contract.  He released some of his findings today, and there are several Tigers items worth pointing out.

Net Win Shares Value looks at the 3 different classes of players (not eligible for arbitration, arbitration eligible, and free agents) and compares the win shares above bench (the number of win shares that an average bench player would accrue given the playing time) to a player’s salary above the minimum.

The Best

As to the Tiger related items, Detroit had 2 of the top 10 best values in 2007.  Not surprisingly Curtis Granderson made the list at 9th as he turned in a season that has landed him on many MVP ballots at just a hair over the minimum salary.  What is more surprising, at least to me, is that Magglio Ordonez was the 5th best value on the list.  Ordonez season was outstanding, but he also made $15 million last year.  For him to “overcome” his salary to be that much of a value is a testament to how truly amazing his performance was.

Also of note on the top 10 best values list, there were 3 Cleveland Indians:  Fausto Carmona, Grady Sizemore, and Victor Martinez.  So it’s easy to see why the Indians had the success they had even with a smaller payroll.  It also means that half of the top 10 best values in 2007 came from the AL Central.

The Worst

The Tigers had 2 guys on the list of the 10 worst values as well.  Can you guess them?  No, one of them isn’t Brandon Inge.  Craig Monroe and Mike Maroth finished 7th and 8th on the list.  Neither was paid a whole lot this past season, they were just that bad.  Maroth though did a lot of his damage with the Cardinals as he went from “not good” in the AL to “really, really bad” in the National League. 

Now there is one area where this method fails to capture the worst values.  If a player is injured, he doesn’t really show up as a poor value for not playing.  So a Kenny Rogers who missed most of the year, doesn’t show up as a bad value because when he did play, he played well.  So a Carl Pavano is actually a worse value than many other players, but he wouldn’t show up on this list.

Getting their money’s worth

Dave also posted a table that highlights the teams that got the most and the least from their free agents. The Tigers finished 3rd best, which doesn’t really surprise because their free agent class players were mostly productive. In addition to Ordonez, the Tigers got great value in Placido Polanco who turned in a very good season – and cheaply. Carlos Guillen was good as usual, and in the last year of his old deal he was still cheap. And Todd Jones probably contributed more than Jose Mesa detracted
2007 Net Win Shares Value — The Hardball Times

links for 2007-10-24

The World Series

I’ve somehow made it all the way through the playoffs without actually blogging about them. It’s not that I haven’t cared, I’ve watched the games. It’s just that I haven’t had a lot to say. That’s still true, but this is the World Series and all.

Will the Rockies stay so ridiculously hot? Will the Red Sox talent prevail? Hell if I know. Will the layoff effect the Rockies? Will first base effect David Ortiz? All questions that are probably better answered by the bloggers who follow their teams year round.

In any case, enjoy the Series and feel free to comment here.

links for 2007-10-23

links for 2007-10-22