The Tigers offseason according to Baseball Prospectus

Nate Silver at Baseball Prospectus is going division by division looking at what teams will and should do with their offseasons.  The first division he did is the American League Central.

I won’t post everything because it is premium content, but I will do a synopsis and encourage you to become a subscriber.

In essence Silver classified the Tigers as a weak buy.  He also indicated that Dave Dombrowski will have one of the tougher offseasons coming up saying:

This team looks to me like an 85-86 win team if it just treads water,
and any team in that position that’s drawing three million fans or more per season is usually going to be a net acquirer of talent. The problem is that there aren’t that many ready-made free agent solutions at the positions where the Tigers need them, so some creativity is going to be required. When all is said and done, I think the Tigers will look at the Indians, Red Sox and Yankees, decide that they have to improve to catch up to that group, and make some or another kind of move.

Some names he indicates as targets include Eric Gagne, and then a Kerry Wood type pitcher and a Paul Byrd type pitcher.

Baseball Prospectus | Articles | Lies, Damned Lies: Offseason Plans, AL Central

29 Comments

  1. ron

    October 12, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    If Leyland wants to be creative, play the best position players day in and day out and play more small ball. Teach these guys how to drag bunt. Were a better team than the Indians. We do not need a super star and certainly do not need Gagne. Good fundamental baseball, only swinging at strikes in the strike zone and put the ball where the darn catcher has set up should be worth an extra 10 wins.

  2. David

    October 12, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Well Nate Silver doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    I agree we have a better team than the Indians or Yankees or Red Sox or Angels.

    6 games was the difference between us and the Yanks/Angels
    8 games between us and Cleveland and Boston

    A healthy Bonderman?
    A healthy Rogers?
    A healthy Robertson?
    A healthy Rodney?
    A healthy Zumaya?
    A healthy Sheffield?

    Even without Zumaya Robertson Rodney and Rogers we were in first place after 95 games – 58-37.

    Bonderman going south with Sheffield was just two injuries too many.

    I set the bar next year at 95 wins right now even before we sign anyone.

    Bonderman along with Verlander was dominant in the first half.

    Robertson I think will rebound. Hopefully Rogers comes back but we can’t count on it.

    I don’t think our pen will suffer as much next year.

    I just think ’05 we really should have won more games than we did.

    ’06 we should have lost more games than we did.

    ’07 we should have won more games than we did.

    Its all about health and depth as we see again.

    Hopefully DD can get a couple guys in the Pen a SP if Rogers doesn’t return and a SS/LF.

    3mil fans should give them the cash…so we can weather injuries better.

  3. David

    October 12, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    “Bonderman along with Verlander (were) dominant in the first half.”

  4. Eric Cioe

    October 12, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    By Kerry Wood type pitcher, does he mean to say we ought to seek out a guy who has the promise of being a dominant starter, and then blow his arm out? Or does he mean a high-heat bullpen guy who spends half of the year on the DL? No thanks.

    The Red Sox can have Gange. Between Rodney, Zumaya, and Bobby Seay, the back end of our bullpen should be fine.

    I actually do agree with having a Paul Byrd-esque pitcher, though he should be coming out of the bullpen, not starting. Our rotation should be very nice next year. But we don’t really have a good long-reliever, or a right hander who isn’t a flamethrower. I think a good junkballer like a Paul Byrd would do well out of our bullpen, if only to keep the opposition from knowing that they’re going to go against flamethrowers only when the bullpen comes out.

  5. billfer

    October 12, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Eric – with Kerry Wood type pitcher he means a guy that could pitch out of the bullpen, or start if necessary and that due to injury concerns could come fairly cheap but has significant upside.

    David – I think setting the bar at 95 when you don’t know who your shortstop is going to be, who your 4th and 5th starters are going to be is a little ambitious. Presupposing perfect health is farfetched also.

  6. Eric Cioe

    October 12, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Billfer – why don’t the Tigers do something really ballsy and run a four man rotation next year? Verlander, Bonderman, Jurrjens or Miller, and either Kenny, Nate, or a new vet.

  7. Matt in Toledo

    October 12, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    I can’t imagine the Tigers would respond to a season of injury troubles like they just had by increasing each of their starter’s expected workloads by about twelve percent.

  8. Eric Cioe

    October 12, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Nolan Ryan always said the reason he pitched so long is because he threw so often. Go read his book on pitching – it’s interesting. I’m not sure his ideas are right, but it’s certainly worth a read.

    Why was the Braves rotation so good in the 90s? In addition to talent, their pitching coach made them throw every day. Their arms were always being used. I don’t think Chuck makes the guys throw the day after they pitch. But Greg Maddux seems to think that the regimen put on them by their pitching coach had a lot to do with their success and durability.

  9. David

    October 12, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Well I assume that the SS will be able to hit as well as Casey – who he is replacing in the lineup and will be as has been mentioned better than Guillen defensively at SS.

    Plus Guillen has shown to be a better 1st basemen.

    No I don’t know who our 4th or 5th starters are going to be, but haven’t DD and Leyland already said they are going to start one of the “kids” – miller, JJ, bazardo etc.

    and either Kenny or find a replacement. (which could but hopefully not be Chad Durbin or Zack Miner)

    Plus I don’t think both Zumaya and Rodney will suck most of the year.

    95 wins a reach?

    I know it isn’t.

    Do you personally think that Zumaya, Rodney, Shef, Bonderman and Robertson will play next year like they did this year?

    Heck I’ll even add in Inge and Pudge b/c I think both will play better (Inge being threatened to being taken out of the lineup) and Pudge in a “contract year”

    If you want to counter that with Polanco or Ordonez or Granderson I could say I don’t know

    I don’t think Magglio will repeat quite what he did just because it was so remarkable, but I think he is healthy

    Polanco? again I dont think he’ll hit in the .340s but I think we can expect similar production 90 runs and 65 RBIS

    Granderson – I hope he improves but I duno

    But really the lineup doesn’t matter.

    IMO I think that we had way more injuries than the average team and I think that will fix itself next year.

    What would have happened this year if just one guy (Bonderman) would have had a full year instead of 1/2 a year?

    (8-1) x2 with a 3.5 ERA = 16-2 instead of 11-9 with a 5+ era

    Do you yourself think Bonderman will repeat what he did this year?

    Or Robertson? going at least .500?

    Or the Pen?

    B/c in my mind with those guys healthy we could have won a ton more games

    most def. 8

    I think we will have injuries, but not to this magnitude

    It was the Indian equivalent of having Carmona go down, Hafner go down b4 his torrid Sept, having Byrd be injured the entire year and having the pen suck it up

    If what would have happened to basically any other team (excluding the Yanks) they would have been killed.

    Heck even the Yanks had 2 horses – Pettitte and Wang

  10. Don

    October 12, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Dave and Eric obviously didn’t actually *read* the article being discussed here. First of all, Nate Silver is one of the best baseball minds in the world right now, and his analysis was dead on. I’m no pessimist but if Dave’s ideas are out there, lets look at how things can go wrong for the tigers in 08, I’ll put a big * by players over 32 with significant injury histories:
    pudge* 08 is pudge 07
    guillen* will be solid
    polanco* just had a career year and will regress to his normal 300/330/380 self
    SS? Eh.
    Inge has another 07 with the bat
    LF?
    granderson will be solid, but may continue to be lame against LHP
    magglio* again, career year and will regress some, also getting older with injury history
    sheff* old, coming off surgery, hasn’t played a full year since 2005
    It’s silly to assume good health from 5 old guys with injury histories. Put it all together, the offense will be worse in 08 than it is in 07, how much worse depends on injuries and such.
    verlander: stud
    bonderman: arm problems are scary, lots of guys like him (power pitcher worked hard young) flame out, he could be very good or very bad next year depending on things he can’t control
    robertson: love him, but he peaked in 06, he’s just really not that good of a pitcher. Expect more 07, league average at best
    rogers* should be back, but is OLD and will probably always have to deal with injuries
    kids: JJ/Miller probably not quite ready, even if they are it’ll be up and down.
    Bullpen, should be solid, but bullpens vary year to year more than anything, so who knows.

    Bottom line is that this team (as is) is equally likely to win 80 games as 95, and I’d put the average right around the middle – 87 or so. Add a innings eater 4th starter and a renteria-type to bump it up to 89. Good health gets you 93-94, bad health gets you 83-84. Silver’s analysis is just being realistic in terms of the likelihood that key players miss time and what the replacement options will produce for you.

  11. Kathy

    October 12, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    As long as Zach Miner is not our Kerry Wood.

  12. Mark

    October 12, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    Bonderman’s health sounds like the biggest key in the Tiger’s success next season.

  13. Stephen

    October 12, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    This team doesn’t win 90 games if Inge get 500 ab’s. I just can’t get over the fact he was able to parlay 2006′s 27 hr’s into 24m! He’s never had more than 16 in any other season! What the heck was Dombrowski thinking? Worst contract in the majors! You can’t expect to win another title with Pudge, Inge, a converted SS at first, and a LF platoon in your traditional power slots.

  14. Vince in MN

    October 13, 2007 at 12:35 am

    Stephen:

    With Pudge, Inge, a virtual LF platoon (Monroe/Thames/Perez, and a singles hitting 1B-man, the Tigers managed to come in 2nd in the league in runs scored this year. Although I tend to agree that Inge and Rodriguez were, and may still be, a drag on the offense, if DD can pick up a good fielding SS that can hit at least as well as Casey, and hopefully fill the hole in LF with at least average prduction, we’ll be fine offensively.

    The pitching failures (along with, IMHO, some mis-management of personnel by Leyland) are what did them in this year. Going from 1st in ’06 to 9th this year can’t all be blamed on injuries. Our No.2(!) and No.3(!) starters (Bonderman and Robertson after Rogers went down) were more bad than good and the bullpen was a disaster area for most of the season. With Rogers and Jones question marks for returning, and not seriously being able to count on Miller, Jurgens or any of the other young arms, DD should be thinking hard as well about who he is going to add to the pitching staff.

  15. Chris

    October 13, 2007 at 1:46 am

    It does seem to look as if the Tigers are on the path of treading water, since the resigning Pudge. If there were to be some kind of big money free agent signing this off season, then DD would surely drop Pudge and make some kind of trade for a low priced catcher (which easily could produce similar statistics). But instead they seem to like spending truck loads of cash while going nowhere in talent.

    As far as Inge’s contract goes, it surely does make me wish this team would return to it’s former tight-wad ways. Because they are stuck paying him $6 mill a year, they are compelled to play him everyday, while we get to watch him whack air. If the Tigers were on the spending level of Colorado, Arizona or Cleveland, then a player of such flaws could easily be benched, traded or cut.

    The psychology of sunk costs grips the mid to high market teams. I think this partially explains why these types of teams don’t win in proportion to the dollars they spend.

  16. Mike R

    October 13, 2007 at 2:44 am

    This current roster of Tigers are a .500 team. Period. Nate Robertson’s 2006 year be damned — he’s not a sub-4.00 ERA pitcher.

    Jurrjens is not MLB ready (I’ll believe so when he chooses to feature something other then his fastball and the occasional change up that acts like a batting practice fastball) Andrew Miller was mishandled and has shown he’s not ready.

    Bonderman takes the big step forward he was starting to take in April-June last year. 15+ wins, 220+ K’s next year. Him and Verlander have to carry the rotation and if Kenny resigns then that’s a solid 3 I’ll go to bat with.

    But, Magglio will come back to earth and probably hard. If he hits over .320 I would be surprised.
    Granderson won’t slug over .550 and it’s more likely he drops back to around .485-ish.

    The big keys to this team rest on Bonderman and Sheffield being a big enough threat in the lineup to draw a lot of walks.

    If we score around 825-830 runs and with the back end of the bullpen (assuming Todd Jones comes back) stays healthy, or gets better with a Gagne (who’s time in Boston does not undo the fact that he was dominant in a small ballpark in Texas for more then the first half of the season) We should be able to drop the runs allowed total to around 725-ish. A 100 run spread should be good enough to get us into the 90′s (I think the pythagorean record for that would be around 91 wins with 830 runs score, 725 allowed) and be closer to the Indians, who were 5 games better then their 91-71 pythagorean record indicated they should’ve been.

    I really think a low-90′s win total wins the Central next year. I think the Twins pitching will be better with Liriano coming back (granted he’s coming off of TJ Surgery) and a lights out bullpen. The Royals will finish in 4th next year with a full year of Billy Butler in the lineup and a much better year from Alex Gordon and an improved staff next year.

  17. Mike R

    October 13, 2007 at 2:50 am

    Oh, and after I broke down the numbers on shortstops, even if we get a guy like Jack Wilson, his defensive value also will help a pitching staff that does have questions at the back end of it. He was worth 15 runs defensively this season in Pittsburgh. If you were to shave 15 runs off of our runs allowed total our pythag record would be around 91 wins with the same number of runs we scored. And that’s not the whole story because the difference between Jack Wilson defensively at SS last year and Guillen was actually 30 runs.

  18. Stephen

    October 13, 2007 at 9:28 am

    And this all gets back to the Inge Identity, a horror movie with three more sequels. His suckiness really hamstrings us in our shortstop selection whether its Jack Wilson or someone else. If you could slide him into the #9 slot, then i could deal with a .680 or .700 from Wilson. Unfortunately, that’s what we’re getting from Inge. And to those that say well, look what we did the last two years with cruddy production from traditonal power positions, I say it is wildly unlikely to happen for a 3rd year. With Inge and Pudge’s problems, Sheff’s shoulder and Guillen and Magg’s creaky wheels, this lineup needs another big bat for balance and to cushion the fall when one of the above fall to the wayside with injuries.

  19. Stephen

    October 13, 2007 at 9:29 am

    .680 or .700 ops for Wilson is what i meant.

  20. ron

    October 13, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    At least we’re talking in the 85/95 category and not 75/85 wins.

  21. Kathy

    October 13, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    If you look at The Hardball Times stats, Inge isn’t half bad. That is where it gets confusing for me. His range is far greater than most 3rd basemen. He hits .298 RISP. So which stats really tell the true story. Personally, I dread every time he comes up to bat. But the HT stats say he’s pretty good. Huh? I don’t get it.

  22. David

    October 13, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    I did read what he said and I know he is full of cr@p.

    You did not read at all what I wrote.

    I don’t know if our offense will be as good, but it will be one of the better ones – especially if we can get another good offensive player at SS or LF.

    The Blue Jays this year are a perfect example.

    Pitching wins – they won 83 games

    I think Bonderman will be a dominant pitcher soon.

    I think Robertson is a good pitcher also

    check out this site

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/.....8;type=reg

  23. Vince in MN

    October 13, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Kathy:

    The Inge problem (at least concerning this year) justifies your dread. Check out his batting vs R/L splits here:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/pl.....pe=Batting

    Note the .209 BA vs RH pitching. In ’04, ’05, and ’06 he was consistently in the mid .250s – not great, but respectable at least. In ’03, he was at .182. Clearly, he has to make some adjustment next year or he will be in danger falling to the Nick Punto level (with more Ks!). Personally, I don’t expect this to happen, but l hope I am wrong. I wouldn’t mind seeing Raburn get more starts at 3B, but given Leyland’s penchant for sticking with failing players for too long (e.g. Neifi, Monroe), I don’t have much hope there either.

    Also, if you compare Inge to all thirdbasemen at the HT site, he kind of falls off a bit. With the exception of A-Rod and Lowell, the NL seems to have a big edge in the number of good hitting thirdbasemen.

    Inge is definitely way above average defensively using the various range factor computations.

    In the end, all the complaining about Inge and Rodriguez is moot, since, come opening day, it’s 99% sure that they are both going to be in the starting lineup.

  24. David

    October 13, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    I could argue that he is one of the best defensive 3rd basemen all time.

    True he needs to work on contact and his approach against RHP.

    It’s why I’ve said againand again INGE should leadoff against Lefties and Granderson should bat 9th.

    and against rightys Inge should work on just putting the bat on the ball, maybe use a lighter bat, ask Polanco he seems to have it down.

    The guy is too talented to not figure this out.

    If he ends up hitting .250 for the rest of his career the reason it will be his head that is to blame which is too bad.

    Also btw his OB% was higher in 2007 than in 2006, he just hit half as many long-bombs.

    There is a reason he was a 2nd round pick.

  25. Kathy

    October 13, 2007 at 10:32 pm

    Vince in Minn,

    Have to agree about getting Raburn in more games. But will it actually happen?

  26. Mike R

    October 14, 2007 at 12:29 am

    Crunched the numbers on Inge and the average 3rd baseman over the last 4 seasons averaged 73.46 runs created weighted using the weights from my posts breaking down SS’s and LF positions, and then weighted for 550 PA’s.

    Inge, over the last 4 seasons offensively had a weighted average Runs Created total of 75.5. Throw in that in 2007 he was worth 12.7 runs in the field and that’d kick the total up to 88.2 runs. Or, (since an average defender at 3B is a 0.0 runs since they don’t help nor hurt the team), he’s been nearly 15 (14.8-ish) runs better then the average 3B.

    Just thought I’d throw that out there. Even though I weighted it for 10% weighting for 2004, 20% for 2005, 30% for 2006 and 40% for 2007, his 05 and 06 campaigns are carrying his totals, but I think offensively being about average (75-ish runs created) is reasonable. Maybe around 70 runs created.

  27. Vince in MN

    October 14, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Inge’s above average defense keeps him in the lineup, while his average/below average offensive production (69 RC in ’07) keeps him in the 9-spot. The frustrating thing about Inge is that he is prone to long slumps during which he strikes out a lot (many of the check swing variety). This has been the pattern for quite a while, and it makes one wonder if he is capable of making the necessary adjustments. Hopefully that .209 BA v. RHP from this year is an anomaly, rather than an indication of a regression to the Inge of ’03.

  28. Mike R

    October 14, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    Honestly. The logical side of me says that he makes a meager improvement (sticking with runs created) to something like 72-ish. But, then there’s the part of me that saw about 836 check swing K’s from him that says he’ll regress.

  29. Nate Silver

    October 14, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    I think a couple of you are underestimating how tough the American League is right now.

    In order to reach the playoffs next year, the Tigers will need to be better than at least one of the following three teams: the Indians, Red Sox, Yankees. There are also a couple of other teams that could compete with the Tigers for the division and/or the Wild Card … the Twins are probably the most threatening if they don’t move Santana, but also possibly the Blue Jays, Mariners, White Sox. Who knows — maybe even the A’s or the Devil Rays. But the main focal point is those three clubs: the Indians, Red Sox, and Yankees.

    Look at the Indians’ roster. Look at how young that talent is. Look at how much of it is locked up long-term. Look at how more is on the way in the farm system. Look at how the Indians have spent next to nothing on payroll, and have the capacity to increase that significantly in anticipation of much improved attendance at Jacobs Field next year. The Indians are scary.

    Look at the Red Sox’ roster. Look at how much depth they have. Look at how much of their talent is locked up long-term. Look at players like Ellsbury and Buchholz that are poised to become big contributors next year. Look at how much money they have. The Red Sox are scary.

    The Yankees? Well, you can envision some doomsday scenarios for them: say A-Rod, Posada and Rivera all leave. Say that 2008 is the year when Jeter starts to show his age. Still, the news is not all good. The Yankees have more money than anybody else in baseball. And all of the sudden, they have one of the best farm systems in baseball. Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy are all big impact starting pitchers, and they’re all poised to be big contributors to the major league club next year. Money and player development: these are the engines of championships. And the Yankees have plenty of both. The Yankees are scary.

    Could the Tigers reach the playoffs if they stand pat, which means going with Santiago at SS, and maybe Jurrjens in the rotation, and so forth? Certainly. Teams with less talent than that make the post-season all the time. I’m watching two of them play in the NLCS right now. But they’d need a little bit of good fortune. Everyone stays healthy, or Cameron Maybin is the Rookie of the Year, or something unexpected happens with the Yankees or the Indians.

    In today’s American League, I’d guess that the Tigers need to get to about 93 wins before they’re better than 50:50 to make the post-season, and I don’t think you get there without making some fairly material improvements to the roster this winter. The team does not need a complete makeover, but it does need Dombrowski to have an active winter, and to land his blows where he chooses to attack.

    Look at the Red Sox’ roster.