Bill James Handbook fun

Last week one of my favorite publications showed up on my doorstep – The Bill James Handbook. This year’s version doesn’t disappoint. I’ve already dropped references to +/- fielding metrics which are an important reference point for evaluating defense. The usual assortment of win shares, park factors, player stats, and projections are also available. There is also a section on baserunning (the Tigers ranked 6th overall and had the highest percentage of their baserunners score). But my favorite part of the book are the leader boards which feature the top 10 in a number of obscure categories.

I won’t hit everything on the leaderboards, a lot of it is obvious (like Granderson and Ordonez being really good). Plus I don’t want to publish too much content because you should still have some incentive to buy the book. But as a teaser:

Hitting Stats

  • Magglio Ordonez slugged .713 against southpaws which far and away led the league (Frank Thomas was second at .613). Meanwhile Granderson and Ordonez placed 4th and 5th in slugging against righties.
  • Hard to believe it, but Brandon Inge had the 9th best batting average against lefties and the 10th best OBP at .419.
  • Granderson had the highest stolen base success rate and Carlos Guillen had the second lowest. But Guillen had the 8th most steals of 3rd base with 5.
  • Brandon Inge ranked 8th in pitches per plate appearance, and was 5th worst when putting pitches outside of the strikezone in play.
  • The Tigers had 3 of the 6 best first halves in terms of OPS with Ordonez, Gary Sheffield, and Carlos Guillen raking early in the season.
  • Ordonez swung at the first pitch 39.6% of the time which was 5th highest last year. Guillen ranked 9th. Curtis Granderson swung at the first pitch 13.6% which was the 5th lowest rate and Sheffield ranked 9th.


  • Justin Verlander ranked 10th in terms of percentage of pitches in the strike zone. He ranked 2nd in terms of pitches thrown faster than 95mph and his 94.8 average fastball was 3rd fastest. But he also threw change ups at the 5th highest rate and curve balls at the 9th highest rate.
  • Jeremy Bonderman threw sliders 34.5% of the time which ranked first. Nate Robertson was 2nd at 22.6%.
  • Even with Joel Zumaya’s injuries and decreased velocity when he came back, he still led the league in 100mph fastballs with 30 and Verlander ranked 2nd with 17.
  • Hitters only posted a .502 OPS against Chad Durbin’s slider, the 3rd best rate in the AL.
  • Only 14.3% of the baserunners that Bobby Seay inherited scored, which was also 3rd best.
  • Nate Robertson sported the 5th slowest average fastball.


  1. Eric Cioe

    November 11, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    So what does this tell you?

    1. Bat Inge leadoff versus LHP, and drop Granderson to 9th. Taking Granderson out isn’t going to give him any development against LHP, but putting him in Inge’s normal spot won’t hurt as bad.

    2. Verlander is good.

    3. Bonderman probably relies too much on his slider, as good as it is.

    4. Bobby Seay could be the left-handed Zumaya, in that he’s the guy to bring in (versus lefties) when the base runners absolutely cannot be batted in. He also might be worthwhile as a setup guy in 8th innings where there is at least one lefty.

  2. David

    November 11, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    1) I have said that for the past couple years and if you would like proof I think it is littered throughout this site on various comments I’ve made

    2) Yes, HOF good so far…

    3) I don’t think so, IMO it is his location that has gotten him into trouble – when his slider starts at the hitters waist or knees and dives down instead of chest or his fastball then he is effective as heck. Also someone pointed out awhile back about his first inning troubles being a two heavy reliance on his fastball and he would go to a slider to get out of the jam and in innings 2+

    4) IMO there are great relievers, really good relievers, good relievers and guys who have good and bad years. But Seay and Byrdak did awfully well (unexpected) last year. Hopefully they are as good next year.

    BTW Santiago signed with us

  3. Eric Cioe

    November 11, 2007 at 11:17 pm


    1. Yes, you’re actually the one that convinced me that Inge as #1 batter against LHP was a good idea. Good minds think alike, or at least my mediocre mind agrees with a good idea from yours; the question is, will Leyland agree? Probably not.

    2. Why talk about HOF already? Why not set a goal of 200 innings and 200 strikeouts next year? Or better; I heard that Lackey and Escobar talked about combining for 40 wins and 400 innings last Spring Training. They didn’t do it, but maybe Verlander, Bonderman, and Miller should talk about combining for 50 wins and 550 innings next year. That’s a realistic goal, and gets guys in the team mentality, rather than it being the Verlander show.

    3. You may be right. He’s a goofy pitcher, that’s for sure. It just seems odd that he throws his breaking ball so much. I don’t have anything against him being a 2-pitch guy. Just in recent years, guys like Roger Clemens (fastball / splitter) and Randy Johnson (fastball / slider) have been basically 2-pitch guys. It’s nice to have something else to show someone, but I don’t think he needs to throw a changeup for strikes as much as, say, Verlander does. A good dour-seamer and a great slider can go a long way.

    4. You’re right; last year may have been a fluke for Byrdak and Seay. But Byrdak is old, and has been at this for a long time. Seay is younger, and shows a lot of promise. I watched him make Jim Thome look like a fool on the second-to-last game of the season; that’s not easy to do. He seems to have pretty decent stuff, pretty good command, and should be an asset for this bullpen. I think he had the better stuff against left-handed hitters over Byrdak, but Byrdak was quite good too. It’s nice having two solid lefty arms in the pen. If there were two solid righties plus a closer in the pen, we’d be in good shape. That’s why losing Zumaya hurts so bad. We went from our two righty go-to bullpen guys being Rodney and Zumaya to just Rodney with a big question mark for the other. Grilli doesn’t have the stuff, Bazardo probably better used elsewhere (I think he could be a very decent fifth starter), and so is Miner (he should be the long-man / spot starter). There’s work to do in the pen with our righties, but at least we’ve got some arms already.

  4. David

    November 12, 2007 at 1:46 am

    It is nice to know Eric that we agree on quite a few things.

    Bazardo is only 23 BTW – younger than Bondo and Verlander – the next Santana? =P

    I never knew Lackey and Escobar had that “deal” – it’d be cool if our staff adopted that mentality.

    That being said – I think Nate Robertson like Bonderman has the ability to be a top-notch pitcher just both have had trouble putting it together.

    I also think Miner could be good – but who really knows – we haven’t seen him enough.

    By the way whatever is happening to Carlos Pena’s reincarnate – Christopher Bob Shelton?
    he is a FA right?

    Hey and we could use speed and a lefty or switch hitting OF

    OH WAIT… We have the former Tiger now Hen Andres Torres – fast and bats switch… 9 triples in only 42 games last year…

  5. Mark L

    November 12, 2007 at 2:03 am

    Wow, the optimism is flowing here.
    Yes, Inge does seem to bat well against lefties. But leadoff??
    I was thinking Renteria lead off, drop Granderson to sixth (which I assume will be Renteria’s normal spot) maybe even ninth with Inge at sixth.
    Also, let’s give Raburn some more starts at third. Start Inge against all lefties and when we have a lefty starter (which should be about half the games assuming Rogers is resigned; I give Miller a 50/50 chance of being in the starting rotation). When we start a lefty we can assume to see more right-handed batters and consequently more ground balls on the left side, so we need Inge’s defense. Maybe even start Santiago when Rogers is pitching, since he gets so many grounders. We can use Raburn’s bat against righties. He also bats righty but did very well this year against righties.
    Let’s get some help for that bullpen!!

  6. Eric Cioe

    November 12, 2007 at 2:49 am


    Yeah, Bazardo is young and I think he has potential. I think he can start, but even if he can’t, he would be a solid bullpen arm.

    I’m not necessary of the mentality that Nate could be “top notch.” He doesn’t have the stuff, and while you can get away with having less-than-great stuff if you’ve got good command, he doesn’t have great command either. I think he can win 10-13 games, but only if he goes deeper into games than he did last year. I think that if Miller makes the rotation next year, then Robertson becomes the fifth guy (I mean, I know Miller will numerically be the fifth guy, but Verlander was the “fifth guy” in 2006, but wasn’t dropped from the rotation when they went to the playoffs). And having a guy as good as Robertson as your worst starter is probably a great situation to be in.

    As far as Miner goes: he better be good as a starter, because he just doesn’t have the drive that you really want in a bullpen guy. He might be valuable as the long man this year, but then again, he might be more valuable to trade for a better bullpen arm to a team that needs a fifth starter.

    I’d really like to see Bonderman and Verlander do the Lackey/Escobar deal that was mentioned during the playoffs. They seem to be pretty buddy-buddy, or at least are usually standing next to each other and talking when neither of them is on the mound. They could try for 35 wins and 400 innings, maybe with 350 or so strikeouts for good measure. Both of them clearly have the ability to do so. Verlander had 18 wins, 201 innings, and 180 or so strikeouts this year; Bonderman could probably match that next year, and Verlander only stands to get better.

    If our rotation next year is Verlander / Bonderman / Rogers / Robertson / Miller, I think each can realistically shoot for 10+ wins. But Nate needs to go deeper, Bondo needs to pitch smarter, Rogers needs to pitch, Miller needs to control the ball better, and Verlander needs to not have any mid-summer bad streak like he did this year. If not for that, Verlander would have been more like 20 wins, 215 innings, 200 strikeouts, 3.5 ERA this year. He’s really one of the best pitchers in baseball these days, and he’ll continue to get better for another couple of years. Next season should be very interesting.

  7. SJC in Detroit

    November 12, 2007 at 8:42 am

    Bilfer — go back to your 10/8/2005 post on the 2005 Tigers’ inefficiency. Are the stats you used there (REA and then your version, REA-2) the same ones James uses and that leads to the statement in your current intro that this year’s Tigers had the “highest percentage of their baserunners score”? Even if the stats are just comparable, that would still be quite a turnaround.

  8. Scott

    November 12, 2007 at 8:51 am

    Here’s how I would do the Tigers’ 2008 lineups:

    Vs. RHP
    1. Renteria SS
    2. Polonco 2B
    3. Granderson CF
    4. Ordonez RF
    5. Sheffield DH
    6. Guillen 1B
    7. Pudge C
    8. Perez LF (OK … hopefully they get Jenkins or someone else!)
    9. Inge 3B

    Vs. LHP
    1. Renteria SS
    2. Polonco 2B
    3. Sheffield DH
    4. Ordonez RF
    5. Guillen 1B
    6. Thames/Raburn LF
    7. Pudge C
    8. Inge 3B
    9. Granderson CF