Detroit Tigers Weblog Live 12.12.08

Wrapping up the winter meetings…

In this episode I talk of disappointment with the Matt Joyce trade and why I don’t think Edwin Jackson is the guy to get. I also talk about how James Skelton shouldn’t have been left exposed in the Rule 5 draft. I speculate about whether or not the failed auto loan will impact the team.

Links from the show:

31 thoughts on “Detroit Tigers Weblog Live 12.12.08”

  1. I think the possibility of a failed auto loan is bothering most of us Michiganders. I know it certainly makes me wonder how pro teams in general can survive in that environment.

  2. Andrew – no, I highly doubt it, he has no rights/say – rookie

    Kathy – I wonder as well. If they don’t get it(looking that way), it along with everything else that is going on should really reduce demand IMO,

    Loon – in agreement with you, heck I woulda paid to be rid of him if I were GM, although Dombro and Leyland both have said as much as he is going to produce next year… it would be hard to believe he could have been any worse

    BTW who in the heck is Mr. X? shady name

  3. Two things to consider when talking about the fastballs of Verlander and Jackson:

    1. The pitch f/x tracking at Detroit is the second-worst in the league, according to Josh Kalk. If you look at his data in 2008, it has Bonderman, Verlander, Willis, Robertson, Miner, Lopez, and others all throwing cutters at comparable rates to their fastballs. The horizontal data is pretty spread out. It’s almost like the data from Detroit is all shifted 2, 3, 4, or more inches in on a right handed hitter. This makes talking about pitch movement difficult, and I hope they can set up a better system there soon.

    2. Jackson has a good bit more vertical movement, which has its benefits, too. Pitchers with 10+ inches of vertical movement are generally guys who can get away with pitching at the top of the zone more. That, in turn, allows them to more easily be a flyball pitcher. Also, I think it can help get strikeouts where the hitter chases a borderline fastball up and out of the zone. Think about Pudge and his struggles, for example.

    I don’t have much of an opinion one way or the other on the deal. Joyce is going to be a good player. The Tigers needed pitching, even if it’s only depth at the back end of the rotation. I also think Knapp can help some, though that remains to be seen. I think Billfer and those like him are doing two things: 1. overrating Joyce a little bit, and 2. not really taking into consideration the needs of the organization. Jackson fills a bigger hole than Joyce does, I think.

    Worse comes to worse, you stick him in the pen and see what he can do. He’s got dominant stuff in relief. Whether or not that will translate into results, who knows?

    I would also like to take a minute here and say that I wish Dombrowski would broaden his criteria for a pitcher worth going after to include a “pitchability” guy once in a while. Get some guy who can locate an 88 mph fastball, even if only for variety’s sake. There is a whole lot of stuff on the Tigers’ staffs of the past few years, but they’ve never really had a sustainable, staff. 2006 was very good, but with all those 93+ mph fastballs, you’d think the staff would be better on the whole.

  4. Bilfer,

    Love the video chats.

    So let me get this straight, Jackson had better control than Verlander, more QS starts than Verlander, threw harder than Verlander, more wins than Verlander, lower ERA than Verlander, but he blows. Strange evaluation tools we are using for Justin.

    The Skelton issue is just pathetic, Eddie Bonnine, Aqi Lopez. Chris Lambert all were protected..makes zero sense..some very very strange decisiions in the last 2 seasons for supposedly smart management. then we draft a LOOGY..unexplainable

    Let’s hope their is some relief in the non tenders or the Canadian dollar keeps dropping, Toronto has some relievers we should be intersted in.

  5. I still do not know why we are still complaining about the joyce for jackson trade. Didn’t anybody watch the last half of the season ? We were terrible , we need starting pitching. DD is doing the right thing here. Would you be more comfortable having Robertson and willis fill out the rotation and have joyce fill in every other game. Or have a solid young 4th starter come in and be consistent and have competition for the last spot? What else was he supposed to do to get a starter ? Spend 10 + mill a year which is not availible or trade a decent prospect (which don’t get me wrong has plenty of upside) for a proven starter. It comes down to dealing what you have plenty of. In this case it was offense for what you need and it was pitching.

  6. billfer,

    great job on the video chats, one question and one point I’d like to make:

    question: I don’t know much about Rick Knapp, but do you think it’s possible the staff could try to get Jackson to back off the velocity a little bit and get him to throw 2-seamer to induce more groundball outs? I saw this trend when Hernandez was the pitching coach, and it seems like the organization favors starters that rely on the sinker. The White Sox teach all their guys cutters, with pretty good results, I wonder if we’re starting to do something similar with a sinker.

    comment: That fact that Aqui Lopez was non-tendered after being left on the 40-man roster, thus taking up space that could have gone to Skelton is even more frustrating. It sometimes seems like there’s no cohesive plan or well thought out strategy within the Tigers’ ranks. I’m sure that’s not the case, but it seems that way.

  7. The White Sox pitchers who have come up through their system all learn cutters? That’s news to me. Danks has one, and so does Buehrle. But who else? Not Jenks, Floyd, Thornton, etc. Garland didn’t have one. I’m just naming guys who were young when they got into the system, and I can only come up with two cutter guys, both of whom are lefty starters, for whom cutters have always been a bread and butter pitch.

    And if anything, I bet Knapp might suggest more 4-seamers, given the flyball tendencies of Twins staffs of recent years. Their pitchers are all the same – low walks, mid-range strikeouts, flyball guys who give up home runs. That’s fine by me.

  8. sportz, my biggest concern with Jackson is that he doesn’t miss bats. His k rate last year was very low for a guy who throws so hard. It was much lower than Verlander’s k rate. It’s ok to have a low k rate if you have good control and keep the ball on the ground but Jackson does neither. Everybody keeps talking about how he can be dominating but I would think that a dominating pitcher would be able to strike guys out even with control issues.

  9. I’m not really sure why fastball velocity means that he should strike out more. How many strikeouts do strikeout pitchers get off of their fastball? 50%, tops? Guys like Beckett, Burnett, and Sheets are probably right about there. But guys like Sabathia, Lincecum, Haren, Verlander, Bonderman, and both Santanas get a majority of their strikeouts on their off-speed pitches. All that a hard fastball tells me is that the guy can throw hard. I don’t see 97 mph and think automatically that he should be striking everyone out, not until I see a good breaking ball or split or changeup.

    Jackson probably has a very good fastball, but not the sort of put-away fastball that Josh Beckett has. The low strikeout numbers tell me that his offspeed stuff needs work.

  10. Just stopping by—nice video billfer

    Actually, a case could be made that Jackson very barely improved.

    Jackson’s WHIP was more a subject of regression from 2007. His 2007 BABIP was .351, and his WHIP was 1.76. In 2008, his BABIP regressed to a normal .301, and his WHIP was 1.51. His FIP (fielding independent pitching) also remained fairly stagnant. What can be theorized/concluded from this is that what improvements we saw in Jackson between 2007 and 2008 were actually improvements of the Rays’ defense, and not Jackson.

    Ryan- The Tigers need starting pitching. However, just because you need starting pitching doesn’t mean you go out and trade young talent for a mediocre starting pitcher. The “We need a starting pitcher, OK, let’s go out and grab a SP by any means necessary” mentality has hurt the Tigers more than it has helped. Let’s go grab Dontrelle Willis and sign him to an extension. Let’s go give up a top young talent who’s under team control for 6 more years for an arbitration eligible mediocre SP in Jackson. If you want a BOR starter and are smart about it, you can pick one up for much cheaper than Matt Joyce/29MM/etc.

  11. Regarding Guillen in LF: “What are the chances he stays healthy,” is a great question, but I even ask this: what are the chances he’s effective? I’m not so certain he’s not on a big-time decline.

    Also, i think there’s reasons to be skeptical about more than just the scouts. The ability to recognize talent, the inability to get things at-cost versus over-paying for talent, the medical staff, etc etc.

  12. I’m still wondering about DD’s “do something about SS” statements. The last time was just before they signed Santiago, so… is SS “done” now, or no?

    Also wondering who the backup C is going to be, now that little doubt has been left that Ryan will start the season in Toledo. Could it possibly be Sardinha? Times are tough and money is tight, I know that first hand, but still.

    There’s still a crowd on the bench if we resign ourselves to another year of Sheff. Thames, Raburn, Larish, shortstop, catcher. One guy too many. Hard to see how Thames or Raburn or both aren’t gone, dealt for whatever pitching (or other prospects?) they can get. They could use another LHB off the bench, so I wonder if there’s a lefty Thames or Raburn equivalent out there. Raburn could be the keeper because he can play CF. Or Clevlen could be the 4th OF while they wait on Clete. Clevlen as the 4th OF and Sardinha as the backup C on Opening Day would be the very definition of tight budget.

    Then there’s pitching. Who’s in the running?


    15 names for 12 spots, not counting any prospects who could surprise and make the team or new acquisitions almost sure to come (1 to 3?). I’ve gotta say. Miner looks like a real long shot to make the rotation – I think he’s stuck in middle relief/emergency starting unless he’s dealt, which is to say I think he’s stuck in middle relief. I think spring will see either Robertson (doubt that he’s a realistic bullpen option) dealt or Willis cut. Unless Wills, if still unready, would spend another season in the minors. It’s not impossible that Kyle Bloom, or another acquisition yet to come, could end up as the lefty in the rotation. They seem to have boundless faith in Rodney. Zumaya probably won’t be ready right away. Does anyone else get the sense of a lack of confidence in Rapada? They’re still interested in Beimel, it seems. Have they given up on getting an established closer now? Seems like it. Lambert could make the staff (middle relief) if Robertson or Miner were gone, I think. Seay and Dolsi seem like givens, and I think Fien will make the team.

    So, an early (too early) guess on the 2009 Opening Day Tigers:

    C Laird
    1B Cabrera
    2B Polanco
    SS Santiago/Everett
    3B Inge
    LF Guillen
    CF Granderson
    RF Ordonez
    DH Sheffield

    SS Everett/Santiago (+2B)
    OF-2B-3B Raburn
    1B-3B Larish
    C Sardinha

    Willis (or Robertson, or Bloom)

    Lambert (or Robertson, or Bloom)
    Rapada (or Beimel?)

    Joel Zumaya will push someone out when he’s ready, and Clete Thomas could displace Ryan Raburn if and when he shows a healthy return to form.

    All that said, I fully expect some moves before spring that will lay this projection to waste.

  13. Chad Bradford (RP) is an interesting name that turned up over at Maybe they could trade Larish for him. Just kidding.

  14. I think we can stop the whole Jackson-Joyce debate. The great oracle has spoken:
    Drew Sharp: “The hard-throwing Jackson becomes the new No. 2 starter behind Justin Verlander.”

  15. As a supporter of this trade, or at least someone who can justify in his mind, I think Drew Sharp is clueless.

  16. Well, if Drew Sharp endorsing the move doesn’t bring the pro-Jackson-Trade around to the naysayers, then I don’t know what will! 😉

  17. Eric,

    Actually Garland does throw a cutter, and maybe it’s something they teach most of their starters as opposed to “everyone”. At any rate, it’s an organizational philosophy they have. I noticed that a few of their guys threw them and thought it was a coincidence, but it was actually a Keith Law chat where he explained that as an org, that’s what they want to do.

  18. If Garland threw a cutter regularly last season, then pitch f/x missed it.

    It has him as a five-pitch guy: fastball, curve, slider, change, and split. But Kalk’s algorithm has no idea what a split looks like, because Garland’s “splitter” is 1 mph slower than his fastball, with a little less vertical hop and more boring action into a righty. That’s a sinker, not a split. There are a few pitches at 91 mph or so with little horizontal movement, and those may be cutters, but he threw about six of them. His slider, which pitch f/x sometimes gets mixed up with a cutter (see Doc or James Shields’ graphs) is about 82 mph, so it can’t be that, either.

    Maybe he ditched the pitch in 2008, but his 2007 graph doesn’t look much different. What makes you think he throws a cutter? Did he say it? If so, it might be the case of him calling his slider a cutter, like CC does. But when you say cutter, most people understand a pitch that’s maybe 2-3 mph slower than that pitcher’s 4 seam fastball, like a sinker but backwards.

    1. Eric –

      I can’t speak to whether or not Garland throws a cutter. I will say though that there are problems with the pitch f/x pitch classification system. And Kalk is trying to do the same irrespective of the scouting reports. In their defense they are trying to do it for everyone and come up with some broad algorithms and it is a decent attempt.

      I prefer to look at an individual pitcher, get the scouting report for the number of different pitches he throws, and then do K-means clustering on the individual pitcher to identify the pitches.

  19. From above link and I quote

    “Drew Sharp is a sports writer and professional dumbass for the Detroit Free Press.”

    Wikipedia never ceases to amaze me, being able to separate fact from fiction every time

  20. maybe you’re right, Eric. i’ve seen garland pitch numerous times, and i always thought he had a cutter as opposed to a slider. to my recollection, it didn’t have much downward tilt to it and bore in on lefties. maybe he didn’t throw it as hard as i thought. but i could be mistaken, to your credit, i didn’t examine pitch f/x, i was going off memory on that one.

    and while i don’t always take KLaw as gospel, i took his explanation at face value. (he was asked about the young pitching propsect the sox got in the swisher trade and whether they would teach him a cutter. his answer was “they probably will, since they do that with all their young pitchers”)

  21. LOL

    Dre is that me or did he piss his pants on the right side after giving up a HR to their pitcher?

    It looks like that to me anyways from that photo angle.

    I don’t hate guy(Jackson) or really really hate the trade but a #2 starter come on…

    I also love how it says at the top

    Best of new Tiger Edwin Jackson

    what is MOM spelled backwards? WOW WOW WOW!

    Still we officially signed Everett today, YAY! at least something great finally became official.

  22. “at least by staying in the AL he’ll likely avoid such embarrassing moments as this:”

    Dear god that was a horrific game.

  23. Kalk provides a pretty massive service to all of us who love looking at it. Really, just looking at the vertical/horizontal movement chart with a bit of common sense is enough to figure out what a pitcher is throwing.

    Take Doc, for example:

    It has him as a three pitch guy – sinker, curve, and slider. The sinker is definitely correct. But the “slider” covers three of his pitches – changeup, cutter, and half of his curves. So it’s not totally useful if you’re going through with your eyes closed. But if you’re paying attention, it’s pretty easy to see what a certain pitcher throws.

    The only thing where it can get very dicey is 2 seam versus 4 seam fastballs, where your k-means clustering has worked well in the past, especially on Bonderman. Some pitchers barely have a difference between 2 seam and 4 seam. Others are pretty wide, like Garland (fastball and “splitter,” which is his 2 seamer). But for identifying fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, changeup, and splitter, it just takes a little bit of observation experience from watching a ball move on television to tell what pitch is what.

  24. Eric –

    Absolutely Kalk does great work. He’s doing all of it blind and for everyone which makes it very difficult. The limitations I was referring to were due to the scope of the task and not the fault of the algorithms that Kalk developed.

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