Baseball Prospectus’ take on the 2011 Season

I picked up BP 2011 last week and have had an opportunity to review their outlook on the Tigers (amongst other things).  There’s no substitute for picking up the whole thing (it’s only $12.86 on Amazon now), but I wanted to pass along a few thoughts, and get your reaction.

First of all, BP is notoriously pessimistic, and their writers all seem to share the same cynicism and arrogance.  It’s funny in small doses, but gets tiresome after a while.  So while the information is amazing, and their projection algorithms are second to none, be prepared for elongated jabs at virtually everyone.

Anyway, there is a certain amount of nomenclature that is intrinsic to BP, so I’ll try not to focus too much on their less well known stats.  But in case you want/need a primer – here is a link to their glossary.

Also, win totals for superstar pitchers and HR/RBIs for superstar hitters always seem to be low, no? Does anyone know if BP calculates team win totals first, and then lets the individual stats follow that, or is it the other way around?  I’m guessing the players are forecast first.  They have probably posted an article on this in the past, if someone has seen it, please let me know.  I’m really curious to know if they have addressed before.


In analyzing the 2010 season, BP gives high marks to the Granderson/Jackson deal, writing that “it was a bold and controversial move that wound up paying off in spades” citing the payroll flexibility and that “cheap talent is the life-blood of a winning organization.”  A-Jax, Scherzer, Coke & Schlereth combined for 8.9 Wins Above Replacement Player (“WARP”), while Granderson and Jackson combined for 5.9.  +3 WARP is pretty darn good.  Not to mention that Scherzer, Jackson, Coke and Schlereth combined for 26 years of team control when the deal was done (22 now), while Granderson & Jackson were at 7 (5 now) at the time.  More WARP + more player control + less price = great deal.

BP goes on to mention that the Tigers have a “core of young players who could form the base of a championship team,” starting with pitching talent.  According to BP, this is paramount because pitching talent is the most difficult asset to acquire in the open market.

BP feels that the Tigers have as good as anyone to win the Central.  Referencing 2010, the Tigers’ staff could be compared to that of San Fran (could) and BP reminds us that San Fran didn’t have Miguel Cabrera.


I won’t go through them all, but a few highlights.  When I list slashlines, it’s Avg/OBP/Slg.

Cabrera projects to have another monster year (36 HRs 110 RBI, .948 OPS), but his projected WARP is only 4.2 (6.4 in 2010 and 4.4 in 2009).  Pujols, on the other hand, projects to an 8.1 WARP, and had a WARP of 7.8 last year, even though by most accounts Cabrera had a better offensive year (higher slugging, higher average, higher OBP). I know that Pujols is a significantly better baserunner but was he 1.4 WARP better?  And considering that Cabrera is 3 years younger, why the gross discrepancy in this year’s forecast?  Anyone at BP reading this?

Like many, BP was blown away by A-Jax’s 2010 .393 BABIP, and projects a still high but more reasonable .346 BABIP for him this year, which results in a pretty pedestrian .268 BA and .704 OPS (actually, pedestrian is generous; an OPS of .704 for a center fielder merits the bench). Jackson is going to have to develop more gap power and cut down on Ks (BP projects 152 of them, down from 170) to be a consistently good player.  .268/.325/.381

Incredibly, BP projects 478 PAs for Guillen, but also mentions that the Tigers’ hopes of Guillen making good on the final year of his $48M contract are similar to their “hope to capture and train a unicorn this spring.”  Still BP thinks Guillen will slug .771, which is great for a 2B, but not so good for a DH/corner outfielder.  .265/.346/.425

Raburn projects to a very healthy .806 OPS over 381 plate appearances. .266/.337/.469

Maggs projects to an. 814 OPS, but his low low fielding leaves him with only a 1.1 WARP. .293/.363/.451

VMart should be everything the club wants him to be; BP sees him batting .287/.357/.458, with 19 HR and a WARP of 2.9.

And because everyone wants to know, Inge projects to a reasonable 1.5 WARP, largely resulting from his fielding prowess.  .228/.309/.385.  stephen, please let us know how you feel about a corner infielder with a sub .700 OPS.


BP projects another huge year for JV, but only 14 wins, which says a lot about what they see behind him.  The interesting parts about their projection is that they think JV’s SO/9 will drop by 5%, yet his BB/9 will increase slightly (3%).  Regardless, he projects to a 5.5 WARP.  Highest on the team by a long shot.

BP sees Scherzer as striking out more per 9 than JV (8.8), but only projects him to 145 IPs, way less than 2009 and 2010.  BP knows quite a bit about injuries as they relate to workload, age & pitching mechanics, but I certainly hope that he gets to to 180 IPs or so. Interestingly, BP refers to Scherzer as a current “ace,” but they really do not get into the low IP projections.  Scherzer’s 2011 WARP projection is 3.6.

Porcello projects to a 2.3 WARP (which is great), but a 1.39 WHIP and 4.40 ERA.  4.4 K/9 like BP suggests just won’t do it.

BP thinks Zumaya will get into 40 games this year, but they project his BB/9 to 4.7 with a 1.45 WHIP an 4.12 ERA.

Finally, Benoit…”Because some teams don’t pay attention to the volatile nature of relief performances, the owner of a 4.47 career ERA with two good seasons in the last five years snagged a three-year, $16.5 million deal with Detroit.  That’s an expensive recipe for heartbreak.”  I still don’t like this deal.  BP projects 71 IPs with a 1.19 WHIP, 9.9 SO/9 and 2.95 ERA for 2011.  I can live with that.

BP also goes into great detail on manager analysis, I’ll save that for a separate post later this week.  Considering the polarizing nature of Ol’ Smokey, I think we’ll have plenty to discuss on that one.

Again, pick up your copy of Baseball Prospectus 2011 here.

14 thoughts on “Baseball Prospectus’ take on the 2011 Season”

  1. So what are the odds to capture and train a unicorn this spring? I thought they were supposed to describe things with numbers so that we could understand things from a more objective viewpoint? Are they selling baseball science or comedy now? I thought people were buying this book to get THEIR take on the numbers, so are they saying it is absolutely impossible, a certain 0% for Guillen to finish his last year? I mean if I was trying to analyze it, I would at least try and make some effort to illustrating the real odds, which surely can’t be 0%. Even if you thought it was only 2%, well that’s a big difference for somebody who is passionate about the truth and specificity of numbers. I want to know what they think those odds are, and if they can’t come up with a number or don’t want to, then they should just not talk about it and leave it alone rather than make a comedic jab.

    And what do they project for Guillen’s slugging percentage? You said that BP thinks he will slug .771, but his line at the end is .42, I assume .771 is the OPS but is .42 supposed to be .420 or is there a number missing and it ends with a 2, thus it could be any tens digit? If Sizemore ends up sucking like he did last year, then Guillen will get those plate appearances since we don’t have any qualified infield hitters to take his place. Any atbats that guys like Santiago get should got to 2B to replace Peralta rather than Guillen at 2B, so Guillen has zero competition at 2B if Sizemore doesn’t pan out. This also contradicts a passage I saw where they comment very positively on Will Rhymes (which really offended my baseball sense), they actually think he is going to have a career in the big leagues, so it does puzzle me that they would assign that many PAs with such a high opinion of Rhymes and whatever Sizemore is worth in their minds.

    I just don’t like the BP writers, these guys seem to be all talk and marketing, and indeed with arrogant and condescending tones like as if they established their credibility which they certainly haven’t with me, and they have an incredibly hard time mixing in subjective commentary to go with their already suspect objective methods and analysis. I can’t wait to see what the manager analysis says about Leyland though, that’s gotta be a real hoot of a read.

      1. Oh sure and just randomly coming on this page I noticed a typo I had, where I said Santiago should replace Peralta at 2B, but I meant SS obviously, and I said “got to” instead of go to ugggh. How come there is no option to edit posts?

        1. Not sure, I think that was a word press update. stephen has been asking for it as well. I’ll check with billfer.

          1. Oh ok, also on a quick note, when you say Victor is projected to be everything the Tigers hope him to be, I totally disagree with that. BP projects him to take a dip in BA, his career and last 2 seasons are almost exactly .300, and they downgrade him to .287. Same with his slugging, they give him .458 for that, but his career average is 11 pts higher, and last year was 35 pts higher, and the year before that was 22 pts higher, and the last full season before that was his best SLG at .505 which is 45 pts higher. So to me it sounds like BP is projecting him to be a disappointment. I mean you can’t project him to do worse than what they gave him with much credibility based on his history, so they are short-changing his expected potential by about as much as you could possibly get away with. And since he might have more of a DH only role as opposed to any other year, you think that might make him more healthy on average and just one more plus in favor of his offensive production capability. Does BP offer commentary on VM? If they do, it should sound negative to be consistent with and justify their unfavorable projections for him.

            1. I simply mean that I’ll take a 2.9 WARP. I’ll take a look at the commentary tonight and let you know what it says.

              But again, they seemingly always sandbag the superstars. I’m sure someone on here knows why.

              1. For the money we paid him and the opportunity cost of not having an extra young player get this development time, VM has to outperform those line numbers or it’s a waste of money and will ultimately cost us more than it helps us in the way it affects the overall value/power/winnability of our franchise. He better beat those numbers and significantly. I want a big .500+ SLG from him batting behind Cabrera or I’m not happy. But I won’t shoot myself in the head if he misses that and comes close. .458 is way too low and totally unacceptable.

  2. “A-Jax, Scherzer, Coke & Schlereth combined for 8.9 Wins Above Replacement Player (“WARP”), while Granderson and Jackson combined for 5.9.”

    Not to get nit-picky here, because I still really like the deal and as you point out the cost-controls in the players the Tigers got are worth a lot too, but its slightly misleading to compare the combined WARP of 4 players to that of 2 and say the Tigers net 3 WARP in the deal. They gave up more WARP/player than they got back (2.95 WARP vs 2.25). I think they still got the better deal when you factor in the cost of those average 2.25 WARP/players they got in return, plus the potential for improvement…just thought the quote needed some more context.

    1. I’m fine with that. Maybe we should start a marginal WARP/$ calculation Actually, BP may already do this, I’ll look into it.

      1. Cool. Just to be clear though, I like the Tigers’ side of the trade, like it a lot. Realistically, most teams are probably looking for just what the Tigers got; which I think was good-to-great WARP/$. However, the Yankees are a team that’s probably more interested in maxing out WARP/roster spot, which is probably what made the trade a win-win.

  3. I still miss Grandy. Not that I’d want him in CF again because I love AJ out there. Just miss his personality and thought he’d be a Tiger forever.

    1. Yeah I thought the same, I was pretty surprised as well. And with regard to evaluating the trade I don’t like the simplicity of the review of the trade as simply looking at the players WARP that were involved in the deal. That’s fine and dandy to get more WARP, but to me a great trade is using a premier trading chip like that to get the best possible deal, and while I do like AJ a lot, his severe lack of power and high strikeout rate would not have made him my first choice of what to trade Grandy for. I think if we could have explored deals with every possible team that there would be an even better deal for more strategic players/positions to use Grandy to acquire, and I would have rather left a void in CF and filled it cheaply with a guy like Raburn so that we can trade for a new premier SS or what not. Cause that is right now our biggest weakness on the team, and I just like our OF depth and minor league OF depth moreso than what we have for SS and C and 2B. 3B too if Castellanos doesn’t pan out, but for now I’m going to assume he will pan out since that’s the only reasonable shot we have to get a potential new star at the moment.

  4. All…thanks for the great reads as it has got me excited for the upcoming season. BTW, this year will mark 99 years since the opening of Tiger Stadium; the same month and year the Titantic sunk. I wonder if the Tigers will recognize number 100 next year? I still miss the Ole Lady but I realize it was time to move on. Meanwhile, Fenway will also have number 100 next year.

    Sorry to kick the fire ant bed!

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