Game 2013.59: Indians at Tigers

32-26, 1st place, 2.5 games up on Cle.

Well, the Tigers are a frustrating 4-6 over their last 10, including 3 games where they failed to score a run in the first 9 innings of the game, but yet they managed to pick up a game on the struggling Tribe, losers of four straight. In fact, as stephen likes to allude to from time to time, the Central is so bad that the Tigers .400 winning percentage over the last 10 games is good for 2nd best in the division. CWS may be the worst team in the AL here soon, they are certainly playing like it these days.

Nice series against Tampa Bay, who had a better record than us coming into the series. We’ve got to win series at home.


JV climbs the hill tonight for the Tigers, so this gives us an opportunity to examine his recent starts to see if we can identify some causes for his struggles. Thank you Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference for the research tools.

Over his last 5 starts, JV is averaging 5 1/3 IPs, 7.4 hits, 7.4 Ks, 2.2 walks, and 4.4 ER per game. That translates into a 7.42 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 12.5 K/9 and 3.71 BB/9. Concerning right?

Maybe not.

– Obviously, the ERA is egregious, and it could be explained by the outrageous 2 2/3 8 ER outing versus Texas. If we remove that game, however, his ERA over the other 4 is still a seemingly unacceptable 5.25. But if we look at his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), things come into focus a bit more. With the Texas game, his FIP over the last 5 is 3.59, which is a little above average.  If we remove the Texas game, his FIP over the other four games is 2.98, which is fantastic. As a barometer – his career FIP is 3.37; in 2011 in was 2.99, and last year it was 2.94. This year it’s still at 2.60 for the whole season. Salty. More on this in a bit.

– The 1.79 WHIP is, in my mind, even uglier than the ERA. But there’s an easy explanation. The BABIP against JV over the last 5 games is an unbelievable (and unsustainable) .446. This is for a pitcher with a career BABIP of .287. This can be partially explained by the Tigers’ general lack of infield (and recently outfield) range, but it’s also a function of good luck on the part of the opposing batters. If you took at look at BABIP on a game by game basis, 4 of his worst 5 games this season come from the last 5 games. (Note that game by game basis is not really helpful b/c of the small sample size, but looking at these last 5 games against his 12 starts this year does, in my mind, support the bad luck theory.)

– Finally, his K rate of 12.5 over his last 5 games is significantly better than his career rate of 8.53, and in fact, his 10.73 K/9 this year would be the best in his career. Yes, he’s walking a few more this year than usual (2.96 in 2013 v. 2.73 career), but it’s not a huge variance.

So, all in all, despite what has been an awful stretch by his standards, JV is arguably pitching better now that his career norm. It’s been some bad bloops and bad ballparks that have caused the spike in traditional pitching metrics. (Progressive, Oriole, & Rangers ballparks are all top 10 in HR this year). Now, FIP attempts to remove many elements of luck, and rewards Ks and low BB rates, which is why JV’s FIP over the last 5 is so different from this actual ERA. But high Ks and low BBs is a very good thing. And this is strong evidence that we should not be worried one bit about Verlander. (Well, I’ll admit that his 1 mph less FB velocity is intriguing, but I’ll save that for later).


Tonight’s starter, Ubaldo Jimenez is, not very good anymore. In his last 10 starts he’s registered only 4 of the quality kind, including 1 ER over 6 IPs at Comerica on May 11th. His last outing was his best of the season, when he held Tampa Bay to just 4 hits and 1 BB over 8 innings. But on the season he’s posting a 4.83 ERA (4.21 FIP) and 1.26 WHIP. He strikes out lot of batters, his 9.05 K/9 this season is the best of his career, but he also averages 4+ walks per nine (2013 and career).  Cabby (.972 career OPS), Fielder (.814), VMart (1.002), and Peralta (1.094) all rake v. Ubaldo. So on screens, things look very promising for tonight’s match-up. But we’ve read that before.

I don’t really see Cleveland as a threat or contender, but a good three game set by them in Detroit coming off of a bad spell could give them a needless boost. I’d like to see JV put any worries about his recent performance to bed, and put us in a take 1/2 position over the weekend to take the series. It should happen.

Someone please post the lineups later today, as I’ve got a drinking event this afternoon.


  1. StormanNorman$

    June 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm
    Ken Rosenthal thinks everybody in the AL Central (except DET) will be “sellers” during trade time…though the players they’d like to move don’t have much trade value.

    BTW – good/informative post today Kevin

    • Smoking Loon

      June 7, 2013 at 6:06 pm

      Thanks for the link. Don’t see anything interesting for the Tigers in those tradables for this season or next, really. Tigers don’t seem to have much to offer if they should happen to be buyers later. Porcello or Castellanos, maybe, if they were desperate for something in particular. Dirks or Tuiasosopo could become trade pieces later, but that’s not major trade stuff all by itself. Same would go for Villareal and Alburquerque.

      • Vince in MN

        June 7, 2013 at 8:39 pm

        If Avila doesn’t get going, and the Tigers are willing to pull the plug on him, John Buck might be worth a shot. Low probability though. Rosenthal features mostly salary dumps or pitchers, which I doubt the Tigers would be interested outside of an injury or 100-game suspension.

        • Smoking Loon

          June 7, 2013 at 11:13 pm

          I don’t think they’d pull the plug on Avila this season, but I’ve had the (very speculative) thought that the “big move” for 2014 might be at the catcher position.

  2. Coleman

    June 7, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Tonight’s Toast-to-Kevin Starting Lineup:

    1 Dirks, LF
    2 Hunter, RF
    3 Cabrera, 3B
    4 Fielder, DH
    5 Martinez, 1B
    6 Peralta, SS
    7 Pena, C
    8 Santiago, 2B
    9 Garcia, CF

  3. judpma

    June 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    jimenez is as good as you allow him to be…if you swing out of the strikezone he can beat you..he did it to the Tigers and Rays this year…If you LAY OFF his junk you beat him. If you swing at his junk he can beat you.

    • Smoking Loon

      June 7, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      Didn’t notice the Tigers hitters being noticeably bad the first time out against Jimenez. I thought he pitched well. He can, you know. But I think the odds favor the Tigers this time, as they’ve seen Ubaldo twice already and have a track record of hitting him, particularly – I think – at Comerica.

  4. Smoking Loon

    June 7, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Very nice in-depth analysis on Verlander, Kevin. All news to me, besides being good news.

    • Kevin in Dallas

      June 7, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      Gracias. It was reassuring to do it.

  5. Kevin in Dallas

    June 7, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    This game is unfolding nicely…so far.

  6. Kevin in Dallas

    June 7, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Spoke too soon.

    • Smoking Loon

      June 7, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      Yeah, up until the 5th it was like a recipe for a good, Tigers-all-the-way win.

  7. Vince in MN

    June 7, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Maybe it is just going to be one of those years for JV.

    • Smoking Loon

      June 7, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      Verlander had what is becoming his typical outing. (Which isn’t all that bad.) Nice finish in the 7th.

  8. Brenden

    June 7, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Valverde is a ticking time bomb….Hopefully the Tigers will find a replacement sooner rather than later…


    June 7, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    The Mashed Potato should not be our closer! He doesn’t have the stuff required, runners steal on him too often and he his too unreliable.

    • Vince in MN

      June 7, 2013 at 10:21 pm

      Aw, he was just teasing.

    • Smoking Loon

      June 7, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      Well, this one got a little bit tense, didn’t it? Twice. Once for Verlander, and then obviously with Valverde. The 9th inning had the hidden benefit of making Valverde’s ERA more reflective of the truth.

      I was thinking maybe don’t bring Verlander back for the 7th, but that turned out good. I was impressed to see Coke warming up in the 9th. There have been times when it’s been Valverde or bust, unjustifiably, to my mind. Glad to see that’s changing, not that I’m *really* glad to see Valverde struggle.

      Shall we call it another 0 for Captain Mumbles, Vince?

      • Vince in MN

        June 7, 2013 at 10:39 pm

        JL escapes any critical decision making tonight despite Valverde’s best effort – 0.

  10. StorminNorman$

    June 7, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    with 95% fastballs and not the best location and movement, JL/DET is playing with fire by bringing out Valverde – unless he can establish the splitter and throw it for strikes, I suspect the Valverde experiment will end soon…and badly

    • William

      June 7, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      Agreed. Disaster waiting to happen.

      Hopefully it happens before the Tigers are in the heat of a pennant race. Because its going to happen.

      • Smoking Loon

        June 7, 2013 at 10:41 pm

        It can’t be overlooked. Giving up a leadoff home run – again. I think the leash is getting shorter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone else out there next save situation (I know this one wasn’t). Well, actually, I *would* be surprised. It’s more like I don’t want to be surprised by it. I’d just like it to happen. And be successful, not necessarily to push Valverde out, but to remove the fallback position of “he’s the only guy who can do it, ever.” Um… assuming there *is* someone who might be able to do it. They’ve all disappointed at one time or another, all crucially with the exception of Benoit. Who was good tonight and still doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence from me.

        • Vince in MN

          June 7, 2013 at 10:44 pm

          • Smoking Loon

            June 7, 2013 at 11:01 pm

            Good link. Lee is excellent, as usual.

            I’m all over RE24 and WPA, but I’ve found them more difficult to apply to pitchers. I have noticed over various strolls through some of the things Lee touched on, including Coke’s higher-leverage use as opposed to Smyly and others. I’ll be presenting some Tigers bullpen analysis in my next game posts.

    • Vince in MN

      June 7, 2013 at 10:42 pm

      Both HRs were off splitters, so maybe we are getting a hint as to why he isn’t throwing it much.

      • Smoking Loon

        June 7, 2013 at 10:45 pm

        I wonder what has changed about it. Didn’t it used to be his signature pitch?

        • Vince in MN

          June 7, 2013 at 10:52 pm

          Nothing lasts forever.

          • Smoking Loon

            June 7, 2013 at 11:04 pm

            Not diamonds? The commercials told me that diamonds are forever. Have I been duped? Also, death and taxes are said to be unavoidable. If they’re unavoidable, they must be permanent, and if they’re permanent, they must be eternal. Diamonds, death, and taxes.

            • Smoking Loon

              June 7, 2013 at 11:11 pm

              But seriously, the decision to bring back Valverde must have involved some vote of confidence from someone in his stuff. They couldn’t have satisfied themselves with “oh, his velocity is back,” could they have?

              • Vince in MN

                June 8, 2013 at 7:14 am

                Or the “need” for a “closer”. Interestingly, Lee Panas predicted shortly before the season started, when the Tigers had “committed” to the closer by committee idea, they would pick up a closer at mid season anyway, and that closer would do no better than the committee had. Panas was just off by a couple of months. It just so happened that there wasn’t anyone else available when Twisted Panic Logic kicked in:

                We need a closer.
                Valverde is a closer
                Therefore, his velocity is back.

            • William

              June 8, 2013 at 8:24 am

              death, taxes, and Jos. A Bank having a sale

              • Smoking Loon

                June 9, 2013 at 12:52 am

                Jos. A. Bank is having a sale?? Why didn’t someone tell me?

                I thought of an exception to “nothing lasts forever”: Any inning pitched by Joaquin Benoit, Slowest-Paced Pitcher On Earth.

  11. Smoking Loon

    June 7, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Victor appears to be cooking with gas all of a sudden. Nice.

    • Vince in MN

      June 8, 2013 at 7:15 am

      He’ll be in Delmon Young circa 2012 territory soon.

      • Smoking Loon

        June 9, 2013 at 1:02 am

        One more game like the other day might get him there. He’ll never be the post-season equal of Delmon “October” Young, however. V-Mart is a fluke, a bum. I predict that he’ll be out of baseball in a coupla years,

  12. Smoking Loon

    June 7, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    The Kipnis “double” was an error by Hunter. As difficult as he made it look, if the ball is in your glove and you can’t glove it, what good are you? Getting suspicious about his concentration out there. I really hope there is an official score change on that play. Those were unearned runs.

    • Jerry the Tiger Fan

      June 8, 2013 at 3:23 am

      I posted about Torii’s sharp decline in terms of defensive prowess a couple of weeks back. This is a guy who caught EVERYTHING that wasn’t hit over the wall in the outfield for both MINN and LAA. His dropoff defensively has been precipitous and perhaps that is one reason that the Angels let him walk. He looks downright Bosch-esque out there in RF this year. I know that Torii isn’t a spring chicken any longer, but damn has he declined in a major way out there.

      • Smoking Loon

        June 9, 2013 at 12:53 am

        Yeah, I disagreed with you then. The evidence since has accrued in your favor.

  13. Smoking Loon

    June 7, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Rumor has it that Cale Iorg is retiring from baseball. There goes the Peralta contingency plan.

  14. Jerry the Tiger Fan

    June 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Boy does Dave Dombrowski love him some pitching. His first seven picks in the draft were pitchers and 11 of his 19 picks so far have been hurlers. Its kind of strange from an organization that is so bereft of good positional prospects. If anything it is our starting pitching (and pitching overall in the minors compared to our positional prospects) that is our strength so I really wonder about double D’s drafts at times. He goes very heavy on pitching prospects just about every year and seems to ignore positions like second base and corner outfielders.

    • Smoking Loon

      June 9, 2013 at 12:59 am

      A lot of the pitching ends up being trade bait for (veteran) position players. That seems to be the method of preference. Only Dirks and Avila are homegrown among the starters. I don’t know if that 2 of 9 is terribly off the MLB norm or not. A bit low, probably.

      • Jerry the Tiger Fan

        June 9, 2013 at 6:34 pm

        Isn’t Infante home grown?? I thought that he came up thru our system and played a few years with the big club before stops in ATL and FLA before returning “home”.

        • Smoking Loon

          June 9, 2013 at 11:12 pm

          True, Infante is home grown. But not pure home grown. He’s been contaminated with FLA & ATL. Good contamination, though, it appears. Maybe they could send Alex away for a couple years and then bring him back.

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