Game 2014.54: Blue Jays 5, Tigers 3

17 games in 17 days and a 7-10 to show for it. It started off so well, with that sweep in Boston. The Tigers, following a long-awaited day off, return home for three against the Blue Jays starting Tuesday (7 PM, 7 PM, 1 PM), and won’t be doing any serious traveling again until June 24.

Detroit (31-22, 1st place Central, 3rd place AL) sends out Anibal Sanchez, probably their best bet for cooling off hot-hitting Toronto (34-24, 1st place East, 2nd place AL). Don’t look now, but the Blue Jays starter will be Drew Hutchison, and the fact that he’s a rookie and you’ve never heard of him should inspire fear. He’s been having some success, if that’s any comfort.

Let’s get to the hot-button issue for most Tigers fans these days right away: The Game Poster League standings. Sportsman that I am, I didn’t bring this up when I was way ahead.

Coleman 12-6
Smoking Loon 12-7
Kevin in Dallas 7-9

[Optional comedy interlude below]

Let’s have some stats, and tons of them, because it’s an off day before a night game. We begin with rankings, sans numbers, in RE24 and WPA, the two best measures of hitting/pitching effectiveness and situational win contribution, respectively.

RE24:WPA at 52

I’ll have a word on defense before I start throwing guys under the bus and off the team: Ian Kinsler (.996 FPCT, 1 error in 226 chances) and Alex Avila (a ridiculously good 43% CS, 1 PB, and 6 WP under a heavy 43-game workload) come to mind as the most consistently outstanding defensive contributors. Factor in the the solid shortstops (Tigers lead the AL in DP/G) and Austin Jackson in CF, and the Tigers are strong in the middle. To a milder degree, I see negatives at 3B and RF in Nick Castellanos and Torii Hunter. Incidentally, to the extent you can gather anything from what’s officially scored as an error, Verlander (5) and Sanchez (3) have been burned for 8 of the Tigers’ 20 ROE. 11 of the 17 unearned runs between ‘em, too. (But note that Verlander the fielder has done burned his own self twice.)

Back to the spreadsheet snip. You wouldn’t think that lesser hitters such as Avila and Jackson have done more winning with the bats than far better ones Davis and Hunter, but WPA does not lie. You might also not believe that Avila has been a (slightly) more valuable hitter than Jackson, but this has been true so far. A couple things that stand out on the pitching side are how things have brightened in the bullpen (4/7 pret-ty decent!) and how the top dog in the bullpen – Al Alburquerque – falls from grace in WPA by virtue of… well, I’m sure you can remember a few games that ended suddenly. And Scherzer still rocks in spite of recent difficulties.

Now who are those under-contributors? Six jump out at you, but four of them aren’t guys you’re going to kick off the team.

Justin Verlander: An outing like the last one and you forget how lousy he’d been overall. Which is as it should be, I suppose. You might say that JV is always better than his stats, even when the stats are good.
Joe Nathan: This is not what the Tigers bargained for, but it’s too early for worst-case scenarios. He’s scuffling, not tanking. Heavy-duty scuffling, though. What’s the problem, aside from the walks and HRs? Oh, maybe it is the walks and HRs.
Nick Castellanos: The Third Baseman Of The Future isn’t going anywhere (name even one Tigers 3B prospect). You don’t rush a guy to the majors to hem and haw about it. They’re committed. The Third Baseman Of The Future isn’t going anywhere… except back to the outfield, eventually. You heard it here first.
Don Kelly: The hitting is worse than I thought, but his defensive and overall utility value guarantee him a spot through the rest of 2014.

Now it gets interesting. Sort of.

Andrew Romine: Although he’s clearly a very good shortstop (and I’ve seen him get shortchanged by Miggy failing to scoop a couple times recently), is he a GREAT shortstop, the kind you can live with mostly abominable hitting from? No. The thing is, Romine makes a better utility infielder than Danny Worth. Worth is actually the guy on the bubble here. (Enter Eugenio Suarez, sooner than later.)
Phil Coke: Can’t he be an inning-eating middle reliever for the ones that get away early? Is he wasting a spot? Maybe. If there’s one guy on the bubble, here he is. But it’s been that way for a while now. <yawn> (Enter Luke Putkonen, Justin Miller, Joel Hanrahan, or someone, maybe even you.)

Statistical potpourri:

Pitching: Anibal Sanchez has not allowed a HR in 43 IP, and Joba Chamberlain is HR-free thru 23 IP… Ian Krol, 2.33 ERA. Ian Krol, 7 of 18 inherited runners allowed to score… Evan Reed, 5 DP induced in 18 opps. Nathan, 1 in 14… Chamberlain and Alburquerque feature gaudy 30% K rates. Krol and Coke, 16% and 11%… Nathan does have one of the lower BA-against at .234, and the OPS-against isn’t bad at .739. Hmmm… Detroit’s staff is 11th in the AL in strikeouts. That’s a switch.

Hitting: Only one guy isn’t sporting something above or close to the league average line drive %, and that would be Romine at 11%… When 6 regulars are striking out below the league average rate, that’s good for 2nd lowest in the AL. Avila remains extraordinarily bad at 35%, but he’s being chased by Andrew and Nick. We all know about VMart and strikeouts, but Kinsler is sitting at an excellent 8% himself… So the Tigers aren’t striking out and are belting line drives. Good hitting, in spite of a #13 rank in BB, but where are the runs? 16% of Detroit baserunners score, which is above league average (14%). There are some RISP problems, highlighted by Jackson (.125), Avila (.219, though he does have a .793 OPS here), Romine (.120, and 3 of 72 runners on have been scored by him overall), and Kelly (.211). Lots of RISP K’s here, collectively… Jackson, Rajai Davis, Castellanos, Avila, and Romine are to be commended for remarkably low GIDP rates, although I suppose the elevated K rate for the latter three contributes to that. Jackson and Davis have grounded into 2 double plays in 73 opportunities! Meanwhile, the usual 1-4 hitters all have elevated GIDP rates, though it’s nothing ridiculous (the Tigers are slightly better than league average as a team here)… Victor Martinez is fantastic, of course, the numbers speak for themselves, but just imagine if he wasn’t so darned SLOW. The singles that would be doubles, the runs he’d score (he scores 16% of the time as a baserunner, shame for a .390 OBP guy), the trailing runners who could advance farther, the infield singles that anyone else would get, the occasional double-play averted. It’s a kind of tax. I’m glad he’s hitting more HR. Despite a good deal of team speed, Detroit is below average at taking the extra base… I have opined that Davis is not a leadoff hitter, and I am wrong. Look at the OBPs of Davis and Kinsler vs. Hunter. Check out the dynamic baserunning stats of Davis and Kinsler, and you know they should be successive in the order as they usually are. But it should be more often. I would go so far as to say that Awesome-Us makes a mistake to bat Davis #9, ever. I used to think it was clever.

Just noticed this very interesting feature (is it new?): Could help you in your All-Star voting. Scroll down a bit and check it out (note the “Highlight a team” feature) to have a look at how the Tigers stack up against the Blue Jays (and the rest of the AL) position by position. You might be surprised.

74 Comments

  1. Smoking Loon

    June 2, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    The nice thing about the GPL is that you always want the other guy to win. This need not stop us from chiding Kevin about his mishandling of the Tigers. Some say he’s too much of a players manager (Old Milwaukee in the clubhouse *before* games, guys wearing Jams in bizarre displays of “team unity,” etc.) Others say he’s quite eccentric. Jeff Jones confided in me, off the record, that KiD is “obsessed with Verlander, never wants to talk about anyone else. Plus, he’ll leave the dugout in the middle of a game to go check in on the Rangers game. Even when we’re *playing* the Rangers!”

    To me, these are side issues. The main problem is that scores are being shown backwards (Tigers 2, Mariners 3?) and, occasionally, the order of the team logos is reversed (home team must be on the right, clearly). The whole system breaks down under this stress. To think that the Tigers could be 37-16 right now…

  2. StorminNorman$

    June 2, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Great info/research Loon. I agree with your assessments, especially about Davis and Kinsler batting 1 & 2 – since it really puts pressure on the opposing team if either (or both) of them get on base (and they both appear to be better than avg in that dept).

    • Smoking Loon

      June 2, 2014 at 11:19 pm

      Thanks. It didn’t occur to me until very recently that Davis #9 – Kinsler #1 and Davis #1 – Kinsler #2 isn’t six of one and half a dozen of the other. I think it could make a great deal of difference if it was Davis-Kinsler-Cabrera day in and day out.

      • Coleman

        June 3, 2014 at 12:27 am

        The best thing about Davis-Kinsler as 1-2 is that it means that Hunter is moved to 5, which means that Austin Jackson doesn’t bat there. Oh wait, not it doesn’t! Here’s why looking at stats is interesting. Everybody knows that Jackson is killing us in the 5-spot, but…

        Batting 5th:
        Jackson 97 PA .301 BA .767 OPS
        Hunter 61 PA .283 BA .695 OPS

        This skews even more in favor of Jackson when you consider that Hunter generally bats 5th against Left-handers, and Jackson against Right-Handers (because against lefties Davis bats 1st, Kinsler 2nd, and against righties Kinsler bats 1st, Hunter 2nd).

        This all has me scratching my head, it doesn’t match at all what I think I have observed.

        • Coleman

          June 3, 2014 at 12:34 am

          Stranger still, all small sample size warnings acknowledged:

          Jackson batting 5th: 93 PA, .301 BA, .767 OPS
          Jackson batting 6th: 106 PA, .198 BA, .655 OPS

          Huh?

          • StorminNorman$

            June 3, 2014 at 8:30 am

            Jackson remains an enigma, I thought he started out kinda promising (.300 in April with 13 BB’s, just .200 w/just 6 BB’s in May), putting the ball in play, not chasing balls out of the zone, not as many K’s – some really good AB’s; but a month into the season he seemed to have reverted back to 2011 AJ.

          • Smoking Loon

            June 3, 2014 at 8:07 pm

            Regarding Coleman’s enigmatic stats…

            Jackson bats 5th most often (though obviously not exclusively) when the so-called A team is out there, and possibly when something close to that A team is out there. Does he feel more pressure to be “the man” batting #6 with more “scrubs” in the lineup? Or is there some great benefit to him from batting behind VMart (same advantage for Hunter???)?

            • Vince in MN

              June 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm

              I think he is just prone to frequent slumps/hot streaks. For whatever reason(s) that has been his M.O. for his entire Tiger career anyway. You’d think by now this would have been figured out if there was a chance of him “taking the next step.” This might be just who he is.

              • Smoking Loon

                June 3, 2014 at 9:02 pm

                But it’s the difference between batting #5 or #6 this season we’re mystified by. Sample sizes are *not* small. .301 vs. .198. There’s a reason.

              • Vince in MN

                June 3, 2014 at 9:23 pm

                He’s hitting .350 at home, .152 on the road – hmmm.

              • Vince in MN

                June 3, 2014 at 9:51 pm

                Jackson should bat 5th in home games only – problem solved.

              • Smoking Loon

                June 3, 2014 at 10:12 pm

                Not a bad idea, Vince. 16 for 41 with 2 BB batting #5 at home. However, no HR, no RBI, only 2 runs. How about we just make him the 4th outfielder and start Davis in CF?

              • Smoking Loon

                June 3, 2014 at 10:13 pm

                OK, 3 runs. Still.

              • Smoking Loon

                June 3, 2014 at 10:14 pm

                And 2 RBI. I’m tired.

  3. jud

    June 3, 2014 at 12:40 am

    What is the RBI comparison between Hunter and Jackson in the 5 spot?..BA and OBA mean practically nothing because 6-9 are not driving Victor or Aj/Hunter in anyway…….

    Hey Loon..nice stuff . Thanks for doing!

    • Coleman

      June 3, 2014 at 12:45 am

      Jackson 6, Hunter 12. And 8 for JD Martinez in only 42 PA, so he has the most RBI/PA of the 3, despite his .243/.688 line. So the Jud-o-meter says JD should be in the 5-hole. Jackson has been outstanding this season on the sac flies though.

  4. jud

    June 3, 2014 at 12:46 am

    In the development of Casty or the underdevelopment of him as a third baseman is the large number of balls that go between him and the line. Even if he once in awhile gets to some he seldom gets the out..his range to his left actually gets into plays Romine would also make…so for the one or two or three he tracks down to his left Romine would get most of them…My concern is the large number of plays he fails to make to his right. And I am not talking about over the bag either….

  5. jud

    June 3, 2014 at 12:49 am

    It SEEMS like those Sac flies which have been very helpful to the team are AJ only RBIs

    • Smoking Loon

      June 3, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      I’m not positive, but I think that more than half of the 17 RBI were on outs.

  6. jud

    June 3, 2014 at 12:53 am

    There are prolly too any stats now but an interesting one to me would be RBI oppotunities converted with RISP….not just hits but the name of the game …R…B…I..s

    • Smoking Loon

      June 3, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      There are a number of ways to figure this. Included in RISP (bbref) splits are PA (opportunities) and RBI. Also, on the player’s season game logs page, on top, is the comparison to league average of RBI converted from opportunities (and the always interesting breakdown of who the batter drove in as well).

      What it’s really all about is raising the probability of runs scoring during an inning, improving the “base/out situation.” And of course there’s nothing like actually driving in the run for improving that situation, but there are various ways of doing it, which are accounted for in the stat I will soon mention. RE24 is your man here. Check out what it’s all about. It is a very telling stat, both within a single game and cumulatively.

  7. 80HD

    June 3, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Since the Tigers are in dire need of more offensive production my mind’s been wandering over where it might come from. The most encouraging development would be for someone in the dead end of the order to get hot. Bearing in mind that no one has the ability to predict anything, here’s how the candidates look to me.

    Alex Avila – Catching a staff of power pitchers with live fastballs he’s likely to be perpetually beat up by foul tips. He must always feel like he fell down a flight of marble stairs. A friend whose opinion I respect maintains Leyland ruined him overplaying him down the stretch in 2012. Maybe – never been the same since. I can’t see much improvement here but defense earns a pass.

    Andrew Romine – No stick. Couldn’t recognize a stick. ‘Nuff said.

    Austin Jackson – AJ always seems a little shaky in the attic. He starts thinking about it too much and the wheels come off (see 2013 ALCS). Even with demonstrated ability too much depends on which wires in his brain happen to be touching at the moment. Might hit .350 the rest of the way, might never hit another fair ball. Too hard to tell.

    Nick Castellanos – If he stops trying to pull junk on the outside corner and starts going the other way he could be it. I know I’ve seem him hit some rockets up the gap in right. There are TWO batting coaches to take turns explaining this – right? I remember Leyland describing him as “a different kind of cat” with respect to his confidence. With a couple of months to acclimate to the bigs and some energetic “counseling” I think he could be the man. Youth could help as the season grinds on.

    JD Martinez – The other players aren’t producing, maybe he can. How much worse could it be? He’s made some really nice plays in the OF, too. Problem is only opportunities will come in LF in place of Davis or spelling Hunter in RF and that’s not enough. And I’d like to see Hunter & Davis in the lineup.

    Others: Danny Worth – Sorry, deserves better, but no. Andy Dirks – A complete unknown. Any word lately?

    • Smoking Loon

      June 3, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      Well said. Worthy of being on top instead of in the comments section, not that there’s really above or below here. Good comment is not lesser than a good article. But still, good writing. That’s what I’m trying to say.

      • 80HD

        June 3, 2014 at 8:09 pm

        A humble thank you – made my day.

  8. StorminNorman$

    June 3, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    in case anybody was wondering about DD’s decision not to re-sign Jose Veras… looks like another wise move by DD:

    Chicago (Cubs) also welcomed Hector Rondon back from paternity leave and designated for assignment reliever Jose Veras, who was signed to a one-year, $4 million deal this offseason with the idea that he’d serve as the team’s closer. Instead he ended up saving zero games before being dropped with an 8.10 ERA in 13 innings.

  9. Only Tiger Fan in Mississippi

    June 3, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Hey Folks, tonight we are officially 1/3rd of the way thru the seasons. Lots of ups and downs but still on top with much work to do. Meanwhile KiD is my man to win the GPL; his breaks to check on the Rangers is well deserved!

  10. Smoking Loon

    June 3, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Kinsler
    Hunter
    Cabrera
    Martinez
    Martinez
    Kelly
    Jackson
    Avila
    Romine

    Sanchez

    • Smoking Loon

      June 3, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      Sorry, a bit late, I see. Got home from work after the start anyway. East, west, it’s frying my brain. I’m in the Central time zone. Gotta remember 7 = 6.

  11. Vince in MN

    June 3, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    It’s apparently Sanchez’ year to be the Tiger pitcher who doesn’t get any run support.

    • Smoking Loon

      June 3, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      Run support coming up in the 6th. I’m calling it.

      • Smoking Loon

        June 3, 2014 at 8:47 pm

        Well, that didn’t help. I’m out of ideas.

  12. Angus

    June 3, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    This would be the inning to get something started.

  13. jud

    June 3, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Well they got their day off…Wonder what the excuse will be for the slug offense ….

    • Smoking Loon

      June 3, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      Rust.

  14. Smoking Loon

    June 3, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    1-2-3 from Joba after a masterpiece – another one – from Anibal. Inspiring. Great game. No reason to gripe about the hitting (just yet). One swing of the bat…

  15. 80HD

    June 3, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Such a brilliant pitching performance tonight against the hottest hitting team in the league – be a real shame to waste it. Have to be careful not to start taking this personally. Probably not failing to score solely to irritate me.

    • Smoking Loon

      June 3, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      I don’t know. Wouldn’t put it past them. They’ve done it to me before.

  16. jud

    June 3, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Can’t wait to read Capt Smarty whine about this is just part of baseball and there is nothing humanly possible that can be done about it!!!

  17. Smoking Loon

    June 3, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    So does Nathan throw Avila under the bus now?

    • Smoking Loon

      June 3, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      Ditto Romine. Who maybe deserves it. Not helping yourself, Andrew.

  18. T Smith

    June 3, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Joe Nathan is horrible.

  19. Vince in MN

    June 3, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    I think I just figured out why Coke is still on the team.

    • StorminNorman$

      June 3, 2014 at 9:36 pm

      AMEN! I was thinking the same thing… at least Coke isn’t making $14M

      • Vince in MN

        June 3, 2014 at 9:40 pm

        Nathan is “only” making $9M, but $20M over two years.

  20. Smoking Loon

    June 3, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Krol??? Oh God. This is not good. There’s still chance to get out of this down one. Or there was. Mr. 7 of 18 IRS??

    • Smoking Loon

      June 3, 2014 at 9:37 pm

      I think Krol will walk in a run and come out.

  21. Bill

    June 3, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Nathan leaves to a huge chorus of well deserved boos!

    • Smoking Loon

      June 3, 2014 at 9:40 pm

      I can’t get too down on Nathan about this one, myself. Romine’s face must be burning.

      • T Smith

        June 3, 2014 at 9:45 pm

        You are a very generous man.

        The leadoff walk (imho) was inexcusable.

        • StorminNorman$

          June 3, 2014 at 9:46 pm

          …to TOR’s #9 hitter
          agreed

          • Only Tiger Fan in Mississippi

            June 3, 2014 at 9:50 pm

            So who closes our next game?

            • StorminNorman$

              June 3, 2014 at 10:02 pm

              Chamberlain would get my vote.

              though Worth might be an improvement over Nathan

              • Vince in MN

                June 3, 2014 at 10:11 pm

                Coke would be an improvement over Nathan at this point.

              • Smoking Loon

                June 3, 2014 at 10:18 pm

                Nathan will be out there in a closer situation tomorrow. No doubt about it. The following is unrelated to that:

                Yes, walking #9, no good, even if it was a close call for ball four. Romine wasn’t Nathan’s fault, though. And Lawrie’s HR is on Alburquerque – he allowed the winning runs, no matter who they are charged to.

  22. Angus

    June 3, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Starting to think Jonesy and Papa Grande made me drink less.

  23. Bill

    June 3, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Maybe we should call him José Nathan. – Papa nade

  24. T Smith

    June 3, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I heard Todd Jones was bartending somewhere down in Alabama… anyone know if he’s available? He can’t be that out of shape can he?

    • Vince in MN

      June 3, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      I think 3yrs/$36M would do it.

  25. Smoking Loon

    June 3, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Poor Alburquerque. Really good, but seems to have a knack for this sort of thing.

  26. Smoking Loon

    June 3, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Still a great game. Got my money’s worth, totally. About $0.80, but still.

  27. Coleman

    June 3, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Nathan’s officially a problem.

    • StorminNorman$

      June 3, 2014 at 9:49 pm

      I suspect (in typical MLB fashion) within the next week or so Nathan could be put on the DL for “tired arm” or something, when it’s really because of his severely bruised ego

      • Vince in MN

        June 3, 2014 at 10:04 pm

        I can see it now: “Tiger closer Joe Nathan was put on the 60-day DL today with a severely bruised ego and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.”

        • Smoking Loon

          June 3, 2014 at 10:19 pm

          Maybe it’s just a bout of “dead ego.”

  28. StorminNorman$

    June 3, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Nathan’s last 1 1/3 inning pitched (3 outings) 8 ER…hence ERA balloons up to 6.86.

    • Coleman

      June 4, 2014 at 2:42 am

      To be fair, this season Nathan can’t pad his stats against the Tigers

  29. Coleman

    June 3, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    JD!

    • Smoking Loon

      June 3, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      JD indeed. Good to “see” (I heard it).

  30. PHToy in HK

    June 3, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Will the sun ever come out again?

    • Smoking Loon

      June 3, 2014 at 10:56 pm

      There’s still joy in Mudville. It’s not like we just saw the final AB of the 2012 World Series or anything.

      • T Smith

        June 3, 2014 at 11:27 pm

        Yes, agreed.

        That said, I don’t want to hear four months from now that the sweep at Fenway–while historic–marked the pinnacle of the 2014 Tigers season.

  31. jud

    June 3, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    Think Joe will throw Joe under the bus

  32. Jim EggersUSMC

    June 4, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Eight inning pitchers duel, followed by a blowpen epic… YUCCCCK!