Game 2012.1 Opening Day

For, lo, the winter is past,

The rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth;

The time of the singing of birds is come,

And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

1:05pm ET. Who is headed out to the park? Where will you be watching?

1. Jackson, CF
2. Boesch, RF
3. Cabrera, 3B
4. Fielder, 1B
5. Young, LF
6. Raburn, DH
7. Peralta, SS
8. Avila, C
9. Santiago, 2B

2012 Predictions

49 out of 49 media members polled by ESPN picked the Tigers to win the Central, and 6 had the good sense to pick them to win the WS.  18 of them have the Angels winning the WS, and then 7 had each of the Rangers and Rays.

Curiously, only 1 person had the Tigers losing the WS.

8/8 SI writers have the Tigers winning the division, but no pennants here.

Yahoo!’s guys had a little more fun with their predictions (but all 3 picked the Tigers to win the Central).

So, what would have to go wrong which would prevent the Tigers from winning the division?

Last Minute Roster Updates

Word is that Inge is going to make the roster, bad groin and all. Updates below as we get them.

 

Will Brandon Inge Make the 25 Man Roster?

Should he and Will he are two different questions. Based on what I know of JL and his loyalty to veterans and unwillingness to change, I think Inge is a shoeo-in. Despite the fact that Dombrowski may be pushing the other way. But let’s see what we know:

Turner, Strieby and Berry (and 3 others) were sent down on Monday, so there goes my Quentin Berry for CF campaign.

Pitchers
Verlander
Scherzer
Fister
Porcello

Benoit
Balester
Dotel
Coke
Schlereth
Valverde

Bubble Pitchers
Below, Oliver and Smyly – It looks like there is room for only 1 out of these 3 on the opening day roster. I like Smyly – he’s had a great spring, despite yesterday’s setback. Though that didn’t phase his confidence. Below going tomorrow.

Villareal or Marte for the final pen spot.

C
Avila
Laird

IF
Fielder
Raburn
Peralta
Cabrera
Santiago

OF
Jackson
Young
Boesch
Kelly

Bubble Fielders
Inge or Worth
Dirks or Thomas (know that Thomas is out of options)

Like I wrote above, I think that Leyland is so loyal that he’ll stick with Inge, despite the arguments that Danny Worth is earning the job. And Worth is arguably playing for a starting job, not just a roster spot.

So let’s discuss.

Spring Training Box Scores

The Tigers’ 14-4 spring training record is one of the best in the majors, and one of the best in recent Tigers history. They haven’t lost back to back games all spring. Largely inconsequential, yes; but it’s better than 4-14.

Spring Training stats are generally poor performance predictors, but let’s see if a deeper look can reveal anything.

Ryan Raburn is pacing the Majors with 6 HR and has a 1.336 OPS. Raburn is hitting a HR every 6.5 ABs, and off of starting pitching too. Raburn has had good springs in the past, but never with this level of power (9/12 hits are for extra bases). Curiously, though, he only has 4 walks (one of them was an IBB). I’d prefer a little more patience.

Raburn’s 18 RBI are 2nd in the Majors, behind Delmon Young’s 19. DY has 10/19 XBH. I think the left field position is secure.

Offensively, Cabrera has been up to his old tricks, so let’s take a look at the defensive numbers. 1 error in 58 1/3 is good news, however it looks like he’s not getting to many balls (or to them quickly), as evidenced by his 1.23 RF and 1 DP. I know that we have limited data to work with, but all of the reports coming out of Lakeland have been pretty high on his D. I think that the jury is still out. Good news is that he should be ready for opening day.

After those those four, the hitters have been unremarkable, until you get to our old friend Brandon Inge. Inge has, offensively, been the worst hitter this spring, scraping out only 3 XBH in 43 PAs. His .502 OPS is less than 10 others’ SLG (of those who are playing regularly). The number questioning  how he makes this team year after year is increasing. Most of the Detroit press have conceded that he’ll be on the roster, but are starting to question the 2B job. Who knows, if the Tigers keep an extra OF (Patterson/Berry) then Worth may be the 2B guy.

Quentin Berry has played a pretty nifty CF, and it will be interesting to see if that translates into some time in the show this year. Let’s do a post on the just in/just out guys later this week.

It’s not the hitting that is winning all those games in Florida.

JV was featured in yet another TV spot, this time for MLB.com, where he predicted more complete games and hitting 107 (mph, I think). The more complete games is a fantastic goal for the season. Verlander has been very sharp this season striking out 20 in 20 2/3, but he has allowed 1+ first inning run in 2 out of his last 3 starts. Also, he’s getting significantly more ground outs this spring than usual…I’m not quite sure what to make of that. He’s going to throw 100 pitches on the 31st as his final warm-up for opening day.

Scherzer has been up and down in ST, but his last start out against a depleted Yankees line-up was pretty sick. Scherzer has struck out 21 in 20 IPs against only 5 walks, and he’s posting a 1.10 WHIP. He has hit 4 batters though. I don’t know if Scherzer is ready to be an ace, but this is his best ST by far.

But what about Fister as an ace? Fister’s first 2 STs were bad, to put it nicely. But this year he’s got a sub 1 WHIP (.90), 11Ks in 13 1/3, and a 5.5/1 K/BB ratio. He’s had 1 bad inning in 4 starts this spring.

The bullpen looks to be in mid-season form already. Everyone who should be on the 25 man looks great., other than David Pauley who only has 2 2/3 innings of work. I am particularly encouraged by Schlereth’s .100 BAA and 12ks in 9 IPs, though equally worried about his 5 BB.

I know that Inge talk is hot, I’ll put together a few notes on that later tonight so that we can keep a thread going through roster cuts.

DTW News and Notes 3-15-12

21 days away…

Jacob Turner has been shut down for a week with shoulder problems. I think “tendinitis” is code for “confidence reparation.”  I don’t think he’s gonna be the 5th starter to start the season.

Octavio Dotel is playing for this 13th team in 13 years, an ML record.  ESPN ran an amusing article on it a few days ago. Dotel comes across as an easy-going guy. I guess you have to be when you’ve played with 601 different teammates.  Did you know that his career K/9 is 10.9?

Ever wonder how those huge tiger statutes stay so clean?  Here they are getting refurbished.

Old Milt Wilcox has successfully moved on to his twilight career, and it may be better than his first one.

Thursday Links and an Open Spring Training Thread

– Your ML best 5-0 Tigers rolled to another win yesterday.  Andy Oliver pitched 3 shutout innings, walking 3 and striking out 3, and Miggy hit is first bomb of the spring to go along with a slick play coming in on a ball at third.  Will they ever lose?

– This is a little late for AJax to learn how to bunt, no?  Fangraphs rates the Tigers’ CFers as 20th best in the league, behind some unimpressive competition.

– And in today’s most interesting yet least surprising news, 47 year old Jose Canseco will not be playing in the Mexican Baseball League this year because of doping allegations.

 

Charting Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA

Last week I wrote about Baseball Prospectus’ 2012 PECOTA projections.  There was some great feedback from everyone, including Lee’s line which suggested that PECOTA isn’t so much projection for a specific player, but rather a projection for a similar player based on that player’s past performance and comparables.  (Lee runs Tiger Tales and his Beyond Batting Average is a great read for anyone trying to understand sabermetrics).   In light of this, what I wanted to do is take a little closer look at some of BPs 2012 projections, and discuss the accuracy of their 2011 projections for a few players. As Lee suggested, this may give us an idea on whether a regression or improvement is coming.

PECOTA projects quite a of information, but for consistency’s and brevity’s sake, I’m going to focus on OPS and WARP for hitters, and ERA and WARP for pitchers.  If there are other stats which you would like to compare for a player, let me know and I’ll pull them up.  Pitchers then Hitters, in no particular order.

Verlander – projected: 3.32 ERA, 5.5 WARP; actual: 2.40, 5.8.  BP projected a 3.05 ERA and 4.2 WARP for 2012, which would be his lowest WARP by a full run in the last 4 years.  I realize that Verlander’s 2011 was historic, but a full win less seems a bit extreme.

Scherzer – projected: 3.61 ERA, 3.6 WARP; actual: 4.43, 1.0.  I think that Scherzer falls nicely into the “due for a bounceback” bucket.

Valverde – projected: 3.37 ERA, 0.8 WARP; actual: 2.24, .7.  I don’t get why stud relievers have such low WARPs.  Valverde is currently at the top of my list of guys I’d like to share a beer or 10 with.

Porcello – projected: 4.40 ERA, 2.3 WARP; actual: 4.75, 1.1.  I think that everyone outside of Detroit still sees Porcello as a #2 starter.  I think that most of us think that this may be his last year to show it.

Cabrera – projected: .948 OPS, 4.2 WARP; actual: 1.034, 6.5.  I don’t know why anyone (including computers) bids low on Cabs.

Inge – projected: .694 OPS, 1.5 WARP; actual: .548 OPS, .1.  What I wouldn’t have given for a .694 OPS.

Jackson – projected: .704 OPS, 0.2 WARP; actual .681, 2.0.  PECOTA foretold doomsday for AJax mostly because of his outrageous 2010 BABIP of .396.  Well, he still had a .340 average on balls in play for 2011, so I don’t see that going away anytime soon.

Avila – projected: .720 OPS, 0.9 WARP; actual: .895/6.5.  I don’t know if PECOTA was more wrong about any player in 2011, definitely not any other player on the Tigers.  Avila’s tremendous season was buoyed by a .366 BABIP, so a return to normal there will probably lead to a regression in 2012 (PECOTA says .790/3.2).

Boesch – projected: .726 OPS, -0.1 WARP; actual: .799, 2.2.  Boesch’s 2011 projections were largely based on his atrocious 2nd half of 2010.  His improved eye coupled with a healthy season would give me hope that he could easily surpass the .765/1.4 2012 projections.

Fielder – projected: .922 OPS, 3.9 WARP; actual: .981, 5.3.  Fielder has a disappointing 2010 relative to 2009, which helps to explain why BP was aiming a little lower in 2011, but his 2012 projected (.952/5.5) is inline with a superstar who is 28.

Who do you guys see as over/under performing based on last year’s stats?

 

Two More Playoff Teams Added

Beginning this season, MLB and the players association have approved a one-game wild card round between the 2 teams with the best records in each league who are not division winners.

It makes it that much harder for a team who did not win their division to make it to the WS, though we do have the possibility that a 3rd place team could win a championship.

Rod Allen is a Top 10 Broadcaster, and Other News (Updated)

Other than the breaking news from yesterday that some people are entrusting their professional livelihood to Gary Sheffield, it’s been spring training as usual for the Tigers.

The pressing lineup questions right now are 2B and a 5th starter.  Not surprisingly, Leyland isn’t saying anything about the latter, and I don’t think anyone had enough brass to ask him about the former in the past few days.  Is the fifth starter even on the roster yet?

For any of you who plan to visit the Tigers in Lakeland, a local site published a nice intro to Tigertown.  Did you know that the Tigers are the team with the longest-standing spring training site?

The title of this ESPN story on AJax is a little ironic.

About that tease…

FanGraphs is running an interesting thread on TV broadcaster ratings.  You can read about the inception here, and then check out #31, #30-#21, and #20- #11 (as they are counting backwards). Mario and Rod have not yet made an appearance, which means that they have made the top 10. There has to be some merit to these ratings, as Hawk Harrelson is so despised that the ChiSox ended up last in the rankings, even with the brilliant Steve Stone in the booth.  This is also where I found this gem.  I can’t wait until FanGraphs does it for radio.

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Here’s the #10 – #1 countdown which places Rod & Mario 8th, and the final standings.  Monday FanGraphs will start balloting for the radio guys.

Apparently, Prince Fielder hit a 611 foot bomb yesterday.  Though I don’t think we should be counting the roll.

PECOTA 2012

PECOTA is the player performance projection system developed by Nate Silver and subsequently purchased by Baseball Prospectus.  I don’t have any documented support for this, but I think that it is safe to say that it is widely regarded as the best player forecaster around.  Before we get into the Tigers projections, realize that PECOTA is a useful tool, and the best around, but the system is significantly wrong more than it is significantly right.  (More on that in my next post)

But hey, it’s spring training.  This is what we do.

I’d likely be breaking a few copyright laws if I reposted all of the Tigers forecasts, so I’ll stick to the key ones.  But you should pick up a copy for yourself.  The book is only $14.97 on Amazon. There is significantly more info that what I’m using below.

First of all, it is worthwhile to note that BP is high on the Tigers in respect of the thoughts that a) they have their (now 3) best players at the top of their payroll, and in the prime of their careers (which is unusual), b) they have young arms, and c) their division rivals should be weak for the next few years.  The window is now.  The Tigers are sorely lacking in the OF and minor league depth, but those should not prevent the boys from competing for a few years.

Avila – BP sing his praises by saying that there are “no weaknesses in his game” and even a “significant drop in offensive value will leave him among the best” catchers in the AL.  PECOTA projects to 15 HR and 57 RBI on 75 less PAs that in 2011, but an .890 OPS and 3.2 WARP.

Prince – one of the things that always bugs me about Baseball Prospectus is that they never have any of the late January signings/injuries reflected in the book.  I don’t know anything about publishing, but I would think that they could update that stuff with a late February ship date.  Does anyone have any insight into this?  Anyway, BP projects another monster year for Fielder (these are taking into account Milwaukee park effects) with 39 HR, 104 RBI, a .952 OPS and a 5.5 WARP (which I think is the 2nd highest WARP projection for 2012, behind Pujols’ 5.9…I think there is some sort of a cap on PECOTA WARP, because I never see any projections about 6, though each year a handful of players end up easily surpassing 6 – Matt Kemp came in at 9.2 for 2011…same thing with pitcher wins, more on this in a later post).

Rayburn – 395 PAs, a respectable .779 OPS and a 1.8 WARP.

Peralta – BP goes on the record as saying that last year they were dead on for questioning the Inge signing last year, an dead wrong for questioning the Peralta one.  15 HR, 63 RBI, .739 OPS and a 2.4 WARP, down from 3.9 last year.

Miggy – BP notes that he’s at the peak of his career, and is signed through 2015.  31 HR, 102 RBI, .947 OPS and a 5.4 WARP, each of which would be worse than his 2010 and 2011 numbers (other than HR – he hit 30 last year).

Inge – 359 PAs resulting in a .224 average and .662 OPS, with a WARP of .8.

Boesch – BP writes that he has good upside, especially at his salary level.  451 PAs, 15 HR, .765 OPS and a 1.4 WARP (down from 2.2 last year).

AJax – BP called his prodigious BABIP (BA on balls in play) drop from 2010 to 2011, but sees an improvement in 2012 with higher Avg./OBP/Slg. and less strikeouts.  Though reduced PAs will lead to a slightly lower 2012 WARP of 1.7 (compared to 2011’s 2.0).  BA suggests that AJax would be a great 7 hole guy where his power could be more encouraged.

JV –  “There’s nothing our words can add to the majesty you’ve witnessed…”  BP cautions and calls attention to his well-known IPs and pitch count, but ends with “For all we know, he might just get better.  Enjoy.”  15 W, 7 L (I think there is a PECOTA rule against > 16 wins, much like the WARP > 6), 3.05 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 191 Ks in 202 IPs with a 4.2 WARP.

Fister – 175 IPs, 3.84 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and a 1.9 WARP.

Scherzer – BP falls in the the category of everyone and believes that Scherzer has ace stuff.  In fact, they give him a 22% chance of having a breakout year (meaning that production will improve by at least 20%), which is high for an already top of the rotation starter.  169 IPs, 161 Ks, 3.93 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.  WARP is projected to be 1.7.

Porcello – 28% chance of a breakout for Porcello, which is more likely a result of his mediocrity to date than an endorsement.  158 IPs, 81 Ks, 4.36 ERA and 1.37 WHIP with a WARP of .8.

Turner – “…he can become Rick Porcello with more punchouts.  That’s even better than it sounds.”  Only 48 IPs, 4.74 ERA and 1.45 WHIP.

Dotel – “..a worthwhile low-cost pickup to work the 7th” projects to 46 IPs, .290 BABIP, 3.67 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and a 0.6 WARP.

Perry – Oh yeah, he’s gone  Colin Balester doesn’t project to much better – 26 Ks in 41 IPs with a 5.39 ERA and 1.54 WHIP for a -0.4 WARP.

Benoit – BP is still critical of the high-dollar, multi-year deal for a setup guy, but admits that he one of the best change-ups in the league closer-level stuff.  3.05 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 53 Ks in 50 IPs and a WARP of 1.0.

Valverde – 29 saves (odd, because I think BP projects the Tigers to win 92-95 games), 63 Ks in 61 IPs, a 3.20 ERA and 1.22 WHIP for a WARP of 1.1

 

The Prince Fielder Era Begins

Ahhhhh, pitchers and catchers…

You ready for your Prince Fielder bp photo/video overload?  ESPN covers it here.  Even the local guys in Lakeland had to work.

So let’s throw some predictions on Prince out there.  I’ll set the over/under on HR at 38, RBI at 112, and OPS at .940.  Your thoughts?