Luck and Fieldability

David Pinto from Baseball Musings has begun to release the 2005 Probabilistic Model of Range (PMR) data. Today he posted a table of which pitchers had more outs than expected on balls in play (or the lucky/unlucky) as well as rankings of the expected percentage of outs on balls in play (how easy was it to field behind a pitcher).
Continue reading Luck and Fieldability

Warm Tiger Memories

This time of year is always tough for me as a baseball fan. The past two years the Tigers have kept things interesting in January with the signings of Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez. Miguel Tejada rumors were about the closest that Detroit fans have come to excitement since the winter meetings. Given that, I was trying to muster up some baseball enthusiasm by looking back on my favorite Tiger memories from 2005.

Opening Day

This is an easy one. Opening Day, by virtue of it’s embodiment of the beginning of summer always receives consideration. Even a bad Opening Day is still Opening Day. This year however was a whole lot of fun. On an unseasonably warm day, Dmitri Young went yard 3 times, and Jeremy Bonderman effortlessly demolished the Royals en route to a 11-2 thrashing of the Royals.
Continue reading Warm Tiger Memories

Sickels Top 20 in Review

John Sickels has posted his review of his 2005 top 20 Tiger prospects. Comparing last year’s list with what transpired, it is easy to say that the Tigers farm system is definitely looking better. Going into 2005, Justin Verlander, who hadn’t even pitched professionally was Sickels top-rated Tiger prospect. While Verlander had a very promising season, I think the preseason ranking had as much to do with the Tigers lack of talent as it did with Verlander’s potential.

While some guys such as Eric Beattie and Collin Mahoney turned in less than impressive seasons, several other prospects more than compensated. Jordan Tata and Brent Clevlen had huge years for Lakeland. Then there was the draft that yielded promising prospects and performances from Kevin Whelan and Clete Thomas – and that doesn’t even include the potential of Cameron Maybin.

Going in to 2006 the Tigers will be losing Curtis Granderson and Chris Shelton off the prospect list, but for all the right reasons. At least right now it looks like the Tigers farm system actually has some solid performers instead of (or at least in addition to) guys with potential.

Light week

Barring any transactions, it looks like this will be a pretty light week. In the meantime, I invite you to look back to March where I asked everyone to make “bold predictions” about what would transpire for the Tigers this season. Here is the link to the posting, and the predictions are in the comments.

Clearly, I expected a little more power from Craig Monroe.

Also, if you are a fellow blogger (or if you’re thinking about becoming one) I invite you to check out another project of mine – Baseblogging. It is a blog about baseball (and other sports) blogs & bloggers. The site is very new, so content is on the light side – but that will be taken care of soon enough.

2005 in Review – Tigers run distribution

Earlier in the season I took a look at Detroit’s run distribution. By run distribution I’m talking about the frequency with which they scored (or allowed) a certain number of runs per game. I’ve updated the analysis to include a full season’s worth of games.

The chart below shows the Tiger’s performance given the number of runs the offense generated. Wins are indicated with the orange bars, and blue denotes losses. The yellow line shows the cumulative percentage of games played where the team scored less than x runs. That explanation isn’t the least bit clear, so here is an example using two runs: The Tigers scored 2 runs 21 times (total of wins and losses), and they only managed to win 3 (orange bar) of those games. Furthermore, the Tigers scored two runs or fewer nearly 30% of the time (the yellow line). For comparative purposes, I did the same for all of baseball in 2005.


What I notice first is the large spike at three runs. The Tigers 3 or fewer runs in approximately half of there games, where as major league baseball was held to that mark 40% of the time. In addition, they didn’t fare as well as Major League Baseball at corresponding run levels. At two runs scored, MLB had a .253 winning percentage compared to .143 for Detroit. At three runs it was .347 for MLB and .290 for Detroit. In fact the only run levels where Detroit met or exceeded MLB were at 6 and 8 runs.

Extrapolating a little further, if you look at MLB’s winning percentage at for each scoring level, and apply it to the Tigers then Detroit should have won 76 games. Which leads us into a similar analysis of runs allowed.

Like the runs scored graph, the runs allowed graph has a significant spike. Unfortunately the runs allowed spike is at 4, where the runs scored was at 3. Where the expected wins were typically lower across the board in terms of runs scored, they were inline for the most part for runs allowed. In fact, virtually all the differences in expected and actual wins for runs allowed can be attributed to 2 & 3 run games. When the pitchers allowed 2 or 3 runs, the Tigers won 6 games fewer than expected.

While the pitching staff did implode during the month of August, they were largely effective. Their ability to keep the team in the game was inline with that of other teams. However they weren’t quite good enough to compensate for the offense. Conversely, the offense wasn’t quite good enough to compensate for a slightly below average pitching staff.

Other posts wrapping up the Detroit Tigers’ 2005 season:
Days, Dollars and the DL
Runs Created
A model of inefficiency
Treemapping Win Shares

Tiger Win Shares 2005

Next in my series of recapturing the glory/trauma of the 2005 season I take a look at Win Shares. Other posts so far in the series include DL Time, Runs Created by Position, and Offensive Efficiency.

The image you see below is a treemap. Offense is represented by the light orange boxes, pitching is by the middle tone of orange, and defense is the darkest shade. (For more on treemaps and some earlier examples click here or here)

Treemap of 2005 Tiger Win Shares

Inge led the team in Win Shares with 16.7. He also had by far the most playing time so the feat isn’t that astounding. Chris Shelton led the way with offensive win shares with 12.8.

Jeremy Bonderman led the staff in pitching win shares with 9.5 while Jason Johnson and Mike Maroth each contributed 8.5 It’s worth noting that during his time with the Tigers Kyle Farnsworth accumulated 5.9 win shares.

Pudge’s biggest contribution came via defense where he led the team with 8 win shares (although from what I’ve seen defensive win shares favor catchers).

As a team, 50% of the Tigers win shares came from the offense, while a third came from pitching and the remainder were defensive.

If you’re interested in perusing more win shares data, or for an explanation of win shares, check out the Hardball Times. And if you’re really interested in learning about win shares, it is probably best to go right to the source and get the Bill James book – Win Shares which describes the measure and methodology. (FYI – That’s an Amazon affiliate link which puts a few coins in my pocket if you choose to purchase the book)

A Model of Inefficiency

It was a familiar scene for Tiger fans this season. A runner gets to third base with less than two outs. The next batter would invariably seem to do one of three things, a strikeout, a sharp ground ball to third, or a pop out to second. Once that second out was secured, the final out would be a fairly deep fly ball that would have been quite useful one out before. The Tigers seemed to have an uncanny ability to ruin great scoring opportunities in 2005. But was this really the case, or did it just seem that way?

The first thing I did was to take a look at the teams performance with RISP. The Tigers batting average with RISP was a very respectable .273 which was good enough for 6th in the American League. The problem was despite a decent average, the OBP in the same situation was a dismal .335 which was next to worst. Now I won’t go all sabremetric and say that a walk is as good as a hit in these situations. Clearly, a hit is more likely to score a runner than a walk is. However, I think everyone would agree that not making an out, and having an additional runner get on only increases your scoring potential. The other problem is that the nature of outs the Tigers were making wasn’t conducive to run scoring. The Tigers had the 4th most strikeouts with RISP, despite ranking 11th in plate apperances in that same situation.

So was the Tigers biggest problem getting runners on to drive in, or were they especially inefficient at it as well? Below is a table showing TBW (Total Bases + Walks) and REA (Run Efficiency Average). TBW is essentially a summation of a team’s offensive events. REA is simply runs divided by TBW – which gives an indication of how effectively teams cashed in on their offensive events. For more information on TBW and REA, please check out this article by Tom Tippett.

While the Tigers are middle of the pack in TBW, they are near the bottom in terms of efficiency. Next I wondered what the impact of home runs would be on this measure. Afterall, the Tigers play in a park that discourages homers especially for right handed hitters (of which the lineup was heavily tilted towards). Plus, while a run scoring from a home run still counts (as do the runs on base) I was more interested in seeing the teams ability to get the runners they have home.

I modified REA (I call it REA-2) to take out the home runs. By “take out” I removed the homers from the TBW total (or 4 TBWs for every homer) and I subtracted the home runs from the run total as well.

According to REA-2, Detroit is the least capable of getting their baserunners home. Now I don’t know if this means anything, because I just made up REA-2, but it seems to make some sense (feel free to poke holes in it). It serves to further highlight that the Tigers were very inefficient.

So why were they so inefficient? My guess is that it was a combination of their poor on base percentage (or the ability to make outs) short circuiting rallies, a lack of team speed, an abnormally high strike out rate given the team’s other offensive characteristics, and possibly some bad luck. This team managed to combine several attributes that when isloated aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately they weren’t isolated. They were a slow team that didn’t hit for a ton of power. They relied on the home run in a park that discourages it. They don’t take walks, and they don’t make contact. The result is an offense that was capable of great things some of the time, but struggled more than their share.

2005 in Review – Runs Created

I have a number of posts planned to take a look at the 2005 season. The first of which is a look at runs created by position.

I apologize for the size of the table below, but I wanted to take at how productive each position was this year compared to last year. I also wanted show who was producing what. The 2004 season is on the left, and 2005 is on the right.

(EDIT: I’ll try to fix this later, but the table is unreadable when you view it in a browswer because it is too big. If you want to see it, the best bet is to right-click and save it then view the JPG. Sorry about making it so difficult)
(EDIT 2: In my latest attempt to fix it, I uploaded an older version. I’m going to take the table down at this point, and I’ll fix it this evening. Sorry again)
(EDIT 3: OK, I think it’s fixed.)

RC Chart

What becomes readily evident is that the Tigers failed to improve significantly at any position offensively, while experiencing significant declines at catcher, shortstop, and to a lesser extent centerfield.

While declines at shortstop were to be expected, getting 50% of the previous year’s production was a significant drop-off. The decline is of course attributable to Carlos Guillen’s injury, the fact that he probably couldn’t reproduce the previous year, and Omar Infante’s poor play.

Catcher was the other large drop-off. Like with Guillen, expecting Pudge to reproduce the previous season – regardless of the weight loss – wasn’t realistic. However, Pudge’s inability to take a walk, his dip in batting average, and his resulting slugging percentage proved to be a huge hole in the lineup.

I was actually surprised to see that from an offensive perspective, the Tigers got 20 fewer runs from centerfield. I was a huge proponent of letting Alex Sanchez go. Unfortunately, the Ordonez injury forced Nook Logan into the lineup where he consumed 57% of the plate apperances despite poor production. While Curtis Granderson was a very nice addition, he was only in center a quarter of the time.

First base was an interesting position in that despite terrible numbers from Carlos Pena the first two months of the season, the position ended up essentially the same as 2004. Thanks to Pena’s renaissance and Chris Shelton’s emergence the team managed to get acceptable run generation.

Aside from catcher, the position that was most disappointing was right field. While declines were expected at short and catcher, right field was to be the position where the biggest gains would be made. Unfortunately Magglio Ordonez only had half of the PA’s in right. And while his production was decent, it wasn’t at the level that most had hoped for. So rightfield was pretty much the same as 2004, but the Tigers were definitely counting on more production.

When looking at the offense performances from this perspective, it’s hard to see how this team would be expected to win more games than last year. I’ll be taking additional looks at the offense, as well as the defense and pitching in the coming weeks.

Days, Dollars, and the DL

In the first of what will be a depressingly long series titled “What went wrong 2005” we’ll take a look at the injuries the Tigers have sustained.

While the Tigers have a higher payroll then most of their AL Central counterparts, their record is better only than the Royals. However, this season is a prime example of A)Why expectations shouldn’t be set by looking at dollars spent, and B)The value of young cheap players.

Below is a table showing the days and dollars that the Tigers have lost to the disabled list this year.

Now the Tigers payroll has been reported to be between $69-$75 million this year (depending on when you look and such). In any more than a quarter of the Tigers payroll has been to players who haven’t been contributing.

Now in all fairness, there was very little expected out of Bobby Higginson, Colby Lewis, Gary Knotts, and Fernando Vina this season. As a matter of fact, if not for the 60 day DL, the Tigers probably wouldn’t have been paying for Knotts or Lewis. In the case of Higginson and Vina, the players probably would have both been released but in each case it was cheaper to retain the players and let the insurance kick in.

On the other hand, the two free agent signings who were expected to help improve the team, Magglio Ordonez and Troy Percival, have combined to miss an entire season. (Maggs salary came from ESPN.com, I don’t think that’s the correct number, but it’s what I had). Also, the Tigers received diminished production from the shortstop position with Carlos Guillen ailing.

Now am I making excuses? Sure I am. The Tigers injuries did have a negative impact on the team. And these are just the guys on the DL. Dmitri Young’s various ailments have sidelined him at various times. Then there is Carlos Pena, who was making $2.575 million but spent 2 1/2 months in Toledo.

But the lesson here is that aging free agents can be a risky proposition. Ordonez isn’t ancient, but the days of expecting him to play everyday are probably gone. Carlos Guillen and Rondell White have had a history of being injury prone. Troy Percival and Bobby Higginson were both pretty close to the end of their careers coming into this year.

Injuries happen to every team, and more expensive injuries happen as well. The Tigers need more talent, and they’ve found some in the minors. But they are still more than one or two players away from being a playoff team, so they will probably need to add additional talent through free agency this year. Once again unfortunately the Tigers will probably be in a position where they have to overpay for free agents that other teams are hesitant to sign. And once again they will probably be susceptible to injury.

One Run Bummin

With the Tigers dropping to 0-5 in one run games this year, the fans are getting restless. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the Tigers were 12-27 last year in one run contests. Of course it is necessary to assign blame. Typically success or failure in close games is attributed to the bullpen, the manager, clutch hitting, and luck. While there maybe some element to each of those, I’m more inclined to attribute it too luck. Also, the other tenet that is always voiced is that “good teams win those close games.” But is that true?

Using data from Retrosheet, I looked at every team’s performance in one run games from 1970 to 1993. The result is 903 team-seasons of data to look at. The first thing I wanted to look at was if good teams, that is teams with high winning percentages, performed well in one run games as well. The chart below shows a plot of one-run winning percentage against overall winning percentage.

You can see that there is a linear trend, and the resulting correlation is .57. (here’s a primer on correlations: two sets of data are compared and given a score. The score is between -1 and 1. The closer the number is to -1 or 1, the stronger the correlation. A value of 0 indicates no correlation) Of course a corerlation would be expected because the record in one run games contributes to the overall winning percentage. On average teams have one-quarter to one-third of their games be decided by a run or fewer, so the correlation makes sense.

To look at it another way, I plotted each one-run winning percentage against non one-run winning percentage.

This graph lacks any sort of linear relationship. The correlation between the two is non existent with a r-squared of .085 (EDIT: I rechecked and the R-squared value is .29. So the relationship isn’t non-existent, just weak). My interpretation of this is that the teams that fare well in the majority of their games are the better teams. The fact that there isn’t a relationship between the performance in one run games and non one run games leads me to believe that good teams aren’t defined by their performance in the close ones. Good teams can have great seasons by performing well in one run games (ie the 1984 Tigers were 104-58 overall, and 25-11 in one-run games). Similarly a marginal team can have a good season by performing well in tight games. From this it seems that teams are deemed good by winning close games, and not that teams win close games because they are good.

The thing to remember with one run games, is that both teams are within a run of the win. Because the games are tight a lot of emphasis is placed on managerial moves at the end of the game, the performance of the bullpen, and clutch hitting. Given that there will always be tradeoffs. Did a team that came back from a deficit do so because of their clutch hitting or a failure of the other team’s bullpen? Where do you assign credit or blame? Similarly with managerial moves, the manager can call the correct strategy only to have the players fail to execute it. On the other hand, the manager can make some bad decisions that payoff. Luckily there is something easy we can turn to: luck.

If the ability to win close games was a skill, one would expect teams to be able to repeat it year to year. While personnel and managers may change from season to season, teams generally return largely intact. Using this assumption, I took a look at if there was a correlation between a team’s performance one year and the subsequent year.

As you can see there is no correlation from one year to the next. The r-squared value of .040. I also looked to see if things were more correlated out at the extremes, like the ability for a really good or bad one-run team to repeat their performance. Even at the extremes there was no correlation (~ .075). This leads me to believe that performance in one run games has more to do with luck and less to do with skill.

So what does this mean for the Tigers who’s .325 one-run winning percentage was the 13th worst since 1970? Since it is pretty rare for a team to perform that badly once, chances are the Tigers will do better. Of the 83 teams who had a one-run winning percentage less than .400, only 4 were worse the following season. In fact, of those 83, forty of them posted a .500 or better winning percentage in one-run games the following year. Now the Tigers 0-5 start this season has put them in a hole for finishing over .500, but the Tigers stand a good chance of improving over last year. Furthermore, much of it will come down to luck as opposed to a failure of the offense, bulllpen, or the manager.

Previewing the Offense – Catcher, Outfield, and DH

Time to wrap up the season preview with catchers, outfield, and DH. The other previews are linked to below:
Rotation
BullPen
Offense-Infield

Catcher
The desperate Tigers gave a desperate Pudge $40 million dollars last year and everybody seemed to benefit. Rodriguez was instrumental in the Tigers return to the 70 win range, and found himself in the MVP race after batting .500 in June. His RC27 was 7.37 last year which was markedly higher than his previous 3 years (6.78, 6.98, 6.11). Pudge reported to camp substantially lighter this year, and it remains to be seen what effect it will have on his performance. It appears that most of the weight Pudge lost was in the midsection that contributed to his nickname. As such, I wouldn’t expect a lack of bat speed. Like Carlos Guillen, he probably won’t be able to replicate last season, however he’ll still be very good. I’m also hoping that a “not-so-Pudge” will be able to log more playing time as well. A RC27 of 6.5 should be attainable over 140 games, meaning his RC total should be 101.

Former Met Vance Wilson will be assuming back up duties this year. His career RC27 is 3.7 which seems reasonable. Over the remaining games Wilson should have 9 RC.

Catcher: 110 Runs Created
Change From Last Year: +5

Outfield and DH
I was saving this for last for the sole reason that I really have no idea how playing time will be allocated. When Trammell kept Higginson, that really through things out of whack. Instead of looking at each outfield position seperately, I’ll look at it as a group, and then explain what I expect from each player.

Below is a table with my best guess at playing time allocation:

Magglio Ordonez
He was the easiest part of this exercise. He’ll be playing right field or DH. I really think that the knee is fully recovered. Given his history of health prior to last year, I think he’ll play the bulk of the season without incident. However, I think Tram will be cautious and “rest” him at DH about once a week or so. His RC27 the last 3 years was 5.94, 7.55, and 8.29. The 5.94 came last year and isn’t probably indicative. I expect he’ll bounce back from that, but be adversely effected moving from Cellular One to Comerica and am forecasting a RC27 of 6.5.

Craig Monroe
I’m expecting big things from Monroe this year. Though his performance the last two seasons differed substantially, the net result was still pretty good. Defensively I’m not expecting a gold glove, but I think the ability he does have, and his willingness to learn will make him passable in center. Two years ago his RC27 was 4.3 and it improved to 6.0 last year. At age 28, I think he’s got a little room to improve and I’m projecting a 6.1 in 150 games across the three outfield positions.

Rondell White
I like Rondell. He seems to get a long with everybody in the clubhouse. He’s a pretty steady performer. And he really seems to enjoy being a Detroit Tiger. However, defensively he’s weak, and at 33 with his history of injury I think 115 games is realistic. His RC27 dropped from 5.7 to 5.2 last year. Despite his great spring, I’m expecting it to drop a little more to 5.0.

Bobby Higginson
The fact that Bobby made the team is pretty surprising. In fact, I had half of a “Closing the Books on Bobby” post already written. That being said, Higginson does have some value as a left handed pinch hitter in a lineup that is heavily righthanded. He won’t get the game breaking hit with his sub .400 slugging percentage, but he should be able to keep a rally alive given his ability to talk a walk. I don’t think he’ll be getting a ton of starts, and barring an injury I think he’ll be gone before June. His RC27 was 4.55 last year, and I’d expect about the same this year.

Marcus Thames
All spring you heard Trammell talking about guys having to “earn it.” Thames had a huge spring, but lost out to Higginson. I think I may be low on my playing time predictions for Thames, but seeing as he isn’t even on the big league club yet I wasn’t sure how much to put him down for. A RC27 of 5.0 seems reasonable. If he exceeding that, he’ll probably be getting himself some more playing time.

Nook Logan
Logan will get the occasional start in center, but by and large he will be a pinch runner and late inning defensive sub. He managed a surprising .340 OBA in limited time last year. That earned him a RC27 of 3.9. I don’t expect he’ll hit quite that well again and have him at 3.5.

Curtis Granderson
I don’t know if he’ll be the savior in centerfield everybody is hoping for or not, but he should be decent. I really have very little history to go on here. I do think he’ll be in the majors before the September call-ups. I’m taking a shot in the dark on a RC27 of 4.5.

Dmitri Young
This leaves about 125-130 games for Young at DH (with him picking up about 15 games at first). I covered Dmitri briefly in the Infield section and I’m projecting a 6.0 RC27 for him next year.

Outfield: 307 Runs Created
Change From Last Year: +39

DH: 107 Runs Created
Change From Last Year: +26

Wrapping it All Up
So in total, I have the Tigers offense scoring 896 runs this year. Last year that would have been good enough for third place. Now each player prediction on its own seemed plausible, but the total seems a little optimisitic to me. Combined with the 59 run improvement I have in store for the pitching staff, and their pythagorean record becomes 91-71. While it would make that season ending series in Minnesota very interesting, I think a 90 win season would be pretty much best case.

I expect the Tigers to settle in with a win total of about 83, but anything from 79-86 wouldn’t really surprise me. A win total anywhere in the range would probably clump them with Cleveland and Chicago. So they could finish anywhere from second to fourth. I think they are better than Chicago, and just a hair behind Cleveland so I’m picking them to finish 3rd.

My biggest concern heading into this year is the defense. It was awful last year, and the Tigers didn’t really make substantial moves to improve it. Yes, Eric Munson is gone, but Munson was only making errors for half a season at one position. Also gone is Alex Sanchez, but he has been replaced with a corner outfielder. Add in Carlos Guillen, who was slightly above average last year, probably losing some range due to his knee injury and the team outlook isn’t that good. The toll the defense takes on a young pitching staff could be substantial.

Speaking of young pitching, I’m most excited to see what Jeremy Bonderman can do this season. He’s poised to make “the leap.” Whether or not it happens remains to be seen. I’m also curious to see how Tram manages this year. He’s acknowledged that he doesn’t have a speed team, and hopefully his small ball tendencies will continue to wane.

In any case, enough previews and predictions. Let’s Play Ball!

In UPN vs. Tigers – the Fans Lose

It was reported last week that UPN 50 and the Detroit Tigers have broken off negotiations to broadcast Tiger games. UPN 50 has been the Tigers over-the-air broadcast partner since 1995, and they have typically aired 25-40 games each of those years. Unless things change drastically over the next 3 weeks, non-cable subscribers will be left out. How can a 10 year relationsihp deteriorate and what does it mean for the fans?

First we’ll take a look at this from the Tigers’ perspective. Last year they had a significant bounce back in fan interest. Attendance jumped by over half a million, and television ratings rose appreciably. Mike Illitch committed $87 million to Troy Percival and Magglio Ordonez to fix some areas of need. Meanwhile, the Tigers didn’t lose any significant pieces over the offseason. They have a legitimate shot at finishing with a winning record and a realistic chance at competing for the division. The Tigers, needing to generate revenue to offset the increase in payroll and pay down building debt, figure they can push for an increase in their television contract.

On the other side of the table is UPN 50. Every year that Channel 50 has aired Tiger games the team has finished with a losing record. Many of those years the season was over for the Tigers by the time school let out in June. The result is a whole lot of low rating broadcasts. Channel 50 of course was more willing to take the hit on the Tigers because they also held the rights to Illitch’s other fanchise, the Red Wings. Now that they’ve lost the Red Wings, they are probably less likely to offer up a plum deal to the Illitch’s for the Tigers’ rights.

It is also easy to look at UPN’s lineup and think that the Tigers would be a better option than most of what they are showing. While this is undoubtedly true, think about where the break even point is for WKBD. To air a Tiger game and make a profit, they have to sell enough advertising to cover their production costs, as well as pay the Tigers’ for the rights to those games. If they are airing the network shows instead, they bear no production costs.

I’m only speculating as to each sides’ positions in the negotiations, as I have no inside information. However, my guess is that Illitch is demanding more, and UPN is having a hard time putting the numbers together to make it worthwhile. The fact of the matter is, the Tigers need UPN more than UPN needs the Tigers. The Tigers’ need an outlet for their games, while UPN seems content to give up all sports (they’ve already lost the Wings and the Pistons). However, I’m not sure the Tigers’ see it that way. This wouldn’t be the first time they eschewed fans in favor of a more profitable contract. Many are still stinging from the 2001 decision to air Wings’ and Tigers’ games on WXYT instead of the more powerful WJR. At the same time, it is difficult to say that Illitch doesn’t care about the fans given his recent spending on the team (and his track record with delivering championships with the Red Wings).

I don’t have information on how the Tigers’ local TV deals stack up with other comparable markets. It may be that the Tigers’ have been getting less than other MLB teams, in which case they may be right in their pursuit of a better contract. However, the fans are left hoping that another channel steps up to broadcast the games. The chances of this are pretty slim. Channels 2, 4, and 7 all have substantial network obligations that makes pre-empting for Tiger games a long shot. Big 62 isn’t an option, seeing as that they are owned by the same company as UPN 50. What we may see next year (2006) is the Tigers taking ont he cost of production of games, and then selling the rights to air those games.

While this is all sorted out, there are still 110 games on Fox Sports, and radio is still an option. It is just a shame that as fan interest in the Tigers’ increases, access to the team decreases.