Scouting Bonderman with pitch f/x

Jim Leyland has come out on several occasions and said that Jeremy Bonderman is one of the keys to any success the Tigers might enjoy in 2008. Bonderman’s second half swoon, which I attribute largely to his elbow pain that he finally fessed up to, clouded what was starting out to be a phenomenal season. An ERA of 8.50 over his last 9 starts, combined with the arm troubles meant that Bonderman finished with the highest ERA and lowest innings total since his rookie season. Like with Dontrelle Willis, we’ll delve into the pitch f/x data and see what we can find out about the veteran 25 year old pitcher.
Continue reading Scouting Bonderman with pitch f/x

Scouting Dontrelle Willis

On Friday Lynn Henning wrote a detailed look at Dontrelle Willis with a heavy emphasis on scouting. I found the article fascinating from the stand point of getting a better understanding of Willis’s repertoire as well as the thought processes that went along with approving the deal for the lefty. He was after all coming off a pretty rough year. I also viewed it as a chance to dust off that pitch f/x database I’ve had sitting dormant and explore whether or not the reports meshed with what the system had reported.
Continue reading Scouting Dontrelle Willis

Optimal Sub

For the last few seasons, sabermetrician Tom Tango has conducted a defensive survey called The Fans Scouting Report. I’ve mentioned it in the past, and I’m sure that some of you participated. Essentially fans rate players on a variety of traits. I’m not going to rehash how the Tigers did because Lee has covered that already. I’m going to focus on Brandon Inge (because it’s always good for traffic and comment numbers) and how he can be expected to fare as he moves all over the diamond this summer.

When fans are instructed to fill out the survey, they are told to make their evaluations independent of position. For example don’t compare Curtis Granderson’s speed to that of other center fielders. Compare him to all baseball players. This is relevant because Tango has developed a system to weight the different traits based on their importance to a given position.

The traits that are evaluated are instincts, first step, speed, hands, release, throwing strength, and throwing accuracy. In the case of Inge he rated as follows:

Instincts: 83
First Step: 83
Speed: 68
Hands: 73
Release: 75
Arm Strength: 91
Throwing Accuracy: 62
Continue reading Optimal Sub

Detroit Tigers Weblog 2007 Year in Review

A look back at the year that was 2007 here at the Detroit Tigers Weblog…


Continue reading Detroit Tigers Weblog 2007 Year in Review

Warm wishes

I just wanted to take a moment to wish everybody a happy and healthy holiday season. May you be safe in your travels.

For Tigers fans I think we’ve already received some pretty nice presents. Here’s hoping that Miguel Cabrera’s stocking gets stuffed with a nice fat contract extension in the not-too-distant future.

I also wanted to announce some Christmas presents to DTW readers. I’d like to say thank you to the top 3 commentors on the site in 2007 with a baseball book. First, here are the top 3 commentors ranked by volume:

1. Kathy (1214)
2. Mike R (1048)
3. stephen (926)

Starting in order they will get to choose between The Hardball Times Annual, The Soul of Baseball, and the yet-to-be-released Tigers Corner 2008.

Merry Christmas and the warmest wishes.

How bout that Chad Durbin

I didn’t really expect to be writing another post about Chad Durbin. Sure, I was going to include a link at some point that he had signed with the Phillies, but that was just going to be a bullet point. But while reading Bless You Boys this morning, it was brought to my attention that Durbin took time to swing by Roar of the Tigers and leave a comment.

You see, Samara took a liking to Durbin following his spectacular effort against the White Sox earlier in the year. Samara thought the effort and Durbin were “pimp” and as Samara does she created an image to that effect. It came became a running thing. With Durbin leaving, Samra did one last pimp for Chad Durbin. Chad left the following comment on the post:


Thanks so much for the attention and virtual pimp status! My family informed me last year of the blog and it was certainly the focus of some fun-poking on my account. I understand baseball’s dynamics and realize that it is hard to find reasons to cheer for some of the obscure, forgettable players. There are more “forgettable players” out there than the stars…we all understand that much. I don’t have to defend the amount of tremendous success a baseball player must have to reach even the obscure status, either…because this was all in fun. Thanks for finding reasons to make us/me unique. The beauty of free media, right??

I’ll have to check in to see who the next pimptim is…best of luck! Oh yeah, to ease your mind on having to cheer against me…I’ll most likely be in the NL. Pittsburgh, Philly, NYMets…somewhere like that.

Chad Durbin

Very cool on Chad’s part and very cool for Samara as well. And while I posted the comment here, the real incentive for you to click through to Roar of the Tigers is the imagery itself.

The Dontrelle Files

We know Dontrelle Willis has the big leg kick and the bigger smile, but let’s take a graphical and statistical look at the Tigers newest starter.

The pitch selection

Using Josh Kalk’s pitch f/x tool we can look at the mix of pitches that Willis throws and the success he has with each pitch in his repertoire.

Willis has 2 fastballs, one with more sink and vertical movement – presumably a 2 seamer – that he throws most frequently. He also appears to have a 4 seam fastball which he doesn’t throw as often. He has an 86 MPH change up and an 80 MPH slider that makes it tough for lefties.

Continue reading The Dontrelle Files

2007 DIBS Awards Announced

A couple years back myself, Brian Borawski, and Ryan Sosin decided to try and unite the group of Tigers bloggers. We came up with an acronym and a logo and then we decided to vote on some year end awards. This is the 3rd year of DIBS awards. This year’s winners are Magglio Ordonez for player of the year, Justin Verlander as pitcher of the year, and Curtis Granderson as breakout player of the year. There’s more description in the press release below, but I’ll just say that I voted for all the winners.

Continue reading 2007 DIBS Awards Announced

The Tigers Defense – What are the Odds?

Over the last month or so, David Pinto has released the majority of his studies using his probabilistic model of range (PMR). Today we’ll delve into the Tigers defense using this advanced metric.

I’ve explained PMR in the past, but a refresher is probably worthwhile. The PMR model uses data play by play data collected by Baseball Info Solutions. Pinto uses 3 years of this data to find out the probability that a batted ball will be converted into an out. In doing this he accounts for the handedness of the batter and pitcher, the type of hit (grounder, fly, etc), how hard the ball was hit, and the direction the ball was hit. The beauty of the system is that it provides context to the data. Players who have harder to field opportunities get credit it for it. It also removes the subjectivity of an official scorers decision.

What the system doesn’t do is account for throwing ability for outfielders. So a Jacque Jones upgrade in range would be lessened by a weak throwing arm.

On to the data. The first table shows how the Tigers fared by position.

Position In play Plays Exp Plays DER Exp DER Rate Runs
Pitcher 4486 167 159.73 0.037 0.036 104.55 5.5
First Base 4486 296 310.16 0.066 0.069 95.44 -10.7
Second Base 4486 505 494.43 0.113 0.11 102.14 8.0
Shortstop 4486 517 536.95 0.115 0.12 96.28 -15.0
Third Base 4486 446 426.09 0.099 0.095 104.67 15.9
Left Field 4486 327 331.6 0.073 0.074 98.61 -3.8
Centerfield 4486 468 445.78 0.104 0.099 104.98 23.0
Right Field 4486 318 319.88 0.071 0.071 99.41 -1.6

Continue reading The Tigers Defense – What are the Odds?

Handing out hardware

It’s award season and they are coming out fast and furious. Over at SB Nation they have been releasing the results of their blog ballots. Each baseball blog at SB Nation received 2 ballots, and with Bless You Boys being a solo operation, Ian was kind enough to let me vote his second ballot.

Today was the final day of announcements and it concluded with the MVP. Alex Rodrgiuez of course took home first place and he was a unanimous selection. Magglio Ordonez finished second, David Ortiz was third with Jorge Posada and Vladimir Guerrero rounding out the top 5.

Curtis Granderson had a solid showing finishing 7th and even Placido Polanco garnered a couple votes (neither vote came from the Tigers contingent).

My ballot is below:

1. Alex Rodriguez
2. Magglio Ordonez
3. David Ortiz – best hitter in the second half with a 1.153 OPS. Better offensive season than Maggs, but at DH
4. Curtis Granderson – very slight homer pick here, but defense and 26-27 on steals helped
5. Jorge Posada – great season and bonus points for doing it while catching
6. Vladimir Guerrero
7. Carlos Pena
8. Ichiro Suzuki
9. Victor Martinez
10. Grady Sizemore

I had no problem selecting the top 3, but the next 4 spots were a struggle for me. I actually had a half dozen iterations of Granderson/Posada/Guerrero/Pena. I elevated Granderson and Posada because of the defensive positions they play, and Granderson came out on top because of how well he played his position.

As for the other awards here they are, with my ballots as well:

If you click through, Ian has the full voting results.

Tigers Awards

Yesterday the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association named Ryan Raburn as the Tigers Rookie of the Year.  Today the Detroit Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America named Magglio Ordonez as the Tigers Player of the Year.

Other non-awards

Bugs and Cranks is turning the tables on the Silver Slugger Awards and Gold Glove Awards with the Sawdust Sluggers and Lead Glove Awards.  Brandon Inge was named the worst hitting 3rd baseman in the American League while Carlos Guillen was named the worst fielding shortstop.

Despite Guillen’s high error total and decreased range as the season wore on, I don’t think this is a clear cut honor (or dubious distinction).  Derek Jeter was the worst AL shortstop using +/- at -34 and David Pinto’s probabilistic model of range had Jeter missing 40 plays more than expected (Guillen was 19 plays below expected over less playing time).  Michael Young rates worse than Guillen on both measures as well. In UZR Guillen ranks 2nd worst ahead of Jeter and behind Young.

This isn’t a defense of Guillen’s shortstop prowess by any means.  He still deserves to be in the conversation, but I have to give the distinction to Jeter.

Two Tigers win Gold Gloves, but not the right two

Ivan Rodriguez and Placido Polanco were honored today as MLB announced the Gold Glove winners. For Pudge it was his 13th while it was Polanco’s first. But were they the most deserving Tigers? Rob Neyer took a look at the inherent biases or trends in the voting. A couple of these helped the Tigers (previous winner, fielding percentage, offensive contribution), and a couple hurt the Tigers.

Pudge Rodriguez

We’ll start with Pudge Rodriguez who saw his caught stealing rate drop to 30.9%. That was still a little above average in 2007 when base stealers in the AL were successful 73.2% of the time, but hardly Gold Glove worthy. Kenji Johjima gunned down 46.5% of would be base stealers. Even dubious stats like passed balls didn’t favor Rodriguez as he was charged with 7 while Johjima was charged with 5 in 54 more innings. And that isn’t even inclusive of the numerous wild pitches which could have been scored either way. Then throw in 6 errors and the picture is bleak for Pudge who won the award entirely off his reputation.

Placido Polanco

Moving to Placido Polanco, his win was certainly defensible. While errors and fielding percentage is a flawed stat, making it though a season without an error is still a remarkable achievement. While the error that was charged to Polanco and later assigned to Marcus Thames is certainly debatable, it was the only instance that I can recall where the streak was helped by the scorer. Throw in Polanco’s .341 batting average and it is easy to see why he would garner votes. But in looking at other metrics he lagged his peers.

Looking at +/- in the The Bill James Handbook 2008, Polanco was a respectable +10. That trailed Aaron Hill (+22), Mark Ellis (+19), and Robinson Cano (+17) considerably. If you don’t like +/- those same 3 appear as the best (but in a different order) using UZR as well. Polanco rates a little better using Revised Zone Rating, but he still is sandwiched between Ellis and Hill and made over 100 fewer plays than Ellis and nearly 150 fewer plays than Hill.

I like Polanco and am happy to see him receive some recognition. But the evidence just doesn’t show him as the best fielding 2nd baseman in the AL.

Brandon Inge

Now it’s time to stir the pot with some Brandon Inge controversy. Adrian Beltre took home the hardware for third basemen this year. Beltre is an excellent defender so this isn’t a bad choice at all. The trouble is, as Neyer pointed out, the award was a year late. Beltre should have won it in 2006. This year Brandon Inge beat him in UZR (+12 versus +5). Inge also beat him in +/- as Brandon amassed a +22, second only to Pedro Feliz. Nick Punto was next closest in the AL at +10 while Beltre was a solid +7. Inge was 2nd in the AL in RZR behind Mike Lowell and in total made 45 more plays on balls in his zone than any other AL third sacker. Beltre bests him only in plays on balls made out of his zone, 64 to 63. But even in fielding percentage where Inge typically gets dinged, he posted a .959 to Beltre’s .958.

Brandon Inge was deserving of the award this year, and it wasn’t a 1 year fluke. Looking at the 3 year +/- numbers only Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, Adam Everett, and Pedro Feliz have a better rate than Inge.

Curtis Granderson

This one is the hardest to figure. Granderson seemed to do many of the things that help you win gold gloves.

Solid offensive season? Check. He was top 10 in slugging, OPS, Runs, Total Bases, and Triples. Plus he had that whole quad-20 thing which was arbitrary, but still remarkable and attention gathering.
Winning team? Check. The Tigers were in contention all year and received plenty of attention.
Highlight plays? Check. His homer rob of Wily Mo Pena was the #2 web gem. Plus he had some high profile diving catches including a triple/run saving catch on Sunday night baseball and a game saving catch in an August pennant race tilt against the Indians.

Not that any of the above are legitimate reasons for winning, but they do seem to resonate well with voters.

As for his actual case, he had the highest RZR in the American League regardless of position.

Looking at +/- he was second only to Coco Crisp (also a deserving candidate) at +21 just behind Crisp’s +22. Gold Glove winner Ichiro was at +4 and other winners Grady Sizemore and Torii Hunter weren’t in the top 10. (the annual only lists the top ten and bottom 5 at each position.

Looking at UZR, Sizemore rates well at +26 leading AL centerfielders with Granderson second at +18 (Crisp and Dejesus tied for 3rd at +13). Meanwhile Ichiro was -14.

If you’re skeptical of the advanced metrics, that is understandable. When some players rate inconsistently across them it is hard to know where the truth lies. But Granderson rated at or near the top across the board, which is more than can be said for the other fielders except for Crisp.

I’m not overly upset with the results. The Gold Gloves have long been flawed awards. But when someone describes a player as a gold glover it is important to note whether they are using the generic term for a very good defender, or whether they are actually toting someone’s hardware. The former probably carries more weight even if the latter carries more prestige.

Playing in the spray

I love looking at spray charts of batted balls and seeing where hitters have success. I’m funny like that. Fortunately Dan Fox, proprietor of his own blog and writer for Baseball Prospectus has released an application that shows ball in play distributions for the last 4 years and he just released the updated version including 2007 data. With the heavy lifting done for me, I thought I’d take a look at 3 of the Tigers more interesting hitters from the last year.

Brandon Inge

First up is the ever controversial Brandon Inge. Inge had an awful season at the plate as he posted a meager 236/312/376 line. Part of his problem was what seemed to be an endless supply of check swing strikeouts. And that appears to be the largest difference over the past few years. Inge’s batting average on balls in play was .334 which wasn’t out of line with his past performances. His batted ball distribution didn’t differ greatly from his fairly productive 2006 season.

2003 R 0.262 44.8% 31.3% 17.9% 6%
2004 R 0.344 42.6% 30.3% 19.4% 7.6%
2005 R 0.333 39.5% 34.3% 18.7% 7.6%
2006 R 0.324 39.9% 34.1% 15.1% 10.9%
2007 R 0.334 37.9% 31.8% 20.6% 9.7%

Inge actually upped his line drive rate and had a small improvement in his pop up rate, yet his overall performance dipped.  Maybe he was a little unlucky like he claimed earlier in the season?

Another complaint about Inge is that he became too pull happy.

Left Center Right
2005 41.0 28.3 30.6
2006 48.1 27.0 24.8
2007 48.1 22.0 29.8

Inge did become more of a pull hitter in 2006 and it worked to his benefit as he slugged .463 and 27 balls left the park.  He pulled just as much in 2007 but with a lot less success and a lot less power.  We also saw Inge go to the opposite field more often, but it was at the expense of going up the middle.  Based on observation and the data, it seems like it was more a function of Inge being late than looking to punch the ball to right.

Curtis Granderson

Nobody complained about Granderson pulling the ball too much, and he actually was more likely to pull the ball than Brandon Inge was. Of course, when you’re among the league leaders in extra base hits it doesn’t really matter where you hit the ball.

Left 25 45 26 16 25.2%
Center 25 57 4 19 23.6%
Right 116 40 10 62 51.2%

With Granderson’s proclivity for pulling the ball on the ground, it wouldn’t surprise me to see more teams shifting the shortstop closer to second base. I wouldn’t expect an Ortiz type shift because of Granderson’s speed and ability to bunt, but Curtis did hit .600 on grounders through the middle in 2007.

Magglio Ordonez

It seems that any look at Tigers performances isn’t complete without at least glancing at how Ordonez fared. It was a popular refrain from Rod Allen that Maggs was using the whole field, and it really was true. Ordonez hit 42% of his line drives to right field. And overall he hit the ball to right field as much as he hit it to left.

Left 126 14 8 34 37%
Center 32 51 4 30 24%
Right 62 65 18 46 39%

That kind of balance made it impossible for any team to load up one side. And in a spacious outfield like Comerica Park that gave Ordonez a lot of room to work with. Now granted he was still lucky in 2007. You don’t exceed career norms by that much without some things going your way. In the case of Ordonez it was a .318 batting average on ground balls and a .361 batting average on fly balls. MLB norms for the last 4 years were .233 and .272 respectively.

There’s a ton of information available, and it’s all free. So thanks to Dan Fox for his hard work, and let me know if you see anything interesting.