Approaching the Tigers approach

The Tigers offense was stymied once again for the bulk of the day. After the last 2 days the common mantra was that the Tigers are way to aggressive at the plate and don’t see enough pitches – especially compared to the Yankees. While the Yankees are much more patient – the 200 additional walks are definitely indicative of that, I don’t think this series necessarily illustrated the point.

In yesterday’s game post we saw that the Tigers saw just as many pitches per plate appearance as the Yankees (actually more in the 1st game).

Today, Randy Johnson was able to make through 8 innings with fewer than 100 pitches. How much of the credit should go to Johnson and how much blame should go to the Tigers? Continue reading Approaching the Tigers approach

Making Room for Marcus

He’s leading the team in homers with 23 despite having only 289 at-bats. He’s one of only three Tigers with slugging percentages north of .500 and the only one with an OPS above .900. And yet Marcus Thames can’t get regular playing time on a team that has been struggling to score runs with any sort of consistency.
Continue reading Making Room for Marcus

Verlander, Granderson, Maybin and More

Justin Verlander Thwarts Running Game

One of my favorite baseball columns is Dave Studemund’s “Ten Things I Didn’t Know Last Week” piece he writes for Hardball Times. This week’s column highlights just how hard it is to run on Justin Verlander. We know about his lightning quick pick-off move that has gunned down 5 victims. You may not know that only 1 base has successfully been stolen off of Verlander. What may be even more impressive is that only 4 runners have tried. So he has more pickoffs than attempted steals, which my intuition tells me is rare. What makes it all the more incredible is that he is doing it right handed. Those numbers are what you expect from the top southpaws.

Curtis is the clutchiest

Another tidbit from the same column points to a blog that looks at WPA data from Fangraphs and regular batting data to determine who has been “clutch” this year. It essentially looks at what a batter’s line would typically contribute in terms of wins, and compares it to WPA wins.

For the Tigers Curtis Granderson has contributed 1.462 wins more than his batting line would indicate making him the clutchiest Tiger so far. At -1.2 Chris Shelton has been least clutch. In a strange twist, Placido Polanco has been the second clutchest Tiger. While his WPA total is only .329 wins, his overall poor offensive contributions are good for -.618 wins. So Polanco is making the most of the offense he has provided.

Cameron Maybin likes the opposite field

The website has batted ball charts for minor league players. I took a look at Cameron Maybin’s and noticed some interesting trends.

First, he pulls the ball less than the average right handed hitter, and less than he hits it to right field. On balls hit in the air, only 7% have gone to left or left center while 15% have gone to right or right center.

Second, he is really putting his speed to work. He is hitting .422 on ground balls hit to the left side where the average right hander hits .258. In Maybin’s case that is an additional 7 hits more than the typical player.

Third, the man hasn’t bunted yet this year.

The Tigers don’t need a position player

Nate Silver wrote a very interesting piece at Baseball Prospectus that took a look at the big 3 bats available (Bobby Abreu, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee) and the 7 teams that would have a shot at acquiring them. The piece is premium so I’ll just give you cliff notes (but really a subscription to BP is something you should consider).

Silver looked at what the incremental gain would be of adding said player over what that player would be replacing. The Tigers are expected to get more production from Monroe/Thames/Young than any of the other contenders are getting in their current situations. This means that while any of the 3 would be an upgrade, it would be less of an upgrade for the Tigers (who are actually getting slightly above average production).

Second, he took a look to see which teams had the most to gain in terms of securing a playoff spot. Because the Tigers are already at 95% to make the playoffs, the incremental value of adding anyone is pretty small.

The bottom line is that from this analysis the Tigers have very little to gain by acquiring one of these players – at least in terms of making it to the playoffs.

Now this is just one analysis and is dependent on players performing like they would be expected to perform, and it doesn’t take into account the psychological aspects of adding or not adding to a team. But it is interesting nonetheless.

Inge on the Offensive

Way back all of 18 days ago I took a look at Brandon Inge’s offensive contributions. Based on what he’d done so far in 2006, the conclusion was Inge had become focused on the flyball. His line drive percentage was only 10.8%, or nearly half of what a decent hitter should have. The result was an improved home run total, but it came at the expense of his batting average and on base percentage. But all that looks to be changing now.

Since writing that Inge has hit 326/396/543. In that time his line drive percentage has been 31.6% raising his season total to 14%.

In looking at his game-by-game log you can see that his hot streak really started in full effect with the resumption of play after the All Star Break. Over that time he’s hitting 406/474/594 and the most impressive aspect may be that he only fanned 4 times during the 10 game homestand. Not surprisingly his improved numbers come as he hit 41% of his balls in play for line drives.

Now it’s unreasonable to expect Inge to continue getting on base in nearly half of his plate appearances, but if he can carry at least some of this performance into the rest of the season the Tigers offense definitely stands to benefit. And with his first inning opposite field homer tonight, the shift in venue hasn’t seemed to effect him yet.

Keeping an Eye on… Predictions

Prior to the season I did a series of posts on items or storylines that I thought could be key to the Tigers success. Here at the break, I thought I’d Keep and Eye on my Keeping an Eye on series

Chuck Hernandez and the Pitching Staff

With the best ERA in baseball, I think it is safe to say that Hernandez has worked out okay as a pitching coach.

One of the stats I wanted to observe were K rates and pitches per plate appearance, as Bob Cluck was an advocate of pitching to contact to conserve pitches. Well, in the case of Jeremy Bonderman his strikeouts are at a career high 8.35) and his pitches per plate appearance are at a career low (3.52). Nate Robertson’s numbers are in line with his career, as are Mike Maroth’s. Interestingly, Verlander is allowing 3.77 pitches per plate appearance, which is more than Robertson or Bonderman, but striking out fewer.

In terms of the minor leagues, we’ve the the organization reward solid pitching performances with the early promotions of Jair Jurrjens, Jon Connolly and Humberto Sanchez. We also saw Jordan Tata jump a couple levels. The system has seemed to be slow to promote in the past (see Jordan Tata at Lakeland all year).

Finally we haven’t really seen or heard that much of Hernandez. Leyland seems to make more trips to the mound than Hernandez. Hernandez just gets the occasional trip to talk mechanics or scouting reports, but those seem to be few and far between which may be a testament to improved preparation.

Kevin Rand

Ah, the injury watch. The Tigers have been hit by injuries, but the training staff has done a good job keeping players on the field. The Tigers lost Mike Maroth for probably 2-3 months, and of course Craig Dingman and Troy Percival were lost before the season. Dmitri Young strained his hamstring, not to mention alot of other stuff that was beyond the realm of physical rehab. And Craig Monroe was sidelined for a couple weeks with an ankle sprain.

Yet the nagging injuries have been kept in check. Carlos Guillen had some knee pain, but didn’t miss significant time. Ordonez had a bruise that only slowed him for a couple games. Placido Polanco had a back injury that limited his performance but he was able to work through with out missing time. Marcus Thames had knee tendonitis but it didn’t slow him down.

The training staff and some well timed rest have kept the key cogs in the lineup. Now everybody find some wood to knock on it until your knuckles are bloody.

Productive At Bats

Jim Leyland called for more productive at-bats and better situational hitting. I’m not really sure the Tigers have improved in this area. In terms of strikeouts – which are for all intents and purposes are completely unproductive – the Tigers still whiff a ton. In terms of plate discipline, their ratio of 2.7 K/BB is the same as it was last year.

The biggest change in offense has been an increase in power. Their ISO went from 157 last year to 184 this year. They are also a little bit better at not making outs with the OBP going from 321 to 330.

But in terms of productive outs and manufacturing runs…it doesn’t feel any different, but I can’t quantify it one way or the other.

The Erie Seawolves

My thinking here was simple, a bunch of players who could help the team in the future (or in trade packages in the present) would be at Erie. The results have been mixed. Erie’s offense has been largely non-existent as Brent Clevlen (103 K’s, 319 SLG) and Kody Kirkland (109K’s) have struggled to make contact. Kirkland has decent power numbers (17 homers), but that is it. Tony Giarratano has been up and down and may now have a torn ACL. Jeff Frazier started off well, but has faded badly (231/272/339). This group has recently been joined with fellow 40 man roster-ees Don Kelly and Nook Logan who were struggling mightily in Toledo.

The pitchers have had more success. Jordan Tata who was slated to head to Erie instead went all the way to the pro’s and now finds himself succeeding at AAA Toledo. Humberto Sanchez (1.76 ERA, 86 K’s, 71 2/3 IP) did so well he earned a promotion and a start in the Future’s Game. Eulogio De La Cruz (3.75 ERA, 46 K, 57 2/3 IP, 1 HR) started the season getting shelled, but has calmed down considerably. And Jair Jurrjens who started in A ball has earned a spot in the Erie rotation and is having considerable success for a 20 year old in AA (3-1, 2.00 ERA).

Inge’s Offense

Brandon Inge’s offensive contributions the last few years have supplied me a ton of material. Iin the early years he was very, very bad. But then after a demotion to Toledo in 2003 he came back as a different hitter. He sustained that for 2 years into mid 2005 and had me declaring that he had transformed into an offensive threat. But then he swooned late last year, and this season he is once again a different hitter, an all or nothing masher.

Let’s start by looking at the various stages of Inge’s career, picked somewhat arbitrarily and summarized using the Day by Day Database:

pre 7/1/2003	148	677	.183	.242	.292	.534	61.5	.109	.241
7/1/03-7/1/05	232	869	.284	.350	.446	.796	36.2	.162	.489
> 7/1/05	163	598	.227	.281	.420	.701	23.9	.193	.313

While there was a definite shift in Inge’s career with his 2003 demotion, another change seems to be in progress. From his peak, he seems to have given up 50 points of batting average, and some additional OBP in exchange for 30 additional points of ISO (isolated power: Slugging-Batting average). And while not a huge number of at-bats, the totals are probably indicative of more than just luck. Continue reading Inge’s Offense

Distributing the Runs

Last year Dave Studemund of the Hardball Times had a couple interesting posts taking a closer look at how many runs a team scores a game. This isn’t looking at average runs a game, but how many runs they score (and conversely allow) in each game. What Studes found is that consistency in scoring 2-6 runs is most important. At the time of the study, the White Sox average runs per game were a half run below average, but they very rarely were held to less than 2 runs. I found the study interesting enough to perform last year for the Tigers, and I’ll repeat it this year.
Continue reading Distributing the Runs

De-emphasizing OBP

In the Detroit News Tiger notebook, Tom Gage points out that the Royals had a better OBP than the Tigers in May. I disagree with Gage’s take on the situation. Instead of opining that this is a glaring indication that despite the Tigers success there are still opportunities for improvement, Gage uses this information to downplay the relevancy of the statisitic.

Yes, you can get buy with a sub average OBP if you slug the bejesus out of the ball and allow a run a game less than every other team in the league. As long as you keep up those other paces, a weak OBP probably won’t be a problem. But really, do we expect to keep up those stats at the rate they are going now?

Jim Leyland also downplays OBP’s significance

“I’m not saying on-base percentage isn’t important,” manager Jim Leyland said. “It’s definitely important. But my question about a guy when I hear he has a great on-base percentage is whether he scores runs.

“If a guy walks, but can’t steal a base, can’t score on a double, can’t score on a sacrifice fly and can’t go on contact with a man on third and the infield in, that’s not good. So there’s a lot more that goes into it than merely getting on base a lot.”

So a good OBP is useless unless you’re fast?

Lost in that is the fact that with a higher on base percentage, you are making fewer outs – which is a good thing. The fewer outs you make, the more men you send to the plate, the more scoring chances you have, the more the pitcher has to work…

I have to say I’m a little discouraged to read comments like these.

Pick your pleasant surprise

Excuse my enthusiasm, but winning is fun. I certainly thought that 3-0 was possible, but the manner in which the Tigers are doing it has certainly left surprised. Some pleasant Tiger surprises after a thumping of the Rangers:

  • Tiger starters have yet to walk a batter. While Nate Robertson wasn’t dominating like Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman were, he did extend the starter’s walkless streak to 17 2/3 innings. In the meantime the starters have racked up 17 strikeouts.
  • Pudge Rodriguez already has two walks.
  • I’m not really surprised that Chris Shelton can hit, but 4 homers in 3 games to lead the managers is a little more than I expected.
  • The Tigers homers are prime. The first game they hit 3 home runs. The second game they hit 5 home runs. Against Texas in the third game they hit 7 home runs. Now the next prime number is 11. Do you think they have a shot? In case you were wondering last year it took them 17 games before they hit their 15th homer. And the 15 homers in the first 3 games is a major league record.
  • Every decision that Jim Leyland has made has worked out. Curtis Granderson coming off a 3 for 6 day doesn’t get the start in favor of Marcus Thames – who homers. Brandon Inge takes Granderson’s leadoff spot – and homers. Later in the game Granderson comes in as a defensive replacement, and makes a diving catch. It’s absolutely uncanny.

Continue reading Pick your pleasant surprise

Keep an Eye on: Productive At-bats

Over the last few weeks of spring training, I

Leyland settles on a lineup

According to Danny Knobler, Jim Leyland has settled on a lineup.
Granderson, cf
Polanco, 2b
Rodriguez, c
Ordonez, rf
Young, dh
Monroe, lf
Guillen, ss
Shelton, 1b
Inge, 3b

Now if your reaction was similar to mine, you’re probably thinking “Guillen and Shelton at 7 and 8 while Pudge is hitting third?!?” Yes, the lineup is unorthodox, and one I probably wouldn’t advocate. However, I’m not sure how much of a difference it would actually make.
Continue reading Leyland settles on a lineup

St Patty’s Bracket Busting Tiger Round Up

The Boys are Back in Town

Granderson, CF	3	1	1	1	1	0	1	.364
Guillen, SS	2	0	0	0	0	1	1	.250
Santiago, SS	2	0	0	0	0	1	2	.281
Ordonez, RF	3	0	0	0	0	1	0	.222
Taylor, RF	1	0	0	0	0	1	2	.379
Young, D, DH	4	0	1	0	0	1	0	.429
Pena, 1B	3	0	2	0	1	0	0	.194
Inge, 3B	4	0	0	0	0	2	4	.308
Gomez, LF	4	1	2	1	0	0	1	.317
Wilson, C	3	1	2	1	0	0	0	.400
Peterson, B, C	0	0	0	0	0	0	0	.250
Infante, 2B	3	0	1	0	0	1	1	.455

How about that lineup? It’s nice to see some regular names in there. Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez saw their first action since Venezuela was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic. The game also marked Dmitri Young’s return to the lineup from his quadricep injury. Todd Jones should be on his way back, and we should also be seeing Pudge Rodriguez shortly. That leaves only Placido Polanco and Fernando Rodney MIA.
Continue reading St Patty’s Bracket Busting Tiger Round Up