Thoughts on Jones and the lineup shuffle

Isn’t it something that we waited and waited to get the anticipated lineup together. First Granderson was injured, and then Sheffield and Polanco. And then everyone was set to come back and Carlos Guillen missed a couple games. Finally, on April 27th the 1000 run lineup took the field. And 8 days later on May 8th it’s been altered because it just wasn’t working. In that 8 day span was an off day and a sweep of the Yankees. Part of me can’t help but think it’s a little bit of an overreaction.

Now the Jacque Jones dismissal is a smart move and I applaud the relative swiftness of it. The Tigers gave him a month to do something, and it just didn’t happen. And this was with Jones facing almost exclusively right handed pitching. He only had 4 plate appearances against lefties, all of which result in strikeouts. His arm was as bad as advertised and Leyland respected his defense so little that he was always lifted for Ryan Raburn in late innings. If you can’t play defense and you can’t hit and you’re track record is marginal there is little to contribute and little reason to expect it to change. Jones amassed 5 line drives in his very brief Tigers career.

As for the “drastic” lineup move I hardly consider the swap of Carlos Guillen and Gary Sheffield to be drastic. The more drastic move is Gary Sheffield assuming left field duties. Sheffield had surgery to repair a torn labrum which you’d think would inhibit his throwing ability. But even odder is that the DH rotation will be between Sheffield and Ordonez.

Ordonez is an average fielder, and hardly a liability. There is talk about his bad knees, but in actuality he has 1 surgically repaired knee. The injury hasn’t appeared to be chronic and he isn’t as close to DH-dome as many make him out to be. While the semi-rest is probably a good thing, it does nothing to help the infield defense. An area of concern that could be remedied by rotating DH duties to Carlos Guillen (who does have bad knees) and Miguel Cabrera.

So like the Guillen-Cabrera switch, this realignment seems to be a reactionary move that solves little. The move was at Sheffield’s request because he thinks he can focus better by playing the field. That may be the case, but if he’s not healthy the focus part won’t make a big difference. Like Lee, I’m skeptical that it will result in an increase in his numbers.

Where should Cabrera play?

Jim Leyland was quoted yesterday talking about how this deal and the players they acquired were like a presents under the tree. Well, now that we can open up the presents, it’s time to play with them. The common refrain is that the Tigers should play Miguel Cabrera at third base and move Brandon Inge. It’s pretty clear that Cabrera is better than Inge and I’m not going to try and dissuade you from thinking that way. But as both Rob Neyer and Lee Panas have pointed out, the chasm in defensive ability between the two makes the upgrade not as dramatic as it appears at first blush. Are the Tigers better served putting Cabrera in left field?

Continue reading Where should Cabrera play?

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?

Jones’n a day late

The Tigers make 2 moves, and my internet connection flakes out that night. As such, I’ll just wrap the analysis into one post. Before getting into the individual evaluations I wanted to note that with the Todd Jones signing, the Tigers payroll has eclipsed the $100 million mark. I have it pegged at $102 right now (not counting the relief the Cubs are sending in the Jacque Jones deal.

Todd Jones

I can definitely see some merit in this signing. It’s a one year deal and at $7 million it is certainly palatable – even if it’s over market value. With a healthy Zumaya, this deal makes all kinds of sense. The veteran comes back for one more year to help transition to the young gun. Trouble is, we don’t know now if that gun will be firing bullets or blanks or anything.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding Zumaya, I feel the Tigers should have gone after Francisco Cordero. The Tigers very well may end up in a situation where they will be looking for a free agent closer next year anyways if Zumaya can’t comeback or isn’t ready to assume closing responsibilities. In a year that the Tigers were clearly in “go for it” mode, getting a top shelf closer would have fit the bill. If Zumaya does come back, you have a pretty solid bullpen – especially as Fernando Rodney becomes a free agent in 2010.

Bill James projects Cordero to throw 61 innings with a FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 3.15. Assuming a league average FIP of 4.43 that would make Cordero worth about one more win than Todd Jones. Jones projects to a 3.77 FIP.

Still, Cordero isn’t a sure thing. He had a bad year in 2006 when he blew 11 saves. It’s probably an anomaly, but it’s out there. Also, Cordero would have wanted to come to the Tigers. It isn’t the laughable proposition it was 3 years ago, but there are no guarantees.

There is value in the Tigers moving quickly to fill a need. Plus Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland have a penchant for the familiar making them comfortable with Todd Jones. As for the $7 million, the Tigers probably overpaid. Jones is about one win above replacement level. Assuming a win in the free agent market is worth $4.4 million then Jones salary should be about $4.8 million (you need to add the major league minimum to the base).

As long as Todd Jones can continue to keep his slugging against south of .400, and if he can limit the walks, the should be okay in 2008.

Jacque Jones for Omar Infante

My initial reaction to this trade was that I liked it, and that has held up over the last day. I like Infante, and at age 25 there is a still a chance he could be a productive major league player. But it was clear that isn’t wasn’t going to happen for him here in Detroit. Plus he’ll be in his second year of arbitration. Plus, the Tigers have a couple players who could fill the utility role for cheap. So even though Infante may have some value to some club, he didn’t have a lot of value to the Tigers. That they got a real major leaguer in return is a coup.

That major leaguer of course is Jacque Jones. The stuff to like about Jones is that he is a solid defender who can play all 3 outfield positions. But his arm has him better suited to center of left. He’s also left handed, which is helpful for the Tigers.

If the Tigers deploy him as part of a platoon, they have the makings of an acceptable offensive outfield. Jones against righties has hit 294/342/483. Meanwhile Marcus Thames against lefties is 263/333/512. For a total cost of $5 million or so a combined 280/335/490 line would fit nicely in this lineup.

The concern with Jones of course is that his slugging fell off the map last year when he only hit 5 homers. It was a Sean Casey-ish year, but it wasn’t nearly as conspicuous as he played a large chunk in centerfield. Whether it was an anomaly or aging remains to be seen. It’s also worth noting that Jones posted the best walk to strikeout ratio of his career last year. For what it’s worth James projects a 278/332/433 line but without facing lefties he has a chance to better that.

So I give the trade a thumbs up. Still, I’ll miss Infante’s salsa at-bat music this season.

Other stuff

  • Craig Monroe is now a Minnesota Twin. Best of luck to Craig. He always has mashed in the Metrodome where he’s hit 305/351/520 for his career so this could be a good fit.
  • The Tigers completed the Roman Colon trade by acquiring Danny Christensen from the Royals. Christensen is left handed and 24. The former appears to be his most dominant trait. He struggled in AA last year as he gave up a ton of hits, 23 of them for homers in 140 innings.