Sunday, May 10, 2015

Where Have All the Strikeouts Gone?

Over the past two games, the Tigers' starters have only 3 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.  Anibal Sanchez had 2 in yesterday's game and David Price only had 1 two days ago.  This is a microcosm of the whole year as the Tigers' starters are only averaging a little over 6 K/9.  Remember when the Tigers starting rotation was regularly striking out batters on a daily basis?  Here's how the ranked in recent years:


Year K/9 MLB Rank
2012
8.19
2nd
2013
8.63
1st
2014
7.68
9th
2015
6.02
27th

In 2013, the Tigers pitching staff as a whole set a MLB record with 1,428 strikeouts helped by 3 starting pitchers who had 200+ K's each, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez.   Of course Scherzer is now gone along with Doug Fister and Rick Porcello.  Verlander has been on the DL all year.  The only one remaining from the 2013 rotation is Sanchez, who is now in a rotation consisting of David Price, Shane Greene, Alfredo Simon and Kyle Lobstein.  

Anibal Sanchez is the only member of the starting rotation who currently has a K/9 of over 7 at 7.74, which isn't much different than his career mark of 7.92.  Sanchez has had two big strikeout years, a 9.26 K/9 in 2011 and a 9.99 K/9 in 2013.  Sanchez has been struggling this year, mainly due to giving up the long ball.  He has given up 6 home runs already this year, which is 2 more than he gave up all of last year.  

David Price, who usually is a strikeout machine, only has a 6.41 K/9 so far this year, which is by far the lowest of his career and almost 2 K/9 below his career 8.38 K/9 mark.  Last year, Price led MLB with 271 strikeouts. So far the lack of strikeouts hasn't effected him much as his 3.30 ERA is exactly the same as his 3.30 FIP and isn't much different than his 3.26 ERA that he posted last year.  

Shane Greene surprised everyone by striking out over a batter per inning last year at 9.27 K/9 in his shortened rookie year last year.  He had an 8.15 K/9 in 562 minor league innings, so it was expected that he'd have an above average strikeout rate in the majors.  Along with a decent FIP and SIERA, it was expected that Greene would be decent going forward.  However, he's only at 5.56 K/9 so far this year and his ERA has suffered at 5.56.  

Alfredo Simon was already a questionable acquisition among Tiger fans before he even threw one pitch in a Tiger uniform.  However, his strikeout rate isn't much different than it was last year (5.82 in 2014 and 5.65 in 2015) and his ERA is exactly the same at 3.44.  

Out of the 6 regular pitchers who started games for the Tigers last year, only one had a K/9 below 6, Rick Porcello.  This year the Tigers have 3: Green, Simon and Kyle Lobstein.  Lobstein has held his own filling in for the injured Justin Verlander with an ERA of only 3.00.  However, his strikeout rate of only 4.09 K/9 leaves a lot to be desired.  His K/9 ranks 6th lowest in all of MLB, (right ahead of former Tiger Doug Fister who is currently at 4.06 for the Nationals).  This is way below his minor league mark of 7.79 K/9.  

This is cause for concern for the Tigers as there's usually an inverse correlation between strikeouts and ERA.  The Tigers' rotation currently stand with a 4.15 ERA, which ranks 17th in MLB.  However, their SIERA ranks 25th at 4.24.  Whether this is a change in philosophy on the pitching coach's part to have these pitchers pitch to contact more or just random variation, this isn't a good sign going forward.  The best thing to happen would be if some of these pitchers would put up strikeout rates that they are capable of.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2015 Preseason Prediction #15 - Jose Iglesias

Jose Iglesias was acquired by the Red Sox in a three-way deal that sent Avisail Garcia to the White Sox back in 2013.  His numbers for the Tigers were overall down from what he did with the Sox that year:


2013
AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+
Red Sox
0.330
0.376
0.409
4.7%
12.8%
116
Tigers
0.259
0.306
0.348
2.7%
20.3%
80

The high batting average can be attributed to a high BABIP with the Red Sox (.376).  When that stabilized to a more normal .320 BABIP with the Tigers, his batting average took a nosedive.  But what's really worrisome is that his already low walk rate declined even further and his strikeout rate spiked up.  The good news is that his walk rate in the minors was 5.7% and even better at the AAA level, 6.2%, so the 2.7% mark doesn't look like his norm.  Same is true with his strikeout rate, which was only at 14.4% in the minors.  

Now comes the bad news. Jose Iglesias missed the entire 2014 season due to stress fractures in both of his shins.  Players who miss an entire season usually do not come back strong, at least not right away.  Victor Martinez only hit .258/.314/.380 in the first half of the 2013 season after he missed all of the 2012 season.  Now factor in that Jose Iglesias isn't on the same level of talent as Victor Martinez.  

No, a better comparison would be Stephen Drew.  While he didn't miss a full year, he did miss 2 months of the 2014 season and then proceeded to hit .162/.237/.299 for the remainder of the season.  His missed time wasn't due to an injury, but a compensation draft pick attached to his signing that no team wanted to give up.  

Iglesias has always been a fielding first player.  His AAA slash line was .244/.296/.292 in over 900 PA.  His time spent with the Red Sox in 2013 shouldn't be considered as it was far and away from his true talent level.  Now factor in his time spent on the DL and an injury which could be nagging all year long and...well, I don't foresee a breakout year from Iglesias this year.  Normally I don't look at Spring Training stats, but the fact that he's hitting only .105/.150/.132 in 40 ST PA doesn't help my confidence in him. 

Tiger shortstops hit a combined .226/.288/.293 in 2014.  I'm not convinced that Jose Iglesias will be able to do much better than that.  


Experts' Projections/Predictions:


AB
AVG
OBP
SLG
HR
RBI
SB
BB
K
Steamer
400
0.256
0.300
0.339
4
38
10
20
60
CAIRO
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
ZiPS
379
0.253
0.298
0.311
3
30
9
19
62
RotoChamp
350
0.266
0.315
0.343
3
28
5
15
61
CBS Sports
500
0.270
0.303
0.348
4
38
10
24
76
ESPN
478
0.251
0.301
0.322
5
36
11
26
74
MLB.com
475
0.263
0.303
0.354
5
40
7
-
-
FanGraphs' Fans (6)
467
0.257
0.301
0.338
4
41
9
23
93

My Prediction:


AB AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB BB K
2014 Prediction
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
2014 Actual
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
2015 Prediction
389
0.226
0.270
0.296
2
24
5
15
76

Fantasy Impact: Jose Iglesias isn't going to hit for a high average, hit for a lot of power or steal a lot of bases. Unless your league uses defense categories, Iglesias is absolutely useless in fantasy leagues.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

2015 Preseason Prediction #14 - Alfredo Simon

When the Tigers traded Rick Porcello, they were a starting pitcher short in their rotation.  Soon after, they traded Eugenio Suarez and Jonathon Crawford to the Reds for Alfredo Simon.  The reaction for the most part among Tiger fans was unfavorable, and it's easy to see why:


2014 ERA WHIP BB% K% FIP SIERA LOB%
1st Half
2.70
1.05
6.0%
16.0%
4.33
3.98
85.1%
2nd Half
4.52
1.44
8.1%
14.9%
4.34
4.42
69.6%

2014
BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR/FB%
1st Half
0.232
20.2%
49.3%
30.5%
13.1%
2nd Half
0.309
22.2%
46.7%
31.1%
10.0%

Simon had a great first half ERA and was awarded his first All-Star game appearance.  However, his ERA estimators and unsustainable stranded runners rate foreshadowed a second half collapse.  His walk rate also rose while his strikeout rate declined.  

Some fans speculate that he was tiring out in the 2nd half and that contributed to his poor numbers as he has never pitched as many innings as he did in 2014.  That very well may be true.  However, Simon was primarily a reliever from his rookie year in 2008 until 2013, starting only 19 games and pitching 158 games in relief.  Then injuries to the Reds' starting pitching forced them to put Simon in the rotation in 2014.  The problem here is that rarely do you see a reliever put in the rotation as late in his career as Simon was.  The only pitcher I could think of that was primarily a reliever until his early 30s, then moved to the rotation and had a decent career as a starter was Charlie Hough.  And unless Simon has suddenly developed a knuckleball, that isn't a perfect comparison.    

Suffice to say, I'm not predicting a good year from Alfredo Simon this year. When factoring in normal age regression (he's entering his age 34 season) and the switch from the National League to the American League (he now has to face the DH instead of pitchers), it doesn't look pretty.  I think Simon will struggle so bad that the Tigers will be forced to remove him from the rotation and use him out of the bullpen, replaced by either a trade or one of the prospects from AAA.  Simon has proven to be much better in relief than starting and none of his starting numbers from 2014 has changed my view.  


2011-2014 ERA FIP SIERA K% BB%
As a Starter
3.93
4.42
4.22
15.8%
7.3%
As a Reliever
3.02
3.64
3.68
18.3%
7.6%


Experts' Predictions/Projections:


IP W/L ERA WHIP K BB
Steamer
143
8-10
4.84
1.42
84
46
CAIRO
137
10-6
3.88
1.18
97
41
ZiPS
152 2/3
9-9
4.60
1.41
94
47
RotoChamp
170
11-9
4.13
1.19
114
49
CBS Sports
190
9-12
3.93
1.32
127
57
ESPN
161
9 W
4.08
1.27
99
43
MLB.com
171
10-12
4.21
1.35
101
55
FanGraphs' Fans (16)
161
10-9
4.00
1.32
105
48


My Prediction:


IP W/L ERA WHIP K BB
2014 Prediction
-
-
-
-
-
-
2014 Actual
196 1/3
15-10
3.44
1.207
127
56
2015 Prediction
140 2/3
6-9
4.93
1.443
92
49

Fantasy Impact: Alfredo Simon has two things going against him when I look for fantasy starting pitchers: he's over the age of 30 and he has low strikeouts.  Ignore him on draft day; draft young AAA prospects on the verge of making to the big leagues that have big strikeout potential instead.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 Preseason Prediction #12 and #13 - Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis

I'm combining both Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis in one post because they are expected to platoon at the centerfield position.  

Davis has been exceptional against LHP:


Year AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2012
0.285
0.345
0.437
0.340
112
2013
0.319
0.383
0.474
0.376
136
2014
0.356
0.382
0.557
0.408
164
Career
0.304
0.358
0.446
0.353
120

While Gose is expected to get the playing time against RHP:

Year AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2012
0.207
0.305
0.296
0.275
67
2013
0.287
0.306
0.481
0.339
110
2014
0.238
0.329
0.312
0.295
84
Career
0.241
0.316
0.350
0.299
85

While not as spectacular as Davis' platoon numbers, Gose's career 85 wRC+ is better than Davis' career 74 wRC+ against RHP.

Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis are on opposite ends of their prime years.  Gose is entering his age 24 season, an age where many players have their breakout seasons (and if Spring Training is any indication, Gose is going to have a nice breakout year this year).  Davis is entering his age 34 season and is on the verge of exiting is prime years.  Therefore, we can expect Gose's numbers to improve this year and Davis' numbers to start to decline.

Anthony Gose is the lefty-hitter of the platoon and has superior defense, so his playing time will be much higher than Rajai's.  Davis' playing time will largely depend on Tyler Collins.  If the Tigers go with Collins as an extra outfielder instead of Hernan Perez or Andrew Romine, there will not be a lot of playing time for Davis in either LF or RF.  However, if the Tigers go with Perez and Romine for the final 2 bench spots, Davis will be the primary backup for the corners and his playing time will increase.


As far as power is concerned, Rajai tied a career high in HR with 8, but was fairly consistent in his ISO and HR/FB ratios over the last few years:


Year ISO HR/FB
2012
0.121
7.3%
2013
0.115
6.0%
2014
0.119
6.8%

And Gose looks to have even less power:


Year ISO HR/FB
2012
0.096
4.8%
2013
0.150
7.4%
2014
0.067
7.1%
Career
0.098
6.6%

Gose's 2013 ISO looks to be a fluke given his low PA (153).  

Of course, you don't care about these players' power numbers.  What about their speed!  Rajai Davis has stolen at least 30 bases each year since 2009, with a career high of 50 in 2010.  Anthony Gose, while only at 34 steals in 616 career PA, has stolen as much as 76 bases in A-ball in 2009 and 69 bases in 2011 in AA.

The question remains on where they will bat in the batting order.  Davis' BB% was only 4.5% last year and is at 5.5% career-wise.  His OBP is helped by having a high batting average.  Gose had a very good 9.1% BB% last year (matching his 9.1% walk rate in AAA), but his OBP isn't much better than Davis' due to a very low batting average.  If both these players are stuck in the bottom of the batting order because of poor OBP, then they might not have many stolen base attempts.  However, having the platoon advantage should help and it looks like they will both be batting in the top of the order when they are playing.  

Anthony Gose:

Experts' Projections/Predictions:


AB AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB BB K
Steamer
338
0.235
0.296
0.343
5
33
19
27
91
CAIRO
513
0.222
0.289
0.318
6
47
30
41
152
ZiPS
523
0.254
0.314
0.348
6
44
34
40
131
RotoChamp
285
0.232
0.301
0.309
3
23
16
25
80
CBS Sports
420
0.231
0.299
0.321
3
28
28
41
131
ESPN
365
0.230
0.297
0.329
4
28
23
30
107
MLB.com
415
0.241
0.309
0.318
4
33
23
-
-
FanGraphs' Fans (10)
416
0.248
0.322
0.317
2
36
21
39
117

My Prediction:

AB AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB BB K
2014 Prediction
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
2014 Actual
239
0.226
0.311
0.293
2
13
15
25
74
2015 Prediction
393
0.242
0.324
0.346
4
39
20
41
122


Rajai Davis:

Experts' Projections/Predictions:


AB AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB BB K
Steamer
331
0.265
0.310
0.377
5
32
26
18
62
CAIRO
432
0.261
0.309
0.378
7
58
33
24
86
ZiPS
400
0.268
0.310
0.375
6
39
35
21
73
RotoChamp
420
0.255
0.298
0.364
7
42
33
22
75
CBS Sports
300
0.267
0.308
0.380
5
30
21
18
58
ESPN
406
0.268
0.312
0.379
6
37
39
22
73
MLB.com
360
0.272
0.299
0.367
5
34
31
-
-
FanGraphs' Fans (10)
422
0.273
0.310
0.367
5
39
29
19
75

My Prediction:


AB AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB BB K
2014 Prediction
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
2014 Actual
461
0.282
0.320
0.401
8
51
36
22
75
2015 Prediction
319
0.273
0.320
0.379
5
27
30
19
59


Fantasy Impact: Speed, speed and more speed.  The only reason to draft either Anthony Gose or Rajai Davis is the potential high stolen bases.  Both players are capable of stealing 30+ bases.  Anthony Gose is the sexier pick due to their respected places in their careers.  Davis is the safer pick due to his experience.