Friday, June 29, 2012

Jim Thome and Placido Polanco

The worst part of fan-based trade ideas is that oftentimes they are not realistic.  Sure, we all know the weaknesses of the Tigers (2B, RF, DH) and we all know who will be an upgrade (virtually anyone). But we generally don’t know who is available and at what cost (the value of the prospects).  It’s even harder this year with the added Wild Card team as more teams will think that they can make the playoffs, limiting the amount of players available for trade.

Recently the PhiladelphiaPhillies have placed Jim Thome on the trading block and with them in last place and 9 games back, he probably won’t be the only one on the trading block.  So I’m going to propose one of those crazy fan-based unrealistic trades: Thome and Placido Polanco for Adam Wilk and a PTBNL.

The Tigers have gotten .235/.261/.343 production out of the DH spot this year.  After hoping for an August return from Victor Martinez, it has been announced that he won’t be back until mid-September at the earliest.  The Tigers are not about to move Fielder or Cabrera to the DH spot, so Thome makes a lot of sense for the Tigers to fill this gaping hole.  Thome has hit .242/.338/.516 so far this year with 5 HR.  All 5 HR have come in June in which Thome is hitting .295/.380/.682.  Not only will this upgrade the Tigers DH position, but it’ll also fill in the void in the 5th spot in the lineup.  The downside is that Thome is 41 years old and there’s no guarantee how much production he’ll give the Tigers.  But that’s what makes him so cheap; the Tigers can get him without giving up any of their top 10 prospects.  The last 2 times Thome has been traded, it was for Justin Fuller and a PTBNL (who hasn’t even been named yet).    

What happens if Victor Martinez comes back healthy?  In September, the rosters will be expanded, so they won't have to make room on the 25-man roster.  They can play the match-ups for the last two weeks of the season and in the play-offs.  Having an extra bat in the play-offs will benefit the Tigers; Ramon Santiago and Don Kelly aren't very good pinch hitter options as Jim Thome or Victor Martinez.  They will only use a 4-man rotation in the play-offs, so carrying an extra bat won't be difficult (even though normally that spot is used for an extra reliever).  

The other player I think the Tigers can get is Placido Polanco.  No, I’m not one of those people who thought the Tigers made a mistake for getting rid of him in the first place.  Polanco wanted 3 years and a lot of money for someone on the decline of his career.  It simply wasn’t worth it when it looked like the Tigers had a good replacement in Scott Sizemore.  It just didn’t work out.  It’s just a coincidence that he just happens to be one of the few players who will likely get traded that is capable of playing 2B.  Polanco is currently playing 3B and hitting .278/.324/.363 for the Phillies and he’ll be a big upgrade to what the Tigers have had at 2B.  Dombrowski has shown to get past players that played for Leyland before with the acquisitions of Gary Sheffield and Edgar Renteria.  The best thing of all, Polanco will come cheap, just like Thome.  Polanco knows his way around the clubhouse and is familiar with Leyland’s managerial style and could provide a veteran presence.  His defense and offense have declined from the last time he was here, but will probably be better than who the Tigers have currently.  It’ll be a smooth transition if nothing else.

Thome and Polanco are not long-term solutions.  However, if the Tigers think they can make the play-offs this year, they don’t need to think long-term right now.  Get through this year first and worry about long-term in the off-season (hopefully V-Mart will be healthy enough to take over the DH role).  Thome is signed cheaply for $1.25 million and Polanco is signed for $6.25 million with a $1 million buyout.  Because they will be getting these players in the middle of the season, they will only have to pay a prorated portion of that contract; it’s well within Dombrowski’s budget, I’m sure.  And because they aren’t big time players, it shouldn’t cost the Tigers much in prospects.  The Tigers have a pitching surplus in the minors, so Adam Wilk and a PTBNL (maybe one of Luke Putkonen or Luis Marte or the like) should be enough to pry them away. 

No, Thome and Polanco will not be a huge trade deadline acquisition and I’m sure you can tell me a list of other players who will be bigger upgrades in the comments.  However, the Tigers don’t have a lot of options in terms of who is available and who they will be willing to give up in a trade (I’m sure they will like to keep Turner and Castellanos).  Thome and Polanco will be an upgrade to who they currently have, but the question remains, will it be enough to get them in the play-offs?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My 2012 All-Star Teams

Voting for this year’s all-stars ends tomorrow and the rosters will be revealed on Sunday.  Now would be a good time to post who I think should make the team.  Even though there’s nothing in the rules on how to vote, I like the idea of rewarding players on their performance so far this year while still adhering to the "every team must be represented" rule and the 34-man rosters.

American League

C Joe Mauer (MIN) – 276 PA, .322/.417/.436, .373 wOBA, 138 wRC+
1B Paul Konerko (CHW) – 279 PA, .333/.412/.549, .411 wOBA, 159 wRC+
2B Robinson Cano (NYY) – 313 PA, .301/.367/.567, .393 wOBA, 148 wRC+
3B Adrian Beltre (TEX) – 296 PA, .328/.361/.533, .379 wOBA, 136 wRC+
SS Elvis Andrus (TEX) – 332 PA, .301/.378/.409, .351 wOBA, 117 wRC+
OF Josh Hamilton (TEX) – 296 PA, .317/.378/.656, .426 wOBA, 168 wRC+
OF Mike Trout (LAA) – 238 PA, .335/.395/.528, .410 wOBA, 164 wRC+
OF Austin Jackson (DET) – 232 PA, .312/.400/.518, .401 wOBA, 155 wRC+
DH David Ortiz (BOS) – 308 PA, .307/.393/.618, .416 wOBA, 162 wRC+

P Justin Verlander (DET) – 117 2/3 IP, 2.52 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 8.64 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, 2.67 FIP

C A.J. Pierzynski (CWS) – 249 PA, .284/.335/.493, .352 wOBA, 119 wRC+
1B Prince Fielder (DET) – 319 PA, .306/.379/.507, .374 wOBA, 136 wRC+
1B Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) –305 PA, .286/.361/.572, .395 wOBA, 152 wRC+
3B Miguel Cabrera (DET) – 328 PA, .304/.363/.528, .378 wOBA, 139 wRC+
3B Kyle Seager (SEA) – 284 PA, .255/.311/.452, .330 wOBA, 111 wRC+
OF Adam Jones (BAL) – 314 PA, .298/.344/.555, .384 wOBA, 142 wRC+
OF Mark Trumbo (LAA) – 263 PA, .320/.373/.622, .419 wOBA, 170 wRC+
OF Josh Willingham (MIN) – 299 PA, .275/.388/.542, .399 wOBA, 156 wRC+
OF Josh Reddick (OAK) – 313 PA, .263/.340/.514, .368 wOBA, 137 wRC+
OF Matt Joyce (TB) – 239 PA, .279/.387/.512, .388 wOBA, 152 wRC+
OF Jose Bautista (TOR) – 326 PA, .233/.353/.530, .376 wOBA, 139 wRC+

SP Chris Sale (CHW) – 88 1/3 IP, 2.24 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 9.07 K/9, 2.34 BB/9, 2.48 FIP
SP Jake Peavy (CHW) – 104 2/3 IP, 2.84 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 7.74 K/9, 2.06 BB/9, 3.13 FIP
SP Jered Weaver (LAA) – 75 IP, 2.40 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 7.20 K/9, 2.04 BB/9, 3.00 FIP
SP Jason Hammel (BAL) – 89 2/3 IP, 2.61 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.73 K/9, 2.91 BB/9, 3.13 FIP
SP Brandon McCarthy (OAK) – 78 IP, 2.54 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 6.00 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, 3.36 FIP
SP C.J. Wilson (LAA) – 99 1/3 IP, 2.36 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 7.34 K/9, 3.71 BB/9, 3.44 FIP
RP Fernando Rodney (TB) – 33 2/3 IP, 1.07 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 8.82 K/9, 1.34 BB/9, 2.01 FIP
RP Joe Nathan (TEX) – 31 2/3 IP, 1.99 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 11.08 K/9, 0.85 BB/9, 1.79 FIP
RP Chris Perez (CLE) –28 1/3 IP, 2.54 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 8.89 K/9, 2.22 BB/9, 1.82 FIP
RP Rafael Soriano (NYY) – 27 2/3 IP, 1.63 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 8.13 K/9, 3.25 BB/9, 2.33 FIP
RP Jim Johnson (BAL) – 32 2/3 IP, 1.10 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 5.51 K/9, 1.93 BB/9, 3.85 FIP
RP Jonathan Broxton (KC) – 28 2/3 IP, 1.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 6.91 K/9, 3.14 BB/9, 3.23 FIP

National League

C Carlos Ruiz (PHI) – 246 PA, .361/.427/.579, .428 wOBA, 173 wRC+
1B Joey Votto (CIN) – 316 PA, .353/.478/.643, .463 wOBA, 195 wRC+
2B Aaron Hill (ARI) – 290 PA, .294/.359/.496, .364 wOBA, 125 wRC+
3B David Wright (NYM) – 308 PA, .354/.448/.554, .375 wOBA, 138 wRC+
SS Jed Lowrie (HOU) – 276 PA, .270/.359/.506, .375 wOBA, 138 wRC+
OF Ryan Braun (MIL) – 306 PA, .311/.392/.596, .418 wOBA, 167 wRC+
OF Andrew McCutchen (PIT) – 292 PA, .341/.397/.579, .414 wOBA, 165 wRC+
OF Carlos Beltran (STL) – 301 PA, .312/.402/.585, .414 wOBA, 166 wRC+
P Stephen Strasburg (WAS) – 90 IP, 2.60 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 11.80 K/9, 2.30 BB/9, 2.20 FIP

C Yadier Molina (STL) –276 PA, .317/.369/.520, .386 wOBA, 148 wRC+
C A.J. Ellis (LAD) –234 PA, .293/.418/.435 .373 wOBA, 139 wRC+
1B Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) – 238 PA, .289/.361/.531, .384 wOBA, 138 wRC+
1B Bryan LaHair (CHC) – 231 PA, .281/.364/.532, .379 wOBA, 136 wRC+
2B Jose Altuve (HOU) – 306 PA, .309/.351/.453, .350 wOBA, 122 wRC+
3B Chase Headley (SD) – 315 PA, .267/.371/.410, .347 wOBA, 126 wRC+
SS Ian Desmond (WAS) – 316 PA, .272/.301/.460, .328 wOBA, 106 wRC+
OF Carlos Gonzalez (COL) – 298 PA, .331/.386/.603, .423 wOBA, 160 wRC+
OF Melky Cabrera (SF) – 321 PA, .352/.393/.520, .393 wOBA, 151 wRC+
OF Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) – 299 PA, .274/.355/.538, .382 wOBA, 140 wRC+
OF Matt Holliday (STL) – 322 PA, .301/.385/.498, .380 wOBA, 143 wRC+
OF Dexter Fowler (COL) – 243 PA, .282/.377/.539, .396 wOBA, 141 wRC+
OF Martin Prado (ATL) – 314 PA, .317/.378/.459, .368 wOBA, 134 wRC+

SP R.A. Dickey (NYM) – 105 IP, 2.31 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 9.09 K/9, 2.06 BB/9, 2.92 FIP
SP Wade Miley (ARI) – 81 2/3 IP, 2.09 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 6.83 K/9, 1.54 BB/9, 2.60 FIP
SP Gio Gonzalez (WAS) – 90 2/3 IP, 2.78 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 10.72 K/9, 3.47 BB/9, 2.29 FIP
SP James McDonald (PIT) – 90 1/3 IP, 2.19 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 8.27 K/9, 2.39 BB/9, 2.65 FIP
SP Matt Cain (SF) – 107 IP, 2.27 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 9.00 K/9, 1.85 BB/9, 2.78 FIP
SP Zack Greinke (MIL) – 96 IP, 2.81 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.28 K/9, 1.97 BB/9, 2.05 FIP
SP Johnny Cueto (CIN) – 101 2/3 IP, 2.21 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 6.73 K/9, 1.86 BB/9, 3.02 FIP
RP Craig Kimbrel (ATL) – 27 IP, 1.33 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 14.67 K/9, 3.33 BB/9, 0.91 FIP
RP Arolis Chapman (CIN) – 36 1/3 IP, 1.98 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 15.85 K/9, 2.97 BB/9, 1.76 FIP
RP Tyler Clippard (WAS) – 32 1/3 IP, 1.95 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 10.86 K/9, 3.90 BB/9, 1.94 FIP
RP Kenley Jansen (LAD) – 33 1/3 IP, 2.43 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 14.04 K/9, 3.24 BB/9, 2.84 FIP
RP Rafael Betancourt (COL) –27 2/3 IP, 2.93 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.43 K/9, 2.28 BB/9, 2.66 FIP

Rather than list every player who came close and just missed the cut, I’ll let you post your own all-star rosters in the comments.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Miguel Cabrera’s Third Base Defense

Very rarely would you see a first baseman move to a more difficult position, in this case third base.  However, the move was necessary when the Tigers signed Prince Fielder.  Miguel Cabrera had experience before playing third base and the Tigers lacked offensive production from that position, so it seemed like a natural fit.  Detractors said that there was a reason why the Tigers moved him out of third base to begin with.  He wasn’t very good there before and he was getting too big to have the range necessary to play the position.  He was becoming an above average first baseman so why fix something that wasn’t broken?  Supporters pointed to his experience at that position, the fact that he lost some weight, so the range should improve and that as long as he remained a productive hitter, the defense didn’t matter so much.  So now that it’s been a few months, I’m going to look to see how exactly Cabrera’s defense has held up at the hot corner.

First, the eye test.  This is a non-scientific, purely observational method.  From just watching him play, how has Cabrera performed?  For me, admittedly, Cabrera has made a handful of plays that made me go “wow.”  However I think he’s been average at best to below average overall.  His best asset is his strong arm, but there were times where I thought his range was lacking.  The biggest flaw in this is that I haven’t watched every single inning of every game, so I might be missing something that someone else has seen.  Here's an example of this eye-test on two plays Cabrera failed to make on Sunday in Verlander's latest start.

Now to look at some stats provided by Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs.  I’m not going to go in depth with the advanced stats but one thing to keep in mind is the flaw of the small sample size.  According to FanGraphs, 3 years of data is about equivalent to 1 year of hitting.

Miguel Cabrera has played 627 1/3 innings at 3B this year. Only Chase Headley of the Padres has played more innings there this year at 636 1/3.  Cabrera has made 7 errors in 188 chances, giving him a .963 fielding percentage.  Of the 181 outs, 118 of them have been assists and 63 have been putouts, giving him a range factor of 2.60 (181*9/Innings).  League average fielding percentage is .948 and league average range factor is 2.47, so Cabrera has been slightly above average in both of these metrics.

Of the 7 errors, 2 of them have been fielding errors and 5 have been throwing errors.  Only Pedro Alvarez has made more throwing errors at 7 (Brett Lawrie and Mike Moustakas have also made 5 throwing errors).  Cabrera has made 15 double plays, tying him for 2nd with Hanley Ramirez and Brett Lawrie.  Only Mike Moustakas has converted more double plays with 22.  No one has attempted a bunt more against a third baseman than Miguel Cabrera with 17.  He has turned 12 of them into outs for a 71% success rate.  League average is 61%. 

The next step is to look at a player’s zone ratings.  The simplest one is revised zone rating (RZR).  It takes a look at how many balls in zone are converted to outs.  According to this stat, Cabrera has converted 91 outs out of 96 balls in his zone, giving him a RZR of .948.  He has also made 16 outs out of his zone, which puts him about average.  The league average RZR is .919, so Cabrera has been above average in this rating.   

UZR, Rtot and DRS (rdrs in Baseball-Reference) uses the same basic concepts of the zones and converts the ratings in terms of “runs.”  0 is average; a positive number is above average and negative number is below average.  Miguel Cabrera has a -4.0 UZR, -6 Rtot and 0 DRS.  Going by a minimum of 300 innings played, the UZR is the 2nd worst in baseball; Jordan Pacheco is at -6.5.  Cabrera’s Rtot is tied for 2nd worst along with Mark Reynolds; Jordan Pacheco also has the worst Rtot with -9.  UZR and Rtot have made Cabrera way belowe average.  Cabrera’s DRS is exactly league average.

Putting all these defensive metrics together is a little tricky.  Cabrera has been anywhere from above average to below average and everywhere in between.  My guess before the season was that Cabrera would rival Mark Reynolds as the worst defensive third baseman.  Based on the stats accumulated thus far, it’s hard to give him that distinction.  I would still hesitate to call Cabrera above average on defense, but at this point average at best is how I would describe Cabrera’s play at 3B, which exceeds my expectations. 

Going by the stats, Brett Lawrie has easily been the best 3B while Jordan Pacheco has been the worst.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jhonny Peralta’s Offensive Production

Jhonny Peralta is hitting .267/.347/.405 so far this year with 4 HR, 18 RBI and a 106 OPS+ in 240 PA.  This is somewhat of a disappointment as he hit .299/.345/.478 with 21 HR, 86 RBI and a 123 OPS+ in a breakout season in 2011.  At only 30 years old, he was supposed to build off of that year and continue to be an offensive force.  However, except for his on-base percentage, he’s fallen off quite a bit back to his career numbers.  Was last year a fluke?  Or is Peralta getting unlucky this year?

As mentioned, his OBP has been up this year thanks mostly to his high BB rate, 10.4%.  It hadn’t reached 10% since his 2004 and 2005 seasons.  This is very encouraging.  His strikeout rate has been slightly decreasing since 2010 (16.7% in 2010; 16.5% in 2011; 16.3% so far in 2012).  This has given Peralta his best walk to strikeout ratio of his career.  So he must be seeing the ball pretty well this year.  His plate discipline numbers back this up too.  His swinging strike rate (swing and misses/total pitches) is the lowest of his career, 8.0% and his contact rate is the highest in his career at 82.9%. 

So, if he’s seeing the ball well, why hasn’t he been producing?  Well, according to FanGraphs, he has a 28.3% LD rate.  Not only is this the highest of his career, but it’s top 5 in all of baseball, behind Joey Votto (33.0%), Freddie Freeman (30.9%), Jason Kubel (29.5%) and Alejandro De Aza (29.4%).  Hitting line drives is important because they fall in for base hits more frequently than any other type of batted ball, typically around 72% of the time.  The fact that Peralta has hit this many line drives and has as low of a batting average as he does seems unusual.  One quick measurement of luck is to add .120 to his line drive rate and compare it to his BABIP; if it’s higher than he’s been unlucky, if it’s lower than he’s been lucky.  .283 + .120 = .403.  Peralta’s BABIP is currently at .308; which isn’t too far away from his career .314 mark.  However, putting it in perspective of his line drive rate shows that maybe Peralta has been a little unlucky this year.

Peralta’s HR/FB rate is currently at 7.0%, the lowest he’s ever put up.  Last year it was at 10.8% and his career mark it 11.0%, so this seems unusual.  His FB% of 32.9% is pretty low for him as the last 2 years it’s been 43.4% and 44.2%.  Hitting more line drives instead of fly balls is usually a good trade-off.  Sure, the homers decrease, but usually the average and sometimes the slugging percentage increase.  This hasn’t been the case for Peralta.  Although, we still have a little more than half a season to go, so maybe Peralta has a home run tear in him before the end of the season.

Peralta has a career .329 wOBA and 100 wRC+ and he currently has a .328 wOBA and 104 wOBA.  So it seems like he’s right where he should be.  However, the advanced numbers suggest something different.  Peralta has been seeing and hitting the ball in a way that should result in better results.  And maybe his luck is finally changing.  Over his last 78 PA, he’s hitting .324/.397/.529 with 2 HR.

I propose that we make Peralta the #5 hitter, where the Tigers have had difficulty getting consistent production.  Sure, the numbers on the surface show that this might not be a good idea, but as Peralta has shown over his last 21 games, his luck might already be changing and the Tigers could reap great reward from it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Closer’s Role Isn’t Hard

Granted it isn’t easy either.  The 9th inning is a pressure-filled situation and not any bum from AAA  can fill it.  However, the perception that it must be filled with a steely-eyed tough-man mentality guy and that those guys are a rare breed is wrong.  There are many relievers in the majors able to pitch the 9th inning with a lead, including our very own Phil Coke.  Last night when Jose Valverde got injured while warming up, Coke entered a 6-3 game in the 9th inning and set down the Cardinals 1-2-3 without breaking a sweat.

The 2012 season has many examples of closers getting replaced due to either injury or ineffectiveness and the replacements weren’t that hard to find, where a majority of them did an adequate job.  By my count 16 teams have replaced their closer at least once at some point during the year; only Jim Johnson, Fernando Rodney, Chris Perez, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps, Joe Nathan, Frank Francisco, Jon Papelbon, Craig Kimbrel, Jason Motte, Brett Myers, John Axford, J.J. Putz and Rafael Betancourt have been officially remained the closer for their team the whole season thus far (if I’m wrong, correct me in the comments).  The Tigers’ Jose Valverde wasn’t officially on the DL, but was day-to-day for 10 days.  During that span, Octavio Dotel and Joaquin Benoit picked up a save each with no blown saves.  Now that it looks like Valverde will miss more time, I have full confidence in either Dotel or Benoit as the acting closer.

The biggest injury among closers this year would probably have to be Mariano Rivera, the best closer in the history of the game.  This sounds like a tough job to take over, no?  Since taking over closing duties, Rafael Soriano has saved 13 games in 14 opportunities and recorded a 1.35 ERA.  Although it does help to have closing experience.  Fernando Rodney (20 saves, 1.10 ERA) and Jonathan Broxton (17 saves, 1.63 ERA) have been full-time closers before and when Kyle Farnsworth and Joakim Soria suffered injuries, it was easy to give them the closer’s role.

It’s not just the veteran’s that have experience that can go back to that role either.  Aroldis Chapman had 1 save before taking over closing from injured Sean Marshall and has 8 saves with a 1.57 ERA this year.  Addison Reed had no closing experience before this year and has 8 saves with a 4.37 ERA. Ernesto Frieri also had no closing experience and since being picked up by the Angels, has 7 saves with a 0.00 (!) ERA. 

Altogether, there have been 41 players to record at least 30 saves since 2009.  That doesn’t sound like an elite club to me.  So besides injury and retirement, why all the closing changes?  Sure, ineffectiveness is one reason.  But for example, why did the Yankees sign Rafael Soriano to “only” be a setup man?  He had just saved a league-leading 45 games with the Rays the year before.  Surely, he could continue to be a closer.  Well, one reason is certainly insurance in case Mariano Rivera did get injured (and he did).  But a big reason had to be that the 9th inning isn’t the only pressure-filled situation.  Think about the scenario in the 7th inning where the starter has gone tired and loaded the bases with less than 2 outs in a 1-run game.  That sounds like a pressure-filled situation to be.  Think of all the times Mike Adams, who only has 2 saves in his career, has been put in that situation and has a career 2.18 ERA (success!).  If he can handle the pressure in that situation, certainly he can handle the pressure situation in the 9th inning.  Pressure situations are pressure situations, right?  The Rangers know how valuable he is as a setup man, which is why they haven’t converted him to a closer.  However, if Joe Nathan has to go on the DL, the Rangers should be perfectly fine with Mike Adams as their closer.

No, not just anyone can be a closer.  However, there are several capable relievers out there that can fill the role.  In fact, most successful major league relievers should have no problem closing.  This isn’t some rare role that only a select few can do.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Regressing Quintin Berry

The hot topic today is Quintin Berry.  Should he be starting?  Or is he nothing more than a bench player?  The general consensus is that his .473 BABIP is unsustainable due to a small sample size and that he’ll regress.  The question then becomes, what will he regress to?  What is his true talent?  And is his true talent an everyday player?

In the minors, Berry has consistently averaged about an 11% BB rate.  So far in the majors, it’s at 6.7%.  A walk rate is something that usually translates well from the minors to the majors.  The biggest reason that his walk rate hasn’t translated well, yet, is because of the small sample.  Also, when you’re hitting the ball, there’s no time to walk.  I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that this will increase.  I’ll give him a 9.5% BB% as his true talent.

Next is the strikeout rate.  This has been a problem for Berry.  In 2012, in the minors, it was at 25%.  In the majors, it’s at 25.8%.   Pretty consistent.  In his career in the minors, it was at 18.9%.  In time, Berry could improve on this number, but for now it’ll probably stay at around 25%.

Now let’s look at his balls in play.  For this, I’m going to use two different sources, Baseball-reference and FanGraphs.  Sometimes, there’s a discrepancy in how these balls in play are classified and using two sources should minimize this flaw.

25 Ground Balls (52.1%), 13 hits, 1 2B
13 Fly Balls (27.1%), 3 hits, 2 3B
10 Line Drives (20.8%), 7 hits, 2 2B

23 Ground Balls (47.9%), 11 hits, 1 2B
10 Fly Balls (20.8%), 2 hits, 2 3B
15 Line Drives (31.3%), 10 hits, 2 2B

According to Minor League Central, over the last two years, Quintin Berry has a 48.2% ground ball rate, so seeing this high ground ball rate at the major league level isn’t surprising.  What is surprising is the number of hits he’s getting on ground balls; a .520 average according to Baseball-reference and a .478 average according to FanGraphs.  This is where the majority of the regression will take place.  What is “normal,” though?  According to FanGraphs, the league average on ground balls is .227.  However, Berry is a speedster, so we can expect that number to increase, slightly.  How much?  Ichiro has a .297 average on ground balls.  Juan Pierre has a career .240 average on ground balls.  Somewhere in the middle would probably be about right.

Using Baseball-reference stats, giving Berry a .280 average on ground balls (subtracting 6 “lucky” hits), would give Berry a slash line of .256/.341/.359/.700.

Using FanGraphs stats, giving Berry a .261 average on ground balls (subtracting 5 “lucky” hits), would give Berry a .269/.352/.372/.724 slash line.

One problem with using FanGraphs stats is that it shows that he has a 31.3% line drive rate.  In the minors in 2011-2012, this number was 17.9%, so Baseball-reference is probably closer to his “true” talent. 

Putting it all together, with the 9.5% walk rate, 25% strikeout rate, .280 average on ground balls, and a lower than average average on fly balls and line drives (to show his poor power), given 650 PA:

.234/.325/.329/.654 You can check my math here.

So, is this good enough production for your starting LF?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Austin Jackson Confuses Me

Austin Jackson busted on the scene in 2010, hitting .293/.345/.400 in his rookie year.  Many critics pointed to his .396 BABIP, calling it unsustainably high and that Jackson was very lucky to have as much success as he did.  His .333 wOBA and 104 wRC+ made him out to be a very average player and when he regresses, he’ll be shown to be a slightly below average hitter.

That is exactly what happened in 2011.  His BABIP fell to .340 and so did his production: .249/.317/.374, .309 wOBA, 90 wRC+.  He was figured out.  The average of the two season was going to be more or less the type of player Jackson was going to become (maybe a bit higher production during his peak years); a .271/.331/.387, .321 wOBA, 97 wRC+ hitter with a .369 BABIP.  BABIP estimators showed that Jackson would have a high BABIP, around .350, because of his speed.  This was also consistent with what he showed in the minors. 

Then the 2012 season started.  Granted, he worked on his swing, removing the high leg kick.  This would help him work on his timing and hopefully reduce his strikeouts.  And it did.  He went from having a 26.1% strikeout rate in 2010-11 to an 18.8% strikeout rate in 2012.  What wasn’t anticipated, at least for me, was his improved walk rate and gained power.  He was improving on his walk rate, 7.0% in 2010 to 8.4% in 2011.  In 2012 it jumped to 14.1%.  Walk rates are something that generally translates well from the minors.  Jackson had a fairly consistent 9% walk rate in the minors, so 14.1% seems a bit high, unless Jackson truly has improved on his plate discipline.

The one thing that really confuses me on Jackson this year is his power.  Jackson has never shown much home run power, but as he matures and fills out his body, an increase of home runs should be expected.  His home run rate went from 0.6% in 2010 to 1.5% in 2011 and a big jump to 3.7% in 2012.  His HR/FB has gone from 3.3% in 2010 to 6.9% in 2011 to 14.0% in 2012.  This gives him a .321/.416/.556 AVG/OBP/SLG line.  His ISO is an astounding .235; that leads the team that includes Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Is he really progressing at this rate, or has 2012 been unsustainable?  It’s hard to figure out as Jackson is still only 25 and has yet to enter his prime seasons (which are typically age 27-32 or thereabouts).

His BABIP is back up to .375 this year.  His approach seems to have changed too:
2010 – 24.2% LD; 48.4% GB; 27.4% FB
2011 – 16.8% LD; 47.1% GB; 36.1% FB
2012 – 19.7% LD; 40.9% GB; 39.4% FB

His line drive rates show why his BABIP was so high in 2010 and was lowered in 2011. However, in 2012, while his line drive rate has evened out, Jackson isn’t hitting as many ground balls to take advantage of his speed.  I guess if you’re hitting for as much power as Jackson is, you don’t really need to.

A big problem for Jackson in the past was that he was a very streaky hitter.  How much of that was because of the high leg kick is yet to be known.  This year, he’s been fairly consistent (when he was healthy that is).  Projecting Jackson in the future is going to be very difficult, at least until his production starts stabilizing.  I never though Jackson was going to be a 25 HR threat and this year, given 650 PA, Jackson is on pace to hit about 24 HR.  Since 1901, BABIP leaders:

Harry Davis - .417
Ty Cobb - .378
Austin Jackson - .370
Rogers Hornsby – 365

Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby are one of the greatest hitters of all time and Hall of Fame players.  Lumping Austin Jackson into that group shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

However, Austin Jackson confuses me.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Justin Verlander – Just as Good as Last Year

…and maybe even better.

Justin Verlander only has a .600 winning percentage this year (6-4 W/L) compared to last year’s .828 winning percentage (24-5 W/L).  Also, he’s ERA is higher (2.66 compared to 2.40 last year) as well as his WHIP (0.97 compared to 0.92 last year).  Looking at these old school stats, one could conclude that Verlander is slightly worse this year than last year.  However, we’re in an age where more information is available and that information says that Verlander has been even better than these stats suggest.

Winning percentage is dependent on run support and a good bullpen.  Last year, Verlander had 4.7 runs of support /game; this year, it’s only 3.4 runs/game.  Also, last year, the Tigers won every game leading after the 7th inning.  This year, they haven’t been as perfect, losing 5 games leading after the 7th inning.  ERA and WHIP is somewhat dependent on the defense; if the defense can’t make a play because of poor range, then it’ll go as a hit instead of an error.  The Tigers’ defense this year has been below average – way below average.  The Tigers rank 29th in both UZR and DRS. 

Several defensive independent stats:
2011 Verlander – 2.99 FIP, 3.12* xFIP, 3.09 tERA, 2.99 SIERA
2012 Verlander – 2.54* FIP, 3.18 xFIP, 3.03* tERA, 2.95* SIERA

*Career bests.

All very close to last year and all better than last year except for xFIP.  xFIP adjusts for the league average HR rate.  Last year, Verlander had an 8.8% HR/FB, the highest it’s been since 2006 when it was 10.3%.  This year, it’s only 6.1%.  Verlander has always had a lower than average HR rate, so maintaining that this year isn’t out of the question.  However, his career is 7.7%, so a slight increase could be expected.  FIP also heavily factors in strikeout rates and Verlander has a higher K/9 this year than last year (9.12 in 2012; 8.79 in 2011).

His WHIP is higher this year, despite having the same BB rate (2.04 BB/9).  His LD rate is up this year to 22.6% compared to 17.7% last year and thus his BABIP is higher (.265 compared to .236 last year).  However, his batting against line is pretty close to last year’s:

2011 - .192/.242/.313/.555
2012 - .205/.254/.314/.568

His slugging against is almost exactly the same as last year.  Again, this is mainly due to the lower HR rate.  His ground ball percentage is almost exactly the same as last year (40.2% in 2011; 40.0% in 2012).  This means that some of the fly balls that were hit last year and being changed into line drives this year.  However, this is an arbitrary stat; sometimes there is little difference between a line drive and a fly ball.  For example, Baseball-reference shows Verlander having a 19% LD rate this year and a 17% LD rate in 2011.  Still higher, so there is proof that Verlander has been a little bit more hittable this year.  However, the higher strikeout rate and lower HR rate kind of balances it out.

His swinging strike rate (swing and misses/total pitches) is at 11.7% this year and his contact rate is only at 75.3% this year, both are career bests for him.  Verlander has an fWAR of 3.4 in 14 starts this year; at that rate he’ll have an 8.3 fWAR in 34 starts, which will match is career high set in 2009 (Verlander has a 7.0 fWAR last year).  At his current pace, Verlander could have the best season of his career this year.

Just imagine how Verlander would look on even an average defensive team.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Tigers’ Plate Discipline This Year

Poster TigersFanATL observed that the Tigers don’t really work the count and this is the reason why the Tigers are having a terrible time having a consistent offense.  There are a few advantages in working the count.  For one, it could lead to more walks (when there’s more men on base, there’s a better chance that they’ll score).  Only the Orioles (7.5%) and Royals (6.7%) have a lower walk rate in the American League than the Tigers (7.6%).  There’s also a better chance that the pitcher will make a mistake that the batter can take advantage on.  Finally, it drives up the starter’s pitch count and they can get into the bullpen earlier (for example, the Tigers couldn’t touch Paul Maholm last night, but scored 3 runs after he was replaced).

I decided to look at the numbers to see how the Tigers look on plate discipline.

In pitches/PA, the Tigers are dead last in the American League.  In all of baseball, they are tied with the Phillies at 3.72 pitches/PA and only the Cardinals are slightly lower at 3.71 pitches/PA.  Delmon Young is the worst everyday player at working the count as he only sees 3.28 pitches/PA.  Brennan Boesch isn’t too far behind; he’s 7th lowest at 3.38 pitches/PA.  The White Sox are the only other team to have 2 players in the bottom 10 (Alex Rios is 2nd at 3.31 pitches/PA and A.J. Pierzynski is 10th at 3.40 pitches/PA).  The league average is 3.85 pitches/PA.  Here’s how some of the other Tigers look:

Alex Avila – 4.17
Austin Jackson – 4.12
Danny Worth – 3.95
Jhonny Peralta – 3.94
Ryan Raburn – 3.85
Don Kelly – 3.88
Prince Fielder – 3.80
Miguel Cabrera – 3.68
Andy Dirks – 3.68
Quintin Berry – 3.65
Ramon Santiago – 3.57
Brennan Boesch – 3.38
Delmon Young – 3.28

The Tigers have been very aggressive; they swing 30% of the time at the first pitch, which is tops in the American League.  Only Washington (33%), Cincinnati (32%), St. Louis and San Diego (31%) are higher.  Surprisingly, it’s Josh Hamilton and Freddie Freeman who are tops in baseball in this stat; swinging at the first pitch exactly half of the time (50%).  Delmon Young is at 44%, the highest on the Tigers.

The one stat that doesn’t make much sense is that the Tigers are leading all of baseball in the amount of foul balls per strikes seen at 29%.  If the Tigers are fouling off that many pitches, it would seem that they are working the count and thus their pitches/PA should be high.  Unless, of course, the amount of strikes seen is low.

According to FanGraphs, the Tigers are swinging at more pitches in the strike zone than any other team in baseball at 67.7% of the time.  And according to Baseball-Reference, they are putting the ball in play 31% of the time, tied for 2nd with the Royals, Giants, Angels, Yankees and Rangers.  Only the Phillies are higher at 32%.  This should be a good thing, as it prevents the Tigers from striking out (which it is, the Tigers are only striking out 17.8% of the time; league average is 18.8%) and also forces the other team’s defense to make a play. 

The Tigers are hitting line drives 21.6% of the time, which is quite good; only the Red Sox (22.7%), Rangers (22%), Royals (21.8%) and White Sox (21.7%) are better in the American League.  They are also hitting ground balls only 42% of the time (only the Red Sox are lower at 40.8%).  So, the Tigers have put a lot of balls in play, but they are also hitting the ball fairly well too; line drives are good because they have the best chance at falling in for a base hit (about 70-72% of the time) and avoiding ground balls is good because it’s hard to hit for power when hitting the ball on the ground (and you generally need speed to get an infield hit). 

So, the Tigers should have a high rate on which balls fall in for hits – and they do, a .300 BABIP.  Only the Rangers (.319) and Red Sox (.310) are higher in the American League.

The Tigers have a very aggressive approach when it comes to hitting.  It prevents them from striking out, but it also prevents them from walking.  They don’t see a lot of pitches, but when they do put the ball in play, good things are happening.  What they lack is balance.  The Tigers have a lot of the same type of hitters, who swing early and often – and this has led to an inconsistent offense.  What they need are a few players who can work the count and can draw walks.  This is why Austin Jackson and Alex Avila are so important to this Tigers offense.  They are both averaging over 4 pitches/ PA and have walk rates over 11.5%.  Unfortunately, both have missed time on the DL.  Jackson is now back; let’s hope for a speedy recovery for Avila.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Brandon Inge's Performance in Oakland

Brandon Inge has had a weird career.  He’s gone from catcher to third baseman to a second baseman (and even a little outfield in between).  He’s hit 27 HR in a season twice, but also hit 7 or 8 HR in a season.  He’s been an all-star, designated for assignment and released.  He can dunk a basketball, kick a 50-yard field goal, hit a golf ball 400 yards and some other less confirmed feats.  Fans either love him or hate him.  And now he’s hitting in Oakland after not performing at all in Detroit the last 2 years.

Since 2011, Inge hit .190/.255/.284/.538 in 289 PA for the Tigers.  He was done, finished, washed up and some say never was.  Then Oakland picked him up and now Inge is hitting .244/.333/.465/.798 and every night seems to be a 4-RBI night.  What happened?  Was Inge holding out on us?  Did the A’s hitting coach make him better?  Is this a fluke?

My theory has to do with Inge’s stubbornness, bad timing, his mentality (and a little bit of flukiness).  In the 2009 off-season Inge has surgery on both knees, but was (supposedly) ready to go to start the 2010 season.  During that season, he got hit in the hand by a pitch and missed some time with a non-displaced fracture.  The next season he missed some time with mononucleosis.  Now, I’m not calling the injuries themselves an excuse, but rather Inge’s stubbornness to play.  For example, when he fractured his hand, it was estimated that he would miss 4-6 weeks.  He was back in 2 weeks.  He was hitting .263/.342/.413/.755 before the injury and .223/.288/.371/.659 after.  Obviously he didn’t take enough time off for it to properly heal and it was affecting his performance.

Victor Martinez tore his ACL this past off-season.  As a knee-jerk reaction, Ilitch told Dombrowski to sign Prince Fielder to a 9-year deal worth over $200 million.  To make room for Fielder, Miguel Cabrera moved to 3B and Inge was left without a job.  Inge hates to sit on the bench, so he convinced Leyland to try him out at 2B.  Now I have to think that this affected his hitting.   He was trying a new position and probably taking extra time in for fielding practice – time that would have normally been put into batting practice.  Now, I don’t like to get into the psychology of the game; I have no idea what was going on in Inge’s mind.  But Leyland was quoted as saying that Inge wasn’t a "happy camper" when the Tigers signed Fielder.  I don’t think Inge wanted to play a new position and that too was affecting his play.  I’m not saying he was intentionally not giving 100%, but subconsciously I don’t think he was giving his all.  A popular theory is that fans were booing Inge and this was affecting his play.  I have to disagree with this.  Inge is a professional ballplayer and has played in the majors for 12 years.  He has had an up and down career.  I’m sure he’s encountered booing before, but has come back to perform again.  I don’t think that this time had any effect on him. 

Fast-forward to the move to Oakland.  It has been 2 years since his knee surgery and therefore he’s back to full strength.  His hand is healed up and his mononucleosis is cured.  He’s back in his comfort zone at 3B and now he has something to prove.  It shouldn’t come as a total shock that he’s now producing at least at some level.  But I want to look deeper into the stats anyway.

Inge has a .271 BABIP with the Athletics, .282 career mark; nothing out of the ordinary.  However, he has a 26.6% LD, 34.4% GB, 39.1% FB compared to his career numbers of 18.0% LD, 39.2% GB and 42.8% FB.  His 26.6% LD is the highest it’s ever been for his career and suggests that Inge might actually be under-performing.  His 39.1% FB is low as it’s usually been around 45% in Detroit.  His HR/FB ratio is 20%, double of his career mark of 10% and the highest it’s ever been since 2009 when it was 15.4%.  Can he sustain these stats?  Likely not, unless the hitting coach actually did work with him and got him to change his approach.  The HR/FB ratio looks like a fluke though; he’s not hitting as many fly balls as he usually does, yet the frequency of them being home runs is that high?  I’m not buying it. 

Brandon Inge is hitting a lot better in Oakland than he is on the road.  Since going to Oakland, Inge has a .303/.378/.697/1.075 line at home and a .208/.306/.321/.627 line on the road.  Oakland is often regarded as a pitcher’s park.  How is Inge hitting so well at the Coliseum?  He’s a career .177/.256/.323/.578 hitter there.  I have to think that it’s nothing more than a 9-game small sample size fluke.  Although this does give credence to the “booing” theory.  Cheering helps, booing hurts?  Yeah, I’m still not buying it. 

Then there’s the fact that he isn’t getting any younger.  Brandon Inge is 35 years old this year.  Most players don’t have their career years at 35 years old and I don’t think Brandon Inge is the exception.  I thought Brandon Inge was too old to go back and do what he did in 2004-06 again.  I thought that he was too injury-riddled and that he should have just retired after being released.  I was wrong.  However, how much longer can Inge go on playing like he has been?  I have to think that some of these stats are going to start evening out.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Why I Dislike Interleague

Tonight starts the 2nd round of Interleague play and I can’t wait until it’s over.  Now, I’m not a true purist.  I think that there should be more instant replay and that the DH should be used in both leagues (but that’s for a different post).  So why do I dislike Interleague so much?


I like the idea of two teams who came out on top in their leagues to face each other and see who is truly #1.  By having Interleague, there is a chance that these two teams would face each other during the regular season and that just takes away the mystic of the World Series.  I want to see strategy of the two managers of how to play a team that they’ve never faced before.  If they already faced each other during the season, they have first-hand knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses.  It is one thing to read about it in a scouting report, but it’s entirely different to execute it in a game.  I want to see how Stephen Strasburg attacks David Ortiz for the first time in the World Series, not in game #58 of the regular season. 

I understand that in this day and age, there is free agency, trades and coming up next year, a team switching leagues.  There’s more opportunity now of players seeing more competition than before and the greater of a chance that they already had faced a certain batter or pitcher before the World Series.  But it’s not all about one-on-one matchups.  It’s about a team as a whole facing another team as a whole and trying their best to beat them without prior knowledge.  It’s like a group of kids arguing against another group of kids that they are better at baseball than them.  They aren’t going to ask each other what their weaknesses are; they are just going to play and find out for themselves.  Interleague play ruins that in the World Series if these teams had already faced each other before.

Getting to See Players from the Other League

One of the arguments for Interleague play is to see the superstars that you normally wouldn’t be able to see.  And that’s a valid argument.  But one that only works on ticket sales.  Nowadays, there’s the Internet, ESPN,, MLB Network, Extra Innings and probably a few more things that I’m forgetting.  There are plenty of opportunities to see all the superstars, more so than say 20 years ago.  I’ve already mentioned that this is the day of free agency and trades, so the chances of players switching leagues are greater now than ever before.

Astros in the American League 2013

Next year the Astros are going to move to the American League.  Each league will have 15 teams and therefore, Interleague is not going to go away any time soon.  It’s one of those things that I’m going to have to get used to in baseball.  But just because it is in baseball, doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. 

So how do you feel about Interleague play?  Like it, don’t like it?  Leave a comment!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Maybe it’s Time to Put Scherzer in the Bullpen

One of the reasons Arizona was so willing to trade Scherzer was because they thought he would eventually wind up in the bullpen.  The Tigers virtually debunked that as Scherzer was able to pitch 195 innings in 2010 and 2011 with ERA’s of 3.50 and 4.43.  However, Scherzer hasn’t been particularly good in the rotation this year with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP (no matter how much his defensive independent stats show how unlucky he’s been).

Scherzer’s changeup has never been his best pitch, but this year it has been extremely bad:

2010 – (0.21)
2011 – (0.05)
2012 – (3.43)

Pitch f/x agrees:
2010 – (0.11)
2011 – 0.04
2012 – (3.46)

This is very important to a pitcher like Scherzer, because he uses his changeup to get left-handed pitchers out.  And left-handers are crushing Scherzer this year:

Vs. LHB – 166 PA, .349/.415/.575, 8 HR, 35 K, 17 BB
Vs. RHB – 126 PA, .235/.296/.400, 5 HR, 45 K, 7 BB

Vs. LHB – 464 PA, .281/.345/.496, 19 HR, 84 K, 41 BB
Vs. RHB – 369 PA, .262/.301/.405, 10 HR, 90 K, 15 BB

He wasn’t as effective against left-handers as right-handers in 2011 either, but was still able to get them out, unlike this year.  If Scherzer doesn’t have an effective changeup, then he’s virtually a 2-pitch pitcher with his fastball and slider, and it’s very hard for a pitcher to be an effective starting pitcher with just 2 pitches.

Another factor in why some pitchers can’t start is that they can’t go deep into game.  That’s something else that Scherzer is experiencing this year.

1st time through the batting order – 109 PA, .240/.324/.438, 5 HR, 33 K, 11 BB
2nd time through the batting order – 108 PA, .286/.346/.459, 4 HR, 33 K, 8 BB
3rd time through the batting order – 74 PA, .394/.438/.636, 4 HR, 14 K, 5 BB

Now most pitchers tire as they go deep into games and get less effective.  Scherzer experienced this last year, but not to the point where he’s almost useless after going through the order twice.

1st time through the order – 298 PA, .255/.313/.423, 10 HR, 69 K, 22 BB
2nd time through the order – 292 PA, .275/.312/.500, 12 HR, 59 K, 13 BB
3rd time through the order – 221 PA, .288/.356/.414, 5 HR, 43 K, 20 BB

Scherzer has changed as a pitcher.  He has gone from a middle of the rotation stuff to a reliever.  It might be time to put him in the role that he’s performing in.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Look at Bryan Holaday and Jose Ortega

The Tigers recently made two moves.  They placed Alex Avila on the DL and designated Omir Santos for assignment.  They promoted catcher Byan Holaday and relief pitcher Jose Ortega to take their spots on the roster.  The following players have been, at one time or another, on the 25-man roster that started the year in AAA: Holaday, Ortega, Drew Smyly, Casey Crosby, Luke Putkonen, Brayan Villarreal, Adam Wilk, Thad Weber, Quintin Berry, Matt Young, Omir Santos, Brad Eldred, Clete Thomas.  That’s 13 players and we’re barely in June.  If my calculations are correct, the Tigers had 16 players on their roster last year who started in the minors, and that includes September call-ups.

Bryan Holaday is a right-handed batter that had a stat line of .248/.313/.314, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 11 BB, 23 K in 137 PA in AAA.  He has a career stat line of .238/.314/.343, 10 HR, 64 RBI, 59 BB, 142 K in 696 PA spanning 3 years in the minors.  He was drafted out of college and immediately got placed in High-A ball and then moved to AA in 2011 and AAA in 2012.  His strong defensive skills (38.5% caught stealing rate this year) probably helped him speed through the minors and eventually to the majors.  His numbers don’t suggest that he’ll be any more than a back-up at the ML level, and unless he’s very, very good at defense he probably won’t last long.  I’ve read that he does have strong leadership qualities, so that should help too.

Holaday was batting .333/.385/.417 against left-handed pitching, but that’s only in 28 PA.  In 2011 he was hitting .169/.247/.277 against left-handed pitching, so his improvement is most likely due to small sampling.  He did improve on his LD rate, 17.6% from 14.4% in 2011, so that’s a positive.  Yeah, there’s really not much to look at there, except to hope that he’s really good on defense.

Bryan Holaday is starting today and batting 9th, so we should know soon enough how good he is at defense.

Jose Ortega was once ranked #10 Tigers prospect by Baseball-America in 2011.  He’s a right-handed pitcher, who had 29 IP, 4.03 ERA, 1.897 WHIP, 9.0 BB/9, 11.5 K/9, 3.89 FIP, 4.55 SIERA.  Yikes, look at that walk rate!  He throws a mid-90s fastball that he apparently needs help commanding.  It gives him a good strikeout rate, but a terrible walk rate.

Left-handers are hitting .216/.463/.270 against him and right-handers are hitting .257/.369/.371 against him.  He looks like he’ll be a pretty solid pitcher that can get both lefties and righties out, if he can just get better command and control on his pitches.

I’m predicting that it’ll be a short stay for Ortega as he just doesn’t look ready for prime time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Don’t Forget About Adam Wilk

Adam Wilk pitched on Sunday, going 7 1/3 IP, giving up 5 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 1 walk and striking out 4.  He made 1 mistake, a grand slam.  On the season in Toledo, he has a stat line of 3.40 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 6.62 K/9, 1.79 BB/9, 3.88 FIP in 50 1/3 innings.  When it was time to replace Doug Fister again, the Tigers turned to Casey Crosby (4.26 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 10.13 K/9, 4.62 BB/9, 3.52 FIP) instead of giving Adam Wilk another chance.

Now, I’m not saying that they made the wrong choice.  It’s not always about the stats when it comes to the development of prospects.  They had already tried Adam Wilk once this year and it didn’t go so well (11 IP, 8.81 ERA, 2.18 WHIP, 5.73 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, 7.29 FIP).  Trying someone else to see if they can catch lightning in a bottle sometimes works (look at Quintin Berry). 

Casey Crosby’s walk-a-thon of a start didn’t go exactly as the Tigers had hoped, but they are giving him another start.  Fair enough, they gave Adam Wilk 3 starts.  However, Adam Wilk is making it very hard for people (well me) to forget about him.

Wilk could be getting a little lucky, as his BABIP is a very low .226 while giving up 20.8% LD.  He doesn’t have a high GB%, 35.1%, but his SIERA is a respectable 3.86.  Opponents are only hitting .210/.246/.360 against him.  What’s really impressive is that he’s getting right-handed batters out (.191/.222/.303 batting against).  That combined with the fact that he’s averaging over 6 innings/start shows that he could stay as a starter.

Wilk’s best asset is that he limits the amount of walks; he’s never allowed more than 2 walks per nine innings in the minors.  He’s not going to wow you with his strikeouts, only striking out about 6.5 batters per nine innings.  He works almost the exact opposite way of Casey Crosby, who has a great strikeout rate but a below average walk rate.  Wilk throws an 87 MPH fastball, a cutter, a curveball and a changeup.  He doesn’t throw fast and doesn’t strike guys out; these type of pitchers don’t typically last long in the Tigers organization.

When Fister is healthy and Duane Below doing well in the bullpen (2.63 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 7.13 IP, 1.13 BB/9, 2.89 FIP) there’s seemingly no room for Wilk, especially seeing that Crosby and possibly Jacob Turner later this year are higher on the depth chart.  My prediction is that the Tigers are going to use Wilk as trade bait when the deadline approaches.  They could call him up and “showcase” him to other teams at the ML level, maybe even giving him a start or 2 (similar to Charlie Furbush last year).

The Tigers don’t have much in trade bait in the minors and it looks like they are going to have to make a move or 2 at the deadline.  Adam Wilk continuing to do well could be one of the best things to happen to the Tigers this year.