Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2014 Mid-Season Grades

Tonight is the All-Star game, which means we're at the halfway point in the season.  This is a good opportunity to evoluate how the Tiger players are performing and compare that to what was expected of them.


Avila has a 105 wRC+ and a 99 OPS+, which means that he's been a league average offensive player (100 is exactly league average).  The "+" is for his plus defense.  He ranks 4th among catchers in the defensive component of FanGraphs' version of WAR.  Avila has been a better player than some fans realize - for example, his 13.5% walk rate leads all Tiger hitters by a pretty wide margin.

Holaday has 22 hits in 79 at bats for a respectable .278 batting average.  However, 20 of those hits have been singles for a pathetic .038 ISO.  Unlike Avila, who has a low average but some power, Holaday has a high average with no power.  Considering that Holaday has a 78 wRC+ and a 77 OPS+, it's obvious which combination produces a better offensive player.  Given Holaday's .361 BABIP, it's likely that his high average has been luck driven anyway.  The eye test shows that Holaday isn't an elite defensive catcher either.


Cabrera is batting .306/.364/.534 with a 142 wRC+.  Even with his home run power down from the pace we saw the last 2 years, he's still an offensive force.  However, he's not in the "elite" class anymore with six first basemen having a better wRC+.  He does rank 3rd in fWAR, though, due to having the best defensive rating among all first basemen, a complete 180 degrees from his third basemen rating.

Ian Kinsler has the highest fWAR among all Tiger positional players at 3.5 wins.  He's hitting .303/.337/.470 and his 121 wRC+ ranks 5th among all second basemen.  The only issue with Kinsler's offensive performance is his 4.4% walk rate; only Hunter has a lower walk rate among everyday Tiger players.  Kinsler is walking almost half as much as he was from the last 2 years.  Defensively, he's been one of the best at his position.  Definitely worthy of an all-star selection.


Due to injuries (Jose Iglesias), bad trades (Alex Gonzalez) and lack of production (Romine), the Tigers were forced to call up rookie Eugenio Suarez a year sooner than they anticipated.  He has responded with a .265/.345/.429 batting line with an above average 116 wRC+.  Lately though, he's shown signs that he may not quite be ready; since June 15th, he's batting .231/.302/.282 with a 65 wRC+.  Defensively he's been great, at least going by the eye test.  

Nick Castellanos - D

Castellanos has hit for a decent .262/.307/.394 batting line with a slightly below average 91 wRC+.  What really brings his rating down is his defense.  Castellanos has been the worst defensive third basemen in baseball, and it's not even all that close.  His horrible defense has lowered his fWAR to a below replacement level -0.2 wins, which by all means warrants an F rating.  However, there have been moments where he has shined and I'm cutting him some slack for being a rookie.

Andrew Romine - F

Romine has hit for a pathetic .217/.277/.259 batting line.  Out of everyone with at least 150 plate appearances this year, only 7 players have a worse wRC+ than Romine's 49.  Many of them have either been sent back to AAA or DFA'd.  His defense would have to be great to earn a better than a failing grade, and it hasn't been going by my eye test.  


J.D. Martinez - A+ 

J.D's 182 wRC+ is higher than any other Tiger hitter this year.  Out of everyone with at least 200 plate appearances this year, J.D. has the highest batting average (.346), SLG (.654) and wRC+ (1 point above Mike Trout's).  He is one home run short of Cabrera's total despite not being called up until April 21st.  If you include the 10 home runs that he hit in AAA, J.D. has hit 23 home runs altogether this year, which is 2 more than V-Mart's total.  Even his below average defense isn't enough to lower his perfect rating.  

Rajai Davis - B

Davis has been overall solid for the Tigers this year, hitting .296/.338/.432 with a 116 wRC+.  He has provided some speed to the Tigers lineup (something in which they've lacked the last couple of years) with 24 stolen bases this year, which ranks him tied for 6th in all of baseball; only Jose Altuve has more in the American League.  His defense has been below average, but not exactly horrible.  

Austin Jackson - D

This was supposed to be Jackson's big breakout season and it has been anything but so far.  His offensive production is very similar to Castellanos' with a batting line of .256/.317/.373 with an 89 wRC+.  His defense, once elite, is now average to slightly below average, not good enough to bring up his rating.  

Torii Hunter - D-

Hunter has been an average hitter this year with a 101 wRC+ and a 100 OPS+, hitting .272/.293/.450 overall.  The one downside to his offensive production is his minuscule 2.8% walk rate.  If defense weren't a thing, Hunter would get a solid C rating.  However defense cannot be ignored and Hunter has been awful at it this year.  FanGraphs gives him a rating of -15.0 for his defensive component of WAR, which is the worst in baseball.  Not just outfielders, but everyone.  His defense is so bad, his fWAR is -0.6, even with average offensive production, which is the worst on the Tigers among positional players.  The only thing preventing him from an F rating is his veteran presence , leadership qualities and all those other intangibles.     

Don Kelly - F

Kelly is batting .258/.333/.309 with a 79 wRC+.  The only redeeming offensive quality from Kelly is that he's 2nd on the team with a 10.2% walk rate.  His power is nonexistent with a .058 ISO.  He has average to slightly below average defense.  Altogether he's worth -0.2 fWAR.  

Kelly's flexibility is not going to be able to save him when Dirks returns from the disabled list.  The only other likely candidate is Andrew Romine and the only thing saving him is that he's the only player able to backup the shortstop position.  Adding Dirks basically gives the Tigers 6 outfielders and that's one too many with Kelly being the worst of the bunch.  I don't see the Tigers being bold and DFA-ing Hunter.

Designated Hitter:

Victor Martinez - A+

V-Mart is having a career year with a batting line of .328/.391/.599 with 21 home runs.  He's only 4 home runs off his career high with a half a season left to play.  He has exceeded my expectations even when I amended my prediction about a quarter of the way through the season.  Among qualified batters he's 4th in baseball with a 165 wRC+ and 2nd only to Mike Trout in the American League.  It's a shame that he's battling injuries right now as I'd like to see him make a bid for 40 home runs this year.  

Starting Pitching:

Max Scherzer - A

The only Tiger pitcher going to the All-Star game, Scherzer has the highest fWAR among Tiger starters at 3.1 wins.  His fWAR ranks 10th in baseball and 9th in the American League.  His 2.96 FIP and 2.97 SIERA suggest that his ERA of 3.35 is higher than it should be.  He ranks 3rd in all of baseball with a 10.4 K/9.

Anibal Sanchez - A- 

Sanchez has the lowest ERA on the Tigers starting staff at 3.04.  This ranks him 26th in baseball and 11th in the American League.  His fWAR is 2.4 despite having the same FIP as Scherzer's 2.96, due to a lack of innings.  His WHIP of 1.04 is the lowest on the Tigers current roster, but his 6.7 K/9 is lower than it has been the last 2 years (10.0 last year and 7.7 in 2012). 

Rick Porcello - B

Porcello was making a good bid to get on the All-Star team up until his last 2 starts.  He was even on the final vote, but his nationally televised start last Sunday didn't do him any favors, when he gave up 7 ER in 5 2/3 IP.  His ERA is the lowest of his career at 3.39 but lower than his 3.94 FIP and 4.22 SIERA.  In fact, his FIP and SIERA are higher than they were a year ago, suggesting a bit of good fortune for Porcello.  One sign that suggested that this year would be Porcello's big breakout year was his 7.2 K/9 that he put up in 2013, but that has all disappeared to a 5.0 K/9 in 2014.  His groundball rate is currently at 48.2%.  It has never been below 50% at any other year.  This is an important stat for a sinkerball pitcher like Porcello.

Drew Smyly - C-

The league ERA is currently 3.81, Drew Smyly's ERA is at 4.00.  The league WHIP is currently at 1.29, Smyly's WHIP is 1.37.  The league average K/9 is at 7.7, Smyly's K/9 is currently at 7.2.  Factoring in park adjustments, he's right around league average with a 104 ERA+ and a 99 ERA-.  However, his FIP is at 4.46 for an FIP- of a below average 111 (minus stats on FanGraphs means over 100 is below average).  His SIERA of 4.14 is closer to his ERA, though.  Slightly below average altogether gives him a slightly below average score.    

Justin Verlander -  D

Out of 94 qualified starting pitchers, Verlander ranks 88th in both ERA (4.88) and WHIP (1.46) and is tied for 83rd in ERA+ at 85.  From May 14th to June 16th Verlander posted a 7.83 ERA, a 1.85 WHIP and a 5.61 FIP.  Not too many starters would have been able to survive that stretch.  Overall his FIP is 4.02 and SIERA is 4.39 showing that he probably hasn't been as bad as his ERA suggests.  His FIP- is 101, which is very slightly below average.  The eye-popping stat is his 6.7 K/9 when we're used to seeing it at around 9.0.  

Relief Pitching:

Joba Chamberlain - A

Joba has easily been the Tigers best reliever this year with a 2.63 ERA, a 2.47 FIP, a 2.66 SIERA and a 9.6 K/9.  However, the most important stat for a reliever just may be RE24 as it takes into account the situation (since relievers are constantly brought in and taken out in the middle of an inning).  Joba's 6.29 RE24 is the best on the Tigers staff among relievers with significant amount of innings.   His 17 shutdowns also leads Tigers relievers 

Al Alburquerque - B+ 

Alburquerque has been the 2nd best Tigers reliever with a 2.91 ERA, 3.49 FIP and a 2.64 SIERA.  His K/9 is still an impressive 10.1.  He's 2nd on the team with a 2.30 RE24 and 3rd in shutdowns with 9.  The big improvement from Alburquerque is the cut down in walks, at a rate of more than half from last year.  

Phil Coke - D

With a 4.59 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP, Coke has not been good by standard measures.  His 4.01 FIP and 3.28 SIERA suggest that he's better than his ERA indicates, though.  However, his RE24 is -1.35.  When you are contributing negative runs to the team, you are on the verge of failing.

Joe Nathan - D-

Among qualified relievers, Nathan is 149th out of  155 in ERA at 5.61.  His ERA is the highest among all relievers who are still closing.  Only 10 qualified relievers have posted a worse RE24 than Nathan's -5.93.  His FIP of 4.33 and SIERA of 3.38 suggest a bit of bad luck, which is a good sign going forward.  He's still striking out guys at a high rate of 9.4 K/9.  

Ian Krol - F

Even though Krol has a better ERA (4.44) than Coke and Nathan, there are still reasons to believe that Krol is the worst reliever in the Tigers' bullpen.  His 1.59 WHIP is worse than either Coke's or Nathan's and his FIP of 5.76 is not only the worst on the Tigers, but the worst among any reliever who has thrown at least 25 innings this year.  Krol has a -4.55 RE24; only Nathan has posted a worse number in the Tigers' bullpen.  Krol is tied with Coke by allowing 10 inherited runners to score; only 7 relievers have allowed more.  

Blaine Hardy and Chad Smith get an inc. since they haven't pitched enough for me to properly evaluate them.  

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