Saturday, 21 March 2015

Looking Forward to... AL Central Relievers

The Tigers' bullpen was possibly the biggest cause of their difficult path to the AL Central championship in 2014, and to their ultimate flop in 2013. Mr Dombrowski, however, seems to have concluded that new faces aren't going to change much, so the Tigers go into 2015 with largely the same cast that proved wanting in 2014. One major change is the addition of Tom Gorzelanny. Given the comment about Brad Ausmus' trusting his veterans in this article, it seems likely that Gorzelanny is going to be given the first crack at being the premier left-hander.

For the purpose of measuring relative strengths in the bullpen, I have selected four relievers to represent each team, guessing at which four will pitch the highest-leverage innings. Using the same method I used in the post on rotations, here are the respective quartets:

In neither of the first two in this series did any team have such an advantage over the others as the Kansas City Royals have over their AL Central rivals in the bullpen. Kelvin Herrera, ranked third behind Greg Holland and Wade Davis, is as good as the best of any of the other bullpens save the White Sox' David Robertson.

The Tigers' problem is that no lead looks safe with Joe Nathan as the closer. He has been booed in Florida, which is not going to help matters, either. However, taking the Tigers' bullpen as a unit, the righty set-up men, Al Alburquerque and Joakim Soria, look a bit more solid than their equivalents on the Cleveland Indians, the Royals and the Minnesota Twins. It looks as if the Tigers' fate is going to depend a lot on how many left-handed hitters they are going to face in high-leverage situations.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Looking Forward to... AL Central Rotations

Mr Dombrowski's trade of Doug Fister and Max Scherzer's rejection of a $144 million contract (which, to be fair, he bettered), completely undid the excellent Tigers' rotation of 2013. The question is whether the 2015 rebuild is strong enough to carry the Tigers into the post-season, where its shortcomings might be easier to hide.

How does it stack up against the other rotations in the AL Central? Here is a chart—

The numbers are a metric of my own invention, using linear weight values for strikeouts, non-K outs, hits, home runs and walks to create a 'Pitching Runs'. The result isn't intended to be predictive of anything, but an estimate of the relative strength of each pitcher based on 2015 Steamer projections. I used six pitchers for each rotation because the fifth starter can be said not to exist.

As one can see, the Cleveland Indians' rotation is quite deep, with Corey Kluber a clear number one, and getting strong support from Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. It is almost 50 per cent stronger than the Tigers' one, mostly because Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez are not quite as strong as the Clevelanders' #2 and #3.

Worse, from the point of view of Tigers' fans, is the way the White Sox have apparently just as good starters in Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana backing up their #1, Chris Sale, as the Tigers have behind David Price. However, the fall-off in the White Sox' rotation is the worst in the division. The Royals and Twins lack a true ace.

The Tigers have their work cut out for them this season, even if Justin Verlander should bounce back. Before, their rotation strength was not just individual quality, but also depth. They will need to hit more consistently this season, to make up for a weaker back half of the rotation than we would have expected in recent years.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Fearless Joe Sheehan Predicts #2

On 7 February 2005, the Detroit Tigers signed Magglio Ordonez to a five-year contract for $75 million, and options for 2010 and 2011. At sabermetric sites such as was largelyh hostile. To sum it up, the criticism was 'Too expensive for the likely production.' But Fearless Joe Sheehan took things a little bit further
In the short term--2005, maybe 2006--this contract should make the Tigers a better team. Even a past-peak Ordonez, if reasonably healthy, should put up a .300 EqA that will be a big improvement on recent Tigers' corner outfielders. It won't be long, though, before Ordonez's salary far outpaces his value, and eventually is used as the excuse for not retaining a Jeremy Bonderman, or an excuse for more "changes to the system."

The Tigers, though, can't blame any system, or boogeyman in the offices of the MLBPA. They walked into this one, and they will deserve what they get in return.

In fact, as far as one can tell, the Ordonez contract had no impact at all on the Tigers' willingness to spend money to retain star young players, including someone better than Magglio Ordonez

Monday, 16 March 2015

Looking Forward to... 2015 AL Central Lineups

Apologies for the Winter hiatus. My wife's breast cancer has returned, and so I have had more to do than normal. However, I hope to return to my traditional semi-regular posting schedule with the season upon us. She seems to be doing very well so far, although we won't know how successful the treatment is for another 6-8 weeks.

I have an unfinished post I started composing around the time Mr Dombrowski signed Victor Martinez, which was an analysis of the effects of the Anthony Gose deal (but not the Yoenis Cespedes one) on the Tigers' lineup. Since we are now getting projections from the likes of and Baseball Prospectus, I thought I would look at the lineups, rotations and bullpens of the AL Central contenders to see how they match up.

Those projections are not happy reading for fans of the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers have made a habit of making the pursuit of the division title a bit more exciting than their player talent is generally reckoned to allow. sees something of a dead heat between the Cleveland Indians and the Tigers, while the PECOTA projections at Baseball Prospectus give the Tigers a narrow advantage. We all know that projections are just projections, and how Lady Luck can break your heart.

I have used Steamer Projections, available at FanGraphs, to work out the projected wRC+ of the different AL lineups, reproduced in a PNG here:

The lineups are arranged by position, and based on projected PA also at I have made my own combined calculation where platoons or usage does not reflect about 500 PA per position. Being projections, one is more interested in assessing the approximate relative strength of the lineups, as opposed to achieving some kind of precision. As you can see, the Tigers still manage to have the strongest set of regulars, on paper. This is despite Miguel Cabrera's injury struggles last season, and the fact that realistically we have to expect J.D. Martinez to do it again. The strongest challenge should be mounted by the Indians. The White Sox look a bit disappointing to me, based on what I've been hearing about their off-season all off-season. The Twins are in the middle, and the Royals bring up the rear.

At this stage, the problem for Tigers' fans is that we as yet have no clear idea about how ready Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera will be for the start of the season. If they miss three or four weeks between them, that might be enough to close down a good portion of that twenty-run wRC+ advantage over the Indians. Having said that, I was impressed with what I had heard so far of Tyler Collins PAs this spring training. I'm a couple of games behind, though. He has been getting solid contact off front-line pitching, not just off the younger bullpen filler that tends to appear as end-of-game padding. Some good PAs as cover for one of Victor Martinez and Cabrera will go a long way towards keeping the Tigers' lineup strong.