Preseason BP Nuggets

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Real baseball finally gets underway today. (The NL Central doesn’t count.) Like last year, I read the Baseball Prospectus annual (now just 476 pages!) so you don’t have to. Rather than roll around in the sea of numbers, the following are some little nuggets of information that, at the very least and probably the very most, might help you get excited for the 2015 baseball season.

  • Albert Pujols: Everyone knows Pujols is a mechanized slugger who is and has been aging for some time, beginning in especially noticeable and expensive fashion when he left St. Louis for Southern California in 2012. The authors criticize Pujols for “earning $23 million for 2.9 WARP worth of work,” yet the Angels’ overpayment isn’t really that bad. A win usually is valued between $6 million and $8 million, and while an amount north of $7 million is on the high end, the Angels probably are just fine paying Pujols less than $8 million per win.

  • Ian Kinsler: The Tigers’ return for Prince Fielder, Kinsler made Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski look good last season. One thing Kinsler didn’t do last season though was take a free trip to first base. His walk rate fell off precipitously from his career levels, something the Tigers would like to see return for a guy who’s likely to bat high in the order and is a decent runner and base stealer once he’s aboard.
  • Max Stassi: “He must be the only guy in the game ever to earn his first major-league RBI by taking a fastball to the face.”
  • Kansas City Royals: The American League’s representative in the 2014 World Series had a remarkably mediocre regular season last year. Their ranks in various team measures: RS/G (14th), RA/G (12th), True Average (25th), FIP (16th), Defensive Efficiency Rating (12th). And yet there they were in October, one baserunning decision away from a world championship.
  • Ruben Tejada: PECOTA is in love with the Mets shortstop. BP’s projection machine sees Tejada hitting twenty-five home runs this season (he hit eight in the past three seasons combined) with a True Average of .306 (up from the decidedly average .261 last year), and other gains of similar magnitude across his offensive stats. It also sees him aging eleven years this offsesaon and moving from short in New York to first base in Los Angeles. Something must be wrong here.
  • Pitch framing: The middle child of the famous catching family finds himself a free agent, which is a little bit surprising given the new and widespread focus on catcher value, particularly in the area of pitch framing, where all of the Molinas shine. Here’s José’s player comment: “In 1947, private investigator Eddie Valiant was declared a hero for his work in the murder case of Marvin Acme and R. R. Maroon. With help from his girlfriend Dolores, Baby Herman and Maroon Cartoon Studio star Jessica Rabbit, Valiant discovered that Judge Doom killed Acme and Maroon in an attempt to take over Toontown. Unfortunately, Valiant’s investigation came before the time of detectives Mike Fast and max Marchi. The case was re-opened in 2011 when it was determined that Jose Molina was indeed the one who framed Roger Rabbit.”
  • Chris Archer: We may have found the Detroit Tigers Dugout Librarian‘s favorite non-Tiger in Tampa Bay pitcher Chris Archer: “The Dalai Lama of the diamond, Archer is cool as a cucumber off the field, engaging in philosophical debates and juggling book club memberships. Between the chalk, however, he is a firey competitor, chucking hardballs in the upper 90s with a sharp slider.”

Finally, to satisfy all of your team projection needs, here’s the best prediction piece out there, courtesy of the hard-working crew at Banished to the Pen. Leave your opening day thoughts in the comments below.

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The DET Offensive: World Series Edition

The Tigers are in the World Series! As I wrote to reader and White Sox fan chikat this week, the AL Central ended the way we all thought it would, with Detroit in first place, and Chicago and the rest of the ragtag divisional band lining up behind them. The journey from game one to game 162, though, as documented here from the Tigers’ perspective, did much to raise doubts about what was once thought to be a foregone conclusion. When Detroit, after losing Victor Martinez– an offensive leader on the field and an emotional leader in the clubhouse– to a season-ending injury in the offseason, signed Prince Fielder, they had upped the ante in a big way. For reasons I explained at the time of the Fielder signing, the window on a Tiger World Series victory had been accelerated and focused on the immediate next few seasons, beginning with the present one. For a variety of reasons, enunciable and otherwise, I had pegged next year in my mind as the year this Detroit team would play for a world championship. But here they are, facing off against the San Francisco Giants, who are just a year removed from defending their own World Series title.

I don’t think the Tigers are a year early. I do think they have more confidence in themselves than I do, as evidenced by that prediction and by some of the things I’ve written about them this season. I also think that baseball, for all of its extended, plodding slowness, is a sport of fleeting opportunity at least as much as the other, faster-paced games we play on a major level. (Brendan and I criticized the Washington Nationals for ignoring this fundamental premise when they shut down their ace this season.) There’s no reason to shy away from this moment or otherwise treat it as a test run or bonus opportunity, and this Tiger team has a variety of means by which they can and should seize this opportunity to bring Detroit its first World Series championship since 1984 and its second since 1968.

Keep reading…

The DET Offensive: Now it’s just offensive

Last night’s Tiger loss on the road in Kansas City felt pretty crippling.

The Free Press story starts like this:

In a span of 11 batters over the first and second innings Tuesday night, the Royals got more hits off Justin Verlander than they’d ever gotten off him in a game.

In that same span, they scored seven runs — more than they’d ever gotten off Verlander in a game.

Detroit rallied, tying the game on a Jhonny Peralta home run in the eighth, but Phil Coke, who has been ineffective on the road, gave the lead right back in the bottom half of that inning. The game effectively ended in the ninth, when officials ruled that a Delmon Young drive to the right-field seats wasn’t a homer. It would’ve scored three for the visitors. (Watch the video here, second clip on the right.) That’s Young, pictured above, as he stood on first awaiting the review. He has a mustache now, which I did not know/remember until this morning.

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After the way last night’s game and the month of August has gone for them, there’s little more I can add about this team right now, except to present some numerological reality and then get out.     Keep reading…

The DET Offensive: Delmon Young swings and misses

While I was generally unplugged last week, bdoyk forwarded me this article from ESPN New York, which reports:

Detroit Tigers left fielder Delmon Young apologized to his team and fans Friday, just before getting arraigned on a hate crime harassment charge for a fight at his hotel during which police say he yelled anti-Semitic epithets.

Young posted a $5,000 bond at a brief hearing in Manhattan court and was released less than an hour before the Tigers’ game against the Yankees. He faces a misdemeanor aggravated harassment charge that entails targeting someone for his or her religious beliefs. If convicted, he could face up to a year in jail.

The Tigers arrived in New York at 10:30 p.m. Thursday after their plane sat on the tarmac for 2 hours, 15 minutes in Detroit, according to Leyland.

Around 2:30 a.m., Young was standing outside of the Hilton New York. Nearby, a group of about four Chicago tourists staying at the hotel were approached by a panhandler wearing a yarmulke and a Star of David around his neck, according to police. After, as the group walked up to the hotel doors, Young started yelling anti-Semitic epithets, police said.

It was not clear whom Young was yelling at, but he got into a tussle with the Chicago group, and a 32-year-old man was tackled and sustained scratches to his elbows, according to police and the criminal complaint.

Not good. Since their hot start, the Tigers have been in a free fall, dropping eight of their last ten games in series against Texas, Seattle, and the Yankees. Perhaps even more concerning has been the lack of offensive production widely expected and on display in the season-opening series against Boston and Tampa Bay. Young is a starter because of his bat. He’s a defensive liability and now a mental and legal liability going forward, whatever “going forward” means for Young vis-a-vis the Tigers. Simply put, this was not the type of offensive production Jim Leyland and Tigers fans were looking for out of the streaky Young this year.

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Previously
The DET Offensive: Brennan Boesch’s Birthday – 4/12
The DET Offensive: Tigers open 2012 season with Sawks sweep – 4/9

The promise of Prince Fielder

I largely agree with Bpbrady and Dave Cameron’s assessment of the deal that made Prince Fielder a member of the team where his (estranged) father was a star. In short, the Tigers had better win a World Series by 2015. Fielder probably is close to his athletic peak right now, but, like Albert Pujols’ new contract with the Angels, compensation doesn’t really ramp up until later.
 
 
ESPN Insider’s Dan Szymborski ran a ZiPS projection for Fielder over the next nine years. Here’s what he got:

 

Those early-contract numbers might look a tad pessimistic, given that Fielder’s coming off a season in which he hit .299/.415/.566 and racked up 5.5 wins above replacement, and he’s just 27 years old, smack in the middle of the age range in which the average major leaguer peaks. But for all of his power potential, Fielder is a lousy defender who’ll play either first base (poorly) or DH. That means he needs to hit a metric ton to yield as much value as a player manning a premium defensive position, like Matt Kemp or even Dustin Pedroia.

The national media reaction to this deal has been pretty tepid: it just seems to be too rich for their liking, and Fielder won’t earn the money over the full length of the nine-year contract. My buddy in Detroit called me a couple hours after the announcement to discuss, and he said that the reaction over there largely remained in the surprised shock stages. The general consensus that’s filtering through there and nationally, though, is that the Tigers over-leveraged their future in an attempt to win now, making this a bad deal for the Tigers. In other words, this 275 lb (and growing), $214 million (and escalating) albatross will be such a drag on the team that it will clearly outweigh any short-term benefits.

This, of course, is hardly the case. The theory underlying the criticism of the Fielder deal is that teams should be trying to build perennial contenders, and that this contract will prevent Detroit from becoming a perennial contender once Fielder’s decline sets in. The second clause in the preceding sentence may be true and probably will be, but the first contains a cliché assumption that is bogus. Maybe it isn’t totally bogus. If some success is good, more success is better, and once having found success, it’s nice to sustain that success. The problem is that very few teams have been able to maintain top-level success. (Moreover, there was no indication that the 2011 Tigers were calibrated such that they were on the cusp of a decade of dominance or anything like that.) Detroit hasn’t won the World Series since 1984, and the years since then have been pretty thin. If presented with the option of winning the division in each of the next three seasons, winning one championship during that period, and then sinking back into mediocrity for the next six years, I can’t imagine a single Tiger fan saying no. Our willingness to forego future stability for an increased chance of present gains has put our economy in the stink pot, but when it comes to baseball, and a team that hasn’t won it all in 28 years, the strategy makes perfect sense.

Keep reading…

Tigers win Game 5, series against Yankees, 3-2

Here's your Game 5 winner

The Detroit Tigers hung on to beat the New York Yankees in a decisive fifth game last night, advancing to the ALCS, which starts Saturday night in Arlington, TX.

I questioned Jim Leyland’s personnel decisions before and during the game, but they turned out to be exactly the right moves. Keep reading…