Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Arbitration Day and More Signings

Midnight tonight brings about the deadline for tendering arbitration eligible players a contract. Seven Tigers, listed below are up for arbitration this year:

-Tim Byrdak (Signed $715,000 contract, avoiding arbitration)
-Miguel Cabrera
-Chad Durbin (non-tendered)
-Nate Robertson
-Bobby Seay
-Marcus Thames
-Dontrelle Willis

I will update this as the day goes along.

If I had to guess, I would say all will be tendered a contract. Chad Durbin is probably the most doubtful of the bunch, as his swingman role can be easily replaced by Yorman Bazardo. There seems to be a sentiment that Marcus Thames is expendable now, but so long as Jacque Jones and Curtis Granderson are roming the outfield, it will be nice to have two right-handed outfielders on the bench. Ryan Raburn can't platoon with both of them.

Also, Baseball America's much improved Transactions section is reporting Detroit has signed relievers Francis Beltran and Marcelo Perez as well as re-upping starter Jon Connolly.

Beltran is a former highly rated Cubs prospect. His name may soun familiar, because he was part of the package sent from Chicago to Montreal in the Nomar Garciaparra trade. He spent the next couple of seasons in and out of Montreal/Washington's bullpen, and was a reliever for the Orioles' triple-A Norfolk Tides this past season. Old scouting reports I see of Beltran tell me he fits the mold of Cruceta and Bautista with a fastball in the mid-high 90's and command problems. He's had a ton of shoulder problems throughout the years, so I am not certain if the fastball is still that high. Beltran will probably be spending the year in Toledo's bullpen.

Perez has spent his entire career in the Mets system, and was in AA last season. A righthander with low-mid 90's heat, he has always put up good strikeout numbers in the Mets system. Perez will be a candidate for the Toledo and Erie pens in spring training.

Jon Connolly returns to the system, where he will likely be filling into the Erie/Toledo rotation role he filled this past year.

I'd expect a much larger wave of free agents to be announced in the coming weeks. It really won't make too much sense to make predictions of the Toledo rosters until those guys are announced.

No sooner do I post this than I realize that Chad Durbin was the only non-tender today. Overall, this makes sense. As I mentioned above, Yorman Bazardo seems to be slotted into the sixth starter/swingman role and will probably do a better job at it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Do Number 1's face Number 1's?

As one of the biggest moves in the Tigers' 107 year history, the Miguel Cabrera trade has been covered to death by Lee and Bill and everybody else already, but I wanted to tackle one piece of analysis I've heard a few times regarding Dontrelle Willis. There seems to be a sentiment that moving out of the #1 spot in the rotation will help him because he won't be facing the opposing #1 starters. This got me thinking, "Do #1's really face #1's, #2's face #2's, and so on." Such an assertion makes three assumptions:

-The best pitcher is the team's #1, the second best pitcher is the team's #2, etc.
-The pitchers continue to go 1-2-3-4-5 in the rotation and always face the opposing team's pitcher of the same rotation rank.
-This is a bit of stretch, but the other two assumptions only take care of win-loss record. Maybe facing tougher pitching makes a pitcher pitch worse.

In order to take a look at these assumptions, I've utilized Support Neutral Lineup-Adjusted Value Above Replacement Level (It's that simple!). SNLVAR looks at the likelihood of winning a game and the pitchers' contribution to that, adjusts for opponents, and compares to a waiver-wire pitcher.

I've looked at all the Tigers opponents this year to see their opening day rotations and their actual rotations. For the opening day rotations, I've defined a #1 pitcher is defined as the opening day starter, #2 as the next starter. In some cases, because of rain or days off, a team didn't go 1-2-3-4-5, so the first five unique starters are defined in that case. The actual rotation is defined as the top 5 pitchers by SNLVAR on the team.

Opening Day
1. Erik Bedard
2. Daniel Cabrera
3. Jaret Wright
4. Adam Loewen
5. Steve Trachsel

1. Erik Bedard 6
2. Jeremy Guthrie 4.8
3. Daniel Cabrera 3
4. Steve Trachsel 2.9 (combined with Cubs stats)
5. Brian Burres

Wright and Loewen were lost for the year early on. Guthrie came on and performed admirably. What did we learn from the Orioles?

-Injuries happen, and can alter rotations from the get-go.
-Trades also happen. Like in the case of Trachsel, a regular member of the rotation is replaced by somebody from the farm

1. Curt Schilling
2. Josh Beckett
3. Daisuke Matsuzaka
4. Tim Wakefield
5. Julian Tavarez

1. Josh Beckett 6.2
2. Daisuke Matsuzaka 5.1
3. Curt Schilling 4.3
4. Tim Wakefield 3.9
5. Julian Tavarez 1.1

Well, I see how they were able to stay successful this year. What did we learn from the Red Sox?

-Sometimes a pitcher other than the opening day starter emerges as the ace.

New York (A)
Opening Day
1. Carl Pavano
2. Andy Pettite
3. Mike Mussina
4. Kei Igawa
5. Darrel Rasner

1. Chien-ming Wang 6
2. Andy Pettite 5.3
3. Mike Mussina 2.6
4. Roger Clemens 2.6
5. Phil Hughes 1.5

When did they sign Clemens? I totally missed that one. I must not have turned on ESPN at any point in June or July. What did we learn from the Yankees?

-Once in a while, a team's best pitcher will start on the DL. This means that he can be placed anywhere into the rotation.
-In addition, rotations are set a couple weeks in advance of the season. When Wang was injured, rather than moving everybody around Torre decided to put Carl Pavano in his place.
-Phil Hughes teaches us something about service time. A player is a free agent after six years of service time, which is counted in days. Service time is taken out of 172 days, while the season is 182 days long. Often a player will be held out for those 11 days to buy an extra year of time before free agency. This can also apply to whether or not the best five pitchers are in the rotation.
-Failed experiments like Kei Igawa can throw a rotation into flux.

Tampa Bay
Opening Day
1. Scott Kazmir
2. Jae Seo
3. James Shields
4. Casey Fossum
5. Edwin Jackson

1. James Shields 5.8
2. Scott Kazmir 5.5
3. Edwin Jackson 1.5
4. Andrew Sonnanstine 1.2
5. Jason Hammel 0.9

Shields, Kazmir, Sonnanstine, Price, and Garza will be a good rotation by the end of 2008. This team is going places. It's really too bad the Rays aren't in the NL Central. What did we learn from Tampa Bay?

-We have another young pitcher emerging from the #3 spot.
-Jae Seo and Casey Fossum were terrible, again throwing the rotation into flux.

Opening Day
1. Roy Hallday
2. AJ Burnett
3. Gustavo Chacin
4. Tomo Okha
5. Josh Towers

1. Roy Halladay 6.7
2. Dustin McGowan 4.3
3. AJ Burnett 4.3
4. Shaun Marcum 4.3
5. Jesse Litsch 3

Did the Rios for Lincecum rumors confuse anybody else? If Bristol, CT, was closer to Toronto, the Worldwide Leader would be telling us how great this rotation was last year. What did we learn from the Jays?

-Sometimes the ace is the ace. I have a hunch we'll see Roy Halladay as a supporting case for rotation slot mattering when I look at Bonderman's opponents.
-Again veteran garbage blocks better pitchers early in the season.

Chicago (A)
1. Jose Contreras
2. Jon Garland
3. Mark Buehrle
4. Javier Vasquez
5. John Danks

1. Mark Buehrle 5.6
2. Javier Vasquez 5.2
3. Jon Garland 4.3
4. Jose Contreras 1.0
5. Gavin Floyd 0.9

With a rotation like that, it's no wonder the Tigers went out and got Miguel Cabrera to keep up. What did we learn from Ozzie's smart-ballers?

-The top 4 pitchers were essentially regarded as equal before the season. Sometimes there isn't a discernible difference between the pitchers in the rotation, so you really aren't at an advantage facing the #4 starter over the #1.

Opening Day
1. CC Sabathia
2. Jake Westbrook
3. Jeremy Sowers
4. Paul Byrd
5. Fausto Carmona

1. Fausto Carmona 6.8
2. CC Sabathia 6.5
3. Jake Westbrook 3.3
4. Paul Byrd 2.5
5. Aaron Laffey 0.8

I really really really wish Fausto Carmona had stayed in Buffalo all year. What did we learn from the Indians?

-The best pitcher on the staff may not even be in the rotation from the get-go because of options and lack of trust in young pitchers.
-I'll get into the rain/snow outs in the next segments, but it's needless to say that rotations get thrown out of order early on.
-The Tigers may have won the division if Lee and Sowers had been serviceable and healthy.

Opening Day
1. Jeremy Bonderman
2. Nate Robertson
3. Justin Verlander
4. Mike Maroth
5. Chad Durbin

1. Justin Verlander 5.6
2. Nate Robertson 2.8
3. Jeremy Bonderman 2.4
4. Chad Durbin 1.7
5. Andrew Miller 0.8

I'll do the Tigers too. You could make a case the rotation was an opponent this year. What did we learn from the Tigers?

-Jim Leyland likes to order his rotation in such a way to keep hard and soft-tossers alternated. This means the ace goes in the #3 hole between the soft-tossing lefties. Again, the pitchers aren't always placed in the rotation in order by their ability.

Kansas City
Opening Day
1. Gil Meche
2. Odalis Perez
3. Zach Greinke
4. Jorge de la Rosa
5. Brandon Duckworth

1. Gil Meche 5.3
2. Brian Bannister 4.6
3. Zach Greinke 2.2
4. Jorge de la Rosa 1.6
5. Odalis Perez 1.1

What did we learn from the Royals?

-Teams fall in love with spring training performance. Bannister was left off the opening day roster because of a bad spring, but emerged as the second-best starter. Spring training performance can skew an opening day rotation.

Opening Day
1. Johan Santana
2. Boof Bonser
3. Ramon Ortiz
4. Carlos Silva
5. Sidney Ponson

1. Johan Santana 6.3
2. Carlos Silva 5
3. Scott Baker 3.1
4. Boof Bonser 2.4
5. Matt Garza 2

And you thought you could go five seconds without seeing Johan Santana's name. Shame on you! What did we learn from Terry Ryan's fetish for wash ups?

-Veteran floatsum continues to clog rotations.
-The ace is sometimes an ace.
-Johan Santana might be traded to the Red Sox, no maybe the Yankees, no maybe the Red Sox, no maybe the Yankees. Oh wait, who are the Twins?

Los Angeles (A)
Opening Day
1. John Lackey
2. Kelvim Escobar
3. Ervin Santana
4. Joe Saunders
5. Dustin Moseley

1. John Lackey 6.9
2. Kelvim Escobar 6.3
3. Jered Weaver 4.1
4. Joe Saunders 1.7
5. Ervin Santana 1.3

Does anybody else remember when Ervin Santana was named Johan before age-gate? What did we learn from the American League West's powerhouse?

-The ace is sometimes the ace.
-A rotation can have two ace caliber pitchers.
-Again, one of the team's better pitchers started on the disabled list, meaning you don't really know which rotation spot they will go into.

Opening Day
1. Dan Haren
2. Joe Blanton
3. Rich Harden
4. Chad Gaudin
5. Joe Kennedy

1. Dan Haren 6.3
2. Joe Blanton 5.9
3. Chad Gaudin 3.8
4. Joe Kennedy 2.3
5. Lenny DiNardo 1.5

What did we learn from Oakland?

-Sometimes the ace is the ace.
-This stuff really isn't that important in the grand scheme of things. Some people just die to young.

Opening Day
1. Felix Hernandez
2. Jarrod Washburn
3. Miguel Batista
4. Horacio Ramirez
5. Jeff Weaver

1. Felix Hernandez 4.3
2. Miguel Batista 4.2
3. Jarrod Washburn 3.5
4. Jeff Weaver 1.3
5. Cha Seung Baek 0.8

It's really good to know Billy Bavasi got fair value for Rafael Soriano? Aside from knowing to pay attention to Horacio Ramirez's peripheral statistics, what did we learn from the Mariners?

-Sometimes the ace is the ace.

Opening Day
1. Kevin Milwood
2. Vicente Padilla
3. Brandon McCarthy
4. Robinson Tejeda
5. Jamie Wright

1. Brandon McCarthy 1.9
2. Kevin Milwood 1.6
3. Kameron Loe 0.9
4. Vicente Padilla 0.6
5. Jamie Wright 0.6

What did we learn from the Rangers?

-Autopilot could have cracked the Rangers rotation.
-Sometimes ace is a relative term. Even if you have to face the opposing team's best, you can get the occasional break.

Opening Day
1. John Smoltz
2. Tim Hudson
3. Chuck James
4. Mark Redman
5. Kyle Davies

1. Tim Hudson 7.9
2. John Smoltz 7.0
3. Chuck James 4.3
4. Buddy Carlyle 1.1
5. Kyle Davies 1.0

Mark Redman is really the John Larroquette of baseball. Yeah, he had some success a while ago. You thought you had seen the last of him before you suddenly see him in a rotation somewhere with a bit of hype. Before you check back, the sitcom was a failure and was cancelled. What did we learn from the Braves?

-Even when the rotation is about right, the top two may be out of order.

On another note, the fact that Hudson and Smoltz both would have led the American league is interesting. There was a lot of offensive talent in the NL East last year. Since SNLVAR is adjusted by opposing talent, I wonder if that inflated the numbers. On top of that, I have to wonder if it's the NL East's pitching being bad or the hitting being good that is causing this. This may have an effect on the numbers we should expect from Cabrera and Renteria this year. I'll check in on that before the season.

New York Mets
Opening Day
1. Tom Glavine
2. Orlando Hernandez
3. John Maine
4. Oliver Perez
5. Mike Pelfrey

1. Tom Glavine 5.6
2. John Maine 5.4
3. Orlando Hernandez 4.6
4. Oliver Perez 4.0
5. Jorge Sosa 1.9

What did we learn from the Mets?

-The starting third baseman can be blamed for the pitching woes in the MVP voting.
-There is virtually no difference between the 1-4 starters, suggesting again that it may not make a difference if you face the #1 or #4 starter on a regular basis.

Opening Day
1. Brett Myers
2. Cole Hamels
3. Adam Eaton
4. Jamie Moyer
5. Zach Segovia

1. Cole Hamels 5.2
2. Jamie Moyer 3.2
3. Kyle Kendrick 3.2
4. Kyle Lohse 1.3
5. Jon Lieber 1.2

Brett Myers was moved to the closer role early on. Segovia was the #5 starter the first week, and was never saw the big leagues again.

-Injuries can decimate a rotation.
-A young ace may not get the chance to be the #1 starter.

I'm going to skip Washington, as I've already used my bad pitching jokes on Texas.

Opening Day
1. Ben Sheets
2. Chris Capuano
3. Jeff Suppan
4. Dave Bush
5. Claudio Vargas

1. Ben Sheets 4.1
2. Yovani Gallardo 3.6
3. Jeff Suppan 3
4. Dave Bush 2.2
5. Chris Capuano 2

What did we learn from Milwaukee?
-Bad defense can hurt a solid rotation. They need Brandon Inge more than they care to admit.
-Service time jumbling can lead to a rookie ace joining the team mid-season.

St. Louis
Opening Day
1. Chris Carpenter
2. Kip Wells
3. Braden Looper
4. Adam Wainright
5. Anthony Reyes

1. Adam Wainright 5.9
2. Braden Looper 3.8
3. Brad Thompson 1.9
4. Joel Pineiro 1.7
5. Todd Wellemeyer 0.4

What did we learn from the Cardinals?

-Bitterness takes more than 14 months to cure.
-An undisputed ace hurting his elbow can kill a rotation.
-So can Kip Wells.
-Don't drink and drive.
-Wearing glasses can fool the MSM into thinking you are a genius.

The overall totals
#1 starters started the season as:

#1 starters: 9
#2 starters: 3
#3 starters: 4
#4 starters: 1
#5 starters: 1
Out of the rotation: 1

To summarize what we learned from all of the teams,

-Managers have their best pitcher pitch on the correct day to start the season more than any other rotation rank.
-Pitchers aren't always placed in the rotation based on their ranking within the rotation, but instead for other strategic mixing and matching.
-Getting an extra year of control of a player can keep a young ace out of the rotation early on.
-Young pictures are underrated by managers coming out of spring training, while the flop of veteran floatsum can send a rotation into flux.
-Regular pitchers like Jered Weaver and Chien-ming Wang can start the season out of the rotation on the disabled list, out of their natural spot in the rotation.
-Injuries (Carpenter) can kill a rotation.
-So can Kip Wells.
-Phil Mickelson should have tried out for the Rangers instead.

Overall, I will conclude that the #1 pitcher is the correct pitcher more often than other times, but pitchers are not usually ranked in order of their actual effectiveness. Next, I will check to see if #1's actually face #1's.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tigers Acquire Miguel Cabrera: I'm happy

I know it's not fantasy baseball, but when I combined several projection systems for my fantasy league last year considering value over the next 5 years, Miguel Cabrera came out #1. He was above Pujols, Rodriguez, and the rest of the league. I had a feeling the Tigers may try to target him, especially considering the complete lack of 3B in the system. Everybody else has covered this to the max, and I have to admire the front office for having the guts to make this deal. This gives the Tigers a Hall of Fame caliber player for as long as they are willing to pay him.

In other news related to this site, things will still be slow for a while. I recently had computer problems where I had lost about five of those 40-man reports I had done. Looking back on them, I found them bland and below the standard of which I want to run this thing. I'm in the process of gathering tons of data and tons of new stats and performing my own analysis that I will be putting up periodically until the season starts.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The 40 Man Roster in 40 days: Tony Giarratano

Tony Giarratano was drafted in the third round out of Tulane University in 2003, a draft whose first five rounds yielded Kyle Sleeth, Jay Sborz, Giarratano, Josh Rainwater, and Danny Zell. Selected with a reputation of being a defensive wizard with limited offensive skills, Giarratano surprised all with his .328/.369/.476 performance in Oneonta. The offensive outburst moved him to the top of most prospect charts after his debut season.

In 2004, Giarratano picked up right where he left off, hitting .285/.383/.352 in pitching friendly. After being promoted to Lakeland, he preceded to hit the cover off the ball at .376/.421/.505, enough to keep him near the top of the prospect lists at #6 in Baseball America's team ranking. At this point, some worried about his dependency on batting average, suggesting that the season was a fluke caused by luck with balls in play. Others worried about the upcoming jump to AA, a pitfall for many prospect. The aspect that has hindered Giarratano the most began to creep up in 2004 when he had a season-ending partial dislocation in his non-throwing shoulder. Regardless, "Tony G." got the "Shortstop of the Future" tag placed upon him after an impressive first two years in the pros.

The shortstop of the future cries got even longer in 2005 when Giarratano was brought up to fill in for an injured Carlos Guillen during the summer. Still, he did not hit well in his time with the Tigers (.143/.234/.214) nor with the Seawolves (.266/.334/.373). The defensive skills remained, though. Despite the 21 errors combined between the two levels, Baseball America tagged Tony G. as the top defensive infielder in the system.

Another slow start and injuries slowed down Giarratano in his attempt to repeat Erie in 2006. In just 269 at bats, Tony G. hit a disappointing (.283/.340/.390) in his time at Erie before coming down with a minor wrist injury in June and finally suffering a season-ending ACL tear in his right knee. At last recovered from the knee injury, Tony went under the knife again in Spring training, having surgery on a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

This has already been covered, but unlike Bazardo (who did have a short stint on San Antonio's 2006 Disabled list... whoops), Giarratano's career has been slowed to a screeching halt. It's hard to say which injury is the biggest worry. The shoulder dislocation is usually the result of a blunt force to the shoulder, so one would be led to believe it's not a worry. The problem comes with the fact that after surgery to replace such an injury, the joint is less stable, and more likely to be injured again. I don't remember exactly how he hurt his knee, but most ACL injuries are the result of landing awkwardly, over-extending the leg while running, or blunt trauma to the knee. Like a shoulder location, one who has already torn one ACL is more likely to tear the other. We still have not seen Tony G. play since the injury, but he should have had plenty of time to rehabilitate the leg. The labrum injury worries me most. While not the kiss of death for shortstops as it once was for pitchers, a defense-first prospect cannot afford to have difficulties throwing the ball when he has problems hitting in the first place. The injuries have certainly put a damper on the career of a guy who got off to such a great start, and worst of all, these injuries tend to be chronic.

Service time:
2005: 26 days
2006: 34 days
2007: 172 days

Time on the Big League disabled list counts. Giarratano was brought up at the end of 2006 to allow the Tigers more options on the playoff roster, and was placed on the DL in 2007 to save an option for a recovery year in 2008.

Used options in 2005 and 2006.
One remaining

Again, being on the Major League DL in this year will enable Tony G. to head to Erie or Toledo to get back on track.

Present Status:
If all had gone well, the Edgar Renteria trade would have been unnecessary, as Giarratano could have been a decent shortstop for a couple of years. Clearly all did not go well. With the onset of injuries, struggles in Erie, and the emergence of Danny Worth, Tony G. may have to settle into some kind of a utility role. Out of options after 2008, you have to think the Tigers may try to find a way to sneak him through waivers this offseason while his value is down to avoid a possibly tough decision in 2009. At this point, it's hard to envision Giarratano as a starter on the Detroit Tigers. The 2003 draft has proven to be a disaster for the organization. Only Jordan Tata, Virgil Vasquez, and Tony Giarratano currently remain on the 40 man roster. First round pick Kyle Sleeth has not recovered from his Tommy John surgery 30 months ago. Second round pick Jay Sborz can't throw a strike or graduate past short season ball. Fourth round pick Josh Rainwater is an A-ball swing man. While Giarratano proved to be a find early on, constant injuries have derailed a once promising career.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The 40 Man Roster in 40 Days: Yorman Bazardo

Today, I will start a segment that will take a brief look at each player on the 40 man roster. I will start each with a look at their career to date, injury history, proceed to where they currently stand in the organization, derive their service time and option information, and finally look to their future as Detroit Tigers. Today we will start with pitcher Yorman Bazardo.

Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Venezuela on July 19, 2000, by Dave Dombrowski's Florida Marlins, Bazardo did not debut until 2001 in the Venezuelan Summer League. As a kid just turning 17, he pitched very well in his 70 1/3 innings of work posting an ERA of 2.43, striking out 62, walking just 18, and only allowing 59 hits. It was former Marlins scout, now Tigers scout Miguel Garcia who discovered Bazardo.

2002 found Bazardo moved to the bullpen for the Short Season A Affiliate of the Marlins in Jamestown. Again, he showed great command in his 36.1 innings, walking only 6 and posting a 2.72 ERA. He moved onto A-ball at the age of 19 in Greensboro, again only walking 26 in 130 innings, but only striking out 70. He posted a solid 3.12 ERA and allowed his first professional home runs during this season. After the season, Baseball America ranked him #5 in the Marlins system.

Bazardo continued to climb the ladder to the Florida State League in 2004, and again did not disappoint. In 154 1/3 innings, he posted a 3.27 ERA, walking only 30. He impressed so much, he was named the third best prospect in the Marlins organization after the season. Being Rule 5 eligible after the season, he was added to the Marlins' 40 man roster.

2005 found more success for this young pitcher. Turning 21 midway through the season, he put up a 3.99 ERA at AA Carolina, earning a one-day promotion to the Marlins before being shipped to Seattle in a deal for reliever Ron Villone. Bazardo spent a year and a half in the hitter friendly Texas league with less impressive results before the Mariners designated him for assignment in 2007 to make room for Jeff Weaver. This enabled the Tigers to pick him up for struggling outfielder Jeff Frazier.

2007 got off to an inauspicious start for Yorman, as he was rocked in his first start. Ultimately, he settled down and pitched well both in Toledo's rotation and in his brief stay with the big club. Continuing his long-standing trend of low walk totals, low strikeouts, and a low ERA, Bazardo has positioned himself nicely for a shot in 2008.

It has been seven years since he signed his first professional contract, and Bazardo has never been on the Disabled list. He has as clean of a bill of health as any pitcher in the system.

Service Time:
2005: 1 day
2007: 44 days
Total: 0 years, 45 days (0.045)

Used options in 2005, 2006, and 2007.
None remaining

Age vs. career clock:
The acquisition of Yorman Bazardo from Seattle, and his ability to progress from waiver bate into the 2008 plans makes the trade for flailing former third round pick Jeff Frazier an exceptional one as is. Bazardo's status as a player in his early 20's running out of options made the deal doable, and the ability of Dave Dombrowski to exploit that status as a cheap pickup shows that he is able to recognize the gap between age and career clock for many Latin players.

It is widely assumed that players on the whole improve mightily in their early 20's and peak around 27, level off until around 30, and fall off afterwards. A conceptual graph showing typical career progress is shown below. Obviously most players don't follow this trend, and not all players are equal.

The graph is obviously not taken from any particular set of data, and is primarily for illustration purposes only. The next chart shows career progress for players based not on their age, but instead on their professional timeline. You can see where players who sign at 16 will have to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft and will run out of options earlier. Rather than protect them, some teams will be impatient and make them available on the cheap. When teams are willing to give young players away before they reach their potential because of the disconnect between age and career clock, it becomes something that can be exploited. The Tigers did that in acquiring Bazardo last winter. This is something I may look further at later if I see any trends in how these players are valued.

Present Status:
Bazardo has the combination of playing well in 2007, proving himself in his cup of coffee, and being out of options that pretty much assures him of a spot on the 2008 Detroit Tigers. What role he has will depend upon which role he is needed to fill. With a pitching staff having more question marks than Matthew Lesko's wardrobe, Bazardo should settle in and pitch well regardless of if it is as a starter, swingman, or back of the bullpen pitcher. At just 23 with durability, a solid track record, and a quality arsenal, Yorman Bazardo is one of the most underrated players in the Tigers' organization.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

No Worries

Times have changed in Detroit. For so long, the Tigers were sellers, sending established players off to other organizations in return for players who might help down the line when the team was to be competitive.

That was before 2006.

It's certainly a big adjustment for the Tigers and their faithful. For so long, the hopes rested in the future. The improvement of the big league team means that the days of penny pinching and praying for prospects to pan out are over. As if that wasn't true this time last year when Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Clagget were shipped to the evil empire for Gary Sheffield, it certainly became evident when Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez were sent off to Atlanta for Edgar Renteria in a deal timed in such a way that it seemed to be agreed upon in September.

While this feeling of being among the league's elite should be great, some of the fan reaction to this trade reflects that some of the pre-2006 attachment to our prospects still lingers. This is not unjustified, as this resurgence definitely would not have occurred without the help of the likes of Curtis Granderson, Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, and others developed within the Tigers organization.

Here's why you should not worry about this trade.

Jair Jurrjens is a guy I have been high on for a while. Always putting up great numbers against guys older than him, he has always been a dark horse candidate to be a solid pitcher at the big league level. A late-summer surge got him to the Major Leagues, and Jurrjens pitched well in his stay, fooling hitters with his off speed stuff and being aggressive in the strike zone, leading to few walks (11 in 30 2/3 IP), few strikeouts (just 13), but rarely decent contact against him (only 24 hits).

The biggest strike against Jurrjens is the same one against the pitching prospect dealt this time last year: his health. After leaving his start against the Yankees with a painful pop in the back of his shoulder, his future was in doubt. That is why this is trade is a good risk. Jurrjens was already in a position where he was on the brink of never being a productive pitcher again. If you want to play a fun game, look up rotator cuff injuries to pitchers, when they occurred, and their statistics after the injury. The names Wade Miller, Ben McDonald, Robb Nen, and many others whose careers never got back on track will come up. This is not to say that Jurrjens is definitely going to get hurt, but he is an increased risk and it was a good move to cash in on him while he had value.

Gorkys Hernandez is an incredible talent, and has drawn rave reviews from the three people I get most of my prospect prognostication from: Mark Anderson (, Kevin Goldstein, and Nate Silver ( All that said, you can still go back six years to the Tigers' last Venezuelan hyped toolsy player was a teenager. While Omar Infante wasn't getting near the reviews, you can see how a toolsy, non-dominant star prospect's star can diminish, especially considering Infante isn't really a flop.

Gorkys Hernandez and Jair Jurrjens, believe it or not, are examples of why this trade should not be a problem. After years of struggling to produce talent from the Carribean, the Tigers have found Jair Jurrjens in Curacao, and Gorkys Hernandez is the first of what should be a large wave of Venezuelan talent from the team's new facilities there. Increased talent coming from Latin America should do wonders in gathering depth of talent in the system.

Edgar Renteria has had an interesting career. At times, he has been among the best shortstops in the league. His WARP totals range from 7.8 in 2003 to 1.5 in his forgettable 2005 season. The verdict of this trade will depend on if we get the 2003, 2006-2007 Renteria or the 2005 version.

In short, trades like the Renteria and Sheffield deals are merely signs that the Tigers are in a brand new position, and the role of prospects has changed. It's easy to get attached to prospects, especially after years of losing. With drafts like the last three and the team's increased presence internationally, this is something Dave Dombrowski can continue to do without sacrificing the future.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

More on the Pen

Another reliever with options got sent down instead of Jason Grilli. A lot of griping has gone on about the bullpen this year, and there was a large demand for adding to the bullpen at the trading deadline. Of course, if the best seven relievers were on the team, the problem would be slightly alleviated. I wanted to update the Win expectancy numbers from two weeks ago, and try to pick out the best bullpen.

Todd Jones 1.161
Bobby Seay 0.965
Joel Zumaya 0.662 (Before today)
Chad Durbin 0.438
Tim Byrdak 0.007
Yorman Bazardo -0.016
Eulogio De La Cruz -0.030
Aquilino Lopez -0.044
Jose Capellan -0.067
Macay McBride -0.127
Zach Miner -0.230
Fernando Rodney -0.276
Jason Grilli -0.620

I know I've turned this place into a Grilli bash fest, but one has to wonder what he has to do to leave the team. Granted, guys I've been trumpeting like Bazardo, Lopez, Capellan, and now Miner have also been bad. Fernando Rodney has moved up this list significantly since the last time. Bazardo is probably low because he's been placed into such low leverage situations so far.

One more thing i wanted to show was the leverage calculation that BP does. Basically, a player with a leverage of 1 is brought into average situations. Higher than one and a player is brought into situations with the game on the line, and lower than one and they are brought into mopup roles. This will give us an idea of how relievers are being used.

Todd Jones 1.83
Fernando Rodney 1.54
Joel Zumaya 1.34
Zach Miner 1.29
Macay McBride 1.28
Tim Byrdak 1.24
Chad Durbin 1.20
Jose Capellan 1.16
Jason Grilli 0.95
Bobby Seay 0.82
Aquilino Lopez 0.67
Yorman Bazardo 0.42
Eulogio De La Cruz 0.23

Grilli was much lower last year, but still should be down in the Bazardo DLC I'd really like to see more Bazardo, and Bobby Seay should be used much more often over Byrdak. The good news is that September will bring about all of the castoffs from Toledo. Hopefully guys like Capellan, Bazardo and De La Cruz get opportunities in tight spots, especially if Zumaya isn't 100%, which he appeared not to be today.

Other Thoughts

Ryan Raburn should be in the starting lineup, especially in days like today when Sean Casey is DH-ing. There's no excuse for leaving a hot bat out of a struggling lineup two straight days.

Part of me wonders if Gary Sheffield plays another game. If he retires with the shoulder problem, the battle over who gets the last two years of that contract could get interesting and heated.

It would be nice if Jeff Larish got a bit of an audition this September. If he could show he belongs in the bigs, the team could save some big money in the off-season going after a free agent.

This is the second straight season Curtis Granderson's bat has come to a screeching halt towards the end of August. The slump isn't long enough to be considered significant yet, but it's getting to the point where worry needs to kick in. He really is an important part of this lineup.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Porcello and Selig

It's been well documented how wise the Tigers have been the past few years in their draft selections early on. The money being spent on premium draft picks, on the surface, is just a mere fraction of what mediocre free agents are getting on the market. That point has been drilled to death for months. I want to take a different look at this draft.

Let's take two scenarios for Rick Porcello:

1.) Rick Porcello signs with a Major League baseball team, a team likely to protect its significant investment. In this scenario, let's assume it takes him 2-3 years to crack the big leagues and an additional year to become a star player. As a star pitcher, he could potentially be the face of the team and the face of baseball in the process, growing it's popularity and improving the overall talent level in the Major Leagues. The better the talent, the better the game...

2.) Rick Porcello doesn't sign with a Major League team. He goes to the University of North Carolina, playing under a college baseball coach (a profession known for its sacrificing young arms to win games). Porcello's arm tires his sophomore year and undergoes shoulder surgery, never returning to his talented form. The game loses a potential star, and he flames out in somebody's minor league system.

Which scenario is better for Major League Baseball? If Bud was truly looking out for the best interests of the game, he would prefer scenario 1, correct?

It's time to get over this notion that Bud Selig represents the game's best interests. It simply isn't true, and never was. He is the owner's representative, and simply represents the owners' best interest. Major League Baseball's best interests are no higher on his priority list than Scott Boras' or Donald Fehr's.

On another note, I'll be missing the first part of tonight's game, marking this the second time I've missed a star prospect's debut in the past week. Also, the team is on a five game losing streak when I don't catch the game, and a five game winning streak when I do. Hopefully that reverses itself tonight.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Bullpen

Especially of late, the 2007 season has been a slight disappointment after the magical 2006 affair. While the offense has been at times dominant, the pitching has taken a turn for the worse. Given that the pitching is considered the young core of the team, this has been a tremendous disappointment in a lot of ways.

The bullpen, in particular, has taken a big step back. In order to take a look at this, I'm going to look at some of the Win Expectancy numbers from the guys at Baseball Prospectus.

Before going into this, I want to try my best to explain the concepts of "above average" and "above replacement. We'll take a look at four players and calculate their hits above average and hits above replacement.

Player A 15 PA, 5 hits
Player B 18 PA, 4 hits
Player C 11 PA, 7 hits
Player D 20 PA, 1 hit

To calculate what is average, we should calculate the average amount of hits per plate appearance for all of the players.

Player A 0.3333 H/PA
Player B 0.2222 H/PA
Player C 0.6364 H/PA
Player D 0.0500 H/PA
Average 0.2656 H/PA
Rep Level 0.2000 H/PA

Replacement level is defined as a player that can be found on the waiver wire. I really just plucked that number out of nowhere to go through these calculations. Now we want to find out how many hits/plate appearance above average and multiply by plate appearances to find hits above average and replacement.

Player A 0.0677 H/PA above Average (1.016 HAA)
0.1333 H/PA above Replacement (2.000 HAR)
Player B -0.0434 H/PA above Average (-0.782 HAA)
0.0222 H/PA above Replacement (0.400 HAR)
Player C 0.3608 H/PA above Average (3.969 HAA)
0.4364 H/PA above Replacement (4.800 HAR)
Player D -0.2156 H/PA above Average (-4.312 HAA)
-0.1500 H/PA above Replacement(-3.000 HAR)

I really wanted to go through that, because I've always found that people shy away from numbers like this and to maybe show some trends. Average players with lots of playing time can rack up numbers over replacement level, while good player without much playing time will have a better time getting above average compared to replacement.

Now that we have that out of the way, I wanted to take a peak at the Win Expectancy of our bullpen. Win expectancy was created by Clay Davenport at Baseball Prospectus, and essentially takes the guessing out of inherited runner numbers. For a full explanation, go here. The basic concept is that he used historical data for situations and how often teams win based on the score and how many runners are on base, and made adjustments for team strength. The totals are compared to average and replacement level, and given an adjustment for who the players face in the lineup (For example, a player would get more credit for retiring Sheffield/Magglio/Guillen than one who takes care of Casey/Monroe/Inge). Players who come into mop up situations will likely linger around zero, while pitchers who close out the game or come into close situations

Oh yeah, we were going to look at the Tigers bullpen. I guess we should do that. Here are the 2007 lineup adjusted numbers for Win Expectation above an average reliever.

Bobby Seay 0.995
Todd Jones 0.947
Joel Zumaya 0.620
Chad Durbin 0.446
Tim Byrdak 0.093
Aquilino Lopez -0.019
Eulogio Delacruz -0.031
Jose Capellan -0.064
Yorman Bazardo -0.066
Macay McBride -0.111
Zach Miner -0.151
Wil Ledezma -0.322
Jose Mesa -0.503
Jason Grilli -0.513
Fernando Rodney -0.539

What does this tell us? Todd Jones has done well closing out games. He gives up runs in bunches, which means that the last couple runs he gives up in an appearance probably don't decrease the team's shot at losing much. Bobby Seay has been used properly this year, facing primarily lefties. We need Zumaya back. I wouldn't think Durbin would rate this high. I'm going to look into seeing if his starting innings are skewing the analysis. The bullpen overall has been bad. Jason Grilli has been as bad as everybody this side of Jim Leyland thinks, and the sub-100% Fernando Rodney was terrible. Luckily, he seems to be better now.

For comparison, here's a look at our 2006 numbers.

Joel Zumaya 3.978
Fernando Rodney 1.149
Todd Jones 0.791
Jamie Walker 0.371
Roman Colon 0.095
Jordan Tata 0.079
Chad Durbin 0.037
Bobby Seay -0.002
Zach Miner -0.060
Colby Lewis -0.068
Wil Ledezma -0.075
Chris Spurling -0.102
Andrew Miller -0.116
Mike Maroth -0.150
Kenny Rogers -0.288
Jason Grilli -0.393

Look who was our worst reliever last year... As with Durbin this year, I'm not sure Maroth and Rogers are rated fairly. If I remember correctly, Rogers was used in the last game of the season out of desperation and didn't pitch too well. One could make a case that Zumaya's year last year was the best for a Tigers reliever in the franchise's history. Considering he'd be going up against 1984 Willie, that's saying something. Overall, the three guys counted on to keep leads did the job. Ledezma and Grilli on the surface pitched better, but clearly struggled with inherited runners and possibly benefited a bit from Zumaya cleaning up their mess.

Overall, the bullpen has been much worse this year. As shown above, the notion that Jason Grilli has been overused is probably correct.

I've had Internet issues of late, and will try to get those straightened out so I can update this more often. Soon, I'll take a further look at another tool Davenport has in these rankings and go through and try to get to the bottom of the options/service time mystery.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Michael Witte is Full of Crap

This article:

is getting a lot of buzz today. A quick Google search of Witte and Bonds will show many blogs and writers saying something along the lines of "Kudos to Michael Witte for standing up to a cheater," or "I don't really understand, but this guy seems to be an expert in mechanics."

As a mechanical engineer with a little bit of a biomechanics background, I'm going to let everybody in on a little secret: He's not.

In the middle of the article, Witte writes about six different ways in which the elbow armor that Barry Bonds wears gives him a mechanical advantage in his swing. Each of them has their own flaws, but each blatantly false.

1) The apparatus is hinged at the elbow. It is a literal "hitting machine" that allows Bonds to release his front arm on the same plane during every swing. It largely accounts for the seemingly magical consistency of every Bonds stroke.

I'm trying to get my mind around this one. If I'm comprehending this correctly, Witte is claiming that this device somehow controls Bonds' leading elbow, creating a perfect swing every time. As Jerry Seinfeld would say. "That, my friends, is one magic shield." The swing plane that Bonds will swing through is not only dependent on the relative motion of forearm to the upper arm, but also to the position and orientation of his lower body, torso, and upper arm. In order for this apparatus to create a consistent swing plane, it would need to have some sort of position sensors within it to adjust and correct itself or be connected to the ground.

2) The apparatus locks at the elbow when the lead arm is fully elongated because of a small flap at the top of the bottom section that fits into a groove in the bottom of the top section. The locked arm forms a rigid front arm fulcrum that allows extraordinary, maximally efficient explosion of the levers of Bonds' wrists. Bonds hands are quicker than those of average hitters because of his mechanical "assistant."

I was unaware that an arm can elongate. Perhaps Bonds is superhuman after all!! Witte proceeds to describe the forearm as a fulcrum, which is defined as the fixed point of a lever. If the forearm was fixed during a baseball swing, he had better be laying down a bunt. The forearm, ideally should be moving pretty quickly at the time of impact.

3) When Bonds swings, the weight of the apparatus helps to seal his inner upper arm to his torso at impact. Thus "connected," he automatically hits the ball with the weight of his entire body - not just his arms - as average hitters ("extending") tend to do.

Wow. Just wow. I'd love to see the analysis he did to come up with this conclusion. I'm seriously at a loss for words with this one. There is so much more going in to how much "weight" is being put into the ball (I think he means how much force Bonds is exerting on the ball).

4) Bonds has performed less well in Home Run Derbies than one might expect because he has no excuse to wear a "protector" facing a batting practice pitcher. As he tires, his front arm elbow tends to lift and he swings under the ball, producing towering pop flies or topspin liners that stay in the park. When the apparatus is worn, its weight keeps his elbow down and he drives the ball with backspin.

This is pure speculation. I'm sure an athlete as skilled as Bonds can make adjustments like this. Besides, the weight of protective equipment is likely to be fairly insignificant.

5) Bonds enjoys quicker access to the inside pitch than average hitters because his "assistant" - counter-intuitively - allows him to turn more rapidly. Everyone understands that skaters accelerate their spins by pulling their arms into their torsos, closer to their axes of rotation. When Bonds is confronted with an inside pitch, he spins like a skater because his upper front arm is "assistant"-sealed tightly against the side of his chest.

This phenomena, while it applies to figure skating (decreasing the rotational inertia to increase angular velocity by conservation of angular momentum), doesn't apply in the case of a linear collision, which is what is happening when the bat is striking the ball. In a linear collision, mass*velocity is conserved. If a batter were to bring their arms in instead of extending, that velocity (equal to angular velocity times the distance from the rotational axis) is much much lower and would be ultimately worse for the batter who is trying to get as much linear velocity at the point of impact as possible.

6) At impact, Bonds has additional mass (the weight of his "assistant") not available to the average hitter. The combined weight of "assistant" and bat is probably equal to the weight of the lumber wielded by Babe Ruth but with more manageable weight distribution.

He forgets to mention that it is also more mass that needs to be moved by the muscles. This also completely neglects the fact that the weight of the armor is pretty minimal in the grand scheme of things.

It is worrisome that people are willing to believe anything they read. My advice to anybody out there is to take it upon yourselves to learn issues, so that you don't get duped like so many did my Mr. Witte. Whether it is the issue of an artist describing the mechanics of a baseball swing or a bitter politician delving into atmospheric sciences. Be weary and skeptical of any conclusions. If you don't understand something, it doesn't necessarily mean the source is credible.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sad News

When I got the news that there was a shooting at Virginia Tech, I was stunned.

When I heard it was in the Engineering Building, it hit way too close to home, since I was in my campus's equivalent.

When I wasn't getting minute-by-minute updates on the stellar performance last night by Andrew Miller and Mike Hollimon, I started to feel a void.

When somebody I knew still wasn't heard from late into the night, I started to feel worried.

When I found out I lost a friend, I felt sick.

RIP, Brian.

Special thanks to Curtis Granderson and his publicity director John Fullmer who have been very helpful in spreading his story through the organization. As if he wasn't already, Granderson has skyrocketed to the top of everybody's favorite Tigers list.