Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Options and Waivers Part 3

After looking at the potential roster crunch the Tigers will have this year, it is time to start calculating the risk of losing certain players on waivers. The first variable I am going to look at is the month.

The term "out of options" did seem to rise to the forefront last season. This is no coincidence. In the new collective bargaining agreement put into effect after the 2006 season, players were granted an extra year before becoming eligible for the Rule 5 draft. As a result, more borderline major leaguers have found themselves on 40 man rosters over the past few years rather than fourth year professionals on their first option year. This, in turn, has created more situations where players out of options need to clear waivers.

I bring this up because the data I have collected is for the 2007 calender year only. While the sample is smaller, the face of the waiver wire has changed in such a way that the 2006 data may distort any trends. Below is a chart of all waiver data by month in 2007. All totaled, 79.4% of players placed on waivers last year cleared.

From a year's data, it's difficult to find trends. The spike in percentage clearing from 70% in May, July, and August to 90% in June seems like a fluke. The amount of players going on waivers in October is a result of the deadline for activating players from the 60-day DL. Teams have to cut their roster down before the off-season, and it's no surprise that many (83.5%) of these players clear waivers.

The month in which the highest amount of players cleared waivers was March, the time when teams are cutting down to their 25 man roster. This bodes well for teams that are afraid of cutting a player in Spring Training because they are afraid of the player clearing waivers. 90.2% of players placed on waivers last March cleared and stayed with their teams. This data would suggest that if a team is worried about losing a player to waivers, the team should put them through waivers in March. In addition to the likelihood of losing the player being at its lowest, there is additional benefit. In general, players who are kept because they are out of options are kept over players with options who are better than them.

By choosing an inferior player in Spring Training because they are out of options, a team decreases the quality of players and increases the risk that the player will be lost to waivers when they ultimately give up on the player.

After the next round of research, I will take a look at other effects that go into waiver risk.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Happy 90th, Ernie

One of my favorite Youtube videos:

A different view of pitching statistics

Below are the 2007 major league offensive numbers put up against Tigers pitchers on the 40 man roster. Without cheating, can you match up the pitcher with the stats?

Major League (BAA/OBPA/SLGA)

Denny Bautista
Yorman Bazardo
Jeremy Bonderman
Tim Byrdak
Jason Grilli
Todd Jones
Macay McBride
Zach Miner
Nate Robertson
Fernando Rodney
Kenny Rogers
Bobby Seay
Jordan Tata
Virgil Vasquez
Justin Verlander
Dontrelle Willis
Joel Zumaya

A. .189/.291/.295
B. .228/.299/.323
C. .218/.281/.356
D. .233/.309/.358
E. .238/.320/.378
F. .230/.330/.370
G. .267/.331/.371
H. .263/.339/.377
I. .273/.342/.385
J. .264/.331/.439
K. .278/.326/.453
L. .258/.387/.367
M. .283/.343/.445
N. .294/.369/.477
O. .302/.406/.566
P. .429/.489/.500
Q. .360/.407/.747

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Jose Canseco has no credibility

Just bear that in mind when you read the news Thursday. The man is trying to drag everybody with success through the mud with him. Is anybody remotely surprised that he is now targeting the two best players from 2007 in his upcoming "book?" The guy is a loser, a schmuck, and has absolutely no credibility. Get your information from better sources and don't buy this jerk's books.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Options and Waivers, Part 2

Before getting into waivers, I want to get into one more aspect of options that Billfer brought up, and that is the fourth option. From the Biz of Baseball:

A player may be eligible for a fourth option year if he has been optioned in three seasons but does not yet have five full seasons of professional experience. A full season is defined as being on an active pro roster for at least 90 days in a season. (If a player is put on the disabled list after earning 60 or more days of service in a single season, his time on the DL is counted.) The 90-day requirement means short-season leagues (New-York Penn, Northwest, Pioneer, Appalachian, Gulf Coast, Arizona Rookie, Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues) do not count as full seasons for the purposes of determining eligibility for a fourth option.

Rick Porcello, being added to the 40 man roster straight out of High School, is a candidate for this fourth option. As it stands, Porcello has four option years remaining as per the most recent collective bargaining agreement, meaning he doesn't have to reach the big leagues until opening day 2012.

When trying to option a player on waivers, you have to consider three variables:
  • How much value will the player being kept provide over the player being put on waivers?
  • Can we afford to lose this player on waivers?
  • What is the likelihood that this player will be claimed on waivers?
I wanted to spend the next two posts taking a look at the third question on this list, and maybe another looking at finding an objective way to look at the first two. I also want to point out that we are talking about irrevocable waivers, which are different from the waivers that players are put on in August after the trading deadline.

What better way to find the risk of a player being claimed off waivers than looking at their individual waiver history? Several player who are out of options have been for many years and could be exposed to the waiver wires time and time again.

Denny Bautista:
Believe it or not, Denny Bautista has never been on waivers. The Tigers are his fifth organization, and he has been on a 40 man roster since the time the Orioles purchased his contract after the 2003 season.

Yorman Bazardo: Yorman Bazardo has also never been on waivers. He was designated for assignment last offseason, but the Tigers acquired him before he was placed on waivers.

Tim Byrdak: Byrdak epitomizes the term journeyman. His first stint in the big leagues was from 1998 through 2000 with the Royals. During that time, his three option years were used up. Rather than trying to option him after the 2000 season, Kansas City opted to non-tender Byrdak, making him a free agent. Byrdak never sniffed a 40-man roster again until getting his contract purchased by Baltimore in July of 2005. He stayed on Baltimore's roster until August 2006 when he was outrighted (clearing waivers) to Ottawa.

Tim Byrdak is 1/1 in clearing waivers.

Francisco Cruceta: Another journeyman, this is Francisco Cruceta's fifth organization. Unlike Bautista, though, Cruceta has only been traded once. He first used up his options from 2003 through 2005 with the Indians having been slow to develop into the type of pitcher they wanted. They tried to sneak Cruceta off the 40-man roster in August, but Seattle was there to claim him. It appears as if the Mariners were able to slip him through waivers between August and January, when he received a spring invitation. Brought back onto the 40-man in September, 2006, Cruceta was put through waivers again after the season and claimed by Texas. He would not make the Rangers out of spring training, and cleared waivers before being sent to Oklahoma City for the duration of the season.

Francisco Cruceta is 2/4 in clearing waivers.

Jason Grilli: Another hard-throwing bullpen candidate who has bounced from team to team, Grilli is in his fourth organization. A high first round pick by the Giants, traded to the Marlins as part of the Livan Hernandez deal, there was a time when Grilli was a top notch pitching prospect until injuries derailed his status. After 2002, he successfully cleared waivers while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Drafted by the White Sox in the next season's Rule 5 Draft, Grilli again was put on waivers during the Spring of 2004. Aside from not even being claimed, the Marlins rejected the White Sox' mandatory offer of the Rule 5 draftee. The final time Jason Grilli was put through waivers was after the 2004 season when Chicago designated him for assignment and ultimately released him.

Jason Grilli is 3/3 in clearing waivers.

Bobby Seay: Seay ran out of options after the 2003 season, and failed to make the 2004 (Devil) Rays. He then succesfully cleared waivers during spring training. Seay was next placed on waivers as a Colorado Rockie during the 2005 season, again clearing before becoming a free agent after the season. Finally, Seay cleared waivers as a member of the 2006 Tigers.

Bobby Seay is 3/3 in clearing waivers.

Mike Hessman: Hessman has never been on irrevocable waivers. As a player who had made his debut four years before being optioned last year, he did have to clear revocable waivers, but I'm not going to count that in this discussion. It appears as if revocable waivers are very easy to clear.

Brandon Inge: A Tiger his whole life, and on the 40 man roster uninterrupted since the 2000-2001 off-season, Brandon Inge has no waiver experience.

Ramon Santiago: Santiago has only had to clear waivers once, after the 2004 season when the Mariners were making room on the 40-man roster. Twice, though, did he have to clear revocable waivers: in 2006 and 2007 with the Tigers.

Ramon Santiago is 1/1 in clearing waivers.

Freddy Guzman: Speedy outfielder Freddy Guzman is loved by all that seem to believe that Dave Roberts' 2004 ALCS steal embodies all that is right with small ball and justifies giving players who can do nothing but run a roster spot. For Guzman, this would be his first time on waivers, as he is just running out of options.

Marcus Thames: Once among the many highly touted Yankees prospects before being traded to Texas. The Rangers were able to succesfully get Marcus Thames through waivers after the 2003 season. He promptly declared free agency and signed on with the Tigers.

Marcus Thames is 1/1 in clearing waivers.

Timo Perez: I'm not quite sure where Timo Perez stands. He cleared waivers earlier in the offseason, and it is still the same waiver period. Does that mean he has to clear again? Is he even on the 40 man roster? I had thought so yesterday until his name showed up among the spring invites. For Perez, this was his second time on waivers having also been outrighted in 2006 with the Cardinals.

Timo Perez is 2/2 in clearing waivers, but may not have to clear this Spring.

There you have it. Francisco Cruceta is the only player on the roster with a history of being claimed off waivers. Over the course of the next few posts, I'll have to take a look at several potential variables that go into a player's waiver risk. Some that are going to be tested include:
  • Prospect Status: Could a player being mentioned among Baseball America's top prospects play a role in their likelihood of being claimed? On top of that, a 2007 top prospect will certainly be claimed before a 2000 top prospect.
  • Time of waiver: Roster crunches occur at different times of the year. Certainly, around November and December when players are being protected from the Rule 5 draft, it's probably much easier to clear waivers than mid-season where teams have more room on their reserve roster.
  • Recent performance: One would think a player coming off of a fine season would have a harder time making it through waivers.
  • Injury status
If you can think of any others, please let me know. Again, if you have any questions about anything, bring them up so they can be clarified.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Options and Waivers, Part 1

After reading Billfer's take on the bench, it became very clear that options and waivers will be causing issues for the Tigers this spring.

Here are some great references out there on roster rules:


There are more included in the bizofbaseball.com link.

I wanted to take some highlights and how this will effect the Tigers' decision making this March.

When a player is added to the 40-man roster, his club has three “options,” or three separate seasons during which the club may to move him to and from the minor leagues without exposing him to other clubs. A player on the 40-man roster playing in the minors is on optional assignment, and within an option season, there is no limit on the number of times a club may demote and recall a player. However, a player optioned to the minor leagues may not be recalled for at least 10 days, unless the club places a Major League player on the disabled list during the 10-day window.

After three options are exhausted, the player is out of options. Beginning with the next season, he must clear waivers before he may be sent to the minors again. See Waivers. Additionally, a player with 5 years of Major League service may not be sent to the minor leagues on an optional assignment without his consent.

- Biz of Baseball

They go on to show how to calculate option years.

# If a player is not sent to the minors during a year, an option is not used.
# If a player is on the 40-man roster in spring training but optioned to the minors before the season begins, an option is used.
# If a player’s optional assignment(s) to the minors total less than 20 days in one season, an option is not used.

- Biz of Baseball

Here you can see when options are used by players. I wanted to point out that only one option can be used per year. In the instance of somebody like Craig Monroe in 2002 or Aquilino Lopez in 2007, only one option is used even though they were each shipped between Detroit and Toledo numerous times. The ultimate problem with running out of options is that a player cannot be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. There is another case when this is true, from Keith Law

There is a rule rarely invoked in baseball that creates a situation where a player who has options remaining still has to clear waivers to be sent on an optional assignment. If the assignment is to begin at least three full calendar years from the date of the player's first appearance on a 25-man roster, then the player can not be sent on an optional assignment without first clearing major league waivers. These waivers are revocable, and players usually clear those waivers without incident.

So, what does this all mean? Ignoring the planned starting lineup, Vance Wilson, the Starting Rotation, Todd Jones, and Fernando Rodney, let's take a look at the option status of those fighting to make the team.

1. Any player who has been sent down on an optional assignment in three seasons is out of options, and will have to clear irrevocable waivers to be sent to the minors.

Three options used:
Denny Bautista (2004, 2006, 2007)
Yorman Bazardo (2005, 2006, 2007)
Tim Byrdak (1998, 1999, 2000)
Francisco Cruceta (2003, 2004, 2005)
Jason Grilli (2000, 2001, 2002)
Bobby Seay (2001, 2002, 2003)
Mike Hessman (2003, 2004, 2007)
Brandon Inge (2001, 2002, 2003)
Ramon Santiago (2003, 2006, 2007)
Freddy Guzman (2004, 2006, 2007)
Marcus Thames (2002, 2003, 2005)
Timo Perez (2001, 2002, 2007)

Two options used:
Macay McBride (2005, 2007)
Jordan Tata (2006, 2007)
Tony Giarratano (2005, 2006)
Brent Clevlen (2006, 2007)
Ryan Raburn (2004, 2005)

One option used:
Zach Miner (2007)
Clay Rapada (2007)
Rick Porcello (2007)
Virgil Vasquez (2007)

No options used:
Joel Zumaya

Out of the above players, barring injury, 15 will have to be sent down to Toledo, leaving a minimum of five players out of options who will have to be exposed to waivers.

I list Joel Zumaya because it would be interesting to see if he is sent on an optional assignment to Toledo to prevent service time from accruing during the injury. He's got three option years left, and could be arbitration eligible after this upcoming season. It's worth considering.

2. Players who first appeared on a 25 man rosters more than three calender years before the start of an optional assignment must clear revocable waivers.

Of the nine players who still have options remaining, only Ryan Raburn falls under this qualification, having made his Major League debut in 2004. Revocable waivers allow a team to pull a player back if they don't want him claimed. The waiver period in question runs from November 11 through April 30. This means the Tigers could have already slipped Raburn through waivers, allowing him to be optioned this Spring.

I'll talk more about the specifics of waivers and the likelihood of players being claimed in Part 2. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please leave them as I would love to answer them and feel they would be informative for anybody out there.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Morosi 1, Henning 0

Two Top prospect lists were announced today. Baseball America released its list, compiled by John Paul Morosi of the Free Press. Not to be outdone, Lynn Henning posted his top 20.

Baseball America:
1. Rick Porcello, rhp
2. Cale Iorg, ss
3. Scott Sizemore, 2b
4. Michael Hollimon, 2b/ss
5. Yorman Bazardo, rhp
6. Jeff Larish, 1b
7. Matt Joyce, of
8. Danny Worth, ss
9. Francisco Cruceta, rhp
10. Brandon Hamilton, rhp

Like most people out there, I was a bit surprised to see Cale Iorg that high. Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus had him ranked #4, but those rankings came out while Cameron Maybin (#1) was Detroit property and Casey Crosby (#3) had his previous elbow ligament. There seems to be somewhat of a consensus between their sources that Cale Iorg is very very impressive. It's hard to argue with that notion, as there is next to no data out there on him. He played just a couple of weeks in Lakeland before missing the Hawaii league with a minor injury.

For a guy with next to no power, Scott Sizemore seems kind of high to me. Jeff Larish may seem low to some people, but as I pointed out Wednesday, it's justified. Matt Joyce performed well enough in Erie to raise some eyebrows, and all reports suggest he has a great arm. Danny Worth has been overrated by many fans after a supposed hot start this year, and Francisco Cruceta cracking the #9 spot shows just how depleted the farm system is.

Overall, I have no major gripes with this list. The most egregious omission would appear to be James Skelton, but I have heard hesitation that he deserves a catcher of the future tag.

1. Rick Porcello, RHP, 6-5, 200, age 19
2. Cale Iorg, SS, 6-2, 175, age 22
3. Casey Crosby, LHP, 6-4, 195, age 19
4. Jeff Larish, 1B, 6-2, 200, age 25
5. Matt Joyce, RF, 6-2, 185, age 23
6. Danny Worth, SS, 6-1, 180, age 22
7. Scott Sizemore, 2B, 6 feet, 185, age 23
8. Michael Hollimon, SS, 6-1, 185, age 25
9. Jeff Gerbe, RHP, 6-3, 190, age 23
10. Clete Thomas, CF, 5-11, 195, age 24
11. Tony Giarratano, SS, 6-0, 180, age 25
12. Brent Dlugach, SS, 6-5, 200, age 24
13. Brent Clevlen, RF, 6-2, 190, age 24
14. Wilken Ramirez, OF, 6-2, 190, age 22
15. Joe Bowen, C, 6-1, 190, age 20
16. Devin Thomas, C, 5-10, 195, age 22
17. Audy Ciriaco, SS, 6-3, 195, age 20
18. Preston Larrison, RHP, 6-4, 235, age 27
19. Freddy Dolsi, RHP, 6 foot, 160 pounds, age 25
20. Guillermo Moscoso, RHP, 6-1, 160, age 24

The top eight, in no particular order, seem reasonable. Jeff Gerbe seems pretty high at #9, as I have a hard time seeing a guy bound for relief as the third-best pitcher in the organization. Clete Thomas had an okay year last year, but he is a guy with contact issues and limited power. Tony Giarratano and Brent Clevlen were both defense-first shortstops who have yet to return from labrum surgery. As such, they really don't belong in the discussion. Brent Clevlen's stock has taken a huge hit after terrible years in 2004, 2006, and 2007. It's spelled Wilkin. There is no way Joe Bowen belongs in this discussion at all, especially with the absence of Skelton. Preston Larrison is no longer a prospect, while Freddy Dolsi and Guillermo Moscoso are way too old for their levels.

I was trying to hold out until the motownsports.com fan rankings come out, but I will post my Top Ten today:

1. Rick Porcello
2. Yorman Bazardo
3. Mike Hollimon
4. Jeff Larish
5. James Skelton
6. Charlie Furbush
7. Matt Joyce
8. Danny Worth
9. Scott Sizemore
10. Virgil Vasquez

Porcello is obvious. Despite the full rotation, I do believe that Yorman Bazardo has the stuff and ability to crack the rotation in the event of the inevitable injury. It will be very important that the Tigers don't make a mistake and let him go this spring. Hollimon comes in over Larish because there are more possibilities for a middle infielder than a firstbaseman. I admit that Skelton and Furbush are probably too high, but there isn't much out there. Both had pretty good seasons this year, and I believe Skelton will forever be battling biases against his size as a catcher. Joyce's plate discipline leaves a lot to be desired, and as a corner outfield he needs to be doing better than just above average offensively. I'm still not sure Worth and Sizemore will hit enough, and Virgil Vasquez leaves a lot of balls up in the zone. I have Cale Iorg in at 15, although a top notch season this year will shoot him up where those in the organization apparently think he belongs. I'm confident in Casey Crosby's recovery, but do want to see some results or a positive prognosis before placing him high on the list. I just think the rust may be too hard to kick off.

Two more avoid arbitration
Finally, the Tigers avoided arbitration with Miguel Cabrera ($11.3 million) and Bobby Seay ($780,000). Both were right around what I expected. Seay was really an unsung hero last year, as he was arguably the team's best reliever, as he was finally utilized in an advantageous manner with lefties hitting just .209/.270/.275 against him.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Marcus Thames Avoids Arbitration

As reported on the Tigers official site and the MLB.com transactions page, the Tigers have avoided arbitration on Marcus Thames, signing him to a one-year deal. I cannot find the terms anywhere, but if I was to guess, I would say this is on the order of $1.5 million.

I would imagine Seay will sign shortly. The delay on Miguel Cabrera probably has to do with long term negotiations. The Tigers may bite the bullet and sign him for one year if things can't be worked out over the long term.

For an update, there still haven't been any terms disclosed on the contract. Believe it or not, a player of Thames' caliber could probably justify $5-8 million on the open market, so the deal will probably come at a discount.

In somewhat related news that I found out by doing a Google News search of "Thames," the River Thames apparently had flooding issues yesterday. It doesn't appear as if anybody is hurt, but I wish the best to our friends the Brits.

Danny Knobler is now reporting the deal is worth $1.275 million, a good deal for a player who could play a key role in the event of injury.

Keeping Jeff Larish in Perspective

By most Tigers' fans measures, Jeff Larish has become the Tigers' second best prospect. The first baseman put up solid numbers in Erie this past year in just his second professional season, but the bar is raised pretty high for someone who has nowhere else to move on the defensive spectrum. I don't think Tigers fans realize how uninspiring Jeff Larish is in the big picture.

Taking a look at the top 20 (by VORP) 1B in 2007, here are their offensive splits from their age 24 seasons:

Larish (AA) .267/.390/.515

Albert Pujols (MLB) .331/.415/.657
Prince Fielder n/a
Carlos Pena (MLB) .232/.316/.448
Ryan Howard (AA/AAA) .291/.369/.637
Mark Teixeira (MLB) .281/.370/.560
Todd Helton (MLB) .315/.380/.530
Derrek Lee (MLB) .281/.368/.507
Lance Berkman (MLB) .297/.388/.561 (AAA) .330/.476/.563
Adrian Gonzalez (MLB) .304/.362/.500
Dmitri Young (MLB) .310/.364/.481
Kevin Youkillis (AA/AAA) .285/.427/.409
James Loney n/a
Matt Stairs (AAA) .267/.347/.426
Justin Morneau (MLB) .237/.304/.437
Ryan Garko (AAA) .303/.384/.498
Casey Kotchman (MLB) .296/.372/.467
Paul Konerko (MLB) .298/.363/.481
Scott Hatteberg (AA/AAA) .242/.328/.386
Conor Jackson (MLB) .291/.368/.441
Adam LaRoche (MLB) .278/.333/.488

So at age 24, 15 of the top 20 first-basemen in baseball last year had reached the major leagues. In the case of Loney and Fielder, they are younger than Larish and have already established themselves as top flight major league hitters. You will also note that of those 15, 12 put up pretty good numbers in the majors with Morneau having an injury-plagued uncharacteristic down year. Of the five players who hadn't reached the majors, all had made it to AAA by this point in this career. Adjusting for era (Stairs and Hatteberg were 24 in the early 90's), only Scott Hatteberg was less impressive in his time in the minors with Stairs and Youkilis playing at roughly the same level as Larish.

Based on that, I'd say the odds are stacked against him at this point. "But he was just drafted in 2005! It's not his fault the Tigers have moved him slowly!" you could point out. Ignoring the fact that several players drafted in 2005 have already made big impacts at the big league level and the fact that Larish hasn't performed at a level to force the organization's hand, we can take a look at the AA performance of the above 20 1B's.

Pujols (skipped AA)
Fielder (20) .272/.356/.473
Pena (22) .299/.411/.533
Howard (24) .297/.374/.647
Teixeira (22) .316/.403/.591
Helton (22) .332/.424/.486
Lee (22) .280/.363/.570
Berkman (22) .306/.422/.555
Gonzalez (21) .283/.326/.393, .307/.371/.409
Young (21/22) .272/.325/.406, .292/.345/.455
Youkilis (23/24) .344/.450/.500, .327/.472/.465
Loney (20/21) .238/.311/.327, .284/.357/.419
Stairs - AA number not available... yes, he's that old
Morneau (21) .298/.353/.474
Garko (23) .331/.382/.523
Kotchman (21) .368/.419/.544
Konerko (20) .300/.393/.543
Hatteberg (22-24) 3 unspecacular seasons
Jackson (22) .301/.368/.456
LaRoche (23) .283/.379/.511

Larish stacks up a bit better here, until you throw in the fact that he was, in most cases, two years older than most of these guys when he was in AA.

Overall, the point of this is that he is not an elite 1B prospect by any stretch of the imagination. Even without Carlos Guillen signed through 2011, it would be tough to count on Larish to be a serviceable 1B for more than a year or two.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Robertson Locked Up

The Free Press is reporting Nate Robertson has signed a 3 year, 21.25 million dollar contract. This contract buys out two years of arbitration eligibility and one year of free agency. In my mind, this is a deserved contract. Even though Robertson has been around average in his time with the Tigers, left-handed pitchers are historically more expensive than their right-handed counterparts. This is the going rate for a left-handed starting pitcher, especially one who is strong in the community with a good head on his shoulders.

Using some of the procedures laid out in Vince Gennaro's Diamond Dollars (expect a review on that in the coming days and analysis of tools learned in the book over the coming year), I have estimated Nate Robertson to be worth roughly $29 million over the next three years if he was a free agent. By those calculations, this will be a good deal, even though he projects to be overpaid in 2010. I'll have more on those calculations in the coming days.

Marcus Thames, Bobby Seay, and Miguel Cabrera all the remaining arbitration eligible players.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Gold Mine!

I had stumbled upon the Tigers' media guide as a great reference last year. Yesterday, I did the same with all 30 media guides. Really, any information you may want on players (through a year ago) can be found in these guides.


Based on the dates of some signings, I would imagine these are put up at the beginning of Spring Training. I would expect the 2008 versions to be released in roughly a month.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

More Minor League Signings

Making the first news in a while, the Tigers announced the signings of 11 players yesterday, four of which have already been known. While such news would enable us to get away from the mainstream media revealing their collective ignorance of the performance enhancing drug or Hall of Fame debates, it's not likely that these players will contribute much to the Detroit Tigers as a whole.

We'll start with the guys who we've already known about I've already covered pitchers Francis Beltran, Marcelo Perez, and Jon Connolly. Dane Sardinha was announced several weeks ago, and he projects to be the team's third catcher as things stand right now. Sardinha was drafted by the Reds in 2000 as a player with great defensive polish. They banked on his bat developing, but it never happened. Throughout his professional career, Sardinha's offensive results have been putrid at best. Luckily, he will only be counted on if Vance Wilson's recovery from Tommy John Surgery requires a short term fix in April.

Pitchers Anastacio Martinez, Jeremy Johnson, and Ian Ostlund were all in the Tigers' system last year, before becoming six-year free agents. Martinez was picked up from Washington's system and has bounced around. He was a reliever and spot starter for Toledo towards the end of the season. I would expect him to do much of the same this year. Ostlund was originally drafted by the Tigers in 2001, and has served as a lefty reliever, bouncing between Erie and Toledo last season. Jeremy Johnson was hot stuff a few years ago before undergoing major shoulder surgery. He became a valuable part of Toledo's bullpen this past season. Scouts still aren't impressed with his repertoire and doubt he'll be a force with the big club.

Utility men Henry Mateo and Caonabo Cosme will offer much needed flexibility to Toledo and Erie, which are restricted to 23 and 24-man roster limits. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to offer anything to the Tigers. Jackson Melian will probably return in his Kirk Airoso role as Erie's DH and provide a stable bat to Erie's lineup. The history of Jackson Melian's prospect-hood is pretty interesting and might be worth an entry during these January doldrums.

Finally, Max St. Pierre returns after a one-year retreat from the organization that included a conversion to pitcher. I haven't heard for sure if the Tigers plan to use him at catcher, but I have to imagine St. Pierre will be donning the tools of ignorance given the team's lack of depth at the position.

Overall, these signings provide little in the way of potential for the Tigers' roster. The next news will likely deal with the arbitration cases of unsigned Tigers. Bobby Seay, Nate Robertson, and Miguel Cabrera all still need contracts. Players and teams will file for arbitration from January 5-15, exchanging figures on the 18th before hearings occur the early part of February. No player has gone to arbitration in Dave Dombrowski's time here, and I don't expect that to change.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Clemens Worked Hard. So What?

It's not impossible. You do it with hard work. Ask any of my teammates. Ask anybody that's come here and done the work with me.

This is a great excuse for Roger Clemens, but unfortunately, I don't see how he can use hard work as proof that he never used steroids. See, anybody who knows anything about what steroids actually do to the body probably had extreme doubts when anybody uses the hard work excuse. Below is an excerpt from Will Carroll's book The Juice, undoubtedly the best of the books released in the past few years on steroids.

Testosterone, which is the primary active ingredient – in synthetic form – in any anabolic steroid, acts directly in muscle tissue. It increases the speed at which muscle cells are produced and repaired. This same action that stimulates protein synthesis also serves to inhibit protein degradation. This inhibition is known as the anti-catabolic effect (catabolism is a destructive metabolic process by which organisms convert substances into excreted compounds) and plays a major role in allowing the anabolic steroid user to train more often with heavy resistance. The user must also maintain a high-protein and fairly high-calorie diet during the training regimen.

A necessary component in the use of steroids, in order to realize gains in strength, muscle growth, and lean body mass, is heavy resistance training. Because of the anti-catabolic effect, the steroid user does not have to wait 48 hours for the muscles to recover from a previous bout of heavy resistance training. Instead of having to work the upper body one day and the lower body the next, the steroid user can work the full body every day with heavy resistance, without having to worry about the effects of muscle breakdown.

Mr. Clemens, if you were a hard worker and were able to work out more frequently, it is very possible it is steroids that enabled you to do that. That is what they are designed to do!!!

Do Number 1’s face Number 1’s? – Part 2

Last time I started to take a look at the assumption by many in the sports media that pitchers often go up against those in the same rotation spot as then, thereby predicting improvement for pitchers who move from being a team's #4 to #1. I've been working on a lengthy study to test this theory, especially after hearing many analysts describe the help that Dontrelle Willis will get from not having to go up against opposing aces anymore.

Last time, I showed that the opening day order of a starting rotation will rarely be in order of that season's performance level. This is due to several reasons, including injuries, veteran preference, matchup strategies in deploying the rotation, and surprises or disappointments that a player experiences. Of the 20 teams observed, though, nine opening day starters ended up being the team's best and four more ended up being the team's second-best starting pitcher. Chances are, if you are facing a team's opening day starter, you are facing one of their better pitchers.

Next, I wanted to take a look at the assumption that teams' rotations are actually aligned over the course of a season, allowing #1 starting pitchers to regularly face #1 starters and #4 starters to regularly face #4's. I did this by looking at the Tigers' 2007 opening day rotation and the starting pitchers that they faced in each of their starts. A Number 6 starter is defined as one who didn't start

Jeremy Bonderman (Opening Day Rotation: #1)

Faced #1: 5 times (20.8%)

Faced #2: 3 times (12.5%)

Faced #3: 2 times (8.3%)

Faced #4: 5 times (20.8%)

Faced #5: 3 times (12.5%)

Faced #6: 6 times (25.0%)

Average SNLVAR of opposing pitcher: 3.2625

Nate Robertson (Opening Day Rotation: #2)

Faced #1: 3 times (9.7%)

Faced #2: 3 times (9.7%)

Faced #3: 5 times (16.1%)

Faced #4: 4 times (12.9%)

Faced #5: 4 times (12.9%)

Faced #6: 12 times (38.7%)

Average SNLVAR of opposing pitcher: 2.3129

Justin Verlander (Opening Day Rotation: #3)

Faced #1: 8 times (25.0%)

Faced #2: 2 times (6.3%)

Faced #3: 6 times (18.8%)

Faced #4: 7 times (21.9%)

Faced #5 5 times (15.6%)

Faced #6: 4 times (12.5%)

Average SNLVAR of opposing pitchers: 3.0469

Mike Maroth (Opening Day Rotation: #4)

Faced #1: 4 times (30.8%)

Faced #2: 1 time (7.7%)

Faced #3: 1 time (30.8%)

Faced #4: 2 times (15.4%)

Faced #5: 2 times (15.4%)

Faced #6: 3 times (23.1%)

Average SNLVAR of opposing pitchers: 3.9615

Chad Durbin (Opening Day Rotation: #5)

Faced #1: 2 times (10.5%)

Faced #2: 3 times (15.8%)

Faced #3: 3 times (15.8%)

Faced #4: 2 times (10.5%)

Faced #5: 4 times (21.1%)

Faced #6: 3 times (15.8%)

Average SNLVAR of opposing pitchers: 2.4824

As this shows, it appears to be random as to which pitcher a starting pitcher will oppose. While Jeremy Bonderman faced #1 pitchers in 20.8% of his starts, Justin Verlander and Mike Maroth both faced the opposing team's ace more often in their starts. Nate Robertson, the #2 starter, faced easily the weakest starting pitchers of anybody over the course of the year.

Several aspects lead to the randomness of pitching matchups.

-Injuries: Justin Verlander is the only Tigers pitcher to spend the entire season in the rotation. Injuries in a rotation can cause a pitcher to be moved up a day, back a day, or inserted into the rotation at the most convenient spot. With how often pitchers miss starts, it's a wonder that anybody could begin to think #1's face #1's.

-Rotation Style: The role of the fifth starter varies by manager. Many skippers will go 1-5, while several will use their fifth starter only during streaks of five or more games without an off-day. Chad Durbin's first start was pushed back to the sixth game of the season, so the #5 starter was facing the Blue Jays' #2. Different managers deploy their starters in different ways, and it is impossible to say that pitchers will be aligned based on their opening day spot in the rotation.

-Weather: All it takes is one rain-out to move a rotation up or back a day. In the case of the Mariners and Indians last April, their rotation was reset after a snowy weekend off. Postponements lead to another rotation juggler: double-headers. Spot starters come up from the minors, possibly facing that day's starter. Overall, the weather can play a large role in rotations becoming out of sync.

-The All-Star Break: The most boring three days in the baseball season also help to throw this myth into disarray. Rotations are frequently reset after the all-star break. Some team's aces go the first game after the break, while some aces are given a few days to recover from their All Star appearance. I assumed that there may be a chance that an All Star pitcher would face more aces after the break, but Justin Verlander faced just three of his eight after the All Star Break.

-The Schedule: Some teams play six games in a week; some play seven. Once again, teams' rotations get out of sync.

If teams played one game every day in domes, and pitchers never ever got hurt, you could make the case that pitchers at the bottom of a rotation have an easier time. The problem is they don't, and as such, anybody who uses a pitcher's spot in the rotation as an excuse probably doesn't know what they are talking about.