Thursday, May 29, 2008

Historical Draft Review #4 - 1998

Baseball Reference Page
Total WARP: 85.4 and Counting
General Manager: Randy Smith
Scouting Director: Greg Smith
Best Pick: Jeff Weaver, 1st Round, 55.0 WARP*
Peak Season: 2005, 13.2 WARP

First Ten Rounds plus notables:
1-14) Jeff Weaver, P, Fresno State U., 55.0 WARP*
1-34) Nate Cornejo, P, Wellington, KS, 4.1 WARP
2-14) Brandon Inge, C, Virginia Commonwealth U., 23.6 WARP*
2-30) Adam Pettyjohn, P, Fresno State U., 0.5 WARP
3-14) Tommy Marx, P, Bloomfield Hills, MI, 0 WARP
4-14) Andres Torres, OF, Miami-Dad CC, -0.7 WARP
5-14) Greg Peterson, P, St. John's U., 0 WARP
6-14) Bobby Sismondo, P, Ohio U., 2.9 WARP
7-14) Clint Smith, P, U. of Oklahoma, 0 WARP
8-14) Barry Tolli, OF, Newbury Park, CA, 0 WARP
9-14) Donny Sevieri, OF, Albuquerque, NM, 0 WARP
10-14) William Rich, OF, UConn, 0 WARP

*As of May 25, 2008

Knowing where his career has gone since leaving Detroit, it is hard to believe the choice of Jeff Weaver was enough to warrant this draft being the team's fourth best of all time. It's easy to forget Weaver was a solid starting pitcher in the front of the rotation, devastated by nonexistent run support. That he was able to do that making close to the league minimum until reaching arbitration in 2002 goes to show the true value of drafting well: cost controlled talent at their peak. Something this analysis has ignored is the actual salary of most of these player. That would be a nice study for another day.

After racking up a solid 22.9 WARP for the Tigers, Jeff Weaver was dealt to the Yankees for Jeremy Bonderman, Carlos Pena, and Franklyn German. While the latter two proved to be disappointments and Bonderman has been on the verge of acehood for a couple of years now, the package has proved to be worthwhile, and this draft certainly enabled the trade to happen.

It took a while for Brandon Inge, but he finally became a solid regular 3B starting in 2004 after struggling to take control of the catcher's job. It was Willie Blair's stellar 1997 season and subsequent departure that got the Tigers two extra draft picks. Nate Cornejo provided some value to the club, but was ultimately considered a disappointment. Adam Pettyjohn's case was a bit more unfortunate. Just as he had reached the Majors, a bout with colitis zapped his strength and ended his hopes of sustaining a big league career. Andres Torres was a speed player whose hamstrings acted up in the minors, thereby taking away one of his biggest offensive weapons. Dealt to Philadelphia for mediocre reserve outfielder Wendell Magee, Bobby Sismondo gets credited with the replacement level performance from Magee.

If you are stunned that a Randy/Greg Smith draft cracked the top 5, have no fears. Here are where the rest of the Randy Smith era drafts rank out of 43 drafts:
  • 26) 1996
  • 27) 2001
  • 30) 1997
  • 31) 2000
  • 39) 1999

The 1999 draft has already been passed by 2005 and 2006, and the rest will likely be passed by those two drafts sooner rather than later. The 1998 draft was a notch in Randy Smith's belt, but it was the Weaver for Bonderman trade that helped to vault it to the top of the list.

Even with Bonderman and Inge still active, this draft has a long way to go to crack the top three. Here we have the fourth best in Tigers History by my numbers, and only two players "made it." This is something to keep in mind next week when the post-draft scouting reports come out. It is important to realize that most scouting reports will give the ceiling of a player, but very only one or two players per draft will actually reach that ceiling.

Historical Draft Review #5 - 1987

Baseball Reference Page
Total WARP: 54.7
General Manager: Bill LaJoie
Scouting Director: Bill Schudlich
Best Pick: Travis Fryman, 1st (Supp.) Round, 44.2 WARP
Peak Season: 1992, 11.0 WARP

First Ten Rounds plus notables:
1-20) Bill Henderson, C, Westminster College, 0 WARP
1-21) Steve Pegues, OF, Pontonoc, MS, 0 WARP
1-30) Travis Fryman, SS, Pensacola, FL, 44.2 WARP
2-21) Rob Richie, OF, U. Nevada, 0.2 WARP
3-21) Jim Hayes, P, Topeka, KS, 0 WARP
4-21) Ricardo Ingram, OF, Georgia Tech, -0.1 WARP
5-21) Torey Lovullo, 2B, UCLA, 8.3 WARP
6-21) Dean DeCillis, IF, Miami Dade CC, 0 WARP
7-21) Chris Harley, 3B, Baltimore, MD, 0 WARP
8-21) Derek Lee, IF, U. South Florida, Unsigned
9-21) Blaine Rudolph, P, Fresno CC, 0 WARP
10-21) Robert Shipman, P, Winter Haven, FL, 0 WARP
17-21) Mike Wilkins, Lamar U., 1.7 WARP
21-21) Mike Schwabe, Arizona State, 0 WARP
33-21) Rusty Meachem, Indian River CC, 0.4 WARP

The Tigers got two extra picks in return for losing Lance Parrish, and put one of them to good use. Without Travis Fryman this draft is a complete bust. Fryman was a superb player in his time with the Tigers, but obviously most of his performance went to waste in what was a poor era for the Tigers. He was dealt to Arizona in a deal for Joe Randa, Gabe Alvarez, and Matt Drews. All three bombed with the Tigers, but Randa was dealt for Willie Blair. These players all provided minimal value to the Tigers, but still count towards Fryman's total. Bill Henderson, the other compensation pick, was a flop.

Rob Richie, the second round pick, seemed to be on the brink of making it big before retiring abruptly in the Spring of 1990. All I can gather from an internet search is that, as a Jehovah's Witness, he retired to become a probation officer back in Mississippi. This was slightly before my time, and I had not heard this story before. How good was he? Would he have been a regular Tigers' outfielder? Does anybody remember him?

Torey Lovullo was one of Sparky's favorites, but was ultimately a bust with the Tigers. He was dealt to the Yankees for Mark Leiter, who provided some solid swing-man innings in the early 90's. If you haven't heard of Mike Wilkins, it's because he never made it to the big leagues. He was dealt for Mike Munoz, a Tigers' LOOGY from 1990-1992. Would you believe that Rusty Meachem's career lasted until 2001?

It's probably pretty hard to believe that this was the Tigers' fifth best draft of all time. Basically, the success of Travis Fryman is what vaulted it to the top of the list. In fairness, there were drafts that came in at 52.3 and 51.8, so it just barely cracked the top 5. This just goes to show that if a draft can produce one star player, it did it's job.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Scanning the System - Left Field

Since Craig Monroe's implosion last year, several players have gotten time in left field for the Tigers. Ryan Raburn, Marcus Thames, Timo Perez, Cameron Maybin, Mike Hessman, Jacque Jones, Clete Thomas, Brandon Inge, Gary Sheffield, and Matt Joyce are some guys just to name a few. Is Matt Joyce finally the answer? If not, is there help on the way? Let's find out.


Matt Joyce, 23
Actual: .212/.276/.519 (.299/.367/.536 Toledo)
Expected: .231/.293/.538 (.289/.358/.526 Toledo)

Joyce has never been known for his plate discipline, and that has been exposed lately. He can handle the position defensively, but if he can't right this ship soon, one of the several other options will have to be ready.

Marcus Thames, 31
Actual: .246/.310/.415
Expected: .277/.338/446

Ryan Raburn, 27
Actual: .214/.298/.381
Expected: .214/.298/.381

Jacque Jones, 33
Actual: .165/.244/.253
Expected: .165/.244/.253

Gary Sheffield, 39
Actual: .213/.344/.338
Expected: .206/.338/.331

Marcus Thames needs to face mostly lefties. If he gets an everyday job, he will be exposed. I may have been a bit wrong about Raburn, as he looked way overmatched the other night. He still should be next in line. Yes, Jacque Jones was that bad. I've got nothing more to say on Sheffield.

Jackson Melian, 28
Actual: .260/.287/.385
Expected: .218/.247/.343

Timo Perez, 33
Actual: .223/.280/.382
Expected: .280/.331/.439

Melian is just filler, and it turns out he's not doing much of a job filling a spot. Timo Perez hasn't fallen off of a cliff as it may seem. He'll turn it around in time, but still doesn't deserve a big league spot.

Wilkin Ramirez, 22
Actual: .316/.365/.556
Expected: .199/.257/.439

A closer look really takes all of the shine off. Strikeouts have always been a problem with Ramirez. This year, he just happens to be getting very lucky. You don't hit .427 on balls in play and sustain it. The "expected" .199 batting average may seem harsh, but given his track record, the line looks fairly reasonable. It could get ugly if this mirage leads to a spot on the major league roster.

Brandon Timm, 23
Actual: .239/.317/.376
Expected: .211/.293/.348

Pedro Cotto, 25
Actual: .169/.243/.200
Expected: .184/.257/.215

Timm, the 9th round pick in 2004, has moved up a level every year and really hasn't done anything to impress. Pedro Cotto is the Tigers' Toby Flenderson. He's apparently a very nice guy, but he is just awful at everything. Justin Justice was in left for Lakeland, but moved to center field upon his promotion to Erie.

West Michigan:
Marc McBratney, 23
Actual: .186/.260/.279
Expected: .151/.229/.244

Joe Tucker, 24
Actual: .289/.360/.355
Expected: .231/.310/.297

McBratney has been shipped off to extended spring training. For the undrafted free agent, the end of the road is probably near. Tucker is a utility man without much utility. Kody Kaiser is also getting some time out in left field, and Jordan Newton has long been rumored to be headed to the outfield.

VSL Tigers:
Ivan Espinoza, 19
Actual: .250/.298/.269
Expected: .154/.210/.173

The other Espinoza is one of the many Tigers in Venezuela struggling right now. The unrelated Alexis has graduated from the VSL and will likely be playing in the Gulf Coast League starting in June.

Like third base, left field is a position that is very thin throughout the organization. Also like third base, not many players who end up in left field play there in the minor leagues. If you are looking for left field help, next week's rundown of centerfielders may give a better idea of what is in the pipeline. The most disappointing part of this analysis was the revelation that Wilkin Ramirez probably isn't for real. Considering all of the hype around him for so long, it seemed like he has finally turned a corner. I'm not so sure he's anything more than trade bait at this point.

More on Pathetic Bullpen Management

With Bobby Seay available in the bullpen, Francisco Cruceta has faced the following lefties in his last two appearances:

Justin Morneau:
vs. L: .252/.294/.439 (career)
vs. R: .292/.366/.525

Joe Mauer: (IBB'd)
vs. L: .285/.345/.336
vs. R: .329/.420/.510

Jason Kubel:
vs. L: .228/.299/.315
vs. R: .269/.318/.449

Garrett Anderson:
vs. L: .291/.309/.442
vs. R: .299/.335/.482

All four of those guys reached base. Two of them had game-winning RBI's. Jim Leyland has to get better at deploying these guys or Dave Dombrowski will have to find somebody who can.

Perils in Bullpen Management

Francisco Cruceta has now been a disaster in each of his last two appearences when he was brought into tight spots late in the game. Zach Miner, despite his struggles, has been used in tight spots.

Baseball Prospectus calculates a statistic for relievers called leverage, which gives an idea of the importance of the situations when relievers are brought into the game. I've compared the opposing OPS of each reliever (disregarding Bazardo and Willis) to their leverage.

Francisco Cruceta .819 1.02
Freddy Dolsi .650 0.85
Todd Jones .758 0.85
Zach Miner .724 0.82
Denny Bautista .737 0.80
Bobby Seay .721 0.80
Jason Grilli .712 0.74
Aquilino Lopez .638 0.65
Francis Beltran .967 0.63
Clay Rapada .603 0.55

Yikes. It almost looks like an inverse relationship. Rapada and Lopez have done the most mop-up work (Lopez just blew it in the ninth as I type this), despite being the most effective relievers. Meanwhile, Cruceta has struggled and has continually gotten the ball in tight spots. In graphical form:

The positive correlation coefficient scares the crap out of me. That means the higher a player's OPS allowed, the higher the leverage of the average situation they are brought into the game. Jim Leyland needs to do a better job managing this bullpen, even if he doesn't have all of his horses.
Update: I just saw Bonderman was pulled after 83 pitches! While hindsight is 20/20, you do not bring Cruceta into the game in this situation after the way he pitched last time out. It's simply the latest in a frustratingly long list of horrible decisions.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Long Overdue

He plays through a torn laburm
He plays through a torn finger tendon
He plays through recurring stiffness in both shoulders

And struggled after each injury. It took an oblique injury to finally get Gary Sheffield on the disabled list where he belongs. Hopefully he isn't back until he is 100%.

Jeff Larish is up. I'll bet he DH's. Leyland loves his left-handed bats. This could create an awkward situation if Larish outproduces Sheffield in the way that he should.

Larish's purchased contract brings the 40 man roster up to 37. There is still plenty of flexibility for later in the year.

Historical Draft Review - Introduction

The June Draft is now nine days away, and a lot of the focus is towards the future. Who will the Tigers get with the 21st pick? Will they once again go well over slot to get premier talents in the draft? Will they draft a catcher in the high rounds to fill a pressing organizational need? Which late round picks have bargain potential? As compelling as those questions are, I don't have the answers. Instead, I was prompted by some of the premature hype around last year's draft to try and find the Tigers' best draft ever. In the process, I wanted to find out the benchmark of a succesful draft. I wanted to figure out when it is safe to start evaluating the results of a draft. Most importantly, I wanted to find out more about the history of the draft and rank every one of the Tigers' drafts based on the results the draft produced.

Before going into the methodology, I wanted to look at the history of the MLB First Year Player Draft. Started in 1965, the draft replaced the largely unsuccesful Bonus Rule. The Bonus Rule, in place from 1947 to 1965 to prevent teams like the Yankees from loading up on talent, stated that any player signed to at least a $4,000 contract needed to be on the 40-man roster their first two professional seasons. This explains why players like Al Kaline went straight to the Major Leagues. Anytime anybody points to players like Kaline who didn't play in the Minor Leagues as justification for rushing another player, kindly tell them that the rules in place between 1947 and 1965 made it difficult to send top prospects to the minor leagues. Also, if the person complains that players are signed for too much money these days, you cand also kindly point out that this was always the case and is the reason that players like Kaline went straight to the Majors. Before the Bonus Rule, there was essentially a free for all, similar to the international market today. If you found a player and could sign him, he was yours. The draft was implemented to give everybody a shot at all players after the Bonus Rule proved futile.

The MLB Draft wasn't always as it is today. During the first two years, there were three drafts held. The June Draft has always been held, but there was the August Draft for players who played in Summer Leagues, and the January Draft for winter graduates. The August Draft was abandoned after 1966. For the next several seasons, there were four phases of the draft: the regular phase of both the June and January Drafts, and a secondary phase for players who had already been drafted by a team but were not signed. Finally in 1986, the other phases of the draft were done away with, leaving only the regular phase of the June Draft, which was shortened to 50 rounds in 1998.

When starting this project, I was unaware of the numerous phases of the draft before 1986. It created somewhat of a dilemma. Should I ignore everything except the regular phase of the June Drafts? If I don't, toward which draft will the January phases count? At first, I ignored all phases except for the regular phase of the June Draft. Upon doing this, I noticed that drafts since 1986 tended to rank much better than drafts before. This made sense, as I was ignoring several eligible players who had been drafted by the Tigers and would have been otherwise drafted in June. To remove that bias, I decided to include all drafts, counting the January Draft with the same year's June Draft.

I rated the drafts using a system similar to the Trade Reviews I did earlier.
  • I used WARP1 from BaseballProspectus for each player. It was either WARP1 or Win Shares, and I have access to everybody's WARP1 totals.
  • Only players signed in the draft count toward the draft. If a player was drafted multiple times by the Tigers, he counts toward the draft in which he was signed.
  • Players are credited only for their time with the Tigers, and I stop totaling their numbers the moment they are traded, released, declare free agency, lost on waivers, or taken in the Rule 5 or Expansion Drafts. If a player is a free agent and re-signs with the Tigers, I am assuming that the player could have signed anywhere during that time and any value he provides is not a result of his draft selection.
  • If a player is traded, the players recieved in return count towards his draft pick. The same goes for free agents who net compensation.
  • A player traded as part of a package only accumulate a percentage of the value of the players recieved. This percentage is based on the value the player provided the team they were traded to compared to the rest of the package. Player who had a WARP of 0 or less for the opposing team will have a percentage of 0 unless the rest of the players also had a WARP of 0 or less. In this case, the players each have an equal percentage. I came across two trades which aren't final, and I assigned estimated percentages to each player. Humberto Sanchez (50), Kevin Whelan (25), and Anthony Claggett (25) each will be credited with Gary Sheffield's production. Cameron Maybin (35), Andrew Miller (33), Burke Badenhop (8), Dallas Trahern (8), Mike Rabelo (8), and Eulogio De La Cruz (8) each will split Miguel Cabera and Dontrelle Willis' production. This will be easy to modify once the results of these trades start to become clear.
  • I did not count the production of free agents who cost draft picks.

I will post the results in the coming days leading up to the draft. Here are some of the results I plan to cover.

  • What is the result of a succesful draft?
  • When can a draft be fairly evaluated?
  • Best Tigers Drafts: #5
  • Best Tigers Drafts: #4
  • Best Tigers Drafts: #3
  • Best Tigers Drafts: #2
  • The Best Tigers Draft Ever

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Random Thoughs

  • I want to apologize for the lack of posts lately. I've been working on an all-time Draft Review series to put on here before the draft starts. It's been sucking time away from blogging.
  • There was another Leyland blunder today. I don't really know why Cruceta was left in to face a string of left-handed hitters. That seemed like the perfect time to use Seay. If Seay wasn't available because of Friday night, somebody else needs to be put in charge when Leyland gets ejected. McClendon really left him out to dry in a tight game in a series against a team whose best two hitters are left-handed.
  • Speaking of the fateful eighth inning, Renteria's range appeared to have killed the Tigers once again. I really thought that he could have fielded that Gomez grounder, but was nowhere near it. This once again shows the disconnect between fielding percentage and defensive performance.
  • For those that didn't see, Luis Marte has hit the DL with an elbow sprain. A sprain does refer to a ligament, likely the ulnar collateral ligament, which has been made famous by Tommy John surgery. Two of the three grades of a ligament sprain are actually tears. Given that the Tigers have opted to let Marte rehab this, I'm assuming we are talking about a grade I sprain. Best case, he is back in two months and pitching again. Unfortunately, an elbow sprain is still the result of his pitching, and something had to have caused this. Regardless, he's at risk to go under the knife, which is unfortunate since no player took a bigger step forward this year than Luis Marte.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Scanning the System: Third Base

Most people have heard the old saying "There is no such thing as a pitching prospect." Is there such a thing as a third base prospect? Looking at Tigers' third basemen in recent past, you'd have to say the answer is a big resounding "No!" Carlos Guillen, currently manning the position, came up as a shortstop. Miguel Cabrera even was signed as a shortstop, and stayed there until just prior to reaching the major leagues. Brandon Inge was a catcher, converted from shortstop. Eric Munson was a catcher, who was converted to first base, who then converted to third base. Even Travis Fryman was brought up as a shortstop and was only moved to third base to accommodate the greatest shortstop in team history. There is no doubt that the Tigers lack third base prospects, but it is probably true that if you want to look at who may be manning the hot corner in the future, that player may not be there right now. Now, a look at all of the third basemen.


Carlos Guillen, 32
Actual: .284/.364/.426
Expected: .263/.344/.405

Brandon Inge, 31
Actual: .221/.322/.368
Expected: .263/.357/.410

Carlos Guillen's defensive woes have been very transparent, but his offense has tailed off significantly since last summer. He's at the age and physical condition where decline seems probable. Keep an eye out. Brandon Inge would be in the lineup if he hit more. Instead, he's one heck of a utility man.

Mike Hessman, 30
Actual: .288/.377/.699
Expected: .257/.351/.668

Only 51% of Hessman's plate appearances end up in play. Between all of the homers, walks, and strikeouts, the Tigers have the perfect incarnation of Rob Deer. Except this Rob Deer can play a mean third base. If Sheffield ever goes onto the DL, Guillen to DH and Hessman to third base would be an intriguing short term move.

Kody Kirkland, 24
Actual: .200/.280/.280
Expected: .210/.288/.290

Max Leon, 23
Actual: .291/.417/.326
Expected: .251/.307/.186

Kirkland has fallen off of a cliff, if he had climbed a cliff. He's really fallen down the steps... okay, down a step. Now in his third year at Erie with disappearing power, it appears as if Kirkland has reached the end of the road. Leon's a utility guy who counts as a third baseman using my system. He's a solid upper level utility guy, nothing more.

Michael Bertram, 24
Actual: .295/.353/.390
Expected: .228/.294/.323

Santo De Leon, 24
Actual: .282/.282/.394
Expected: .155/.155/.267

Louis Ott, 23
Actual: .293/.327/.391
Expected: .260/.296/.358

Nothing to see here.

West Michigan:
Ronnie Bourquin, 23
Actual: .217/.320/.310
Expected: .132/.249/.225

Roger Tomas, 22
Actual: .324/.378/.426
Expected: .236/.305/.338

Kody Kaiser, 23
Actual: .286/.345/.438
Expected: .245/.311/.400

So Bourquin has effectively been passed by an undrafted middle infielder. On top of that, he's been playing some first base. Not only can he not hack it at the plate, fielding seems to be a challenge as well. If the book hasn't closed on Mr. Bourquin yet, he will soon. Tomas and Kaiser are nice utility guys who probably are destined for the minor leagues.

VSL Tigers:
Fernando Martinez, 17
Actual: .231/.286/.231
Expected: .193/.250/.193

There has been some hype around Martinez. The VSL season is just a week old, so it's far too soon to jump to negative conclusions with him. Watch scouting reports over numbers at such low levels. It's hard to get an accurate read of performance.

Overall, the Tigers don't have much in the way of third base prospects. Hessman looks like he could fill in if needed, but after that things are barren. Have no fear, though, as third basemen can often come from other positions.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The True Cost of a High Payroll

A common response to a big contract's criticism usually goes something like this: "It's not your money." This is true. The owner is the one giving out the big contracts, and it is his money. Even in these times when baseball is swimming in money and owners can afford pretty much any contract, there is a cost to an expensive team. This is no more evident than it is with the Detroit Tigers right now.

Not only do you have to pay players several million dollars, players with large contracts are also veterans who cannot be sent to the minor leagues. A team is required to be patient with these players while young, cheap players can be sent out when they are struggling. When marginal players get big time deals, you lose roster flexibility.

Take the case of Gary Sheffield. He's now hitting below .200 without much power to speak of at all, as a designated hitter. Even though he's had shoulder and finger problems, because he is an expensive veteran, he apparently has the authority to stay off of the disabled list? Sheffield is, in my opinion, a Hall of Famer. Over the past 20 years, he has been one of the best players in the game and an underrated performer across the board. The simple fact is that he is not getting the job done right now. While this would normally be acceptable; Mike Hessman, Jeff Larish, Michael Hollimon, and others would probably be outperforming him right now. Toledo's roster is simply overflowing with offensive firepower right now.

How about Armando Galarraga? He's been the best pitcher in the Tigers' rotation this season. For all of the critcism that has been unfairly lumped on him for not being able to go deep into games, he still owns 31% of the team's quality starts, and is the only Tigers starter giving up less than an earned run every two innings. Now, he's the one leaving the rotation and presumably the team to make room for the supposedly healthy Dontrelle Willis. Why is Galarraga on his way out? A rotation full of expensive veterans can't be broken up, regardless of whether or not they deserve it.

Just remember the next time you say "It's not my money." It is your team, and your team suffers when potentially poor veterans are signed to large deals.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Oh Those Double Plays

They don't show up any differently from a routine out in batting average and OPS. You can't find them in strikeout/walk ratios, and any look at a box score will not show any demerits for grounding into a double play unless you think to look in the section below the batters' statistics. Yet, double plays are inning killers. Those that watched the eighth inning of last night's game saw Magglio Ordonez bounce into a double play, transforming the inning from a first/second with nobody out situation to a runner on third with two outs. According to the win expectation charts, the Tigers' chances of winning dropped from 32.1% to 11.4%.

The Tigers' batters seem to be grounding into a lot of double plays, but I wanted to quantify this observation and see if it was really a problem. Baseball Prospectus calculates several statistics for double plays. Double Play Percentage, calculated by dividing the amount of double plays by the amount of double play opportunities, is one of the statistics. The denominator is the key here: double play opportunities. A double play opportunity is a situation where a runner is on first base and there are less than two outs. While totaling up double plays and dividing by at bats would be nice, a player who always bats with two outs isn't going to be hitting into a lot of double plays.

I checked all players with at least 50 plate appearances, and the highest Tiger was Magglio Ordonez at 24.1%, good for 34th in the Majors. While no players are standing out, the Tigers' team double play rate of 15.7% is second to the Blue Jays in the Major Leagues. Here's a list of all of the Tigers with at least 50 PA:

Ordonez 24.1%
Jones 23.1%
Sheffield 22.6%
Rodriguez 19.2%
Cabrera 18.8%
Guillen 18.2%
Renteria 16.2%
Polanco 9.5%
Inge 5.6%
Thames 0%
Granderson 0%
Thomas 0%

It's a bit troubling when one of your big RBI guys is topping this list, but Ordonez hit into double plays at a more acceptable rate of 14.7% last season. If there was any doubt about Sheffield's problems making solid contact, his double play rate has risen from 7.8% last season to 22.6% this season. Curtis Granderson is probably the team's best at avoiding double plays. He posted a 6.1% last season, and has a big goose egg so far. Ordonez and Sheffield will have to improve their double play rates if this offense is going to start clicking.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Odds and Ends

  • There has been a lot of Jeremy Bonderman discussion. Thanks to the wonderful Fox/MLB Saturday Afternoon blackouts, I was unable to watch Saturday's game. Jim Price seemed to notice a blatant mechanical flaw with Bonderman in the first inning. Clearly, things have not been right with him. I said before the season to watch his fastball velocity and the sharpness of the slider to see if he's healthy. Neither of those pitches are optimal, and it turns out his fastball command has been an even bigger issue. I'm not convinced his injured elbow healed with rest. It's pretty clear he's not himself. Given Bonderman's history of concealing his elbow problems, a decline of pitch quality and repeated mechanical flaws may be all the Tigers will have to go on before it's too late. My hope is that they are proactive with this, even if it means an Eddie Bonine getting a couple of starts.
  • The Mudhens have the top three hitters in the International League and four of the top six hitters according to equivalent average. Mike Hessman and his 14 homers have him in first place, followed by the resurgent Brent Clevlen and Jeff Larish. The now promoted Matt Joyce places sixth on this list. On the surface this is good news, but it can highlight some flaws.
    • If you have several players dominating in AAA, their performance is simply going to waste. While there are only so many roster spaces, these guys are doing no good beating up on International League pitching.
    • This shows the problem of having a high payroll team. The players simply can't be shuffled in and out. If Gary Sheffield was a rookie making the league minimum, his performance to date wouldn't be tolerated and would have been sent to Toledo a long time ago.
    • The good news is that there is some offensive depth. I disagreed with a lot of the preseason assertions that the Tigers have a depth problem. It's pretty clear by looking at the current bench and the reserves in AAA that the Tigers should be able to withstand some injuries (when the player doesn't try to stubbornly play through them, killing the team in the process).
    • How can the Tigers go about utilizing some of this depth? As I've already alluded to, placing Gary Sheffield on the disabled list would free up one roster spot. He's just not a good player when he's trying to play through these injuries. Marcus Thames is also starting to look like a redundancy, and it may make sense to ship him out for some pitching depth. Mike Hessman is earning an opportunity to help the team. I also think that Jeff Larish could solve a lot of these left-handed bat issues.
  • The Venezuelan Summer League kicks off today. It's hard to preview the league, given that there is very little information out there on most of the players. I just wanted to alert those who follow the minor leagues that there is a new batch of players to track.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Another Player Development Milestone

I've mentioned the Tigers' new Venezuelan development program, which started roughly around 2006, when they started fielding a Venezuelan Summer League team. While signs of improved depth are sure to come, there was a small milestone today, as pitcher Mauricio Robles, 19, was added to the West Michigan Roster. Robles becomes the first VSL Tigers alumnus to make it to a full season team's roster. More notably, Brandon Hamilton also was promoted to West Michigan. Hamilton, also just 19, spent the first month of the season in Extended Spring Training after an oblique injury. He was the Tigers pick in the supplemental round of last year's draft.

In a related move, Luis Marte has been promoted to Erie. This is a guy who will shoot up the prospect charts this season. Could he get a look with the big league club if things go well?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Scanning the System: Shortsops

Luck plays a large role in hitting. Take the case of Matt Joyce this week. Monday night with the bases loaded, he roped a line drive down the right field line, only to end up in the glove of J.D. Drew. Two days later, he starts a game-winning rally with an infield single on a bouncer to the shortstop. This won't happen in other sports. In basketball, good shots will go in more often than bad shots. In golf, a good putt will go in more often than a poor one. In auto racing, the fast car will always beat the slow car. Meanwhile, in baseball, a well-hit ball can be hit right at a player, while a slow roller off the end of the bat can result in a hit. This is what I am talking about when describing "luck," and the point of this series is to try and filter out that luck from the performances of players in the minor leagues. For an explanation of what everything means, see the post on catchers.

Edgar Renteria, 32
Actual: .280/.307/.380
Expected: .348/.371/.454

Renteria will always be judged way too harshly, so long as Jair Jurrjens keeps pitching well for Atlanta. Mack Avenue Tigers had a nice post on the trade. As far as his performance goes, his batting line is mediocre to date, but a superb 27% line-drive rate suggests great things to come. So far, this series has correctly projected steps forward from Placido Polanco. I'd expect the same of Renteria, although the line-drive rate could be a fluke as well.

Derek Wathan, 31
Actual: .261/.307/.348
Expected: .337/.376/.424

Erick Almonte, 30
Actual: .296/.419/.535
Expected: .366/.476/.605

Two more guys with ungodly line drive rates are waiting in the wings in Toledo. These two minor league veterans don't project to be anything more than emergency utility men, but don't expect them to cool down.

Danny Worth, 22
Actual: .281/.344/.421
Expected: .193/.266/.333

Despite hitting line drives less than half as frequently as the above three shortstops, Worth is having more balls in play fall in has hits. Simply put, he's been lucky so far, and this will only help to cement his status as most overrated Tigers' prospect.

Cale Iorg, 22
Actual: .270/.328/.468
Expected: .261/.320/.460

Shawn Roof, 23
Actual: .327/.391/.400
Expected: .218/.297/.291

Iorg started very hot, but has cooled off since. Amidst his cold streak, he was suspended for an undisclosed reason. For a guy who took two years off, his start so far will do the trick. It's no big surprise that Roof is a flash in the pan. The hope is that the organization doesn't start putting too much stock in him. I doubt they will.

West Michigan:
Audy Ciriaco, 20
Actual: .227/.262/.320
Expected: .217/.252/.310

"Raw," "inconsistent," "tools"... These are words that you hear to describe Ciriaco. Patience will be key with him. If he has the talent that scouts say he does, it will be worth the wait.

The shortstop situation on the farm is one to watch this season. With Edgar Renteria's $13-million option looming, having a legitimate option to replace him could be important, especially if the team's unexpected struggles start to wreak havoc on their financial situation. While I'm not one to root against a player, my hope is that Danny Worth quits getting breaks and his overall numbers start to show his real performance. If he fools the organization and is thrust into a big role, he could disappoint like the overachieving Tony Giarratano did.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

How About That?

Backs against the wall and facing their sixth straight loss while facing the league's best closer, the Tigers scrape out a victory. I'm typically very hard on the follies "small ball," but sometimes you need to scrape one out. After Matt Joyce reached on an infield single, Edgar Renteria reached on an error by Julio Lugo. This set up one of the few situations where a successful sacrifice bunt actually increases the batting team's chances of winning a game. (It may be an optimal strategy at other times, but only because of the likelihood of an accidental single or fielding error.) After Pudge got the bunt down, Curtis Granderson made contact getting the tying run home to tie the game at 9-9. This set up Placido Polanco's fifth hit of the game: a broken bat bloop single just over Lugo's head. It will be tough to predict where the team goes after this one, but the win helps to avoid what could have been a demoralizing loss after blowing and 8-4 lead in the late innings. If you are going to pull one out against Papelbon, that is the way to do it. Frankly, anything to make "Red Sox Nation" suffer a painful loss is enough for me.

Tigers Break into Asian Market

Baseball America is reporting the Tigers have signed Taiwanese outfielder Chao-Ting Tang. This is the first amateur player the Tigers have signed from Taiwan.

Some information on Tang, an outfielder, can be found at the following links:

Based on the links, I'd put Tang's age around 20, as he played on high school all-star teams two years ago. The Tigers' increased international presence will only help the team going forward. We haven't even begun to see the results of the new facilities in Venezuela over the past two years. I wouldn't expect to see him anywhere until the short season teams start in June, but it will be exciting to see how he develops.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tonight's Lineup

Granderson cf
Polanco 2b
Guillen dh
Ordonez rf
Cabrera 1b
Sheffield lf
Renteria ss
Rodriguez 1B
Inge 3b

This one makes a bit more sense than last night. If you are going to take Gary Sheffield out of the designated hitter role, it would only make sense to utilize the DH to improve the defense. While Matt Joyce was a defensive upgrade over Ordonez, it pales in comparison to the upgrade of Carlos Guillen to Brandon Inge. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'd still like to see some consideration given to Ryan Raburn. Watch Sheffield tonight and see if he gives it his all in left field. Honestly, he looked like a lazy version of Barry Bonds out there last night.

Schuyler Williamson

For those that didn't see Lee or Bill mention this. Mark Anderson over at has recently done an interview with former Tigers' catching prospect Schuyler Williamson. He's back from Iraq and has interesting stories on his decision to leave baseball and his time in the army. That interview can be found here.

As a quick plug, I am going to highly recommend a TigsTown Subscription. If there is a time to check it out, that time is now with the draft coming up. Those guys have great knowledge and contacts to help them with their draft analysis, and it is a great reference if you are looking to follow the minor leagues.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Postgame Thoughts

  • 10 walks and 5 singles will only net you three runs. A lot of anti-sabermetric people will scream "Walks only clog the bases!" The problem today wasn't the walks, it was the pop-outs and the weak contact. What is often misunderstood by the Dusty Bakers of the world is that you get 27 outs, and those walks don't cost you any of those 27 outs.
  • On the subject of bashing small ball: how about when Steve Phillips was gushing over Magglio Ordonez being able to hit the ball the other way, and he immediately bounces into a 4-6-3 double play? Ground balls to second base have been glorified to no end when they move a runner up, but they are hardly an example of doing the job. If somebody says a player "did his job" by moving the runner up, you can kindly point to a win expectation chart and show that in most cases you are better off with a runner on second and N outs compared to a runner on third with N+1 outs.
  • Gary Sheffield was loafing his whole time in left field. If he wants to play out there to get his bat going, he needs to act like he wants to play out there. There was a liner in the left-center gap, where he stopped as soon as he saw Granderson was running after it. There was a catchable blooper into shallow left field, that I thought he may have had a chance at, but he was merely jogging after the ball. Even the catch against the wall involved a lolly-gagging pre-amble. This was an unacceptable defensive effort by Sheffield, and I shudder to see him try to throw a winning run out at the plate. For a while now, all he has needed is about a month's rest to get the shoulder and finger healthy while getting him healthy. Playing him in the outfield, when there are capable offensive and defensive players who can fill his spot, is an unacceptable decision.
  • It really was an interesting moment when Hideki Okajima was brought into the game to face Matt Joyce. It was one of the rare moments where a left-handed pitcher is brought into face a left-handed hitter and both have reverse platoon splits. It was either a brilliant move by Terry Francona to induce the right-handed pinch hitter, or a poor decision by both managers that happened to pay off for the Tigers. I'd have left Joyce in. The decision to bring in Thames was an interesting one. It seemed to pay off with a single, but who's to say Joyce wouldn't have done better?
  • A comparison I thought of for Matt Joyce: Bobby Higginson without plus plate discipline.
  • One quick note on service time. Orel Hershiser was repeatedly saying that Aquilino Lopez is "a 32 year-old with just over 1 year of service time." Had I not remembered him spending an entire season as Toronto's closer five years ago, I wouldn't have looked it up, but Lopez came into the season with 1.152 years of service time according to the Media Guide. That's not 1 year plus another 152/1000 years. That figure means 1 year plus 152 days of service, with 172 days constituting a full season. It's an easy mistake to make at first glance, and I'm not going to chastise Hershiser, who is one of ESPN's best commentators, but wanted to point out a warning when looking at service time numbers. At some point when I get better at computers, I plan to have a roster on the site with every player's up-to-date service time included. The estimated time for arrival on that is roughly 2014.
  • I was very disappointed to see no Erin Andrews tonight. I thought she had Monday games, and was looking forward to her... insight.
  • Free Ryan Raburn!

Removing the Jacque Strap

Jacque Jones has been designated for assignment. Matt Joyce has been called up to replace him. It's interesting to me that Joyce gets the call instead of Thomas, who faired well in his time with the big club.

Joyce bats left-handed, and plays a strong defense anywhere in the outfield. Like Clete Thomas, he has a tremendous arm, but he's a different type of hitter. While Thomas is more of a spray hitter, Joyce has hit for power in his career. He's off to a fast start in Toledo, hitting .299/.367/.536.

I'm not sure how the left field situation will shake out. I'd still like to see Raburn get a lion's share of the playing time, but they probably didn't bring Joyce up to ride pine. There will likely be some sort of time share between Raburn, Joyce, Marcus Thames, and Brandon Inge for the time being. Regardless, it's a step up from the punch-less Jones.

Okay, now it seems as if Gary Sheffield is playing left field at his own request to get his bat going. That seems like a shock, especially without the corresponding move of Carlos Guillen to designated hitter. I'll let some time go by to pass judgement, but it's a peculiar move to say the least.

One Man's Drastic Changes

Much has been made over the drastic changes to the lineup that will be debuted tonight. I'm not convinced that changes to the lineup are the answer any more than I am that a team can get away with one lineup. I have two sets of three lineups to use. One set of lineups for right-handed opponents, one set for left-handed opponents. One lineup is the "everyday" lineup, and the other two account for days off by Pudge Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield. Those two should each be seeing at least one off day every week.

vs. RHP, Everyday
Granderson CF
Polanco 2B
Cabrera 1B
Ordonez RF
Guillen 3B
Sheffield DH
Renteria SS
Rodriguez C
Raburn LF

I like the dynamic of Granderson and Polanco 1-2. Polanco hits a lot of ground balls, which would be double plays with a singles hitter in front of him. For all the talk of Granderson's power being wasted in the leadoff spot, he's only guaranteed to lead off one inning per game. His extra-base hits are an unconventional and effective way of setting the table, and I see no reason to move him. Everything else is pretty straight forward. Brandon Inge isn't in this lineup, but I still see him playing roughly four games per week. He really doesn't hit right-handers well, and he fits best in a part time role. I've already laid out the case that Ryan Raburn has earned an every day job in left field.

vs. RHP, Sheffield Off
Granderson CF
Polanco 2B
Cabrera 1B
Ordonez RF
Guillen DH
Renteria SS
Rodriguez C
Raburn LF
Inge 3B

vs. RHP, Pudge Off
Granderson CF
Polanco 2B
Cabrera 1B
Ordonez RF
Guillen 3B
Sheffield DH
Renteria SS
Raburn LF
Inge C

vs. LHP, Everyday
Renteria SS
Guillen 3B
Cabrera 1B
Ordonez RF
Sheffield DH
Rodriguez C
Thames LF
Polanco 2B
Inge CF

It's a bit unconventional to platoon a right-handed bat with another righty. While Ryan Raburn has little if any platoon split, Marcus Thames has always hit lefties well and belongs in this lineup. Until Granderson shows he can hit lefties on a regular basis, Inge gets to be his platoon partner. I've moved Polanco down in the lineup so he is behind another power hitter, and will likely be batting behind Granderson later when he comes in as a defensive replacement.

vs. LHP, Sheffield Off
Polanco 2B
Guillen DH
Cabrera 1B
Ordonez RF
Renteria SS
Rodriguez C
Thames LF
Inge 3B
Granderson CF

If Sheffield's off days can be scheduled, I would advise scheduling them against right-handed pitchers. If Granderson is to be completely sheltered against righties, Raburn can start here. I have Granderson in there for the defense. Once again, I bat Polanco behind Granderson, which happens to be in the leadoff spot here.

vs. LHP, Pudge Off
Polanco 2B
Guillen 3B
Cabrera 1B
Ordonez RF
Sheffield DH
Renteria SS
Thames LF
Inge C
Granderson CF

Overall, I think these lineups are the best. I haven't run simulations or anything to test them, but they pass basic tests. They each deploy the best available personel, and try to stack the top of the lineup with the team's best hitters, while preserving succesful lineup dynamics such as the Granderson/Polanco combination. Jacque Jones and Ramon Santiago are absent from all of these lineups. I see Santiago getting his typical weekly start in place of Polanco or Santiago. Jones, on the other hand, is just an extra bench bat until he proves he can contribute. You could make the case for releasing him, but with the Tigers on the hook for about another $2.5-million, that's not likely. Also, the player who would replace him would likely rot on the bench. You are better off having Jones rotting the bench than a prospect like Clete Thomas or Jeff Larish.

I know that these aren't going to be the lineups, but I think they are the best the team can throw out there.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Time for the Jacque Jones Era to End

I really did not like the Jacque Jones acquisition at the time it was made. Sure, Omar Infante wasn't that big of a loss, and the Cubs were covering the salary difference, so it was worth a shot. After a while, I bought into the fact that Jones played a really good outfield last year. My main beef at the time wasn't with the trade or Jones' defense, he really isn't any better than the internal alternatives: Ryan Raburn, Marcus Thames, and the now displaced Brandon Inge. The misplay on the line-drive double in the 7th inning was the final straw to me. While I'm not one to tolerate a poor offensive performance, it can be justified with a great defensive performance. Jones has been inferior in the field to every one of his positional competitors this year, even Marcus Thames.

It was an open debate as to whether Jacque Jones' bat was in decline last season or if it was merely a one year slump. At age 32, either could have been true. The biggest decline from 2006 to 2007 was his power. He fell from 27 home runs to a meager five in 2007. His isolated power dropped from an acceptable .214 to a ghastly .115. It was worth seeing if his bad could rebound (it hasn't), especially if he can play better defense than his alternatives (he hasn't). When you have a career OBP of just .327 and you are playing a power spot, you need either your power or your defense to keep you in the lineup. The fact that a superior hitter in Ryan Raburn is coming in as a defensive replacement is a paradox to say the least.

The Tigers are on the hook for $3-million dollars. It's getting to the point where they have to decide if that money is best spent giving Jacque Jones and his .522 OPS time to straighten out an offensive game that may not exist, or if they should cut bait and go to a time share between superior options in Marcus Thames, Brandon Inge, and especially Ryan Raburn. If the concern is to have a left-handed bat in the lineup, here are the batting lines for all of the candidates against right-handed pitchers the past two seasons:

Raburn 84 PA, .338/.349/.563
Jones 375 PA, .283/.332/.397
Thames 193 PA, .209/.249/.456
Inge 447 PA, .209/.281/.340

Raburn 22 PA, .278/.409/.556
Jones 82 PA, .183/.268/.282
Thames 27 PA, .240/.296/.240
Inge 85 PA, .265/.381/.471

Ryan Raburn's numbers stand out, while Inge and Thames have had problems hitting right-handed pitchers in their careers. While the sample size issues apply, it's not like Raburn was struggling against right-handed pitchers in the minors. It's pretty clear that Jacque Jones is in the lineup because he bats from the left side, but his raises a question over the point of having a left-handed bat in the lineup. If the reason is to have somebody who hits from the left side, Jones is your guy. If the motive is to have somebody who can do damage against right-handed pitchers, it's probably best to finally give the every day job to the guy who is long overdue for the opportunity. Raburn has done everything in his power to have earned the starting left field job over the past year. It's high time he gets what he deserves.

Free Ryan Raburn!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Bautista's Injury

Denny Bautista's mop-up appearance started alright. He bailed Aquilino Lopez out of more trouble in the seventh inning, before a two out rally befell him in the eighth inning. Most notably, he left the game with an apparent injury with an 0-2 count. It was hard to tell what was wrong, and as of this posting nothing has been announced. Things had gotten rocky for Bautista of late. He had major control problems Tuesday night against the Yankees, and had started to get roughed up tonight. I thought his velocity was down tonight, and decided to check on his average fastball velocity from select appearances this year. Typically, a drop in velocity can be a warning sign of a potential injury. We'll see if we can spot anything in the pitch f/x data.

March 31: 96.2 mph
April 4: 94.2 mph
April 5: 94.9 mph
April 9: 94.5
April 10: 95.2
April 17: 94.5
April 18: 96.6
April 21: 94.9
April 22: 94.6
April 25: 92.7
April 26: 93.3
April 29: 92.8
May 2: 93.7

The drop hasn't been as significant as I thought, but it is still there. Before April 25, Bautista was averaging in the 94-97 range. Since, he has been averaging below 94 on his fastball velocity during every start. Could this be the result of an injury? Could it be the result of a mechanical flaw that led to the injury? Could it be nothing at all? It's hard to say one way or another. We'll have to wait on the prognosis before jumping to any conclusions. Regardless, this does raise a red flag for a bullpen that may not be able to handle too many more.

Shoulder Soreness is the initial diagnosis. Bautista has had similar problems in the past, missing much of 2005 with shoulder tendinitis. If a disabled list trip is required, some candidates to replace him in the bullpen would likely include Blaine Neal and Casey Fein.

Scanning the System - Second Base

Placido Polanco, 32
Actual: .226/.337/.345
Expected: .321/.418/.440

Ryan Raburn, 27
Actual: .238/.360/.476
Expected: .238/.360/.476

Ramon Santiago, 28
Actual: .375/.483/.708
Expected: .333/.449/.667

Polanco has already started to break out of his slump, and should continue to. He's simply been hitting balls right at guys. Ryan Raburn is a solid player and should at least be getting his fair share of time in left field. I touched on Santiago yesterday, and it's not like he's been lucky so far. The extra-base power is something new.

Michael Hollimon, 25
Actual: .238/.304/.571
Expected: .262/.326/.595

Ryan Raburn, 27
Actual: .316/.435/.737
Expected: .211/.348/.632

Caonabo Cosme, 29
Actual: .353/.368/.765
Expected: .353/.368/.765

Hollimon came back rather quickly from his shoulder dislocation. If Polanco's back flairs up again, he could be the guy. I've got Raburn's ridiculous stint on here. Because it lasted under ten days, he didn't use an option. Cosme has been demoted to Erie. I didn't list Henry Mateo, who started at second base while Hollimon was injured. I'd be remissed if I didn't mention that Hollimon was ranked seventh among 2B prospects by PECOTA.

William Rhymes, 25
Actual: .209/.293/.326
Expected: .220/.303/.338

Caonabo Cosme, 29
Actual: .313/.353/.313
Expected: .313/.353/.313

Scott Sizemore, 23
Actual: .269/.340/.409
Expected: .204/.283/.344

There was clamor early that Sizemore was destined to move up and take Rhymes' spot. I don't know if I got around to posting it, but Sizemore's early start was a mirage, and it looks like he's still got some falling to do. Rhymes is what he is, and if Sizemore can step forward, Rhymes won't be standing in his path.

West Michigan:
Justin Henry, 23
Actual: .242/.324/.319
Expected: .187/.276/.264

I'm sad to say that I did predict doom and gloom for Henry this year. I didn't expect him to be quite this bad. I did see him in person a couple weeks ago, and saw a couple of very weak ground balls. While he didn't look as bad as the completely lost Ronnie Bourquin, it was hard to predict much success for him.

Overall, at second base, things seem to be reasonably strong. Polanco seems a bit fragile right now, but Raburn and Hollimon should be able to fill in during an injury. Under contract through next season, Polanco has no real need for a replacement. Hollimon and Raburn should be around and in their prime at that point. I'm becoming less convinced that Sizemore will be in that picture, but it's not out of the question just yet.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Well Done

The Tigers just wrapped up a series sweep over the Evil Empire. While the Yankees clearly aren't at full strength right now, it is nice to know that the Tigers can beat a team while they are down. Zach Miner had another great relief outing, as he puts that rough patch from the first couple of weeks of the season behind him. The debut of Francisco Cruceta started dubiously, as he walked Bobby Abreu and got behind on the next batter before working his way through the inning. Overall, the bullpen is looking up. This is a surprising revelation, especially after the disasters of the early season.

The bullpen, though, has not been as surprising of a revelation as the offensive production of Ramon Santiago. This is a guy whose career slugging percentage was dangerously close to .300 coming into the season, but after a 2/3 night including a two-run triple, he has hit to the tune of .391/.500/.739. Forget sample sizes for a moment. This has still been a very pleasant surprise for the team, as he has matched the production in 28 plate appearances that you would normally expect in 82.

A trip to the dome awaits. The Twins and Tigers will face off, only 1.5 games behind Chicago. I hope all of the people who jumped ship at 0-7 and 2-10 can get back onto the boat. It's a long season that is only just beginning.

Buzz Bissinger is an Idiot, Mike Wilbon Too

I had never heard of Buzz Bissinger before last night. I have never seen "Friday Night Lights," which he authored, nor have I seen the television series. I typically find sports dramas to be way too cheesy for my taste. Why fictionalize something that has plenty of drama as is?

Back to the topic at hand, what was it that prompted me to write about Buzz Bissinger? It was his appearance during a segment on "Costas Now" on HBO. I tuned in upon seeing a plug on, but wasn't expecting what happened. For those who haven't seen the segment, you can find them here and here. There are two portions: a five minute documentary styled introduction and a significantly longer town hall meeting featuring the aforementioned Bissinger,'s Will Leitch, and for some reason Braylon Edwards. There were several points that I found frustrating and interesting:

  • During the introduction, ESPN's Michael Wilbon states of bloggers, "What are their credentials?" Here you have the elitism that frustrates so many. Does it really take a journalism degree to know about sports? In fact, you could also argue it's the exact opposite. Simply an hour of watching the talking head shouting matches on ESPN will induce a ton of Mike Gundy-esque "That's not true!" reactions from knowledgeable fans. Fortunately, that's only a select few, but more on painting with wide brushes later. If Wilbon happens to be one of the eight people that read this, I will challenge him to a baseball debate anytime. We'll see who has these "credentials." That is, unless he literally means media credentials and press passes. Based on his angry/frustrated tone, I doubt that's the case though.
  • Wilbon continues to say "I don't want to listen to their opinion, unless I know what's backing it up." He just summed up why I don't watch Pardon the Interruption. Congratulations.
  • Mike Schurr (Ken Tremendous) makes the same point later on, although given the format it's not in direct response: "You don't have to go to school to say 'I think the Indians should have pulled Carmona in the 8th." Thank you, Mose for making the point in a much better way than I could.
  • Bissinger completely unleashes on Leitch during the roundtable. Bissinger and Costas are apparently good friends, and it was a clear way for Costas to vent his frustrations through an intermediary. Remember, Costas had previously called all bloggers "Get-a-life Losers"
  • One of the big problems is that these guys cannot distinguish between the comments sections under articles and the blogs themselves, lumping them all into the category of "bloggers." They've also clung to this notion that Deadspin is the epitome of blogs. Frankly, short of a lot of the things making fun of Chris Berman, I've barely even visited the site. I just don't find it very insightful towards what I'm looking for. I do, however, have feed to my email.
  • During Bissinger's rant, he calls blogging "The Dumbing Down of American Society." This was ironic, when he showed a complete inability to test his hypotheses about pitchers being rushed to the Majors last year. There was a great exchange between him and radio host (and fellow baseball nut) Jon Sciambi found here. After letting Bissinger go on and on gloating about his interview with Kerry Wood and his "expert" findings on pitching, Sciambi finally challenges him with facts. Bissinger contends that pitchers are rushed to the big leagues now more than ever, and he thinks pitchers don't get as much time in the minors that they used to. Being that we are now in the era of Baseball Reference, where most simple questions about baseball history can be found, I have a hard time believing that he didn't think to check this. Apparently, he didn't, and a hilarious exchange ensues.
Sciambi: ...You could go over the 70's and look at how many innings a pitcher had in the minors before he made his major league debut, and do the same thing now. My guess would be, it's not as different as you think it is.

Buzz: Actually, I'm not so sure. I've looked at it pretty hard. There may be isolated examples, but I think that pitchers spent more time in the minors then than they do now.
  • Sciambi continues to call him out, before Buzz becomes frustrated, trashes the next host before his call is dumped. Bissinger is clearly immature, and doing a pretty good job of dumbing down American Society himself. Besides, that's not the most hypocritical moment of the rant. After all, amidst his profanity-laced tirade, he complains about the vulgarity of some blogs. In case you are curious, pitchers were brought up earlier in the 1970's. Buzz is a tool. Once again, if he wants to prove his expertise on baseball, I am open to a debate at any time.
It's a shame that it has come to this. Bissinger can no longer get away with writing articles based on false premises. Bob Costas is no longer the baseball expert he thinks he is, what with real experts out there. No matter how loud he yells on television, Mike Wilbon is not the authority on sports topics. The fact is a select few feel threatened, and instead of raising their own bar, they are taking it out on those doing the threatening.

A perfect recent example of raising the bar is Lynn Henning and the Detroit News. Instead of poo-pooing about newspapers becoming irrelevent, they have made themselves relevent. In addition to columns, Henning also conducted a Youtube series of video blogs during Spring Training, discussing several Tigers players. I watched every one of them, and hope that he does that again next season. Doing things like thinking out of the box and using the technology instead of rallying against it will do a lot more to help settle this unnecessary conflict. I applaud all of the beat writers on the front line getting the information. Much of what is written on blogs would be a fraction of what it is without them, and they don't get the appreciation they deserve.

Update... I just heard Bissinger's apology. He still maintains that blogs are contributing to the dumbing down of society. I'd argue that they have the opposite effect for many reasons. Most of those reasons revolve around the fact that words written by journalists will no longer be taken for gospel because they are displayed eloquently. The rest are due to the simple fact that more and faster information is simply going to lead to more educated people. He also said he doesn't know much about blogs, and doesn't want to be pathetic enough to find out. What a windbag.