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Written by Matt Snyder | 27 February 2012

VerlanderSpringTrainingBrad Penny’s numbers as the last man in the starting rotation were pretty much terrible for the Tigers last year, but he did pretty much what they asked him to do. He took the ball every fifth day and, for the most part, he ate innings – 181 and two-thirds of them. That’s not an exorbitant amount for a starting pitcher – it ranked 73rd in the major leagues – but it still represents a good deal of reliability.

But if the Tigers decide to go with one of the young prospects to fill the role, namely Jacob Turner or Drew Smyly, they probably won’t be able to count on them crossing the 180 inning mark. As I understand it, the general target for young pitchers is a 25 inning increase over the previous year. That would mean a 2012 total just shy of 170 innings for Turner and about 150 for Smyly.

I don’t know if the Tigers organization believes in strictly limiting a young pitchers innings -- they allowed Rick Porcello to jump 45 innings between his year in Lakeland and his rookie season in Detroit. But then again, Porcello hasn’t really progressed like everyone thought he would since then. Would they (or should they) handle Turner or Smyly differently? If so, they probably need to re-think the standard every fifth-game rotation.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 14 February 2012

Austin_Jackson_3

We learned from the Detroit Free Press back on January 20 that Austin Jackson had been working with Lloyd McClendon on tweaking his swing. The goal of the sessions, quite obviously, were (are) to help reduce Austin’s ample strikeout totals (he struck out in 27.1% of his plate appearances in 2011). McClendon was quoted by the Free Press saying:

"The key is the ability to adjust and go to a two-strike approach… those are things he didn't do before."

How well will the new approach work? It’s impossible to say. A lot depends on Jackson’s ability to retain the new approach (and that’s assuming the new hitting style ‘works’ to begin with), but what we can do is look at past strikeout kings and see how much they’ve improved in one season.

To do this, I found every player who had a strikeout rate of 25% or more (in a season) between the years 2000 and 2010.  There were 64 player-seasons that fit this criterion -- some players (like Adam Dunn, who made the list eight times) are represented more than once. Then, for each of the 64 seasons, I found the player’s strikeout rate the following year. Here’s the complete table:

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Written by Matt Snyder | 12 February 2012

Brandon_IngeThe other day I wrote a post claiming that platooning the DH position wouldn't be a terrible idea as long as the organization was smart about how and when each player was used. But since writing that post one thought has been gnawing at my brain: what exactly is the best spot for each player? Or similarly, what is the ideal lineup (taking offense and defense into account) versus left handed and right handed pitching?

So, as you can obviously see, I decided to test this. Before I report the numbers, here was a little bit about my method. First, I figured that Austin Jackson, Alex Avila, and Jhonny Peralta shouldn't be part of this discussion. They each have defined roles, and there really isn't a debate that they should be in the lineup as much as possible (Avila, of course, will need periodic rest, but that's really a one-to-one situation with Gerald Laird that isn't part of this discussion). For everyone else, there's either a debate about whether they're the best option at the position (Ryan Raburn vs. Ramon Santiago at second base, for example), or if they're a good candidate to fill the DH spot on occasion.

For defense, I selected a UZR/150 for each player. In most cases this was their career average at each position, but in some situations where defense is obviously on the decline (Brandon Inge, for example), I used the most recent couple of years. I came up with the following list:

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Written by Matt Snyder | 10 February 2012

AJ_BurnettWord is out that the New York Yankees are interested in trading away starting pitcher AJ Burnett. The Tigers, apparently not satisfied to simply hand the final rotation spot to Jacob Turner, Drew Smyly, Andy Oliver, Duane Below, or Adam Wilk, have been passively searching for an external candidate to fill the role. Could there be a fit here?

Burnett has had his fair share of struggles the last couple of years (his final ERA was above five each of the last two seasons), but his “stuff” appears to be solid (his K/9 rate was 8.18 last year), and his elevated ERA is directly tied to a seemingly unsustainably high home run rate. His xFIP was only 3.86 in 2011, so if his home run rate normalized, then he would revert to being an effective pitcher. Perhaps a ballpark that’s friendly toward fly balls would help.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 10 February 2012

Jacob_Turner_USAJacob Turner is the consensus top prospect heading into the 2012 season.

If you’re anything like me, you find excitement in prospect lists and minor league stats, but you find it difficult to keep up with the ever-changing rankings. I’m no prospect or minor league expert myself, but I do like to do fair amount of stat-checking on some of the bigger names in the Tigers’ system. My problem is that, after the top few players, I have trouble remember exactly who it is I’m “supposed” to be watching.

So, this year I’ve decided to keep track of the various lists. Whenever a reputable (or semi-reputable) person or website releases a set of rankings, I’ll snatch it up and add it to the database. You'll find that a tab for 'Prospect Database' has been added to the linkbar at the top of the site.

Source

1

2

3

4

5

Keith Law

J. Turner, RHP

N. Castellanos, 3B

D. Smyly, LHP

C. Crosby, LHP

J. McCann, C

MLB.com

J. Turner, RHP

N. Castellanos, 3B

D. Smyly, LHP

A. Oliver, LHP

C. Crosby, LHP

Fangraphs

J. Turner, RHP

N. Castellanos, 3B

D. Smyly, LHP

C. Crosby, LHP

A. Oliver, LHP

Motor City Bengals

J. Turner, RHP

N. Castellanos, 3B

D. Smyly, LHP

D. Vasquez, OF

C. Crosby, LHP

Bey. The Boxscore

J. Turner, RHP

N. Castellanos, 3B

D. Smyly, LHP

C. Crosby, LHP

J. McCann, C

Baseball America

J. Turner, RHP

N. Castellanos, 3B

D. Smyly, LHP

C. Crosby, LHP

A. Oliver, LHP







Source

6

7

8

9

10

Keith Law

T. Collins, OF

D. Fields, OF

B. Paulino, RHP

D. Machado, SS

J. Voss, LHP

MLB.com

B. Rondon, RHP

D. Fields, OF

A. Garcia, OF

B. Paulino, RHP

J. Ortega, RHP

Fangraphs

R. Brantly, C

J. McCann, C

B. Paulino, RHP

A. Westlake, 1B

D. Vasquez, OF

Motor City Bengals

B. Paulino, RHP

A. Garcia, OF

R. Brantly, C

T. Collins, OF

A. Oliver, LHP

Bey. The Boxscore

B. Paulino, RHP

A. Garcia, OF

A. Oliver, LHP

A. Westlake, 1B

R. Brantly

Baseball America

B. Paulino, RHP

R. Brantly, C

A. Burgos, LHP

J. McCann, C

A. Garcia, OF


Feel free to let me know if you see a prospect list that should be added to the database. Either drop a comment below this post, or hit me up on Twitter @snyder_matthew.
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Written by Matt Snyder | 09 February 2012

Delmon YoungJames Schmehl has an article up on Mlive in which Delmon Young is quoted as saying he “wouldn’t prefer” being named the season’s full time DH. My first reaction to the piece was to write a personal letter to Mr. Young telling him, in no uncertain terms, that no one particularly cares how he feels about the situation. But his points about DH-ing being mentally tough to adjust to are probably fair (or, at least, mildly understandable). Young says:

“[Adam Dunn] wasn’t used to it last year and struggled because all your concentration is on hitting -- it makes it really tough… When you go out on the field, you stay in a better rhythm.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard a player speak of the difficulties designated hitters face, and it’s been shown numerous times that hitters typically hit a bit worse as a DH than when they’re in the field (not Dunn worse, but still noticeably so). I’ve been harping on using Young as the DH, but I know I don’t give the mental aspect of the game enough thought. Dave Dombrowski was quoted later in the same article talking about the team’s plan to use the DH spot:

When we talk about who is going to be the designated hitter, it’s whoever Jim Leyland deems the DH for that particular day… It could be Delmon, it could be Brennan Boesch. It could be Miguel (Cabrera) and it could be Prince (Fielder).”

"The list goes on, Dombrowski said. Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Raburn will all be considered DH candidates, too."

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Written by Matt Snyder | 05 February 2012


Wow, I’m really harping on this Miguel Cabrera at third base thing, aren’t I? I promise I’ll write about something else eventually. Maybe.

UZR/150* is a nice number, don’t get me wrong. It’s an easy way to take a career or a group of seasons and divide it out on a “per season” basis (UZR/150 is quite literally UZR per 150 games played at the position). But UZR/150 has a context that needs to be understood before we go around citing numbers.

*UZR stands for Ultimate Zone Rating, an ‘advanced’ defensive metric that estimates a player’s contribution to the ballclub (reported in runs above/below average).

You can find a comprehensive UZR Primer on FanGraphs if you want to learn more about the statistic, but an over simplification is this: the field is divided (sort of like a grid) into multiple ‘zones’, and each fielder is credited by how many plays he makes (or fails to make) in his zones. Other factors that are considered include batted ball type and speed of the runner (as well as a few other things). But some factors are hard to determine, like initial position of the fielder or exact batted ball speed. This is all to say that UZR is a very good metric (likely the best defensive metric out there), but it is subject to a lot of randomness.

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