Archive for January, 2006

The Detroit Tigers Reader

I finished The Detroit Tigers Reader this weekend, and was really impressed. It’s gotten to the point to where anything Tom Stanton puts out, I’ll pick up and read. Although he didn’t write this one, he edited it. It’s a collection of news stories about, you guessed it, the Tigers. The stories cover the Tigers 100+ year history and range from a glowing story on Ty Cobb to a more recent column on when Pudge came into town.

One of my favorites was an early Joe Falls article on Norm Cash. There’s a solid story on Kirk Gibson, along with Al Kaline’s and Ernie Harwell’s Hall of Fame acceptance speeches. There’s detailed stories on Micky Lolich, George Kell and Hal Newhouser, amongst others.

For Tigers’ fans, this is a much read. Each story is reasonable in size, ranging from two to ten pages so it’s a nice book to pick up and read when you only have a short period of time. I read the story in chunks and it gives you a nice flavor for each of the eras.

Also, John Sickels’ shipped the latest installment of his 2006 Baseball Prospect Book. I made a point to pick up the older editions, and the books are just fantastic. I’ve never purchased Baseball America’s Prospect Book, so I really have no basis of comparison, but you get a detailed analysis on a ton of prospects. Good stuff, and well worth the price.

Detroit Tigers Season Lookback – 1902

Record – 52-83, Finished Seventh Place in the American League
Pythagorean Record – 58-77


Hitters (BA/OBP/SLG)

C – Deacon McGuire (.227/.300/.323)
1b – Pop Dillon (.206/.255/.255)
2b – Kid Gleason (.247/.292/.297)
3b – Doc Casey (.273/.338/.352)
SS – Kid Elberfeld (.260/.348/.326)
LF – Dick Harley (.281/.345/.344)
CF – Jimmy Barrett (.303/.397/.387)
RF – Ducky Holmes (.257/.319/.337)

Team Leaders

Homeruns – Jimmy Barrett (4)
Batting Average – Jimmy Barrett (.303)
OPS – Jimmy Barrett (.784)
Best Fielder – Ducky Holmes, Jimmy Barrett (10 Fielding Runs Above Average)

Pitchers (IP/W/ERA)

SP – Win Mercer (281.7/15/3.04)
SP – George Mullin (260/13/3.67)
SP – Roscoe Miller (148.7/6/3.69)
SP – Ed Siever (188.3/8/1.91)
SP – Joe Yeager (140/6/4.82)

Team Leaders

Wins – Win Mercer (15)
ERA – Ed Siever (1.91)
Strikeouts – George Mullin (78)

Poor hitting and poor pitching doesn’t make a great combination. The 1902 Tigers took a step back from their inaugural season and would be in the lower half of the American League until Ty Cobb showed up in 1905. The Tigers had a bad team in 1902. They finished 3 1/2 games ahead of the last place Batlimore Orioles but their offense would have put the 2003 Tigers on a pedestal.

The Tigers finished dead last in the American League in batting average, slugging, OBP and runs. They were seventh (second to last) in homeruns. The only statistical category of any significance that the Tigers finished in the top half was walks, and they just made the cut at fourth place. Pitching wasn’t much better. They finished last in strikeouts, sixth in ERA and fifth in runs allowed. All five of their regular starters finished the season with a losing record, including Ed Siever, who led the league with a 1.91 ERA.

Oddly, the Tigers got off to a solid start in 1902. After winning six of seven, the Tigers started the season with a 6-2 record and by the end of May, they were still above .500 at 16-14. They slipped under .500 by mid-June and then the team had a stretch in July where they a 4-16 run put them out of contention. In Auguest they dropped even further when they lost eleven in a row at one point (they played three doubleheaders on three consecutive days against the Philadelphia A’s and lost all six games) and then went on to seven of their next nine after that. Another 10 game losing steak in September gave them a chance to finish dead last, but they won four of their last five games to lock up the seventh place spot.

Jimmy Barrett was the only Tiger hitter to finish with an OPS+ above 100. Only one other player, Dick Harley, had an OPS+ of at least 90. Barrett finished fourth in the league in OBP (.397) and he finished third in walks (74).

The workhorse of the rotation was Win Mercer, who had played for the Senators the year before. 1902 was Mercer’s final major league season and he led the team in wins (15) and innings pitched (281 2/3). Unfortunately he also led the team in losses (18). His Adjusted ERA+ of 120 was tenth in the league.

Ed Siever finished the season 8-11 despite have a league leading ERA of 1.91. He was fourth in the league in WHIP (1.051) and his adjusted ERA+ of 191 led the league. In January of 1903, Siever was sold to the St. Louis Browns.

The Tigers .385 winning percentage was a record low that would stand for 50 years. In 1952, the Tigers went 50-104. That record would then stand until 2003, when the Tigers winning percentage was .265.

New Cardinals Blog

Jeff Mathews is a guy I’ve been talking to via email quite a bit. He caught wind of the 1935 Tigers diary, and we’ve been debating the 1934 season and who “really” had a better team that year (although the concrete evidence is on his side). Jeff’s decided to start a St. Louis Cardinals blog named the Gas House Gang, and he’ll be doing a 1926 Cardinals diary this year to commemorate the first World Series win in Cardinals history. Be sure the check him out at

Tigers Ink Three of Four Arbitration Eligible Players

The Tigers made some progress in solidifying their team today by agreeing to terms with three of the four players that filed for arbitration. Jeremy Bonderman will make $2.3 million next year in a one year deal. I was on the fence as to whether Bonderman should get a longer term deal or not, and it looks like Dave Dombrowski is being prudent and waiting one more year to see if Bonderman is worth the huge payout or not.

Chris Spurling will make $725,000. He’ll never overpower anyone (26 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings) but he was pretty effective against both righties and lefties. The most interesting thing about Spurling is his home/road split. He seems to really take advantage of Comerica park to the tune of a 1.03 WHIP, .197 batting average against and a 1.66 ERA. On the road, those numbers balloon to a 1.26 WHIP, .264 batting average against and a 5.51 ERA.

Carlos Pena earned himself a paycheck by having a strong August and September after being sent down to AAA. He’ll make $2.8 million, but in a lot of ways, he’s the odd man out. Dmitri Young, for better or worse, will probably get the nod as the DH leaving Pena and Shelton to split time. Shelton earned the job with a strong season (not just a month and a half) so this will probably be one of the more interesting position battles this spring.

Craig Monroe is the guy who hasn’t signed yet. He put up solid numbers, but he’s pretty replaceable so I think the Tigers are going to be stuck paying him more then they’d like whether he ends up in arbitration or not.

Moving Day

Everyone’s favorite obnoxious Yankees’ fan has moved. You can now find Baseball’s Savior at

Bruce Sutter and the Hall of Fame – Another Look

It’s looking like Bruce Sutter’s election into the Hall of Fame could be the most controversial since former Tiger George Kell’s induction in 1983. I think the whole Goose Gossage/Bruce Sutter thing has been beaten to death, including by myself, so lets go off on a tangent with this comparison.

(Sorry, I played with the spacing but couldn’t quite get this to work).

            Player 1   Player 2

Games            545        661

IP            1,242      1,042.3

Runs             438        370

ER              391        328

BB              535        309

SO             1,036        861

ERA            2.83       2.83

RSAA             136        123

HR              110         77

H/9            7.54       7.59

BR/9           11.50     10.37 

SO/9            7.51       7.43

BB/9            3.88       2.67

SO/BB            1.94      2.79

Wins             87         68

Losses          76         71

Neutral W        105         86 

Neutral L       58         53

PRAR             531        507

DERA           3.42       3.52

Saves           125        300

Okay, that’s a lot of numbers. What’s interesting is both players have idential ERA’s. Pitcher number 1 threw more innings but gave up about one more walk per inning then player two. Player one gave up more homeruns but both had very good rates per nine innings (player 1 0.797 vs player 2 0.665). All in all, if you look at both the raw numbers and the rate numbers, these players are pretty similar.

The big difference is in saves. Player 2 played in a era when saves were the thing, while Player 1 started his career in the mid-60s when the save didn’t yet exist. But it’s worth noting that while Player 1 only racked up 125 saves, he held the single season save record (38) for ten years until Dan Quisenberry broke it in 1983 with 45. Player 2 then tied Quisenberry’s record until it was broken a year later by Dave Righetti.

Player 1 is also credited with having the best relief season in the history of baseball. This is documented in both The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract and Baseball Prospectus 2006. A year after that historic season, Player 1 won a record (that still stands) 17 games in relief. Player 2 has the 16th and 19th best relief seasons according to Baseball Prospectus 2006.

Player 2 is easy because his numbers have been thrown around so much of late. Player 1 is John Hiller who in his first year on the ballot for the Hall of Fame in 1986, received 11 votes or 2.59% and never showed up on the ballot again.

So while I’m not surprised Sutter got in, it’s make you wonder what these voters are thinking. The good news is, it bodes well for Bert Blyleven. It took Sutter nine years to break through the 50% mark and three years later he’s in. So I’m hoping we’ll be praising the BWAA at this time in 2008 for finally voting Blyleven in.

And John Hiller is one of my favorite Tigers and is a great case study because he was one of the last great relief pitchers in the era before the save became popular. Back in 2003, I took a look at John Hiller’s 1973 season along with a little editorial on my thoughts on the save. This was one of my first posts when I started the site and it’s interesting (for me, probablly not for you) going back and looking at how my writing has changed since then.

Tigers Ink Brandon Inge and Mike Maroth

These are both pretty good signings. Mike Maroth has proved that a pitcher won’t break down after losing 20 games like he did in 2003 and while he took a small step back in 2005 after a pretty solid 2004 season, Maroth is one of those back of the rotation guys that each team needs. He’s left handed and he has a nice delivery by keeping the ball behind his head as long as he can to hide the pitch. I liken him to a left handed Milt Wilcox. He’ll probably never be an ace, but he’ll give you some solid innings and if you put a good team behind him (like Wilcox had in 1984), he could win upwards of 17-18 games in a season.

I look at Brandon Inge’s season a couple of ways. While he hit sixteen homeruns, he’s a light hitter for a thirdbaseman. On the other hand, if you would have told me in 2002 that Inge would be playing 160 games in a season and drawing over 60 walks, I would have never believed it. Inge followed up a breakout season in 2004 with a decent campaign in 2005. Where he really showed off was with his glove. He ended the season with 30 fielding runs above replacement (14 above average) at third base and while many point to his 23 errors, Inge is a gold glove third baseman in the making.

Plus it’s always nice to see the homegrown guys stick around. Maroth signed for 2 years, $5.25 million. Inge signed a one year deal for $3 million. That’s money well spent in my opinion.

Mike Maroth and Tigers Close to Two Year Deal

I’ve heard 2 years, $5.25 million. Like the Mantei signing and Sutter’s election into the Hall of Fame, I’ll touch on this hopefully tonight. Been recovering from the flu and this is my first day back to work, so bear with me…..

Tigers Sign Matt Mantei to Minor League Deal

This is a pretty low risk deal. Matei was the closer for the Diamondbacks before he hit the DL pretty continuously. He’s a hard thrower, but he’s had a rough past couple of years.

I’ll comment more on this and Bruce Sutter getting in the Hall later tonight.

Hall of Fame Thoughts

The Hall of Fame voting results are announced this Tuesday. Once again, I’m fully expected to be disappointed over any gains Alan Trammell or Jack Morris might have made. Players need to be on 75% of the ballots and last year, Tram received 16.9% and Morris received 33.3%. This year, there’s really nobody new to the ballot that I see getting in, although I think Will Clark will get a decent showing. Things are wide open for the players who were on the short end last year.

Bruce Sutter received the most votes of those who didn’t get in at 66.7%. I think he’s got a solid chance at making it this year although personally, I’d like to see Rich Gossage get in before Sutter. Gossage pitched 800 more innings and had almost twice as many strikeouts even if you take out Gossage’s 1976 season when he failed to make it as a starter. And their ERAs aren’t that far off. Gossage pitched 22 years, and in some ways (similar to Bert Blyleven) this might be hurting him. His last ten seasons were nothing special but he had some truly historic seasons. In Baseball Prospectus 2005, there was a section on Win Expectancy and there were lists of the top 20 best relief seasons. Gossage shows up at number 10 and number 18, while Sutter shows up at 16 and 19.

So Gossage pitched longer and when you compare their two best seasons, Gossage comes out on top. So while I think Sutter is a solid candidate, I don’t see how he’s “that” much better then Gossage to warrant almost 60 more votes.

Next on the list is Jim Rice at 59.5%. The knock on Rice is he didn’t hit any of the big milestones. He fell short of 400 homeruns (383) and 1,500 RBIs (1,451). He also missed out on a .300 career batting average (his is .298). But from 1978 through 1985, he had some truly outstanding seasons. Throw in an MVP which the voters seem to like and six top ten finishes and you have a guy that at least warrants consideration.

There’s one problem. You have a guy near the bottom of last year’s ballot who has similar numbers and only garnered 10.5% of the vote. Dale Murphy has more homeruns (398) and more MVPs (2). He wasn’t as good of a hitter (.265) but he got on base at almost the same clip as Rice (.346 for Murphy, .352 for Rice). Their OPS are also very similar and only about 300 at bats seperate the two.

Even more confusing is you have a guy who hit more homeruns and drove in more runs then either Rice or Murphy in Andre Dawson who only garnered 52.3%. The big knock on Dawson is his career .323 OBP but Dawson wasn’t a hacker either (he struck out more then 100 times on four occassions).

Then we come to the biggest quandry on the ballot, Bert Blyleven. Rich Lederer has pretty much made it personal in his lobbying for Blyleven and I can’t really blame him. He got 40.9% of the vote last year and it’s a downright travesty because Blyleven deserves to be in there. His biggest knock is his great seasons came early, he never won a Cy Young and he gave up a bunch of homeruns. Also, he fell just short of 300 wins, mostly because he played for some bad teams. Heck, he only made two All-Star games. But he’s fifth in strikeouts with 3,701.

So until Blyleven gets in, I really can’t justify Morris getting the nod. Trammell should be getting enshrined this year, but he’ll be lucky to be on 25% of the ballots. For more on Tram, check out Detroit Tigers Weblog as Bilfer’s been tracking his chances.

In the end, I think Bruce Sutter and Rich Gossage will both get in this year. I think Jim Rice will fall short as will Andre Dawson. And Bert Blyleven will once again be denied, but I think for the first time he’ll top 50%.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame website has all of the ballots and voting. It’s interesting to see some of the guys near the bottom who actually got votes. Terry Steinbach and Tony Phillips each showed up on one ballot. Tom Candiotti and Jeff Montgomery each got two. I’m kind of curious to see the complete ballots of those the people who voted for anyone one of those four to see who they might have left off.

Norm Cash’s Historic Season

After the 2004 season, I had planned on doing some studies on Norm Cash’s 1961 season. Norm Cash hit a career high 41 homeruns in 1961, but that wasn’t the odd thing. He was the last Tiger to win the batting title with a .361 batting average. His next best career high was only .283 and his career batting average ended up being .271. With a good eye (1,043 career walks vs. 1,091 career strikeouts), Cash nearly matched his eventual career OBP of .374 that season.

I never got around to it. And while I had it on my list of things to do, it’s taken a back burner to some other things. Fortunately, I got bailed out as Steve Treder at the Hardball Times wrote a nice essay on Norm Cash’s 1961 season. Be sure to check it out.

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