You wonder what all the other GM’s knew that Dave Dombrowski didn’t. The main reason Troy Percival came to Detroit was because we were the only team willing to give him a second year. I was cautiously optimistic when the Tigers signed him although I had come to hope he and Ugueth Urbina would make a solid one-two punch out of the pen.
Now Troy Percival’s left camp. After a rough simulated game, it appears that Percival hasn’t fully recovered from the muscle tear near his elbow and retirement appears likely. It wasn’t that long ago that Troy Percival was one of the most dominant closers in the league and he was celebrating a World Series win with the Angels. And while I’m sure Percival didn’t want to go out like this, he has nothing to be ashamed of after a stellar career.
Another thing I wanted to point out was how tough it is to make preseason predictions. I’ll have my Tiger preview at the Hardball Times here in the next couple of weeks, but at this point last year, we were talking about how bad Alex Sanchez was and how we were stacked with relief pitching. Before spring training broke, Sanchez was gone and by the time the trade deadline passed, all three of our best relievers were either injured or elsewhere.
Magglio Ordonez is going to sit out the World Baseball Classic and said he wanted to focus on getting ready for the 2006 season. I think this is a smart move, although I wouldn’t really blame him for wanting to play for his hometown team, Venezuela. Ordonez’s .436 slugging percentage was his worst season total since 1998, which was the year before he broke out. Hopefully the extra time in spring training will help him find his homerun swing.
Thanks to Ryan for the comment (and I later read this on Detroit Tigers Weblog). It looks like Ordonez will be playing in the WBC. He took some heat from Carlos Guillen, so he’s in.
This Thursday, the Tigers spring season starts with an afternoon game against the Reds. I’ll have to check WXYT’s radio schedule to see if this game’s on the radio, but man is it nice that baseball’s back. Then on Thursday (our time), the World Baseball Classic starts. I remember two years ago when the Yankees played the Devil Rays in Japan, it was cool watching baseball when I got up in the morning. This time it looks like they’ll be doing a lot of tape delays and that first game between Korea and Chinese Taipei will be aired at 1:30 am on ESPN 2. The first live game will be at 4:30 on March 3. I’ll have to think about getting up early to check out that game.
You can see the entire WBC television schedule here.
The Don Lund SABR chapter had their meeting this Saturday and I gave a brief presentation on the Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006. David Fleitz followed me with a presentation on his book “Cap Anson: The Grand Old Man of Baseball.” Unfortunately he left before I was able to pick up one of his books from him. And then Steve Weingarden gave a very interesting presentation on the effect that the succession of general mangers have on a team. You can check out his entire dissertation at the Business of Baseball website.
Lee Panas over at Tiger Tales has been going over the position “battles” (such as they are) pretty thoroughly, and in some of the comments, a consensus was emerging about playing Nook Logan at least sometimes against lefties. Then it occurred to me that, with Dmitri Young’s flexibility to play 1B, 3B and corner OF (assuming the reports about his significant weight loss/better shape are correct – and, by the way, click that link and check out the photo of a really young, much skinnier Dmitri Young… it’s almost comical), we could actually have some interesting platoon possibilities. That led me to look up the 3-year splits (I’ll list just OPS) of the following 8 players (for 6 positions: 1B, 3B, DH and 3 OF’ers) over at espn.com:
Carlos Pena: 702 v L, 831 v R (129 better v R)
Chris Shelton: 765 v L, 871 v R (106 better v R)
Dmitri Young: 823 v L, 858 v R (35 better v R)
Brandon Inge: 851 v L, 674 v R (177 better v L)
Magglio Ordonez: 921 v L, 856 v R (65 better v L)
Curtis Granderson: 1033 v L, 751 v R (282 better v L)
Nook Logan: 772 v L, 606 v R (166 better v L)
Craig Monroe: 862 v L, 738 v R (124 better v L)
Going by those numbers alone (and I’ll grant to anyone who wants to argue that some of these numbers are coming from very small sample sizes… and I also acknowledge the sabermetric argument out there that, given enough plate appearances, platoon differentials will essentially become the same for all players), here’s how to best fill the 6 available slots against left-handed pitching:
Shelton 1B, Inge 3B, Dmitri DH, Monroe LF, Granderson CF, Ordonez RF, leaving Nook and Carlos Pena for pinch-hitting/defensive replacement duties.
Shelton 1B, Dmitri 3B, Pena DH, Monroe LF, Granderson CF, Ordonez RF, leaving Inge and Logan for defensive replacement duties.
Originally, my thought was that perhaps Logan’s split would argue in favor of him getting playing time over Monroe, rather than Granderson (by moving Granderson to a corner OF slot), but Monroe’s split is almost the same as Logan’s, except that he’s higher by about 100 points higher of OPS against both lefties and righties.
The surprise came in Brandon Inge’s quite severe split. He’s not Nook Logan-awful against right-handers, but he’s not anything like good, either. Now, using a 3-year split means that that number also uses his last year of putrid hitting back when he wore the tools of ignorance, but 2003 (when he was injured for some time and got far fewer at-bats than 2004 or 2005) accounted for just 27% of his at-bats against lefties and 23% of his at-bats against righties in this exercise, as opposed to the expectation of about 33%. Now, surely, Inge’s defense at the hot corner (which, by all accounts and many fancy sabermetric measurements, is quite good) must count for something, but getting Inge some pine time in favor of Dmitri at 3B surely looks better in this light, doesn’t it?
I made it out to the Macomb County Library to meet Tom Stanton yesterday. Tom’s a great and was very personable and his wife, Beth, was charming as well. Tom gave a great presentation on his latest work, The Detroit Tigers Reader (which I highly recommend), and he was also nice enough to sign a copy for me. He also gave everyone the news on his next project which also sounds like a great read. The book will be about Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth’s initial animosity and then eventual friendship later in life.
I got my shipment of 2006 Topps Series 1 cards today and I’m going through packs and sorting the cards. I made sure I didn’t make the same mistake I made last time around. I should have plenty of extras but the goal is still get a set together for my son.
This year there’s a tribute to Mickey Mantle and I got a couple of the cards, including on which appears to be part of the regular set. They also have an insert set showing the individuals who signed the Declaration of Independence, which I thought was odd for a baseball set.
I probably don’t do a good enough job promoting my work over at the Hardball Times, but this week’s edition, which will be up tomorrow, has a book review that I highly recommend you check out. Sam Walker grew up in the Detroit area and he now writes for the Wall Street Journal. He recently published a book called Fantasyland, which details his season in an expert fantasy league. He had no prior experience with fantasy baseball, and he pulls out every stop he can to try to win the thing. It’s a really fun read, and I highly recommend it.
Kenny Rogers was chosen as the opening day starter by Jim Leyland today. Not sure if I agree with this. I think it should have gone to Bonderman or even Maroth. Someone who’s been with the team a little longer.
Tiger’s beat writer Jason Beck recently started his own blog. Be sure to stop by and say hello.
It’s hard to believe that this’ll be the fourth Tigers season I’ll be blogging. Spring training started for the Tigers last week and there’s not a ton of news to report although this is a good story on Magglio Ordonez from MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Ordonez reported to camp on Sunday and spent the day hitting. This is easy enough to say, but if the Tigers are going to improve on their 71 wins from last year, having a healthy Magglio Ordonez will go along way. I’m not looking for him to replicate what he did when he was in his prime for the White Sox, but even 25/90 would be a step up from what we’ve been getting out of right field anytime this decade.
PECOTA doesn’t project much out of Ordonez this season. His weighted mean has him at 377 at bats, 10 homeruns and a .288/.350/.440 line. His breakout rate is only 4% while his collapse rating is 38%. None of that is good if it comes true.
It’s obvious that Dave Dombrowski has become Rob Parker’s personal whipping boy. When I saw the link on the Detroit News’ Tigers page today with the headline “Dombrowski has failed”, I had no doubt that the column was written by Parker. In today’s column (which I refuse to provide a link to and strongly encourage you not to click on), he makes the following (typically) specious arguments:
The Jeff Weaver trade stinks, because Weaver is “clearly” a better pitcher than Jeremy Bonderman (despite the fact that Weaver had to wait until the eve of Spring Training to sign a contract, because he’s clearly such a valuable commodity), Carlos Pena isn’t “an impact player” (mainly, according to the article, because his batting average has dipped 13 points in his Tiger tenure… Never mind that his OBP has dropped only 7 points and his SLG has jumped 37 points), and Franklyn German stinks. OK, so he’s right on that last one.
We overpaid for Pudge Rodriguez, Troy Percival and Magglio Ordonez. Well, duh, but how much of the fault for this is laid on Dombrowski, and how much on Ilitch? It is public knowledge that Ilitch personally assisted (glad-handing, attending a dinner, and/or actively negotiating) in all three of these contracts.
Speaking of Magglio Ordonez, he has an “oft-injured knee.” (Back here in reality, rational people realize that it’s only been injured once, but the nature of the injury was severe enough that he had to miss significant time for it.) Further, Magglio Ordonez stunk last year because his HR and RBI totals were far below what he had averaged in his healthy White Sox years. Gotta wonder how many interviews Magglio will grant to Rob Parker this year. I’m setting the early over/under at 1, and I’ll be betting the under.
“Only one Dombrowski-built team has finished over .500 – the ’97 Marlins.” Well, in order for this statement to be true, you have to believe that Dombrowski had little to do with the success of the 1990 Expos. I went and looked it up. Yeah, he didn’t have much to do with the acquisition of their hitters (Dave Martinez was the only regular that was a Dombrowski transaction), but he was responsible for the presence of Oil Can Boyd, Kevin Gross and Zane Smith in the rotation, who collectively started 78 games and logged almost 500 IP with ERA’s of 2.93, 3.42 and 3.23, respectively (league-average ERA was 3.79), but a win-loss record of 25-25 (I include the won-loss record for Mr. Parker’s benefit, as that is probably all he would look at, anyways). In the bullpen were Dombrowski Rule V pick Bill Sampen, Steve Frey (over from the Mets in a trade), and free agent pick-ups Dale Mohorcic and Dave Schmidt, who collectively accounted for another approximately 250 IP, with ERA’s of 2.99, 2.10, 3.23 and 4.31, respectively. They accounted for 24 wins against 14 losses and 26 of the team’s 50 saves. In other words, Dombrowski’s pitching acquisitions accounted for over 50% of the team’s innings pitched, most of those quality innings.
Now, do I think the Tigers have a great season to look forward to? Not necessarily. We’re in a tough division, the other teams in our division are only getting better, and we have a recent history of playing poorly against them, and we have an unbalanced schedule staring us in the face. Plus, most of the improvement that the Tigers are looking for is basically an improvement by guys we already have. In some cases, we’re looking for performance improvements, and in others, we’re just looking for the player to stay healthy the whole year.
I’m not saying Dombrowski is some kind of a god and should be above criticism. On the other hand, the fact that Rob Parker actually has a say in the annual Hall of Fame balloting makes me ill, because he just clearly doesn’t get it.
Parker closes his column with this:
“So, when will Dombrowski’s team finally win?
‘I think we’re in a spot where we have to start producing on the field and win some ballgames,’ he said.
If not, Dombrowski should be shown the door.”
Therefore, I close with this thought:
If Rob Parker continues to have merely a passing acquaintance with reality in his baseball columns, he should not be allowed to write them any more.
It’s been three and a half long dreary months, but things are looking up. Tigers’ pitchers and catchers report Wednesday, February 15. Good times are on the way.
Record – 65-71, Finished Fifth Place in the American League
Pythagorean Record – 71-65
C – Deacon McGuire (.250/.306/.306)
1b – Charlie Carr (.281/.296/.374)
2b – Heinie Smith (.223/.271/.283)
3b – Joe Yeager (.256/.303/.323)
SS – Sport McAllister (.260/.297/.306)
LF – Billy Lush (.274/.379/.390)
CF – Jimmy Barrett (.315/.407/.391)
RF – Sam Crawford (.335/.366/.489)
Homeruns – Sam Crawford (4)
Batting Average – Sam Crawford (.335)
OPS – Sam Crawford (.855)
Best Fielder – Charlie Carr (15 Fielding Runs Above Average)
Wins – George Mullin (19)
ERA – George Mullin (2.25)
Strikeouts – Bill Donovan (187)
The Tigers took a step forward in 1903, and they did it through turnover. Only Deacon McGuire returned to shore up the Tigers starting infield and only George Mullin, who emerged as the Tigers’ ace in 1903, returned to the rotation. By far the biggest acquisition of the year was Sam Crawford. Crawford had already established himself as a bonafide star with some solid seasons for the Cincinnati Reds and Crawford came over to Detroit when the American League and National League unified. The Tigers signed him first, so they got the gold. Whether he was stolen from the Reds is open to debate but Crawford would go on to have a Hall of Fame career and he’d be a lynchpin for the 1907 through 1909 AL Pennant teams.
The 1903 Tigers were also a pretty unlucky team. They outscored their opponents 567 runs to 539, yet ended up with a losing record. Even if they’d have finished with their Pythagorean Record of 71-65, that still would have put them in the second division in the American League.
Crawford was their bonafide star, and along with Jimmy Barrett and Billy Lush, the Tigers sported an outfield where the lowest OPS+ was 134. Crawford finished second in hitting for the second straight season, losing the batting title to Nap Lajoie by only nine points. Crawford would finish runner up in the batting race four times through out his career while never winning the batting title. He did lead the league in triples in 1903 with 25 and his major league record of 309 career triples still stands. His 158 OPS+ was good for second in the league, again finishing second to Lajoie.
Jimmy Barrett was the best hitter on a bad team in 1902, and in 1903, he’s a close second to Crawford. His .315 batting average was good for fourth best in the American League (his only career top ten finish) and his .407 OBP, 74 walks and 243 times on base all led the league. Barrett reminds me a little of Bobby Higginson. He had some great seasons, but never had a team around him. By the time the Tigers won their first pennant in 1907, Barrett was at the end of his career in Boston.
On the pitching side, George Mullin established himself as the team’s ace in only his second season on the mound. Mullin’s 19 wins was the eighth best mark in the AL and his 2.25 ERA was sixth best. Oddly, he led the league in saves with two and his 320.7 innings were the fifth best total. On the negative side, he led the league in walks allowed with 106, the first of four consecutive seasons that he’d be on top of the AL.
Bill Donovan also had a solid season in his first season with the Tigers. After finishing with 25 wins in 1901 for the Brooklyn Superbas, Donovan was second in the league in strikeouts with 187 and he led the league with 34 complete games in 1903.
As a team, the Tigers showed some promise after being a bottom feeder in 1902. The team sported an OBP of .312 which led the American League and they were second in hitting with a .268 batting average. The Tigers were fifth in runs scored (567) but near the bottom in homeruns (seventh with 12). The team’s pitching staff had the third best ERA in the league (2.75) but gave up more walks then any other team (336).
The Tigers won their first four games of the season in 1903, but by early May they had dropped back to .500 (6-6). On May 30, after getting swept in a doubleheader by the St. Louis Browns, the Tigers slipped below .500 and hovered around that mark for most of the next couple of months. They were above the breakeven mark as late as September 11, 1903, but their 4-0 start were the most games above .500 they’d reach all season. In an odd scheduling quirk, the Tigers played five straight doubleheaders from September 6 through the 14 (with days off in between), then another one four days later on the 18th. In all, the Tigers played eight doubleheaders in the month of September.
I’m going to be moving Tigerblog from Movable Type over to WordPress over the next few weekends. So if there’s some times where you can’t get to the site, just bear with me while this gets done.
Catchy title. Vince Gennero has been putting out an excellent series of articles on player value at the Hardball Times. Tuesday’s column deals with teams who are close to making the playoffs, yet need that final piece to put them over the top.
One of his examples talks about how Brandon Inge would be more valuable to an 85 win Yankees team then Alex Rodriguez would be to a 65 win Tiger team because of the increased chances of the Yanks making the playoffs.
Also, you can check my already outdated Business of Baseball report. I went to bed thinking the council was done only to find out this morning that they got back together an hour after the real meeting ended and agreed on a lease. Guess I’ll have something to write about next week.
Jason Beck, the MLB.com’s Tigers beat writer, wrote a nice column on Carlos Guillen and Placido Polanco. His point is pretty valid in that the duo is one of the best in the American League as long as they’re on the field together.
Beck makes the point that the two players were actually the double play combo for a grand total of 21 games last year. If the Tigers are going to have any chance of improving in 2006, they’ll need Polanco and Guillen healthy.
The Tigers signed outfielder Craig Monroe to a one year, $2.8 million deal. This was the Tigers’ sole remaining arbitration case so unless they sign a free agent, we pretty much know what they’re payroll is going to be next year (which I’ll look up and find for you).
Monroe’s one of those guys that I kind of wish we’d trade. He does well enough to ensure himself a starting outfield spot even though I think a guy like Curtis Granderson would be better out there if given a chance. And while Monroe did put up some solid traditional stats (20 homeruns, 89 RBIs), he has a career .313 OBP and his WHIP actually declined by over 50 points from 2004. So with that, I wouldn’t have minded the Tigers getting what they could for him before he has the one off year that causes his value to fall off of a cliff.
Since we have him though, hopefully he’s for real and we can expect 20-25 homeruns and 80-90 RBIs every year.