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Pudge: A Look at the Numbers

Well, after several weeks of wondering, we finally landed Ivan Rodriguez.

Every year about this time, I begin to get excited. Every team has a clean slate, and there’s hope for everyone. That was until last year. I knew we were going to be pretty bad. I just didn’t think we’d compete with history.

Now, at least on the offensive side, we’re in decent shape. We’ve made upgrades at four positions, three of the those being the highly regarded “Up the Middle” positions. So let’s look at what could happen this year.

Best Case Scenario: 1) No substantial injuries to speak of, including our more injury prone players; 2) Higginson, with better hitters around him, bounces back to .300/20 HR; 3) We get career years out of two of our starters.

So with the planets in perfect alignment, we could probably hover around the .500 mark, maybe trade some of our pitching prospects for one more starter (John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander?), and we’d have an outside shot at winning a weak AL Central. I’d put the odds of this scenario happening at about 1%.

Worst Case Scenario: Essentially this would be the antithesis of the best case scenario. The DL is a revolving door, and our starters take a step back from last year. In this case, the Tigers are set for their third straight 100-loss season. Chance of this happening is somewhere between 5% and 10%.

Likely Scenario: One, maybe two of our guys have substantial injuries. And the pitchers look like they did last year. In this case, the Tigers lose somewhere between 90-95 games, but have a solid foundation on which to improve on.

So back to Pudge. The best way to see how he’ll help the team is to compare his numbers to Brandon Inge, who got the bulk of the time at catcher. And just a note, some of the statistics I’m going to use will be of a more advanced variety. I’m just learning to use these numbers, so if I slip up, please feel free to let me know.

Adjusted OPS+ (100 is the league average, adjusted for ballpark effect)

I-Rod 124
Brandon Inge 62

Basically, I-Rod is 24% better as far as OPS goes compared to the league average. Brandon, on the other hand, is quite a bit below average. Last year Inge had a 63, so you’re talking about a pretty good trend there.

Thanks to Baseball-Reference for the numbers.

Batting Runs Above Replacement at the Same Position

I-Rod 41
Brandon Inge -3

Another very telling number. Over the course of the 2003 season, I-Rod was worth 44 more runs then Brandon Inge. And for Inge’s entire career, he’s been below a replacement hitter. Forty-four runs is quite a bit, so again, we’re looking at a significant improvement.

Field Runs Above Replacement/Fielding Runs Above Average

This number I found a little surprising.

I-Rod 24/2
Brandon Inge 33/14

First off, I was surprised to find that Brandon was that good defensively. I always thought he was good, but a bit overrated. Last year’s Gold Glove catcher was Benji Molina, and he had numbers almost identical to Inge (33/13).

The other number I was surprised by was Pudge was just a touch above average. This decline has been about a 7-year trend.

Thank you to Baseball Prospectus for these numbers.

So Inge might, over the course of the year, win a game with his glove. But needless to say, it’s not like Pudge is a defensive liability that can hit. He’s a formidable prescence behind the plate. As much as I like Inge, his best bet would be to stick around, watch, learn, and maybe take his chance when he gets it.

Finally, a quick apology to those of you asking for links. Like with the blog, I haven’t had a ton of time to post. I am collecting the links to put them up, hopefully sooner rather then later, but I apologize for the delay.

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