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Tigers Sign Todd Jones and Kenny Rogers

Whenever I hear about a move the Tigers make, my initial thought is negative. Then I think about things and try to put myself in the shoes of the decision maker while thinking “what was Dave Dombrowski trying to accomplish with this.”

And then I usually get people asking me what I think of the move. By the time that happens, I have a typical response. And that’s…..

….it depends on what they do next.

So the Tigers signed, for two years and $11 million, a reliever coming off a career year who’s going to be 38 next April. They then also sign an aging starter who just turned 41 years old for two years and $16 million. What did Dave Dombrowski accomplish?

I know people will argue vehemently about this, but he made the Tigers better. That’s somewhat simplistic, but let’s look at it. First off, Kenny Rogers was way better then any Tiger starter last year. One of my favorite stats to compare pitchers is Runs Saved Above Average, which you can get from Lee Sinin’s Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia. Nate Robertson led all Tiger starters with a -5, and Jeremy Bonderman was a -6. For those of you who thought Jason Johnson was as good as Kenny Rogers, Johnson served up a -6.

Since Johnson is the guy who’s going out and Kenny Rogers is coming in, it’s best to compare the two of them. Kenny Rogers RSAA was 23, which is very solid, Prior to 2005, he had two rather mediocre seasons (8 RSAA in 2004 and 1 in 2003) but he had an even better year in 2002 when his RSAA was 28. All of those are better then what a Tiger starter has gotten in quite a while.

The other number I like to look at is pitching runs above replacement (PRAR), which is put out by Baseball Prospectus. Kenny Rogers had a 72 and Jason Johnson had a 41. Those 31 runs are worth about three wins.

Now lets look at Todd Jones. He had 15 RSAA and 59 pitching runs above replacement. The Tigers had a revolving door for their 12th pitcher, so if you assume whoever was there is of replacement quality, that’s another 5-6 wins.

Now I’m being optimistic up until now, because this all assumes that Jones and Rogers will perform at the same level they did last year. Todd Jones’ nickname was the rollercoaster, and he got it for a good reason. After having a solid 2000 season, he lost some face in 2001 by blowing some leads late in the game. He eventually lost the closer job to Matt Anderson (remember him) and was then traded for Mark Redman. And Kenny Rogers isn’t a spring chicken either, so you’d expect some kind of break down sometime soon (in years, not in days).

So we have two aging pitchers who “should” improve the team and Rogers is moving from a hitters park to a pitchers park, so I’m all for it. We would have had to pay Jason Johnson $5 million at least, so for another $3 million, we get a better arm. And with the price of closers this year, $5.5 million this year can’t be compared to the $6 million we paid for Troy Percival.

The final note is, we’re still having problems convincing free agents to come to Detroit. The only way we’re going to fix that is by the Tigers winning more games. If this time next year, the Tigers are coming off of a .500 season knowing they’re a player or two away from playoff contention with guys like Justin Verlander in the pipeline, you might be able to get a good player without paying a premium.

Finally, I have an idea. Why not throw a bunch of money at Roger Clemens? I know it’s not my money, but he might play for Detroit for $20 million for one season. He’s nine wins away from 350, so you’d get some hype there and while he wouldn’t completely pay for himself, it would create some excitement. And having a rotation of Clemens, Rogers, Bonderman, Maroth and Robertson doesn’t sound too shabby.

I know, it won’t happen, but a guy can dream.

An ancilliary benefit is we don’t have to rush Joel Zumaya or Justin Verlander.

I think the difference in opinion comes from what Rogers’ results were last year (what you are quoting) and what his peripherals say he should have been doing (what people comparing him to Johnson are quoting). Rogers was extremely lucky last year and it was easy to see that by the way he was lit up down the stretch.

Posted by Chris on December 8th, 2005 at 9:37 pm

If I’m not mistaken, the numbers I used only use his peripherals. I’m not quite sure how you can say he was lucky, but feel free to back it up.

Posted by Brian on December 8th, 2005 at 9:47 pm

This is the stat you are using:

PR (Pitching Runs) (Link)
Invented by John Thorn and Pete Palmer, this is a measure of the number of runs a pitcher saved compared to average. The formula is league-average RA/IP minus park-adjusted RA/IP, times total innings pitched. This is the same formula as Lee Sinins’ RSAA (see below).

This is based on RA which is simply:

RA (Link)
Runs Allowed Per Nine Innings. Just like ERA, but with unearned runs, too.

These are not peripheral or component statistics. They just describe what happened. Rogers gave up x amount of runs and then we park adjust that and there’s his PR.

The statistic that I based my Jason Johnson comparison on was The Hardball Times xFIP. Here is the definition:

xFIP (Link)
Expected Fielding Independent Pitching. This is an experimental stat that adjusts FIP and “normalizes” the home run component. Research has shown that home runs allowed are pretty much a function of flyballs allowed and home park, so xFIP is based on the average number of home runs allowed per outfield fly, and adjusted for the home run tendencies of the ballpark. Theoretically, this should be a better predicter of a pitcher’s future ERA.

Where FIP has this definition:

FIP (Link)
Fielding Independent Pitching, a measure of all those things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible. The formula is (HR*13+(BB+HBP)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor (usually around 3.2) to round out the number to an equivalent ERA number. FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded. FIP was invented by Tangotiger.

This is a component statistic, based on peripherals.

All this being said here’s how Kenny Rogers fared in 2005:


and Jason Johnson:


Based on their adjusted component era last season, Kenny Rogers and Jason Johnson were similar pitchers. Kenny Rogers did indeed have better results last year, but the Tigers don’t get those results, they get the pitcher that delievered those results. All of this is not even mentioning the fact that Rogers is 41 and has very little chance of improving and a good chance of falling apart from where he is now.

Posted by Chris on December 8th, 2005 at 10:28 pm

Great analysis and very enlightening. Thanks Chris.

Posted by Brian on December 9th, 2005 at 6:03 am

I’m glad you liked it. Much thanks to THT for that information on the statistics.

For what it’s worth I kind of like the Todd Jones signing…

Posted by Chris on December 9th, 2005 at 11:28 am

Excellent work, Chris!

Rogers had 87 Ks and 53 BBs in 195 innings. I like the innings total, but you don’t need much more info than that. His career K/9 is about 5.5, and it was 4.0 last year, his age 40 season. The park should help him some, as the jump from Ameriquest (or whatever the hell it’s called) to Comerica is a big one, but we just paid $16 million for his age 41 and 42 seasons. We are not a contender, so the money is completely wasted on a guy who will could fall off a cliff at any moment. An absolutely stupid move.

How you can like the Todd Jones signing is beyond me. Haven’t we learned not to waste this kind of money on relievers? Jones’s 2005 season screams fluke. What is Rodney likely to think? What happens at YOUR job when the position you clearly earned is taken away from you by some who’s very likely to be inferior and gets paid an order of magnitude more than you?

Posted by Dan on December 9th, 2005 at 4:16 pm

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