Friday, May 30, 2008


Sparky's trying to pinpoint the troubles with the Tigers offense. Here are some stats versus the AL averages.

RISP AL: .267/.354/.408 for .763 OPS
RISP Tigs: .259/.339/.397 for .736 OPS

BABIP for above AL: .296
BABIP for above Tigs: .284

Runner on 3rd less than 2 out AL: .338/.381/.507 for .888 OPS
Runner on 3rd less than 2 out Tigs: .387/.407/.645 for 1.052 OPS

BABIP for above AL: .322
BABIP for above Tigs: .364

Runner on 3rd with 2 outs AL: .223/.336/.343 for .680 OPS
Runner on 3rd with 2 outs Tigs: .207/.324/.261 for .585 OPS

BABIP for above AL: .262
BABIP for above Tigs: .257

RISP with 2 outs AL: .240/.345/.362 for .707 OPS
RISP with 2 outs Tigs: .226/.329/.317 for .646 OPS

BABIP for above AL: .285
BABIP for above Tigs: .270

With runners on 2nd and 3rd, the AL OPS is .824 and BABIP is .314
With runners on 2nd and 3rd, the Tigs OPS is .680 and BABIP is .273

The AL has a 1.711 OPS with a 3-0 count. The Tigs have a .979 OPS on a 3-0 count.
After a 3-0 count, the AL has a 1.209 OPS. The Tigs have a 1.233 OPS. The AL BABIP after a 3-0 count is .280. The Tigs is .214.

The AL overall BABIP is .292. The Tigs is .291.

Leading off an inning, the AL OPS is .702 with BABIP of .287.
Leading off an inning, the Tigs OPS is .732 with BABIP of .270.

The No. 3 batter in the AL lineups has a .774 OPS with BABIP of .299.
The No. 3 batter for the Tigs has a .660 OPS with BABIP of .242.

Those are a lot of numbers, but it's clear the Tigers are underperforming against the AL average in a number of what I would view as key categories.

It also is interesting that while the Tigers overall BABIP is practically at the AL average, their BABIP in the key categories is almost always lower. This might indicate the Tigers have been the victims of some bad luck during the early part of this year.

I thought perhaps the Tigers were hitting into more DPs than the AL with RISP, but both came in at 3% of RISP plate appearances and around 3.5% of RISP at-bats. However, the Tigs are GIDP 9.3% of at-bats with a runner on 1st while the AL average is 8.5%. With runners on 1st and 2nd, the Tigs GIDP is 9.5% while the AL average is 7.3%. The Tigs overall GIDP is 6% while the AL average is 5.7%.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Aaron Heilman pitches two perfect innings, striking out four. Endy Chavez hits a game-tying pinch hit home run in the bottom of the ninth, just as I'm cursing Willie for taking out Ramon Castro. And after Duaner Sanchez gives up a twelfth-inning home run to Alfredo Amezaga of all people, the Mets fight back, capped off by a two-run double by Fernando Tatis. If this game doesn't wake the Mets up, nothing will.

Oh, and a little bit further south, Pedro Martinez strikes out six minor leaguers, walking none and allowing two runs on four hits in six innings.

It's beginning to feel a bit like 2006.

Futility ... again

The Tigers lost 3-2 last night. Detroit had 3 hits, never had an AB with RISP and left zero runners on base. At least they weren't shut out. But it was the 20th time this season the Tigs scored 2 or fewer runs. That's 38% of the games so far.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Misery loves company

All sharp objects have been taken from Mr. Met and Sparky, reducing them to eating with sporks, and they're forced to remove their belts when getting ready to watch MLB.

This is what it's become: The Tigers are tied for last place with the Royals in the AL Central, even after KC has lost 8 in a row. Detroit is 7-1/2 games out of first, its largest deficit of the season.

Last night, the Tigers got shut out for the EIGHTH time this year. They have not shut out an opponent. They lost on a bases-loaded BB in the 12th inning after going 0-for-12 with RISP. It was the ELEVENTH time this year a Detroit pitcher issued a BB with the sacks full. (Tigers batters have received 4.)

The Tigers have allowed 110 runs with 2 outs. They've scored 84. The Tigers have allowed an .855 OPS with RISP. They have a .733 OPS with RISP.

Detroit's ability to sometimes put double digits on the board in a game has the squad No. 3 in the AL in runs. The Tigers are averaging close to 5 runs per outing, but those numbers are misleading. If you look at the median, the Tigs are much closer to a 3 run per game team.

Stats explain how the Tigers are 21-30, but fail to answer why. Why is this team, which other players rank as having among the best hitters and pitchers in MLB, so bad? That remains the perplexing question.

Damn this spork.

Monday, May 26, 2008


The Mets did not elect to fire manager Willie Randolph today and as a result will probably never win another game. I don't know who the Mets could or would hire that would be able to turn things around, especially given that both Bobby Valentine and Earl Weaver are likely unavailable. But I don't really think the team is going to be able to find a new first baseman, a new second baseman, a whole new bench and a way to keep Ryan Church, Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez healthy for the rest of the year. A managerial change seems like the most practical way to awaken this slumbering alleged giant. I won't pretend I know what's going on inside the heads of the players, but they certainly look like they could benefit from being shaken up a bit. And if the replacement manager happens to be competent at the motivational and/or tactical aspects of his job, all the better.

Unfortunately, each day this team's .500 play looks like less of an aberration. They are currently 23-26, which may be slightly unlucky given that they've scored 231 runs and allowed 230. But over their last 162 games, they've won 79 and lost 83. If this is a slump, it's been going on for nearly a third of Randolph's managerial tenure. They've won fewer games over Willie's last 162 than they did over his first 162 and that team had Doug Mientkiewicz, Miguel Cairo, Victor Zambrano and Kazushisa Ishii starting for much of the season.

Of course, the Mets haven't lost those 26 games this year based on Willie's oddly constructed lineups and strange bullpen machinations alone. Numerous players are underperforming relative to preseason expectations while very few are exceeding expectations. The only real pleasant surprises have been Ryan Church, who's hitting .311/.378/.530 but hasn't started since getting kneed in the head on Tuesday, and Scott Schoeneweis, who's been excellent but isn't likely to maintain a 1.42 ERA only striking out 3.3 batters per nine innings. In general the bullpen has been pretty good, aside from Aaron Heilman, Matt Wise and the now departed Jorge Sosa. But when the starters and hitters aren't giving the bullpen leads to protect, they can only do so much.

Offensively, Brian Schneider has met expectations as after a hot start he's fallen back to his usual offensive ineptitude at .266/.331/.330 entering tonight. David Wright and Jose Reyes have underperformed a bit, but they've both been pretty solid with the bat and Reyes did smack a pair of home runs tonight, perhaps auguring a hot streak. Carlos Beltran's .256/.362/.438 start has been disappointing, but I don't doubt that he will get hot at some point. I am not so optimistic about Carlos Delgado and Luis Castillo. Delgado did hit four home runs last week, regardless of what the umpires said, but he only had one hit that wasn't a home run on the just concluded seven-game road trip. Castillo actually hit a home run last week, too, but he is still slugging just .317, and he doesn't have the high OBP (.358) or the speed (six double plays grounded into) to make his grounders-and-walks approach to offense very useful. Wright, Reyes and Beltran could get hot and carry this offense, but they'll need to, because no one else is going to.

The Mets' bench has also been awful. Met pinch hitters are hitting .172/.243/.266 and none of the assortment of fifth outfielders and second basemen that have been pressed into starting duty have done much with the bat. Ramon Castro is finally healthy and has gone four-for-twelve with two doubles, but of course Willie won't use his as a pinch hitter despite the fact that the Mets are carrying three catchers for some reason. Castro and Fernando Tatis are what passes for power hitters on this bench while twenty-nine year old Valentino Pascucci and his .730 slugging percentage remain in New Orleans. Omar Minaya has constructed a bench full of old middle infielders and defensively oriented outfielders even though left field and first base were the two positions where he was most likely to need a good backup this year. Calling up twenty-two year old Nick Evans to play left field over the weekend was a surprising move that worked for at least one day, as Evans hit three doubles and the Mets won. But the bench as a whole is still quite punchless. Replacing third catcher Raul Casanova with Pascucci would be a step in the right direction.

As for the starting rotation, the story is much the same as it was a few weeks ago. Johan Santana, John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey are all still striking out fewer batters per nine innings than they were last year and all but Pelfrey are walking more. Santana has still been quite good, as you would expect from his 58:15 K:BB ratio, but as a whole, the starting staff has not made things easy on the offense, the defense or the bullpen. Pedro Martinez will likely return next week, which could give the team a boost both emotionally and in terms of strike-throwing. If Perez and Maine can regain their 2007 form, this could still be a formidable staff, with Claudio Vargas filling the fifth spot adequately while Pelfrey heads to AAA to try to figure out how to get lefties out. But Perez locating some consistency is about as big an "if" as Pedro staying healthy for the rest of the season.

This is clearly a flawed team, perhaps one that no one could manage into October. But there is still a lot of talent at its core. It is probably too late to surround that talent with a better supporting cast, but it's not too late to find them a new leader. Replacing Willie Randolph might not have any effect on this team's fortunes for the rest of the season and if that's the case, Omar Minaya may follow him out the door at season's end. But I think things have gotten bad enough that just waiting for the team to start playing better shouldn't be an option for much longer. Some sort of action needs to be taken and I'd much prefer firing the manager to the team's traditional response to adversity. Luckily there aren't many prospects left to trade.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ryan Howard revisited

Sparky might not have been going out on a limb a couple weeks ago when stats suggested Ryan Howard would turn it around. He just blasted a 2-run HR tonight against the Astros and (entering tonight) was batting .294/.357/.804 for a 1.161 OPS since that post. Not counting tonight, he had 7 HR and 14 RBI in 13 games.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Boss man

The Tigers' bats came alive in their 3-game sweep of Seattle. Now can they keep it going? We've seen flashes of greatness in the past, but they went as quickly as they came.

Some are pointing to Jim Leyland's club meeting and mini-outburst on Tuesday as being a key to getting the players' attention. If nothing else, it seemed to make an impression on closer Todd Jones, who said the following in the Free Press:

"Look, this team needs to realize that this guy took on Barry Bonds. He'd run every one of us out of town. You're just better off if you don't cross him. And I think he relayed that message 100 percent. You just don't mess with him. It's not that hard. He doesn't ask a whole lot."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A blast and a boom

We've seen this before. Jim Leyland gets angry, blows up a bit (Jason Grilli still getting hit hard in Detroit), and the Tigers respond with runs. Of course, it helps that Seattle is in town.
Dontrelle Willis is back, but in the bullpen. I'm still not sure he can throw strikes.
The Tigers are 18-3 when scoring 5 or more runs; 1-24 when scoring 4 or less. That also means Detroit has given up at least 5 runs in more than half its games.
Detroit is 4-3 when Ryan Raburn starts, making Raburn the only position player with a winning record. The Tigers are 5-1 when Armando Galarraga starts and 5-5 when Kenny Rogers is on the hill.
Tigs only have 2 HR from the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
Playing up the positive: Detroit has won 3 of 4.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So long, Mike

Today one of the greatest New York Mets off all time officially said goodbye to the game of baseball. Michael Joseph Piazza, most recently of the Oakland Athletics, announced his retirement, beginning the five year countdown to his Hall Of Fame induction. The only questions that remain are which hat, Mets or Dodgers, will adorn his plaque in Cooperstown--judging by Piazza's statement, he'd probably choose the interlocking NY--and just when the Mets will get around to retiring his number 31. Tom Seaver's number 41 took its place on the Shea Stadium wall in 1988, a year after his retirement, so I don't see why there wouldn't be a Mike Piazza Day on the inaugural Citi Field schedule.

Piazza's prodigious power was and remains his calling card, but to focus merely on the long ball underestimates how well rounded his offensive game was. The greatest home run-hitting catcher in the game's history also put up a career .307 batting average and a .377 OBP to go along with his .545 slugging percentage. His career OPS+ of 142 ranks 61st all time, tied with hitters like Miguel Cabrera, Todd Helton and Gary Sheffield and ahead of Ken Griffey Jr., Reggie Jackson and David Ortiz. Piazza managed to rank in the top ten in OPS in the National League five times in the 90s despite playing the most demanding defensive position on the diamond in two of the toughest parks in which to hit in the league.

And, yes, he hit 427 home runs, 396 of them as a catcher and six more in the postseason. There were plenty of memorable shots among those. There was the two-run blast to center in the bottom of the eighth on September 21, 2001, to give the Mets the lead over the Braves in their first home game after the attacks of ten days prior. There was the solo shot to right in the first inning on May 5, 2004, that broke Carlton Fisk's record for home runs by a catcher and which I was lucky enough to witness live. But the one that stands out in my memory today took place on a Friday night at Shea in 2000.

The Mets entered June 30th trailing the first place Braves by three games, having had a seven-game winning streak snapped by Atlanta a day earlier. The pitching matchup featured Mike Hampton for the Mets and Kevin Millwood for the Braves. Both went seven innings, but Millwood allowed just one run while Hampton was knocked around for five. Reliever Eric Cammack entered in the top of the eighth for the Mets and gave up two walks before Brian Jordan stepped to the plate and smacked a three-run home run to put the score at 8-1 in favor of the Braves. Cammack finished the top of the eighth*, bringing the heart of the Mets' lineup to the plate, beginning with two hitter Derek Bell.

Bell singled to center but Edgardo Alfonzo flied out. Piazza singled and went to second on a throwing error, putting runners on second and third for Robin Ventura. Ventura grounded out, driving in a run to make the score 8-2 but leaving the Mets just one out to work with. What followed was the most dramatic eighth inning at the end of June I think I've ever seen. Todd Zeile singled to bring home Piazza. Jay Payton singled. Kerry Ligtenberg entered the game for the Braves and walked the next three batters, Benny Agbayani, Mark Johnson and Melvin Mora, making the score 8-5. Terry Mulholland entered and walked Bell, bringing in another run. An Alfonzo single tied the game and brought Piazza to the plate for a second time in the inning, this time with two men on base. Mike then electrified the crowd, the bench and play-by-play man Gary Thorne by driving the ball over the left field wall to put the Mets ahead, 11-8, pumping his fist as he jogged to first.

The Mets didn't wind up catching the Braves in the division that year, though they did outlast them in the postseason after winning the Wild Card. But that game was some of the most fun I've ever had watching a game of baseball on television. Piazza provided a lot of fun moments in his nearly eight years in New York. He is the greatest offensive player in the history of the franchise and if his is the second theoretically blue and orange cap to adorn a plaque in Cooperstown, it will be a fitting honor.

*Fun fact: Cammack pitched so badly that even though the Mets took the lead after the inning that he pitched, he was not awarded the win by the official scorer. Armando Benitez, who pitched the ninth in what would otherwise have been a save situation, was.

Give 'em the heat, meat

Daniel Cabrera is pitching tonight for the O's and Stanley recently noted Cabrera seems to be taking the advice about pounding the strike zone. So, I took a look at Cabrera's stats on Fangraphs and I think they're telling.

Cabrera is throwing 87% fastballs, by far the highest percentage of his career. His career average is 73.5%. His fastball is averaging 93.1 mph, the lowest mark of his career (lifetime average 94.7). He is using his slider and curveball far less and mixing in more changeups. He's also throwing all 3 of those pitches with less velocity. His K/9 are down by nearly 2, but his BB/9 also are down by close to 2.

Baltimore is among the better defensive teams in the AL and Cabrera is benefiting from a .240 BABIP. That number could indicate some good luck for Cabrera, but it also could be the result of throwing strikes and letting his defense do some work behind him. It seems reasonable to believe that BABIP can be influenced some by getting hitters to swing in pitchers' counts rather than hitters' counts.

My, my Myers

I've never bought into the "Brett Myers is gonna be a stud starter" idea, although he should be better than what he's shown this year. Maybe he can't get used to be a starter again after enjoying the closer role so much last season.

Looking at his stats, his K/9 is 7.58 (career average 7.54), his BB/9 is 3.19 (3.17) and his K/BB is 2.38 (2.38). His LOB% is 72.5 (73.8). Here's where it gets dicey: His HR/9 is 2.28 (1.34) and his BABIP is .335 (.304).

Throwing out his breakdown stats from last season because he was primarily a reliever, Myers is throwing fewer cutters and curveballs and more sliders this year. Plus, as widely discussed, the velocity on his fastball is down a bit. Interestingly, his velocity on other pitches is in line with previous seasons.

Is Myers worrying too much about his fastball and turning more to his slider? Is this putting him in bad counts and contributing to his high HR figure? Worth considering.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bizarro world

Detroit 16-24
Seattle 16-26
Colorado 15-25
San Diego 15-26

St. Louis 24-18
Florida 23-17
Tampa Bay 23-17
Baltimore 21-19

Could have won a lot of bets by forecasting these records.

For Stan...

Payton Slams BoSox

The O's home run onslaught continues...

In for a Penny, In for a Pound?

Anyone following the Orioles this season has noticed that Daniel Cabrera (4-1, 3.58 ERA) has pitched effectively through 9 starts. The following table reflects Daniel Cabrera's career numbers (including 2008) against his 2008 numbers (through 9 starts).


The difference thus far in 2008 is that Cabrera is throwing strikes. In early April, when asked what he wanted from Cabrera, O's manager Dave Trembley said, "He needs to consistently repeat his delivery, use his fastball and pound the strike zone. I mean pound it. Pound it!"

Cabrera's K/9 is down along with ERA, WHIP and BB/9, however, if he keeps throwing strikes, the K/9 will edge back up. What he has (hopefully) learned, or is learning, is what all good ML pitchers know. While the great ones strike out many batters, a good pitcher pounds the strike zone with such consistency that every batter knows, upon stepping into the box, that he must swing the bat. The good pitcher then pounds the strike zone, allowing the fretsome batsmen to strike out.

Manny being Manny brings you…

The greatest play ever made.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2-out hits

I don't know if the number of 2-out hits allowed with RISP is a factor in a team's success, or lack thereof, but it would seem to make sense. If you can limit scoring by getting out of innings when the opportunity is there, you would think you should be in better shape than others. Obviously, hits dropping in can be the product of luck, so this probably can't accurately determine the effectiveness of a staff, but it seemed worth a look.

The Tigers have given up 54 hits with 2 outs and RISP; only Colorado, with 56, is worse in MLB. Furthermore, Detroit only has 22 strikeouts in those situations, the worst in MLB. This would seem significant to me.

Cleveland has yielded the lowest number of hits with 2 outs and RISP, with 24. Toronto (28), Baltimore (29) and the Cubs (30) and Rays (30) follow. Of that group, only Toronto has a losing record, and the Blue Jays' ERA is 3.56, which is fourth best in MLB.

Joining Detroit and Colorado in the bottom 5 are Pittsburgh, Texas, and the White Sox.

Right is wrong

One (or do I mean another) reason for the Tigers' struggles this season seems like it can be traced to the predominantly right-handed lineup struggling against right-handed pitching.

Magglio Ordonez's .833 OPS against righties is the tops among RHB (not counting switch-hitters). Brandon Inge, who sees more time in the dugout than on the field now, is the only other RHB above .800, checking in at .803. Miguel Cabrera is next, at .764.

Ordonez's career OPS vs. RHP is .874, Cabrera's is .902, Pudge Rodriguez's is .806, Gary Sheffield's is .905.

Against left-handed pitching, Edgar Renteria, Ordonez, Marcus Thames and Cabrera all have an OPS above 1.000. Unfortunately, only 14.5% of the team's at-bats have been against lefties so far this season, so it's a very small sample. Last season, 23% of at-bats were against LHP.

The more I write about this team, the more it becomes clear: A lot of stuff is wrong.

Just Enough to Win the Turkey

Randy Johnson, the Diamondbacks "Big Unit", stretched out for 5 IP last night to record his 287th victory. By comparison, the Yankees Wang slung a full 7 but recorded a no-decision.

"I'll play first, third, left. I'll play anywhere - except Philadelphia." - Dick Allen

Aaahhhh, Dick jokes.

"Do you date immature men?" - Jerry Seinfield


The Orioles had not hit a 3-run home run all season until last Thursday against Kansas City.

Luke Scott blasted a 3-run shot in the 3rd inning off of Josh Beckett last night to give the O's a 5-3 lead on their way to a 5-4 victory over the Red Sox.

It was the 4th 3-run homer for the O's in the last 5 games with Nick Markakis, Aubrey Huff, Kevin Millar and Luke Scott providing the big blows.

The Orioles are 4-0 in the games in which they've hit a 3-run home run.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bring on the NL

The Tigers will get a taste of interleague play this week when they travel to Arizona. Detroit was 14-4 last year against the NL and is 29-7 the past two seasons. Of course, that means the Tigs are 90-92 against the AL since the end of 2006.

If this year is going to turn around, now would be a good time. Detroit had two days off because of a rainout and scheduled off day, and now get KC, Arizona, Seattle and Minnesota. The Tigers, for all their flaws, remain only 4.5 games out of first place, so it's hard to say it's now or never, but it would be OK to show a little fire here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

On the Cliff

Cliff Lee has been out-of-his-mind good this season. He's 6-0 with a 0.81 ERA. While it would be extremely unlikely he could continue to pitch this well, I noticed he is relying on his fastball more and change-up less this season. In fact, his pitch breakdown is very similar to 2005 when he went 18-5 with a 3.79 ERA.

Of course there's no way Lee is going to keep stranding 86% of baserunners, but his LD% this season is a career-low 14 and his GB% is a career-high 47. His FB/HR% is 2.2 and BABIP is .216. Lee's BABIP in 2005 was .287, which is a little bit on the lucky side, but not too much.

There's no question Lee's stats will correct themselves to some degree, but if his success is related to returning to a previously successful pitch breakdown, he could be good for the long haul.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Correction coming for Howard?

There's been much talk in Philly about Ryan Howard's horrible start. Entering Sunday, he was batting .169/.281/.346 for an OPS of .627 that's about .300 below his career low. Here is a look at some key stats that to me indicate things aren't as bad as they seem. The stats are in order from 2005-2008.

BB%: 9.6, 15.7, 16.8, 13.9
K%: 32.1, 31.2, 37.6, 38.2
BABIP: .358, .363, .336, .208
LD%: 26.6, 21.9, 24.3, 19.8
GB%: 43.9, 41.9, 31.5, 45.3
FB%: 29.4, 36.2, 44.2, 34.9
IFFB%: 0, 3.4, 2.7, 10.0
HR/FB%: 34.9, 39.5, 31.5, 23.3

His K rate is very poor, but not much worse than last year. Note the BABIP difference. He is hitting fewer line drives and more groundballs and infield popups, which is probably contributing to the BABIP, but that might be bad luck, too. His HR per flyball rate is low for him, but high for most humans. Of course, it was ridiculously good in the past.

Here is where it gets even more interesting, I think.

Swings at balls outside strike zone%: 25.15, 25.62, 25.78, 22.37
Swings at balls inside strike zone%: 73.38, 70.18, 69.96, 72.85
Swing%: 49.07, 46.27, 45.39, 47.06
Contact on balls outside strike zone%: 35.88, 35.22, 39.19, 33.82
Contact on balls inside strike zone%: 80.53, 81.14, 76.53, 75.47
Contact%: 69.0, 67.49, 64.73, 65.36

Howard's swing percentage is up a bit, but generally he's swinging at fewer balls outside the strike zone and more balls inside the strike zone than he usually does. This would seem good. Of course, this should be tempered with the fact his contact percentage is well below last year's MLB mark of 80.8%. Maybe he can't sustain his past level of production with such a low contact rate, but since his contact rate this season is in line with his past numbers, I'm willing to hold off on that assumption for now.

Same old Mets

The Mets had another mediocre week, splitting six games with the Dodgers and Reds. The offense does appear to be coming around as they put 38 runs on the board in these six games. They even put together back-to-back twelve-run efforts. Of course, they wouldn't be the Mets if they didn't follow that up by being shut down by a pitcher of dubious quality. This time it was Bronson Arroyo who the Mets turned into Sandy Koufax for eight innings, lowering his ERA by a run and a half in the process, all the way to 7.14.

While the Mets' play continues to be characterized by enough inconsistency to drive Joe Morgan to drink, there were some encouraging signs this week. Carloses Delgado and Beltran both had big offensive weeks. Delgado hit .368/.409/.632 in the last two series while Beltran hit .381/.417/.810. These two need to hit well if the Mets' offense is going to be much more than league average and while I never doubted that Beltran would eventually start to hit, it's reassuring to see that Delgado still has some life in his bat. Ryan Church also had a big week with the bat at .333/.391/.810, but he's been hitting all year. Perhaps the most stunning development of the week was Brian Schneider's Saturday home run. It was his first extra base hit of the season in his sixty-seventh at bat.

The Mets (19-16) get another chance to assert themselves against weaker competition starting Monday as they begin a four-game series at home against the Nationals (15-23). Nelson Figueroa (2-2. 4.81, 25:19 K:BB), John Maine (4-2, 3.00, 33:21) and Johan Santana (4-2, 3.10, 52:13) will pitch the first, second and fourth games of the series with game three's starter as yet undetermined due to Saturday's doubleheader. Odalis Perez (0-3, 3.43, 34:18), John Lannan (3-3, 3.40, 27:17), Tim Redding (4-3, 3.83, 30:18) and Mike O'Connor (1-1, 13.00, 4:11 (yes, really)) will start for the Nationals. This is the Mets' third series against Washington this season and once again they will not have to face noted steroid user and adulterer Paul Lo Duca, who is now on the disabled list with a fractured right hand. Lastings Milledge, off to a slow start with the bat at .252/.322/.341 will be in the lineup.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Losing any old way

Hard to believe the Tigers were 14-15 after sweeping the Yankees last week. Now they're on a 1-6 slide (lucky to get the 1) with NY coming to Detroit. Maybe this is what the Tigs need, although sooner or later you are what your record says you are.

Justin Verlander, the one pitcher I wasn't too worried about coming into the season, is 1-6 with a 6.43 ERA. His K/G are down from 8.2 last year to 5.1 this season. His BB/G are up from 3.0 to 3.6. His HR/G are up from 0.89 to 1.19. Oddly, the defense is turning 72% of batted balls in play into outs, the same as last year. His line drive % is a ridiculously low 13.4. A killer stat, though, is his LOB%, which is down from 74.9 last year to 56.4 this year.

A lot of mixed signals in there. "The stuff is fine," manager Jim Leyland is quoted on "The execution of pitches is not."

The loss dropped Verlander's record to 1-6. In terms of wins and losses, it's the worst start by a Tigers pitcher since 2003, when Mike Maroth went 0-9 on his way to 21 losses. Is this the curse of Maroth again?

Winning one the old fashioned way

The O's defeated the Royals last night in Kansas City by a 4-1 score in a fashion reminiscent of bygone glory days.

Daniel Cabrera pitched a complete game allowing 1 earned run on 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 7.

The defense played errorless baseball.

Nick Markakis hit a 3-run homer. (Segue to Springsteen now....)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

What next?

OK, facing a knuckleballer was probably the last thing the struggling bats in Motown needed. Still, this is becoming ridiculous. Sparky is on the verge of changing his name to The Pope and only blogging about the Phillies. It probably would spark more witty banter with Joe and give Brian the opportunity to offer his insights like "good pitching is good."

I have a new theory about the Tigers. It's the curse of Mike Maroth. Detroit was 42-29 when Maroth was traded last season. I believe that makes the Tigs 60-65 since. Maroth was released last week by the KC organization after posting a 12.91 ERA in three Triple-A starts. Here's hoping Dave Dombrowski brings him back, sits him in the dugout, and reverses the karma.

Monday, May 05, 2008

All or nothing

Recently, I posted the Tigers BA/OPB/SLG in games they've lost, and it was seemingly bad. I wondered how those numbers compared to the rest of the AL. Here are the Tigers' stats vs. the AL stats:

Tigers: .221/.298/.309 -- .607 OPS
AL: .219/.286/.323 -- .608 OPS

So, the Tigers are pretty much "average bad" in their losses. However, I put my finger on why it seems worse. Here are the Tigers stats vs. the AL stats in wins:

Tigers: .316/.404/.584 -- .988 OPS
AL: .295/.372/.462 -- .834 OPS

You can see, Detroit is far better than "average good" in its wins. Their OPS+ compared to the league split in wins is 132 and in losses is 98.

But what makes it seem worse is their OPS+ compared to their team in losses. That figure is 57. Ouch. That number is the third worst in the AL. Surprisingly, the two teams that are worst (Boston, 55; Oakland, 40) have winning records. The Tigers' difference between their team win OPS+ of 150 and team loss OPS+ of 57 is second worst to Oakland's 137/40. Given the A's lineup, their stats are less of a surprise.

This is why Detroit is so frustrating. How can this lineup mash one game and get shut down the next? The Tigers entered Monday ranked 2nd in the AL in OBP and 1st in slugging. I'm at a loss, and so is Jim Leyland. (So I don't feel too bad, except I would've hoped he was smarter than me.)

All the above stats can be found on

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Do-Do Walk

The Mets had a pretty good weekend, as they tend to do when they head to Arizona. They won two of three and put their theoretical everyday lineup on the field for the very first time in the season's twenty-ninth game. Moises Alou and Brian Schneider are back, Carlos Delgado is starting to hit and the Mets are just half a game out of first place in the NL East. It's enough to trick you into not worrying so much about this team.

Well, almost enough. In reality, the Mets, 16-13 and in the thick of the division race though they may be, are far from easy to root for right now. Their modest success seems to have been achieved by the skin of their teeth and this is born out by their unimpressive run scored to runs allowed ratio of 135 to 132. Their offense is right in the middle of the National League pack and this is disappointing, but not too surprising given that Alou has only played two games and nobody named Carlos has done much hitting yet. The "runs allowed" side of the ledger is a bit more troubling.

The Mets' pitching was supposed to be the team's real strength but so far they've allowed 4.55 runs per game, about average for a National League team this year. The fact that Pedro Martinez has only pitched three and a third innings has been a blow to preseason expectations, but his replacement, Nelson Figueroa, has been okay. The problem has been disappointing performances from just about everybody else.

I've talked before about the starters failing to pitch deep in the games leading to an overreliance on the bullpen and this continues to be a problem. The main culprits have been John Maine and Oliver Perez, who are both pitching fewer innings per start than they did last year. But a more fundamental problem, and one that is plaguing almost the entire staff, is the base on balls. Entering Sunday, the Mets had walked 4.1 batters per game, fifth worst in the league.

The Mets have ten pitchers who have pitched a significant number of innings (more than three and a third) in the majors this year and last year. Six of them are walking batters more frequently than last year, nine are striking out fewer batters and seven have a worse strikeout-to-walk ratio. Only Billy Wagner and Scott Schoeneweis have significantly improved their K:BB ratio, while Joe Smith has slightly improved his. Those three and Johan Santana are the only Met pitchers with K:BB ratios of 2.0 or better. Figueroa and Duaner Sanchez, who didn't pitch in the majors last year, also fall below 2.0. Aaron Heilman is the only pitcher whose strikeout rate has improved, to more than a K per inning, but he's also walking more than five batters per nine innings.

The season is still young, but these are some pretty disturbing trends. More and more voices are calling for Willie Randolph's head, but perhaps Rick Peterson deserves a little more scrutiny. The supposedly elite Mets pitching staff is, across the board, walking more batters and striking out fewer. Not surprisingly, seven of ten pitchers, including all four returning starters, are throwing more pitches per inning than they were last year. Willie's bullpen management is far from perfect, but the fact that his pitchers need more pitches to get through an inning than they did last year isn't helping him any.

The Mets pitchers' season-long search for the strike zone now takes them to Chavez Ravine as they begin a series on Monday against the second place Dodgers (17-14). Perez (2-2, 4.03, 26:21 K:BB), Figueroa (2-1, 4.08, 22:15) and Maine (3-2, 3.48, 29:19) will start for the Mets. The Dodgers will counter with Chad Billingsley (1-4, 5.20, 40:17), Hiroki Kuroda (1-2, 3.82, 20:8) and Brad Penny (5-2, 3.19, 20:14).

Utley, Burrell and mirrors

I just got home from watching the Phillies take advantage of 3 Giants errors to win 6-5. The first-place Fightins have gotten surprisingly good work from their bullpen this season and great hitting from Chase Utley and Pat Burrell.

Beyond that, it's remarkable this team is in first place. Jimmy Rollins has only played 12 games and nobody outside of Utley and Burrell (and for a while Jayson Werth) is hitting. With Shane Victorino back in the lineup after being sidelined by injury, only Utley and Burrell entered today with an OPS+ higher than pitcher Cole Hamels. (Read that sentence again to fully absorb it.)

Here are the regulars' OPS+ entering today:

C - Carlos Ruiz, 39
1B - Ryan Howard, 65
2B - Chase Utley, 211
3B - Pedro Feliz, 68
SS - Eric Bruntlett, 45
LF - Pat Burrell, 185
CF - Shane Victorino, 45
RF - Geoff Jenkins, 74

P - Cole Hamels, 78

Some of the subs have fared better:

C - Chris Coste, 136
OF - Jayson Werth, 117
IF - Greg Dobbs, 122

He's got pull

After watching Chase Utley jerk another HR into the RF seats at the Zen, I was wondering if Utley has made an effort to pull the ball this season. It's probably too early to draw any conclusions, but I found these stats on regarding balls pulled, hit up the middle, and hit to the opposite field.

Last year, Utley had 69 hits and 8 HR listed under pull, 82 hits and 11 HR on up the middle, and 25 hits and 3 HR the opposite way. This season, he has 20 hits and 8 HR pulled, 22 hits and 5 HR up the middle and 3 hits and 0 HR the other way. Notice he already has as many pulled HR this year as in 2007.

For his career, Utley has 290 hits and 65 HR pulled, 310 hits and 39 HR up the middle, and 84 hits and 5 HR to the opposite field. Historically, Utley seems to be a pull-up the middle hitter. But the small sample from this year suggests he might be trying to pull even more.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


I recently found you can find data on batter swings on Fangraphs. You can access an explanation here. I looked up Pedro Feliz, because he is a very perplexing hitter. He has a reputation for being a free swinger and his stats suffer. But he doesn't seem to strike out excessively (10.1% this season). Having watched him this year, it seems like he takes a lot of bad swings. Anyway here is some data.

Oswing% is the percentage of pitches swung at outside the strike zone. Zswing% is the number of pitches swung at within the strike zone. Swing% is the overall swing percentage. Ocontact% is the contact percentage on pitches outside the strike zone. Zcontact% is the contact percentage on pitches within the strike zone. Contact% is the overall percentage.

Here are Feliz's numbers for 2008 with last year's MLB averages in parentheses.

Oswing%: 24.67 (25.0)
Zswing%: 62.35 (66.6)
Swing%: 44.69 (45.9)
Ocontact%: 67.57 (60.8)
Zcontact%: 92.45 (88.2)
Contact%: 86.01 (80.8)

Feliz is making contact this year at a high rate compared to last year's MLB average. He also makes contact at a higher percentage of balls outside the strike zone. This backs up what I've seen, primarily he puts balls in play on what I would call bad swings. This might explain why his BABIP, which is an awful .200 this year, is almost always below average (.269 lifetime). I've also noticed his line drive percentage is below average and his infield flyball percentage is above average. I'm guessing it's because of those bad swings on balls outside the zone.

As for pitches/plate appearance, Feliz sees a very low 3.18, which is the worst among qualified 3B in the NL. This help explains the low number of strikeouts. Of course, Chipper Jones sees only 3.21 P/PA, and he's batting .417 with a 1.155 OPS, so I don't know how to figure that one out.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Farewell to the House

For the first time in my lifetime, the Tigers swept a 3-game series in Yankee Stadium. The last time Detroit took 3 in the Bronx was at the start of the 1966 season, and my place on earth wasn't secured until the fall. Unless the teams meet in the playoffs, it will be the Tigs final trip to Yankee Stadium.

Detroit has won 8 of 10. The Tigers are 14-2 when scoring 5 or more runs; 0-13 when scoring 4 or less.
Miguel Cabrera has hit in 17 of 18 and is slugging .647 during that time. He has 5 HR and 20 RBI in those games. Ramon Santiago, in 24 AB, has 9 hits, 5 for extra bases including his first HR since 2003.
Armando Galarraga looks to win his 3rd consecutive game when Detroit visits Minnesota tonight. Galarraga could become the first Tigers rookie starter since Pat Underwood in 1979 to win his first three decisions.
The Tigers have received only 6 quality starts this season, but are 5-1 in those games. The bullpen has done well, and should be better with addition of Francisco Cruceta. The bullpen has allowed 19 of 53 inherited runners to score, which is a decent mark. The relievers have a 1.10 ERA over the last 13 games.
Detroit is batting .316/.404/.584 in wins and .219/.305/.299 in losses.
Brandon Inge and Santiago (primarily) have helped the Tigers post an .868 OPS in the No. 9 spot in the batting order. It's been the most productive spot outside of No. 4 (.921) and No. 5 (.901), which are occupied by Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Climbing up -- an April review

The Tigers finished April 13-15, which is about as good as one could've hoped after starting 0-7. The offense, which was horrendous to begin the campaign, now ranks No. 1 in the AL in OBP, at .355, and No. 1 in SLG, at .436. Depsite getting shutout 4 times, they lead the AL with 142 runs. They are 1st in walks with 122 and 7th in strikeouts with 167.

Detroit's pitching ranks 13th in the AL with a 4.88 ERA, but that's still a pretty good improvement on the 5+ ERA the staff posted early on. The Tigers have allowed more walks (129) than any AL team other than Texas (131). They are 10th in strikeouts with 157. Their OPS allowed is .736, which places them in the middle of the pack.

(As a side note, I noticed Texas' OPS allowed is a mind-boggling .838, which happens to be Alex Rodriguez's OPS this season. So the Rangers, on average, turn teams into A-Rod.)

Detroit's DER is .716, which is above the average of .699 and another big improvement over the early part of the season. Moving Miguel Cabrera to 1B and getting back Curtis Granderson in CF helped, no doubt.