Friday, August 28, 2009

The return of Nate

Nate Robertson will return to the Tigers' starting rotation on Saturday after 5 games at Triple-A Toledo where he posted a 1.89 ERA and had a K/BB rate of 21/4 in 19 IP. What a boost an even mediocre (not great) Nate could be.

Detroit hosts TB this weekend. The Tigers are 5 games ahead in the loss column of Chicago and Minny. It would be terrific if the Tigs could take 2 of 3, especially being at home. And the White Sox are playing in the Bronx and the Twins are hosting the Rangers. It could be a chance to open more ground.

This will never happen

But it would be fun to see Jamie Moyer striding in from the pen to close. After the performances of Lidge and Madson, why not? I know conventional wisdom says Moyer's slop cannot be closer stuff. Yet here is something to consider: Moyer was at his best this season on pitches 1-25, when batters went .240/.310/.403 against him.

Here is something else I noticed about Moyer, which would not bode well for him as a closer. Last season, he allowed an OPS of .549 when he had two strikes on a batter. That was dead-on league average. Also, he was super when he was at 0-2, yielding a .342 OPS, which was 27% better than league average.

This year, Moyer is allowing an OPS of .725 when he has two strikes, which is 65% worse than league average. When the count is 0-2, batters are smacking to the tune of a .598 OPS, which is 115% worse than league average.

Again, that's .549/.725 with two strikes and .342/.598 when 0-2. If Moyer cannot trick batters with two strikes, he is in trouble.

Monday, August 24, 2009

C.C. rider

Remember the splash C.C. Sabathia made last year with the Brewers when he was traded from the Indians. Well, as great as Sabathia pitched, he had nothing on Cliff Lee -- at least through their first 5 appearances in the NL.

Sabathia went 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA. He pitched 39.2 innings, allowing 29 hits while walking 10 and striking out 34. Foes had a .559 OPS. He threw 3 complete games including a shutout.

Lee is 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA. He has pitched 40 innings, allowing 24 hits while walking 6 and striking out 39. Foes have a .443 OPS. He has thrown 2 complete games and gave up no earned runs in one.

That sound you just heard was Indians' fans knocking their heads against the wall.

Sabathia made 12 more starts for Milwaukee and went 7-2 with a 1.58 ERA, so Lee still has his work cut out for him if he wants to better Sabathia the rest of the way. But it is an amazing beginning for Lee.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Needing some O

The Tigers added O to their lineup today in the former of acquiring Aubrey Huff from the Orioles. At least that's the hope. Huff has decent numbers, but not up to his usual standards. In that regard, he will fit in nicely in Detroit.

Detroit holds a 3-game lead in the loss column in the AL Central. The formula has been pretty consistent this year -- get good pitching, win; don't get good pitching, lose. The Tigers are 44-7 when allowing 3 runs or fewer. They are 18-48 the rest of the time.

Offensively, Detroit has been shut out only 3 times, but has scored between 2-5 runs in 81 of 117 games. That's 69 percent. They are 32-49 when scoring between 2-5 runs, which thanks to the pitching, isn't bad. They exceed the MLB win percentages for games in which they score 2, 3 and 4 runs. They are below average when scoring 5.

The Tigers are 11-3 when scoring 4 runs, which is a .786 win clip. The MLB average is .517.

Detroit is 11th in the AL in OPS and 11th in BB/K ratio. The Tigers are 2nd in swinging at the highest percentage of pitches in the strike zone, but that could be in part because they are 4th in highest percentage of swings. They are 11th in percentage of making contact on balls in the strike zone and 10th in overall contact.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Smoltz to Detroit?

Way back in 1987, the Tigers traded 20-year-old prospect John Smoltz to the Atlanta Braves for Doyle Alexander. It is one of the most rehashed trades of all time, thanks to what Smoltz became. But Alexander went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA for Detroit and helped the Tigs win the division.

Smoltz was designated for assignment by the Red Sox and I'm not alone in wondering whether he might now finally pitch for the Tigers. He is a Michigan native and it would be pretty wild if he joined the squad and helped them win the division this season.

In Boston, Smoltz posted an 8.33 ERA in 8 starts. According to, his K/9 was 7.43 and BB/9 was 2.03. Those aren't terrible numbers. His BABIP was a ridiculous .390 and his LOB percentage an equally absurd 57 percent. His line drive percentage was 18, so he's not getting raked. Something doesn't compute.

His fastball is averaging 91.3 mph, which isn't bad either. The speed of his slider is down by about 2 mph, so I wonder if that's the trouble? Batters are making contact on 63 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, so could one guess the slider is no longer a swing-and-a-miss?

Still, given the Tigers need for pitching, it is intriguing.

Cole gets coal in 2009 stocking

In sabermetrics, it is argued that the “three true outcomes,” which are walks, strikeouts and homers, can provide a better window into a pitcher’s future performance than wins, losses and ERA. If that is true, it is worth taking a look at Cole Hamels using this method.

Getting stats from, Hamels has faced 542 batters so far this season. He has a 4.77 ERA. Last year, after facing 530 batters (the nearest comparison I could easily calculate), Hamels had a 3.18 ERA.

In 2008, Hamels had 118 K, 33 BB and 17 HR through 530 batters. This season, he has 111 K, 27 BB and 20 HR.

To take it another step, in 2007 Hamels had a 3.69 ERA after facing 543 batters. He had 129 K, 32 BB and 21 HR.

Those numbers aren’t dramatically different, but the results this year have been. That would point toward Hamels being a victim of some bad luck.

In 2007, foes were hitting .251 against Hamels while in 2008 it was .204. This year, it is .283. His line drive percentage for 2007 was 16, in 2008 it was 20 and in 2009 it is 19. So Hamels probably had a little bit of good luck last year in keeping the BA against low, but the 19 percent this season is not bad by comparison.

Hamels’ BABIP this season is .331. It was .270 for all of last year and it was .289 for all of 2007.

Bad luck might not explain all of Hamels’ woes this season. Obviously, other factors can contribute to batters getting more hits. But given that his three true outcomes mirror the past two seasons, bad luck might be part of it.