Tuesday, September 14, 2010

From the depths

The Baltimore Orioles are 56-88 on the season and no longer the worst team in the AL.

That honor, for now, belongs to the Seattle Mariners whose record stands at 55-89.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Movin on up

The Baltimore Orioles are 40-74. The Pittsburgh Pirates are 39-74.

So, at least for awhile, the O's are not the worst team in baseball.
In Luke Scott's last 67 games he is hitting .320 with 19 HR and 45 RBI. Scott has always been a feast or famine streak hitter, however, 67 games is by far the longest hot streak he's ever had.

This is Scott's 6th ML campaign.

Has he matured into a dangerous hitter? Should the O's plan on having Scott in the middle of the lineup in 2011? or is this just a long hot streak and the O's should trade him this winter at his peak value?

Respond to a poll here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What's happening?

The Baltimore Orioles are 6-1 under new skipper Buck Showalter, having completed a 7 game homestand hosting the Angels and White Sox. It is only their 3rd winning homestand of the season and the only one where they played well in each game. Now they get their first road trip under Showalter as they head to Cleveland for 3 and Tampa Bay for 3 more.

The O's record is 38-74 on the season, the worst in ML baseball. 24-34 at home and 14-40 on the road, both worsts in the AL. However, they are 10-3 in extra inning contests and 21-16 in one run games.

So can they actually play ball and just haven't? Has the arrival of Buck Showalter at the helm flipped some "play good" switch? Has the coincidental return of Brian Roberts to the lineup been the catalyst? The departure of Miguel Tejada?

The Orioles are 6-1 under Buck Showalter. In those 7 games, the O's have pitched, fielded and hit well.

I don't know what the hell is going on.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Nick Markakis and George Brett?

Mike Flanagan, Orioles talking head, compared Nick Markakis to Hall of Famer George Brett based on both players' habit of hustling on routine outs.

My initial reaction was that would be the only comparison.

I checked anyway:

Through 731 Games:



Tuesday, July 06, 2010


In yesterdays 12-9 loss to the Tigers, O's ace Kevin Millwood threw 45 pitches, 27 of them balls, surrendering 4 hits, 2 walks and 5 earned runs and was relieved after recording 3 outs.

In yesterdays 3-1 victory over the Braves, Phillies ace Roy Halladay threw 93 pitches, 25 of them balls in a complete game victory. Halladay recorded more outs than pitches out of the strike zone.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gone again

On the night the Tigers won in Minnesota to take over first place, Joel Zumaya was lost for the season. Casey Fien rejoins the club.

Zumaya's star-crossed career started in 2006, when he was a key component in the Tigers reaching the World Series (6-3, 1.94 ERA). After three seasons in which he was limited to a total of 88 IP, he was seemingly back to the old Zumaya this year. His 38 IP were his most since 2006 and he was 2-1 with a 2.58 ERA.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Boesch spice

I have to admit, I keep waiting for Brennan Boesch to return to earth. But with each passing day, I wonder if he will. Boesch did go 0-for-3 last night, but reached base via walk. In 49 career games, he's gone hitless in 13. He's walked in 6 of those hitless games, so he's been off base just 7 times so far. He's got a 4-hit game, two 3-hit games, and 21 total multi-hit games.

Boesch went 2-for-4 in his debut April 23. Two days later, he went 0-for-4 and saw his average drop to .250. In his next appearance, he got two hits to push the average up to .313. Since then, there have been only 4 days in which his average dipped below .300, and it's not been below .318 since May 9.

In 66 PAs in Triple-A this year, Boesch batted .379/.455/.621. In 2009, in 571 PAs in Double-A, he batted .275/.318/.510. Maybe his maturation as a hitter will mean his performance so for in Detroit isn't a fluke.

Of course, he will not sustain his current .337/.389/.624 pace. His balls-in-play average is .373, which is high considering a 15% line-drive rate. His 19% rate of HR on flyballs is a little high, but given he's 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, it might be about what to expect. He can mash.

And he will take his hacks. Boesch swings at 59% of pitches, which is 14% more than average. He swings at 45% of pitches out of the strike zone (28% is average) but swings and misses just 11% of the time (8% is average). He's been destroying fastballs and crushing sliders and curves. Across the big leagues, only Robinson Cano is handling those 3 pitches with the type of success Boesch is enjoying.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Moyer's Hall pass?

There is growing talk about Jamie Moyer and the Hall of Fame. I think what Moyer is doing at his age is remarkable, but I'm not sure, even with his 266-and-counting wins, that he is Hall worthy. Moyer is only 65 games above .500 lifetime and his 162-game average for his career is 14-10 with a 4.22 ERA. His ERA has topped 5 seven times in his career.

Looking at ERA+ as a gauge, Moyer is at 105 for his career, which is just above average. His best mark was 132, which is not even among the top 500 seasons in history. He's had 12 seasons with an ERA+ above 100 and 12 seasons (including this year) below 100. The only categories in which he's ever been a league-leader is earned runs allowed (114 in 1987) and HRs (44 in 2004). He never won a Cy Young Award, finishing as high as fourth once and fifth once.

One the plus side, Moyer is one of only a handful of active pitchers with multiple 20-win seasons (two). From 1997-2003, he was very good, going 113-53 with a 3.75 ERA (and ERA+ of 120). If he gets Hall consideration, it's as a lifetime achievement award.

Going back to ERA+, Bert Blyleven had six seasons better than Moyer's best and 17 seasons of 107 or better. Curt Schilling had 14 seasons of 119 or better and 5 seasons of 150 or better. Jack Morris is among the most comparable to Moyer. Morris also has a career mark of 105, a career best of 133 and 11 seasons of 100 or better.

A career ERA+ of 105 puts Moyer in a tie for 475th place in history. He is tied for 32nd place among active pitchers.

Monday, June 21, 2010


The Baltimore Orioles are 4-11 since the firing of Dave Trembley as manager and 19-50 overall. They are on pace to win 44 games this season, which would prevent them from being the worst team in Major League history (in the modern era).

But, they have to stay hot.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Joe Blah-ton

Joe Blanton is 1-5 with a 7.28 ERA in 8 starts this year. Without looking at stats, I thought it would be a poor first-pitch strike percentage that was Joe's undoing. I was wrong. Joe's at 61%, which is better than league average and the best mark of his career.

Blanton struck out 7.5/9 IP last year. This season, he's at 5/9 IP, which is around his norm for every year other than 2009. His walk rate is down from 2.7 to 2.1/9 IP comparing last year to this season.

The line drive rate for Blanton is 15% so his .332 BABIP is high. His flyball rate is up, which has led to an increase in homers. He is stranding 59% of baserunners, which is down from 79% last year and well below his norm of around 68% in all other years.

It seems many things might have gone right for Blanton in 2009 and nothing is going right this year. Here is what I believe can explain part of the trouble:

Blanton's getting a career-best 32% swing rate at pitches outside the strike zone. However, batters are making contact on 78% of swings at pitches outside the zone -- which is 11% higher than average. These swings are resulting in lucky hits, as evidenced by his .332 BABIP, and also reducing his chances for strikeouts.

Last year, batters made contact on only 59% of swings at pitches outside the strike zone.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Justin time

Maybe the Tigers need to convince Justin Verlander that the season begins on April 27.

Since April 27, Verlander is 6-3 with a 2.39 ERA. He's got 55 K in 64 IP and foes are batting a paltry .179/.253/.262 (.515 OPS). In his first 4 starts of the season, Verlander was 1-1 with a 6.95 ERA. Opponents had an .809 OPS.

Last year, Verlander was 0-2 with an ERA of 9.00 and OPS allowed of .909 in his first four starts. Then -- beginning again on April 27 -- went 19-7 with a 2.92 ERA and .637 OPS the rest of the season.

In his career, Verlander is 7-11 with a 5.06 ERA in March/April. He has a winning record in all other months.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bottoms up

Carlos Guillen returned to Detroit's lineup on May 28 and since then the Tigers have batted .271/.328/.444 and averaged 4.1 runs. When Guillen was out of the lineup, Detroit batted .265/.329/.411 and averaged 4.5 runs in 30 games.

This might not seem a big difference, but the Tigers' offense is better. First, some of the work done since Guillen returned was done without Magglio Ordonez in the lineup and with Austin Jackson struggling at the top.

Guillen's return and move to second base allowed the Tigers to replace a struggling bat in Scott Sizemore and drop Brandon Inge from the No. 6 spot to No. 7. Brennan Boesch's hitting has been a plus as well as the fact Detroit released Adam Everett and started giving more time to Alex Avila at catcher over Gerald Laird. Avila has started to hit and the bottom of the order, which was a black hole, has turned more of a shade of gray.

Inge is batting .357/.390/.464 since Guillen's return. Avila is hitting .370/.433/.481. Boesch, who was hitting well in Guillen's absence, has gone .340/.431/.660 with Guillen hitting behind him. His OBP was .358 and his slugging was .608 without Guillen.

Hopefully, Guillen stays healthy and we can see if these numbers are a trend rather than simply a blip of good hitting.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Alexander the (briefly) great

A while back I saw a note that Austin Jackson was only the second Tiger in history to collect at least one hit in 36 of his first 43 career games. The other was Dale (Moose) Alexander in 1929. Who was Alexander, I wondered. A briefly incredible and yet now-forgotten player, it turned out.

Alexander, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound first baseman, was considered by some as a right-handed hitting Babe Ruth. He led the AL with 215 hits in 1929 as a rookie, batting .343-25-137. His 137 RBI were a rookie record at the time. Baseball Digest in 1975 named Alexander the all-time rookie first baseman. Alexander led the AL in hitting (.367) in 1932 and finished his brief 5-year career with a .331 BA. His lifetime OPS was .891 and his career OPS+ was 128.

His career was cut short by a leg injury made worse by some kind of heat therapy gone awry.

Monday, June 07, 2010

I've Got Nothing Else

The Orioles defeated the Red Sox by a score of 4-3 yesterday. The O's now stand at 5-4 on the season versus the Red Sox.

Julio Lugo, however, was in the starting lineup.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Perfectly memorable

As disappointed as I was by Armando Galarraga being robbed of a perfect game, it has turned out to be something not likely to be forgotten. Galarraga will probably be more highly regarded and remembered for his handling of the situation than if he'd actually gotten the perfecto. That might not be any consolation for Galarraga, but maybe it is. All I know is we gained a lot of respect and admiration for Galarraga the man rather than simply Galarraga the pitcher. Jim Leyland is pretty cool, too.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Perfectly bad

I've never seen a 28-batter perfect game. Until tonight. Oh, Armando you deserved so much better.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Masterson of his own domain

Cleveland's Justin Masterson might be a great candidate for a bounce back on the pitching side. Masterson is 0-5 with a 5.87 ERA, but those numbers don't reflect his performance. Masterson is striking out 9.06 per 9 innings (MLB average is 7.07) and has a 62% groundball rate (which is around his career norm).

Given his GB rate, it seems he is the victim of bad luck as his BABIP is .404. His walk rate (4.53 per 9 IP) is a little high, but a 2-to-1 K/BB rate with that GB rate should produce much better results. His GB rate is second best in the bigs and his K/9 rate is 11th. His BABIP is the worst. Of the top 21 in K/9 rate, Masterson is one of only 3 who is stranding fewer than 74% of baserunners, and Masterson's mark is 64.

I wonder if Cleveland's coaches will try to "fix" Masterson because of his ERA. Really, there seems to be nothing to fix other than his luck.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Phils Phlop

If not for Roy Halladay's perfecto, the past week or so would be stinko. The Phils got shut out again today -- the fifth time since beating Boston 5-1 on May 21. That's a span of 8 games. They scored 1 or fewer runs in 8 of their last 12 (and their 1 run last night was unearned). Heading into today, Philly batted .201/.279/.289 in its previous 11 games. They stranded 78 runners.

Slumps are not new for the Phils, but this is breaking new ground. The problems are numerous, but here's what stand out to me.

First, the bench is no good. The OPS+ ratings for the subs are: Ross Gload 73, Wilson Valdez 72, Juan Castro 64, Ben Francisco 51, Greg Dobbs 24 and Brian Schneider 8. With injuries to Jimmy Rollins (OPS+ 187), Carlos Ruiz and Placido Polanco, these players have been called into action too frequently.

Shane Victorino, aside from a 15-game streak in which he got 5 of his 8 HR and 17 of his 33 RBI, has not be productive, batting .257 with a .314 OBP. Entering today, he batted .190 in his previous 11 games with 1 run and 1 RBI. His OPS+ for the season is 101.

Jayson Werth has slumped (but still has an OPS+ of 152), Raul Ibanez has been inconsistent (OPS+ 98) and Ryan Howard's OPS+ is 111 (career 140).

Given the weakness of the bench, the Phils need their boppers bopping. Or Halladay to be perfect.

D-Train D-smissed

Dontrelle Willis' rocky career with the Tigers appears to be over.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

High 5

The Tigers are 7-2 when scoring 5 runs and 12-0 when scoring more than 5 runs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Turnarounds revisited

On April 29, I listed several players that might be due for offensive turnarounds based on their high line-drive percentages and low BABIPs. Here is a then-and-now comparison.

Travis Snider (aka The Amazing Sniderman) was a turnaround player prior to landing on the DL. On April 28 he was batting .125-2-4 in 75 PAs. His OPS was .503. Since then, he batted .385-4-11 in 55 PAs. His OPS was 1.187.

A.J. Pierzynski was batting .167-0-3 in 66 PAs. His OPS was .431. Since then, he's batted .254-2-10 in 75 PAs. His OPS was .716. His OPS the past three years was .732, so he's approached his norm.

Nick Johnson gets an incomplete after landing on the DL, although his OPS went from .617 to .963 in the six games he played prior to getting hurt after April 28.

Jhonny Peralta was .190-1-6 in 79 PAs. His OPS was .631. Since, he's .272-2-12 in 88 PAs. His OPS was .799 (.756 average the last three years).

Jeff Clement saw his playing time cut and also saw his OPS drop in limited action since April 28.

Finally, Luke Scott was .213-2-7 in 68 PAs. His OPS was .688. Since then, he's gone .324-7-13 in 77 PAs. His OPS was 1.039.

So, overall, improvement was evident.

As a related aside, I noted on May 4 that Austin Jackson's numbers were ridiculous. In 63 PAs since, he's batted .259 with a .628 OPS.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Don't think, Meat

OK, I've given up trying to figure out this Tigers team. Logic is suspended. I'm just going to enjoy the ride for as long as it goes. How can anyone figure this team? On Saturday night I was convinced they were going to lose, trailing Boston by 6-1, and give back all the momentum they gained from taking 3 of 4 from the Yankees. Instead, Detroit rallied for a 7-6 win in 12 innings and won again on Sunday to make it 5 of 7 against NY and the Sox.

The Tigers won Saturday despite allowing a dozen walks and striking out 15 times. Go figure. It was the fourth time Detroit rallied from a five-run deficit to win. Entering tonight, I believe the rest of MLB combined to do it three times.

According to the Detroit press notes, the Tigs are the first team to win four consecutive home series against teams that made the playoffs the previous year since MLB added the wild card in 1995. The Tigers are coming off home series wins over the Twins, Angels, Yanks and Red Sox.

The Tigers have had five position players (Austin Jackson, Scott Sizemore, Brennan Boesch, Casper Wells and Danny Worth) make their major league debuts this year, marking the first time since 1922 this has occurred for Detroit in the team's first 38 or fewer games. Boesch is the first Tigers player since at least 1920 to have at least one RBI in 12 of his first 19 career games.

Carlos Guillen, Zach Miner and Bobby Seay have all been hurt. Sizemore and Max Scherzer have been sent to the minors. The starting pitching has been generally lackluster. Only five hitters (Jackson, Johnny Damon, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Boesch) have hit consistently. The defense has been below expectations. None of it has seemed to matter.

One has to believe this will catch up with the Tigers at some point. Detroit is 22-16. Maybe it's Motown Magic. Who knows? I'm done thinking.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Balancing act

Detroit is 20-15 after a great series against the Yanks in which the Tigs took 3 of 4. The starting pitching, for the first time this season, was solid. For the first time this season, the starters put together three consecutive Game Scores above 60 -- Rick Porcello 68, Jeremy Bonderman 65 and Justin Verlander 66. Even though the Tigers lost Bonderman's start, it was encouraging.

This year, though, has been fairly uneven for Detroit regardless of the starting pitching. The Tigers are 11-7 in games in which the starters have a Game Score of 50 or better; they are 9-8 in games in which the starters are 49 or worse.

Detroit is 14-2 when scoring 6 or more runs and 10-12 when allowing 4 or more.

The Tigers have outscored their opponents by a total of only 4 runs for the year. They are averaging 4.63 runs per game, which is just better than the AL average and ranks No. 7 in the league. They are second in BA (.274), third in OBP (.351) and fifth in slugging (.424). They are fourth in OPS, but are scoring 0.34 to 0.96 fewer runs per game than the three teams ahead of them.

This is because the bottom third of the lineup has been mostly a disaster. Scott Sizemore, Gerald Laird and Adam Everett have OPS+ of 64, 52 and 24, respectively. 24!

The AL average OPS for hitters 7-9 is .676. Sizemore is at .602 to lead the bottom third of Detroit's lineup. They've managed to hit 2 HR and drive in 14 runs. They've scored 20 runs.

It's rather remarkable the Tigers are 20-15 with this mish-mash of production. Of course, most of the credit goes to the bullpen, which leads the AL in wins (10), ERA (2.56) and IP (116). The last number is a concern, but hopefully the starters can continue their recent success this weekend against Boston.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Since a miserable 2-16 start to the 2010 campaign, the O's have gone 8-8 in their last 16 games. These against Boston (4-0), New York (1-5), Minnesota (2-2) and Seattle (1-1).

The biggest difference has been the back end of the bullpen. Alfredo Simon was converted from starter to bullpen for 1 week while still at AAA Norfolk, then promoted and plugged into the O's bullpen as closer. He's got 4 Saves and 1 Hold in 5 Appearances.

Koji Uehara was activated from the DL and has 3 Holds in 3 Appearances.

Will Ohman has taken over the 7th inning role and has yet to allow a Run in 11 IP.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Didn't See That Coming

The O's defeated the 1st place Twins 2-0 in Minnesota last night. Brad Bergeson tossed 6 2/3 and Will Ohman, Koji Uehara and Alfredo Simon retired the final 7 in order to preserve the shutout.

More please.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Off and on

The Tigers finally get a day off, and they apparently needed it after being swept in 3 by the Twins. This after a 5-game win streak that included a sweep of the Halos. So Detroit finished its 20-game stretch (with no off days and a West Coast swing) with a 10-10 record.

Detroit is 16-13 at this point, which is terrific given the state of the starting pitching. Dontrelle Willis -- yes, the D-Train -- leads the starters with a 3.99 ERA. Rick Porcello (ERA+ 57), Max Scherzer (67), Jeremy Bonderman (75) and Justin Verlander (96) have been below league average. Porcello and Scherzer have been ridiculously hittable, both allowing OPS around .925, but might be victims of some bad luck with BABIPs of .398 and .340, respectively.

The Tigers' starters rank worst in the AL in quality starts, Game Score and innings per start.

Detroit is 8-7 when allowing 4 to 8 runs. The MLB win percentage is .318 when allowing 4 to 8 runs. The Tigers are 11-2 when scoring 5 or more runs (and 8-0 when scoring 6 or more).

The Tigers' .794 OPS is fourth best in the AL, even with Gerald Laird (whose .486 OPS is nearly identical to Justin Morneau's on-base percentage). Detroit's .326 BABIP, probably distorted a bit because of Austin Jackson's insane number, is the best in the AL.

It would seem the Tigers' bats would be in danger of cooling at some point. It also would seem likely (hopefully) the starting pitching improves. If those two things happen, chances are that Detroit is pretty much, record wise, what they are right now.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

All-time Tiger

Ridiculous, thy name is Austin Jackson

We were right, Austin Jackson could not continue with a .491 BABIP.

He's now at .532. That's nearly a hundred points higher than No. 2 David Freese.

In 26 games, the rookie has 43 hits and is batting .377/.427/.526. He's got 8 doubles, 3 triples and a homer. He's got 22 runs. He has 8 multi-hit games in his last 10, including a 5-for-5 and two 3-hit days. He's 22 for his last 44 and has an OPS of 1.236 during that span.

How long can this keep going on?

No doubt at this point in the year, Detroit is loving Jackson and Phil Coke, who came from the Yankees in the Curtis Granderson-Edwin Jackson deal that included Arizona.

Coke is merely 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 13 games out of the pen.

Howard's deal

There's been much talk over the past week about Ryan Howard's contract extension. Only time will tell if it was a good or bad deal. Howard fans point to his HR and RBI totals as proof he's a great player worthy of his contract. No doubt, Howard is a terrific power hitter, particularly against RHP, which he kills.

But he is fairly one dimensional now, with nearly all his value tied to the long ball. If that skill erodes prior to the age 35, as has been the case with sluggers of Howard's type, the Phils will be in trouble.

I'm not going to suggest Howard is not a worthwhile player. But basing value on HR and RBI alone can be misleading.

Consider this player: He led the league in RBIs only once in his career and had seasons in his prime in which he drove in "only" 83, 106, 110, 90, 101 runs. He never surpassed 137. Hard to say, though, that the player -- Barry Bonds -- wasn't the most feared or best hitting in the game during that time.

There's also been a lot of comparisons drawn between Howard and Pujols. Last year, Howard hit 45 HR and had 141 RBI. Pujols hit 47 HR and had 135 RBI.

Pujols had 10 whiffs and 5 GDP with RISP. Howard had 63 Ks and 6 GDP. Pujols had 189 PAs with RISP and drove in 83 runs. He batted .405 with men on 1st and 2nd, .571 with men on 2nd and 3rd (with 10 IBB in 20 PAs) and .588 with the bases loaded. He drove in 105 runs in 346 PAs with men on base (and totaled 82 BB, with 43 IBB and 6 HBP).

Howard had 216 PAs with RISP and drove in 96 runs. He batted .259 with men on 1st and 2nd, .364 with men on 2nd and 3rd (with 1 IBB in 15 PAs) and .278 with the bases loaded. He drove in 120 runs in 354 PAs with men on base (and totaled 43 BB, with 8 IBB and 4 HBP).

If you subtract BBs and HBP from their PAs with RISP, Pujols collected .654 RBI/PA while Howard was .527 RBI/PA. Prince Fielder, for the record, was at .578 RBI/PA.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Smug Satisfaction

Baltimore swept a 3 game series from Boston over the weekend. It is the first O's series sweep of Boston in Baltimore since 1974.

And with Julio Lugo sitting on the Orioles bench:-)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Due for turnarounds?

Players with BABIPs below .240, but line drive rates above 20%:

Travis Snider .133/23.4
A.J. Pierzynski .182/24.1
Nick Johnson .200/25.0
Jhonny Peralta .220/23.5
Jeff Clement .225/20.9
Luke Scott .239/20.8

All Time Firsts, Again

Cla Meredith and Alfredo Simon recorded their first career Major League saves in back to back games this past Sunday and Tuesday, respectively.

The last time two Orioles recorded their first career saves in back to back games was May 7th and 8th, 1977 by Mike Flanagan and Scott McGregor.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Some numbers on the O's:

Baltimore has scored 3 or fewer runs 13 times this season. The Orioles have allowed 3 or fewer runs 3 times. (In fact, they've allowed 3 runs 3 times and not had a game in which they allowed 0, 1 or 2).

The O's have allowed an average of 1.03 runs in the 9th. They've allowed 0.65 runs in the 8th.

According to baseball-reference.com, the MLB average for runs allowed in the 9th is 0.49. For the 8th, it's 0.48.

Baltimore has lost 4 games in which it led or was tied going into the 9th. The MLB win percentage when ahead entering the 9th is .931.

Jackson hole

Austin Jackson is off to a solid start for the Tigers. He is batting .314/.379/.453 and his .832 OPS is 24% better than average. He has 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 SB and 14 R in 20 games. He also is playing well defensively in center field.

Now, the trouble spot. His BABIP is a league-high .491. Franklin Gutierrez is second at .422. It is obvious Jackson cannot sustain this type of success. And he needs to sustain it because he also has a league-high 32 whiffs (in just 95 PAs). More than half his outs are Ks.

Once those balls stop dropping for hits, this low contact rate will severely impact his stats. Consider this: The BABIP leaders from Gutierrez through No. 10 Joe Mauer (covering a range of .422 to .373) all have batting averages between .320 and .389. In the case of Mauer, as an example, Jackson is batting more than a hundred points higher in BABIP yet batting 42 points lower in actual average.

Jackson's BABIP is not completely fluky, though. His line drive percentage is nearly 35, which is third-highest in MLB. And his K% is actually only fourth-worst in MLB (and a tick better than all-world Jason Heyward).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

AL Beast?

The Baltimore Orioles have twice as many victories over AL East opponents as they do over the rest of the AL.

No holidays for Halliday

Roy Halliday got beat last night by the Giants. Heard some concern about his workload thus far, with two complete games and his MLB-leading 40 IP in 5 starts. So I looked back to see if this alone was cause for pause.

Last year, Halliday threw 36 innings in his first 5 starts, so he's not far off that mark. In 2008, Halliday really hit the ground running. He had 41 IP in 5 starts and tossed 4 CGs in his first 6 outings of the campaign. In 2007, he had 2 CGs in April and went 10 innings in his third start of the year. He threw 38.1 IP in his first 5 starts.

Even his 5 ER last night in SF should not be viewed as trouble. Halliday gave up 5 ERs twice in his first 4 starts in 2009.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Verlander's pitch counts

Justin Verlander threw 125 pitches last night to get through 5 innings. He's pitched more than 5 innings in only one of four starts this season. And his pitch count seems something of a mystery.

Here are the facts:

Verlander is tied with Rich Harden for the lead among qualified AL pitchers with 4.36 pitches per plate appearance. Yet Verlander's strike percentage (69%) is No. 2 in the AL behind only Scott Baker, who goes 3.71 pitches per plate appearance. In fact, among the top 19 pitchers in the category, Verlander is the only one averaging more than 4 pitches/PA.

First-strike percentage? Verlander (67%) is No. 3 in the AL. Among the top 21 in that category, Verlander is one of two pitchers to average more than 4.01 pitches/PA.

Verlander is tied for No. 2 in percentage of pitches swung at (50%). He is tied for 29th in contact percentage (82%). He is 33rd in swinging strikes (13%).

Yet, Verlander's BB/9 is the second worst of his career so far this season (3.68). The only other time his BB/9 was over 3 for a season was 2008 when he was 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA. Otherwise, he's 54-24 with a 3.57 ERA.

Also, Verlander has gone 0-2 on 34 of 95 PAs. That's 36% while the AL average is 22. He's thrown 23 strikes on 0-2, but has only 5 three-pitch Ks. He's given up two hits on 0-2.

I have to contemplate what these numbers mean. I guess batters simply are waiting out Verlander.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

They might be Giants

Or they might not be.

While perusing the press notes available for each team on MLB.com, I came across a few interesting tidbits on the SF Giants.

* The Giants have spent 16 days in first place this season. Over the previous three years, they spent a total of 3 days.

* On Tuesday, San Fran lost for the first time in 24 games (since 1958) when limiting an opponent to 1 hit.

* Since 1900, the Giants have lost three games in which they limited their foe to 1 hit. The first was in 1906 and the second was in 1917.

* The Giants lost three consecutive games (April 18-20) in which they didn't allow a hit with runners in scoring position. San Fran went 1-for-25 with RISP and lost 2-1, 3-2 and 1-0.


All of the teams in the NL East are above .500. Oh, wait. I mean all but one.


The O's get a much needed day off today (needed for me, anyway) before starting Boston's turnaround tomorrow in Fenway Park.

While the pitching is much improved over last year, the snakebitten O's have 4 blown saves, the closer they traded for in the offseason is on the DL and their best pitcher from 2009 has been demoted to AAA Norfolk.

The defense started well, committing one error in the first 7 games, however, they've committed 9 more in the last 9 games.

The offense is horrible. With no sign of improvement. Leadoff hitter Brian Roberts is on the DL. Felix Pie replaced Roberts at the top of the lineup and hit .400 til he went on the DL. No one is hitting. No one advances runners. No one can bunt. No one takes pitches. Everyone makes outs. Quickly. The O's offense is painful to watch, but at least it's over quickly.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Momentum is the next day's starting pitcher

More fun with Game Scores!

The three AL teams with Game Score averages of 55 or better are Tampa Bay, Toronto and NY. They are a combined 29-13 (.690).

Of the nine teams with Game Score averages of 50 or better, seven have winning records. The nine teams are a combined 75-52 (.591).

Of the five teams with Game Score averages of 49 or worse, none have winning records. (The Tigers are .500.) The five teams are a combined 24-47 (.338).


Ryan Madson blew another save last night. He is now in his career 4-8 with 18 saves (in 38 save opps) and a 4.51 ERA in save situations and 25-13 with a 2.66 ERA in non-save spots.

His BABIP in save/non-save situations is .324/.289 and he has allowed 17 HR in 141.2 save situation innings and 22 HR in 290.2 non-save situation innings. He has a 4.55 ERA in the 9th inning and his OPS+ in the 9th is 13% worse than average. His OPS+ in the 8th is 19% better than average. His K/BB ratio in the 9th is 2.60 and in the 8th is 3.33.

The fact he seems more hittable in save situations/9th innings leads one to believe it's a matter of his approach in those situations. According to Fangraphs data, Madson gets a much higher percentage of swings at pitches outside the strike zone than average and gets more swings and misses than average. He also gets more swings at pitches inside the strike zone and tends to throw a higher percentage of pitches in the strike zone than average. This might sound odd, but maybe he throws too many pitches for strikes? Or too many hittable pitches for strikes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Start and stop

The Tigers are now 7-6 and the bats have gone cold. This is not good news for the starting pitching. Last night, Dontrelle Willis had a good outing, but lost 2-0. Of course, the bats bailed out the pitchers during the first week of the season, so it evens out I suppose.

Detroit's starters have put together three decent starts in a row for the first time this season, which is good. But they haven't been great starts. So far in 13 games, the starters have posted a Game Score of 60+ just twice. Six starts have been below 45. Remarkably, the Tigs are 3-3 in those six outings, but it's unlikely you can play .500 ball that way over time.

Also, the Tigers' starters have pitched only 62 percent of the staff's total innings. Oakland, which leads the AL in ERA, has got 67 percent from its starters. Texas, which is second in ERA, has gotten 66 percent. Tampa Bay, which is third in ERA, is at 69 percent.

The Tigers' 5.5 IP per start is the lowest in the AL. They are second to Boston for fewest quality starts and tied with Baltimore for second-worst Game Score average, again behind Boston.

Oh no-no!

I had to travel to Atlanta for business last weekend. I went to the Rockies-Braves game Friday night, which Atlanta won 9-5 in a crisp 3 hours, 17 minutes before an announced crowd of 27,692. I had to work Saturday. So, I missed a no-hitter Saturday night despite being only 10 miles away from the stadium. At some point soon, though, I plan to put up a video of my tour around Turner Field. It's a nice ballpark. And not very crowded.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The game started when?

Baseball is a 9 inning game unless you're the Tigers. Then 5 is enough. Detroit has scored 37 runs from the 5th through 9th frames. That's an average of 4.62 runs an outing. That's higher than the AL average of 4.4 runs for an entire game, and better or equal to the output of nine other AL squads per entire contest. The 37 runs for the Tigs represent 80 percent of their total runs. Detroit's OPS for innings 7-9 is 1.063. The OPS vs. foes' relievers is 1.006.

This could mean several things: 1) The Tigers are not good against quality starting pitching; 2) The Tigers have a potent offense that can explode at any time; 3) The KC and Cleveland bullpens stink.

Chances are it is some combination of the above. The next several weeks will provide more answers, or more questions. Either way, we'll be watching.

Nostalgus Interruptis

My nephew took me to the O's game last night for Matt Wieters T-shirt night. Brian Matusz took the hill for Baltimore and for 7 1/3 innings he was masterful, twirling a 2 hitter (both were bunt singles), striking out 8 and generally mystifying Rays hitters.

I even went so far as to advise my nephew to appreciate the pitching performance he was witnessing and remarked on how I use to see this kind of thing twice a week back in the McGregor/Flanagan days.

But, with one out in the 8th, the Rays abruptly solved the rookie and strung together 4 consecutive hits, 3 of them on first pitches, plating one run and loading the bases. Two more hits off of Orioles relief pitching turned a 3-0 O's lead into a 5-3 deficit. The O's eventually lost 8-6 in 10 innings.

Oh well, at least I got to see Julio Lugo on the O's bench:-)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Swing batter

The Rangers lead the AL in swinging at pitches, offering at 48.5% while the Blue Jays are second at 46.9. Texas also leads in swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, at 30.5 percent. The Jays, by comparison, are at 27.1, which is 8th. The Yankees and Tigers have swung at the fewest pitches outside the strike zone. The Yankees and Tigers are 1st and 3rd, respectively, in contact percentage. The Rangers are worst.

The Yankees, Blue Jays and Tigers have the best walk rates. The Jays have the worst strikeout rate; the Rangers are sixth.

Texas is eighth in runs. The Tigers are second and Yankees are fourth. The Jays are fifth. The Blue Jays are doing it with power (1st in HR and ISO) while the Tigers are doing it by getting on base (1st in OBP).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Special start

The Tigers are off to their best start since 2006, when they went to the World Series. Even though it is very early, it's hard not to look at the first week and feel like this could be the start of a special season. Granted, Detroit went 5-1 against KC and Cleveland -- not the toughest competition around. But it's the way the Tigs have gone about their biz that gives one hope.

A look at some odds and ends.

Detroit has scored 35 runs this year, with 30 coming from the fifth inning on (and 20 from the seventh inning on). And this with Johnny Damon not hitting.

Magglio and Miguel are raking. The reborn M&M Boys.

The Tigers got good starts from Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman. Even two less-than-stellar starts from Justin Verlander resulted in victories, including yesterday's wild 9-8 triumph. The bullpen has been solid, posting a 2.35 ERA.

Detroit took advantage of errors and failures by their foes. Meanwhile, the Tigers turned 10 double plays and commited only two errors.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Walking away happy

Dontrelle Willis is unbeaten in games in which he walks the first batter on four pitches.

The Tigers salvaged a 2-1 start to the campaign in KC thanks to Johnny Damon beginning the eighth inning with a walk after he should've been called out on strikes, Magglio Ordonez reaching on an error and Miguel Cabrera going yard. Take what they give ya.

Detroit has scored 17 runs in 3 games. Only 1 of those runs crossed the plate prior to the sixth inning.

Orioles Go to the Matusz

The Orioles notched their first victory of the season by a score of 5-4 last night in Tampa Bay. Rookie Brian Matusz got the win in a 5 inning effort. Going back to last season, it is Matusz' 4th win in his last 4 starts.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Young, but old

According to STATS, the Tigers have MLB's youngest rotation: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Dontrelle Willis, Rick Porcello and Jeremy Bonderman. The average age is 25.6. In spite of the youthful appearance, the group has combined for 565 games in the bigs.

To the nines

Detroit tied last night's game against KC with Miguel Cabrera's HR in the top of the ninth, took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 11th and then lost 3-2. Last year, the Tigers won 6 games when they trailed entering the ninth inning and their .080 win percentage in those situations was nearly double the MLB average.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Blazing Burrell

Pat Burrell scored from second on a single to left last night. Not the type of thing you expect to see from a plodder like Burrell (who ran through the third-base coach's stop sign). It looked like Matt Wieters could have made a play, but was unable to corral the throw and make the tag. This is forgivable, figuring Wieters was either caught by surprise and/or laughing.

But it seems Burrell is more likely to gamble on the bases when he's on second. Last year, he went from second to home on singles 3 times in 9 chances (and was never thrown out). He went from first to third on singles just 4 times in 21 opportunities. In 2008, he scored from second on a single on 8 of 13 chances (never out again) while going first to third only 2 times in 23 chances.

So beware when Burrell is on second.


Chris Young pitched the Padres to victory last night while teammate Will Venable homered. Princeton boys. Go figure. Young was the first person to be named first-team All-Ivy League in both baseball and basketball. Venable was the second.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

HR in first AB

Jason Heyward homered in his first career AB yesterday for the Braves. A sure sign of greatness? Perhaps not. Of the 104 players to homer in their first trip to the plate, only Gary Gaetti and Carlos Lee hit more than 300 lifetime. Only four others -- Jermaine Dye, Will Clark, Tim Wallach and Earl Averill -- surpassed 200. Interestingly, 3 of the last 4 St. Louis Cardinals to do it were pitchers: Mark Worrell in 2008, Adam Wainwright in 2006 and Gene Stechschulte in 2001. Other pitchers I noticed on the list were Guillermo Mota, Dustin Hermanson, Dave Eiland, Jose Sosa, John Montefusco, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dan Bankhead, and Don Rose. I think only Averill and Wilhelm are in the Hall of Fame.

Golly Polly

Placido Polanco did something yesterday that had not been accomplished since Calvin Pickering pulled it off in 2004. And believe it or not, it was a good accomplishment. Read all about Polanco and the Phils, from Jayson Stark.

Go fourth

The Tigers outlasted Zack Greinke and took advantage of KC's bullpen for an 8-4 win yesterday. Many bright spots for Detroit, from Scott Sizemore to Austin Jackson to Johnny Damon to Joel Zumaya. Also nice to see the Tigs win a game when giving up 4 runs. Last year, Detroit was 4-7 in such games (a .364 win percentage; the MLB average was .477). If the Tigers went 5-6 a year ago, they would have been in the playoffs.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Grandy goes yard

Curtis Granderson started the Yankees stage of his career with a home run last night in Boston. This might be a surprise because Granderson came into the game with a .143 BA and 8 Ks in 14 PAs against Red Sox starter Josh Beckett.

But the homer should not have been a surprise because Granderson loves the first week of April and/or not wasting time to get his first dinger.

Last year, in the Tigers' first game of the season, Granderson went yard vs. Roy Halladay. In both 2007 and 2006, he homered in Detroit's second game of the campaign. In 2008, Granderson was hurt at the beginning of the season and didn't make his debut until April 23. He homered on April 24. In 2005, Granderson got called up from the minors on July 22. He homered on July 23.

So excluding the 9 games Granderson played in the bigs in 2004, he has never gone more than two games without a homer to begin his season.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Day and night

The Tigers start the season in KC and it is no easy task in Monday's opener. Detroit faces reigning Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke. Of course, the Tigs send Justin Verlander, who was third in the Cy Young vote, to the mound. As Royals skipper Trey Hillman said, "I'm sure that the national media will be focused on other games than the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers, but I'm not sure you can come up with any better Opening Day matchup than Greinke versus Verlander. It's going to be exciting."

Greinke was 3-1 with an ERA of 1.00 last year against Detroit. He is 11-5 in his career against the Tigers.

Verlander faced KC three times and limited the Royals to a .597 OPS. He was 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA. Lifetime he is 9-2 with a 2.32 ERA vs. KC.

Here was something I thought was odd: Verlander was 8-3 with a 2.23 ERA in day games last year, compared to 11-6 with a 4.22 ERA in night games. His BABIP in day games was .251 and at night was .366. That's a big difference, so he was a little lucky in daytime and unlucky at night, perhaps? In his career, he is 25-11 with a 3.28 ERA in daylight and 40-32 with a 4.26 ERA under the lights. The BABIP split is .270/.316. Wonder if it has something to do with shadows, even though his strikeout rate is a little lower in the daytime.

Greinke's ERA last year was 3.39 in day games and 1.74 at night. His strikeout and walk rates were virtually identical in each. The example for Greinke is a small sample. Verlander, though, seems to have had this odd split throughout his career.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Mike Cuellar passes away

I was too young to appreciate Mike Cuellar in his prime, but I loved having him on my APBA team.

April show-ers

The Tigers have got to show up strong in April. Detroit opens the season with 9 games total against KC and Cleveland (6 at Comerica) before going on an 11-game, 11-day road trip to Seattle, Los Angeles and Texas. Then the Tigs return home for 3 against Minnesota and 3 against the Angeles (that spill into May). Then it's 3 at the Twins.

So, after getting two days off in their first 9 games, Detroit plays 20 straight days, with 14 on the road. The Tigers then get an off day and then go 17 in a row against Cleveland, the Yankees, Boston, White Sox, Oakland and Dodgers. Cleveland, Oakland and LA are on the road.

The Tigers have got to take advantage of KC and Cleveland right off the bat. After those 9 games, Detroit does not play a team with a 2009 losing record until seeing Cleveland again on May 7. In fact, of the Tigs' next 39 games after the KC-Cleveland opening stretch, 32 are against teams with winning records from last year.

If Detroit fails to start quickly, it could -- as Yogi observed -- get late early.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Tigers on the mound

There is no doubt pitching is the area that could most impact Detroit, either positively or negatively. The Tigers had 12 pitchers make starts last season. Of that group, only two -- Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello -- remain that made more than seven. In fact, only 5 of the 12 remain on the roster. Edwin Jackson, Armando Galarraga, Jarrod Washburn, Luke French, Alfredo Figaro and Nate Robertson are gone and Zach Miner is injured.

Verlander was 19-9 last year and posted a 3.45 ERA. According to the Bill James Gold Mine, Verlander threw 300 more pitches than any other MLB pitcher last season and more than any AL pitcher in the last 10 years. Verlander has always been a workhorse. Hopefully it doesn't start to catch up to him.

Porcello was 14-9 with a 3.96 ERA. The Tigers need him to repeat that performance. He will need to improve his strikeout rate a bit (4.69/9) and he benefited a little from a .281 BABIP last season. He was helped by a 54% groundball rate and hurt by a 14% FB/HR rate.

Max Scherzer was acquired for Edwin Jackson. Scherzer might not put up the same numbers as Jackson last year (13-9, 3.62 ERA), but he could. He was 9-11 with a 4.12 ERA for Arizona, but goes to a better pitchers' park and will be backed by a slightly better defense. Expect to see his .323 BABIP drop. Put up a 9.19 K/9 last year.

Here's where it gets dicey. Jeremy Bonderman, who made one start last year, and Dontrelle Willis, who made seven largely unsuccessful starts, complete the rotation. Bonderman has made just 13 starts since 2007, when he was 11-9 with a 5.01 ERA. Willis has one win and an 8.27 ERA in his two seasons (14 starts) with the Tigers.

Given that Porcello and Scherzer are still young, and Bonderman and Willis have not been effective for at least two years, this could be interesting or ugly. If there's a bright spot, it's the fact Bonderman and Willis will be filling spots that were unproductive last season, so they won't have to be great to make an improvement. Of course, they'll still need to be better than they've been. We'll try to forget they're making $22.5 million between them.

Fernando Rodney is gone as the closer. Jose Valverde takes over. This is probably an upgrade, but relievers are tough to figure. There should be depth in the pen with Ryan Perry and a healthy Joel Zumaya. Eddie Bonine is working on his knuckleball and will work in long relief and can be a spot starter. Fu-Ti Ni and Phil Coke will handle the lefties.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

My new favorite Oriole

Julio Lugo is the newest Oriole. He's owed 9 million dollars for this season. And the Red Sox have to pay all of it. $9M of Red Sox money will, most days, be sitting on the Orioles bench. I love this guy!

Tigers at the plate

The Tigers have finalized their 25-man roster, with utilityman Don Kelly getting the final spot over outfielder Clete Thomas. Here is a brief look at the offense, by position.

C-Gerald Laird gets the bulk of the work thanks to his defense. He threw out 42% of opposing baserunners last season, which help makes up for his lack of offense. We documented how he tends to collapse with increased work, so he will need to be more consistent. His OPS+ was 64 last year. The backup is youngster Alex Avila, who showed good pop last season, with an OPS of .965 in 72 PAs. He threw out 4 of 15 baserunners, a decent 27%. Avila bats from the left side, Laird from the right, so some type of platoon might develop.

1B-Miguel Cabrera. He has posted OPS of .887 in 2008 and .942 in 2009 and both seem disappointing, which speaks to his potential greatness. In 2008, he needed time to adjust to his new surroundings. In 2009, a drunken final weekend spoiled what might have been an MVP-worthy campaign. Sober and happy this year, Cabrera could flirt with the Triple Crown if he gets some help from healthy Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge. Don Kelly is the backup.

2B-Scott Sizemore steps in for Placido Polanco, but will hit toward the bottom of the lineup rather than the No. 2 spot Polanco held. There were rumors (denied) that the Tigers were seeking an upgrade at second when they traded Nate Robertson. Sizemore is returning from a broken ankle suffered in the Arizona Fall League, but has hit well at every level. Expect early struggles, but improved production as the season goes on. Ramon Santiago is the backup. The Tigers like Santiago's glove, which depending on the ratings looks like it is somewhere between average to good, but his bat is lacking (82 OPS+ in 2009). I'd rather they kept Thomas and let Ryan Raburn or Kelly handle the backup duties at 2B and SS.

SS-Adam Everett is here. If being a constantly good hitter is admirable, so then might be being a consistently bad hitter. If this is so, Everett is the Pujols of the putrid. His OPS+ over the past four seasons, starting with 2006, are 64, 55, 62, 59. If nothing else, he should be admired for his ability to remain in the big leagues. His glove keeps him around, but there are concerns it is slipping to the point of no longer equalizing his value.

3B-Brandon Inge played 161 games last year on bad knees and his offense and defense suffered as the season progressed. His OPS+ was 132 in the first half and 45 in the second. It is not likely Inge will play a whole season at his 2009 first-half rate, but if healthy there is no reason not to expect him to be league average with the stick. He has a lifetime OPS of .743 as a third baseman and .590 as a catcher. With his defense, league-average batting is perfectly fine.

LF-Johnny Damon posted an OPS+ of 126 last year with the Yankees. Even if you want to discount his Yankee Stadium-based power surge in 2009, Damon has posted OPS+ average of 114 over the last six seasons. The Tigers' left fielders were OPS+ 97 last year, 94 in 2008 and 67 in 2007, so this is an unquestionable upgrade at the plate. Defensively, the ratings are inconsistent, but taken as a whole would make him around neutral.

CF-Austin Jackson was received from the Yankees (along with LHP Phil Coke) in return for Curtis Granderson. No one expects Jackson to possess Grandy's power, at least not at this point in his career, but they do figure he can play All-Star caliber defense. He has hit a ton this spring, going .356/.441/.576. It would be unreasonable to expect that type of performance to continue when it counts, but his 9 BBs to 8 Ks is a nice sign, as well as his 4 doubles and 3 triples -- which might indicate gap power that could play well in Comerica.

RF-Magglio Ordonez struggled much of last season and then finished with a flourish. His OPS the first half was .673 and for the second it was .978. He is batting .356 and slugging .556 in spring training, which is a good sign. A full productive season from Maggs might be the most important factor in getting this offense going. With the exception of ...

DH-Carlos Guillen, who saw his OPS+ in 2009 fall below league average for the first time since 2002. Guillen's five previous seasons in Detroit produced an average OPS+ of 127. He has not hit well this spring, batting .222/.295/.352. Age and injuries could be catching up with Guillen. His career OPS as a DH is only .711, which does not bode well, either. Guillen is penciled into the No. 5 spot in the order, but if Inge and Sizemore both hit and Guillen does not, it would not be inconceivable to see Guillen drop. But Jim Leyland does not seem the type to make such moves hastily with veteran players.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Line 'em up

I know there have been many studies done about the effect of batting orders on success, and many suggest a batting order itself has little impact on wins and losses. That math is far beyond me, but I figured I could look at this in more simple terms. Following is the Tigers' most frequently used lineup in 2009 and the number of times each player led off an inning, in actual numbers and as a percentage of their total plate appearances.

1. Curtis Granderson: 264 (37%)
2. Placido Polanco: 123 (18%)
3. Magglio Ordonez: 89 (17%)
4. Miguel Cabrera: 159 (23%)
5. Carlos Guillen: 73 (23%)
6/7. Brandon Inge: 131 (21%)
8. Gerald Laird: 133 (28%)
9. Adam Everett: 78 (20%)

Granderson, who did not bat No. 1 exclusively, had 130 PAs leading off the game and 134 otherwise as an inning's first batter. The players above represented 72% of Detroit's inning-leadoff PAs.

If nothing else, I think this shows the importance of leadoff hitters is often over-rated because aside from their first PA of the game, they might not lead off an inning with any more frequency than anyone else. Batting order would seem to matter most because players at the top get more PAs over the course of the season than players at the bottom. (No. 1 usually gets about 150 more than No. 9). But simply having a lineup of good hitters is much more important than where they bat in the lineup.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wait til next year

AccuScore's AL playoff projections give the Tigers a 22% chance to make the postseason while the Orioles are given about half a percent.

Rolling the dice

The Tigers have traded LHP Nate Robertson, along with cash, to the Florida Marlins for a minor league pitcher. That means Dontrelle Willis will get the No. 5 spot in the rotation. D-Train went out today against the Orioles and pitched 4.1 innings and gave up 7 hits, 4 walks and 5 runs.

Spring Forecast

It looks like a stormy April on the horizon for the Baltimore Orioles. Of the 22 games on the schedule, 16 are in the AL East with 13 of those against the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees against whom the O's were 16-39 last season. Those 16 games are sandwiched around a 6 game west coast road trip where the O's have long been poor performers.

Although not officially announced, the starting rotation appears to be set. Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and David Hernandez.

Millwood has had the worst spring of the group by far. Given his track record, though, he gets a pass and is reasonably expected to be ready to pitch on Opening Day.

Guthrie has also had a bad spring. He looks just like he did last season, walking batters and then giving up the home run. I expect another long season for him and suspect he may be ruined (mentally) for Baltimore. O's management has always had more patience than I in these situations, and I hope it pays off this time.

Matusz (rookie), Bergesen (sophomore) and Hernandez (sophomore) have had solid springs. While this is a bright spot, it is unreasonable to expect the youngsters to carry the load, but that is what will be needed for the Orioles to weather the month of April with their heads above water.

In the bullpen, Koji Uehara will most likely start the season on the DL with a bad hamstring (the same problem that put him on the shelf in 2009). Nagging hamstring problems at his age may mean he won't pitch again. This is a significant loss because of the flexibility a healthy Uehara could have provided to the bullpen in terms of long relief, short relief, closing and spot starting.

Kam Mickolio impressed last September and was expected to be in the bullpen in 2010. He's hurt and will likely not make the team.

In the field, Brian Roberts missed most of the spring with a herniated disk. He's been in the lineup the last several days and appears to be healthy.

Nolan Reimold (expected to be the starting left fielder) is nursing a sore achilles heel from offseason surgery. He started the spring o for 21 at the plate and limping. His bat has heated up lately with 5 multi-hit games and no noticeable limp. There remains some question as to whether he's strong enough to play every day. Felix Pie will likely be the Opening Day starter in left.

Other than that, the O's are healthy. Adam Jones (CF), Nick Markakis (RF) and Luke Scott (DH) have posted solid springs and appear ready to play. Miguel Tejada (3B), Garrett Atkins (1B) and Cesar Izturis (SS) are veterans, healthy and can reasonably be expected to deliver their standard performances once it counts.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lineup set

Jim Leyland announced the Tigers' lineup, and there were not many surprises. It'll be 1. Austin Jackson, 2. Johnny Damon, 3. Miguel Cabrera, 4. Magglio Ordonez, 5. Carlos Guillen, 6. Brandon Inge, 7. Gerald Laird, 8. Scott Sizemore, 9. Adam Everett. Leyland said the only possible change on Opening Day could be flipping Laird and Sizemore.

Meanwhile, there is talk that Detroit is going to make Dontrelle Willis the No. 5 starter and is shopping Nate Robertson. I'm sure the Tigers would like to unload one of the pitchers, particularly their contracts.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Plate Phillers

I was looking at Jimmy Rollins' stats, particularly his plate appearances, and came across the realization that of the top four PA seasons in history, three belong to Phillies: Rollins with 778 PAs in 2007, Lenny Dykstra with 773 in 1993 and Dave Cash with 766 in 1975. The other belongs to Cincy's Pete Rose, with 770 in 1974. Rose, of course, later played with the Phillies.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Special order

If the Phillies constructed a batting order based on on-base percentage, it would look like this: Utley, Werth, Howard, Victorino, Ruiz, Ibanez, Polanco, Rollins, pitcher. I think I would like to see a week of this. It also is a very balanced lineup going L-R-L-S-R-L-R-S. Of course, it will never happen, in large part because Rollins would never go for it. But I think even though it appears unorthodox, it makes a good deal of sense. I'd say you could move Ibanez up to the No. 4 spot based on slugging and drop Victorino and Ruiz down a notch, but I think I like Victorino at 4 and Ibanez giving that extra pop down lower.

I tried to come up with a OBP lineup for the Tigers, but cannot because it's hard to gauge what they're going to get from Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore. Based on their minor league stats, I guess the lineup would be: Sizemore, Johnny Damon, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Jackson, Carlos Guillen, Brandon Inge, Gerald Laird and Adam Everett. Cabrera has the best OBP, but needs to hit 3 because of his slugging. This probably is not far off from what Leyland might send out there, except with Jackson batting leadoff because of his speed and Sizemore dropping down to hit behind Guillen.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Everything is rosy

After reading Lynn Henning's column today, I say the Tigers are a lock for the AL Central title and trip to the postseason.

Glad to see Max Scherzer coming around. I loved the trade to get him. I think he pitched better than his stats last season (.323 BABIP) and strikes out a batter an inning. He should only get better when he masters his control. The Tigers are a slightly better defensive team than the D-backs and he goes to more of a pitcher's park.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mr. Robertson

Nate Robertson has pitched well this spring as he tries to reclaim a role in the Tigers' rotation. Will it last? Who knows? His slider is reportedly snapping. In 14.2 IP, Robertson has allowed 13 hits and 6 walks while striking out 14. The whiffs are encouraging.

In 2006, Robertson went 13-13 with a 3.84 ERA. He's never reached that level again. His K/BB ratio has dropped and his BABIP the last two years has been right around .343. His groundball and popup rates have also suffered. He has struggled with injuries (back, elbow, groin).

Now, back to the slider. Robertson threw his slider 23% of the time in 2006. The last two years he threw his slider 25% and 27.5% of the time. Meanwhile, the velocity on his fastball dropped from 89.7 mph to 87.8 mph. So Robertson either fell in love with his slider or lost faith in his fastball, or both. And given his trouble throwing strikes, hitters were probably teeing off on fat fastballs or sliders that didn't move.

It will be interesting to track Robertson's fastball/slider this season, if he gets the chance to return to the rotation.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Interesting note on Fangraphs about the lack of No. 5 starters. Phillies fans are gnashing their teeth over the 5 spot in Philly's rotation. I've always figured that if the No. 5 starter is among your chief concerns, you're in good shape. This would confirm that.

Twenty-two teams had three starters make 24 or more starts last season. Only 9 teams had four starters reach that number. Less than 10 percent could claim they had a No. 5 starter.

Last season, Detroit had three starters surpass 30 starts: Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Edwin Jackson. Armando Galarraga reached 25. Eight other pitchers made at least one start.

The Phils had two starters surpass 30 starts: Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton. Jamie Moyer reached 25 and J.A. Happ reached 23. Cliff Lee had 12 after he was acquired via trade. Pedro Martinez made 9 starts in his part-time role. Six other pitchers made at least one start.

Baltimore had one starter surpass 30 starts: Jeremy Guthrie. Jason Berken made 24 starts and 10 other pitchers made at least one start. Eight of those made at least 8 starts.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Grand beginning

Two of the biggest questions for the Tigers is whether they will be able to adequately replace the production of Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco with rookies Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore. So far so good.

Jackson, one of the key pieces in the three-team deal that sent Granderson to the Yankees, has impressed everyone in spring training. He is batting .424/.513/.667 in 33 ABs. He has struck out only four times while walking six. You can't read too much into spring stats, but I'd rather see this than see him struggling. His defense has been reported to be very good, as advertised.

Last year at Triple-A, Jackson batted .300/.354/.405 in 504 ABs. The previous year, he posted a .285/.354/.419 line at Double-A. He totaled 43 SB (10 caught) those two seasons. His RC/27 last year was approximately 5.2, which is not bad, but one might prefer a little more at that level.

Sizemore, returning from a broken ankle in the Arizona Fall League, has struggled this spring, batting .200/.351/.300. At least the OBP is decent. Sizemore has been a solid hitter throughout the minor (the knock on him is with the leather). Sizemore batted a combined .308/.389/.500 last year in Double-A (228 ABs) and Triple-A (292 ABs) with 21 SB in 25 attempts. His approximate RC/27 was 7.1, which I would consider a very solid.

Granderson and Polanco ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in RC for the Tigers last year, behind only Miguel Cabrera. It should be noted their production was good, but not great, so the pressure to fill those shoes is lessened a bit. Still, Detroit needs for Jackson and Sizemore to produce at decent levels to make up for the departures.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tub of Laird

There is no question Gerald Laird is a very good defensive catcher. Offensively, he was challenged in 2009. He got more than 400 PAs for just the second time in his career and his OPS+ was a dismal 64. Coincidentally, the other time he got more than 400 PAs, his OPS+ was 64. If nothing else he is consistent.

Hopefully, Laird can improve on his numbers this year. His OPS+ was above average two of the first three months of last season and took a significant tumble as the year went on. The bottom third of Detroit's lineup was a black hole the second half of last season: Brandon Inge's OPS+ for that stretch was 45, Laird's was 48 and Adam Everett's was 43.

It is unreasonable to expect much from Everett, but hopefully Inge is healthy after offseason knee surgery and Laird has improved his endurance. This team missed the postseason by a game even with one-third of the lineup failing to produce anywhere near average, much less above average, for nearly half the campaign. Even modest improvement could go a long way in 2010.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bad News, Good News

The bad news is that Brian Roberts ailing back, which he has repeatedly claimed is not a serious problem, but has, nevertheless, kept him out of the lineup all spring, now has him in Baltimore seeing a back specialist.

The good news is, not having Roberts in the lineup in no way hinders the O's chances of winning a pennant.