Thursday, April 26, 2012

Inge out

Brandon Inge was released by the Tigers today, bringing a sad but not unexpected end to his career in Detroit.

Inge came up in 2001 and saw the Tigers at their worst (2003) and best (2006) during that time. He had his best year in 2006 as Detroit went to the World Series, batting .253-27-83 and playing stellar defense at third. In fact, for several years it was worth watching Tigers' games for his play at third alone.

Always offensively challenged, Inge's power and defense still made him a worthwhile contributor through 2010. But, really, it seemed that he was never the same after having surgery on both knees following the 2009 season, which looked to have diminished his range in the field.

In addition to his on-field performance, Inge was a class act away from the diamond. In 2010, he received the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award for his work in the community.

Goodbye, Brandon. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wanted: Base runners

Entering tonight, the Orioles ranked No. 3 in the AL in HR with 23. They ranked No. 4 in slugging, at .430.

Baltimore ranked No. 9 in runs per game, with 4.25 per contest, and No. 9 in RBI, with 63.

The O's were No. 12 in OBP, at .301. They had hit 15 solo dingers. They had 7 two-run homers and 1 grand slam. Earl Weaver would not be happy.

When they do get men on base, a timely knock wouldn't hurt, either. Baltimore was batting .232 with RISP.

Tonight, the Orioles won 2-1 over Toronto. Baltimore got its first run when Adam Jones grounded into a double play with the bases loaded. The game-winner came on a Matt Wieters' solo HR.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Swing batter

When Josh Hamilton comes up to bat for the Rangers, don't look away. Hamilton leads all AL batters in first-pitch swinging, at 62 percent.

The Orioles' Chris Davis and Jays' Colby Rasmus are second, at 43 percent, while the White Sox's Brent Morel and Rangers' Michael Young are at 42 percent.

Hamilton is 8-for-15 when putting the first pitch in play, a .533 average, with 2 HR and 6 RBI. He is batting .391-6-15 for the season.

In the NL, Freddie Freeman leads the way at 61 percent. Nick Hundley of the Padres and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates are tied for the next highest rate, at 46 percent. Pablo Sandoval of the Giants and Dan Uggla of the Braves, both at 45 percent, round out the top five in the NL.

Freeman is batting .583 (7-for-12) when he puts the first pitch in play. Matt Holliday, who has put the first pitch in play a MLB-high 19 times, is batting .263 in that situation. Holliday is swinging 37 percent of the time.

For the season, Freeman is batting .276 and Holliday is hitting .194.

The Yanks' Derek Jeter is swinging 32 percent of the time (17th in the AL) and is 0-for-14. The Royals' Jeff Francoeur is swinging 39 percent of the time (8th in AL) and is 0-for-11. Oddly, Jeter is batting .382-4-12 for the season. Frenchy is at .246-0-2.

Lucas Duda of the Mets might want to hack more often. He's at 17 percent, but 2-for-3 with 2 HR.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Run down

The Phillies got 10 shutout innings from Cliff Lee last night and managed to lose 1-0 in 11 to San Francisco. Philadelphia's inability to score thus far in the season highlights one area of concern as they chase another division title.

Last year, the Phils won 102 games despite scoring 3 or fewer runs in nearly 48 percent of their outings. Thanks to their great pitching, though, and maybe some good fortune, they went 30-47 in those contests.

Their .390 win percentage in games in which they scored 3 or fewer runs was well better than the NL average, which was .243.

If the Phils played to the league average last year, they would have won only 19 of their 77 games in which they scored 3 or fewer runs.

So far this season, the Phils have scored 3 or fewer runs in nearly 67 percent of their games. They are 2-6 (.250) in those contests.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Get a whiff

The strikeout must truly be a pitcher's best friend. Not to say a pitcher cannot succeed without striking out batters, but boy does it seem to be a big help.

Taking a look at last year's K/9 leaders, there were 30 pitchers with at least 140 IP and 8.0 K/9. Of those, 24 had an ERA below 4.00. Also interesting, I thought, was the fact 21 of the 30 gave up fewer than 1 HR per 9 IP. Of the six pitchers with an ERA above 4.00, five gave up more than 1 HR per 9.

Conversely, out of the 30 pitchers with at least 140 IP and the lowest K/9 rates, 20 had an ERA above 4.00 (and 6 were north of 5.00) and 15 gave up more than 1 HR per 9. Of the 14 pitchers with a K/9 below five, 12 had an ERA above 4.00.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Leading off

There has been a lot of talk on Philly sports radio about the Phillies' lineup and difficulty scoring runs. During the course of the discussions, many people have brought up playing Juan Pierre regularly because he's so great at the top of the order.

Well, that is the perception, but it is not the reality.

Since the start of the 2005 season, Pierre's OBP is .334. He has averaged 43 SB and 14 CS (75 percent).

During that same time frame, Jimmy Rollins -- universally panned as a leadoff man -- has a .332 OBP, almost the same as Pierre. Rollins has averaged 31 SB and 4 CS (89 percent).

So if Pierre is a great leadoff man, so is Rollins. In fact, given Rollins' better baserunning, he is probably better than Pierre.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Porcello's grounded

With three seasons already under his belt, it's sometimes hard to remember that Rick Porcello is only 23 years old. (And he doesn't turn 24 until December.)

Some predicted a breakout season for Porcello this year and through two starts he's making good on those forecasts. So far, he has allowed 12 hits and 1 BB in 14.2 IP while striking out 8. His ERA is 1.84.

He's getting groundballs a little more than 50 percent of the time, which is key to his success. I'm sure most would feel better about his ability to sustain this success if he struck out more batters, but he's hovered between 4.6/9 IP and 5.1/9 IP throughout his career.

Obviously, this year's results are an extremely tiny sample. But Porcello pitched well during spring training and ended last season on a high note.

Over his last seven regular season starts in 2011, Porcello was 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA. The Tigers were 6-1 in those starts. He got groundballs 60 percent of the time.

How important are groundballs to Porcello? Last year, there were six games in which he gave up at least three more flyballs than groundballs (according to game logs on He gave up 33 earned runs in those six starts, for an 11.28 ERA.

By my math, that means his ERA in his remaining 25 starts was 3.64.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

When Chase was on

Chase Utley says he shall return, but I have my doubts. Even if he does return, I fear he will no longer be Chase Utley. And that is a shame.

I'm not sure fans in Philadelphia really appreciate what they had in Chase Utley. Sure, Harry Kalas called him "The Man," but it seems to me that while Utley was certainly popular, he wasn't beloved or truly recognized for his prowess. For five seasons, though, Utley was remarkable.

From 2005 through 2009, Utley was arguably the best player in baseball not named Albert Pujols.

He probably should have won at least one MVP award, if not more. But he never finished higher than seventh in the voting, suggesting he was underappreciated in more places than Philly. According to Fangraphs' WAR calculations, Utley's best season was 2008 -- and he was 14th in the MVP voting.

Utley's NL rank by WAR each year was 3rd in 2005, 3rd in 2006, 3rd in 2007, 2nd in 2008 and 2nd in 2009. For those five years, Utley averaged .301, 29 HR, 101 RBI, 111 runs and 15 SB while playing sterling defense.

Oh yeah, he also made one of the best defensive plays in World Series history that no one seems to talk about, either. (Not to mention a memorable effing speech following the victory parade.)

Using cumulative WAR for 2005 through 2011, Utley trailed only Pujols in all of MLB. Alex Rodriguez was third. That's even after his offensive production began to drop a little bit in 2010.

According to Fangraphs' adjusted weighted runs created stat (wRC+), Utley is tied with Rod Carew as the sixth-best offensive second baseman since 1900, behind Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Joe Morgan and Jackie Robinson.

I don't believe WAR or wRC+ to be the definitive words on a player's career, but they do provide some context. And it says here Chase Utley was The Man. Hopefully, he can be The Man again.