Detroit Tigers: The Statistical Ridiculousness of Miguel Cabrera’s “Down Year”

The Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is having a down year. That much is true. He may not win a fourth consecutive batting title, he may not win a third straight MVP and he may not win another triple crown. But, despite the sub-par season (by his extremely high standards) he may just be showing his brilliance as a hitter. Why? Because when most hitters have down years, they look awful—comparatively and in general. Miguel Cabrera’s down year includes a .307 batting average. He’s that good.

A typical season for the Tigers’ slugger has generally consisted of gaudy numbers and some kind of hardware. Whether it is an MVP award, a Triple Crown, an American League pennant, Cabrera has won them all.

His biggest accomplishment may be this season—his “down” season. Here’s just a small snippet of his stats this year. I remind you, this is his “down” season.

  • His .307 line is a far cry from the his batting averages over the last five years (.348, .330, .344, .328 and .324) but only six players in the American League have a higher clip.
  • Leads the AL in doubles with 42. Only Johnathan Lucroy of the Brewers has more in Major League Baseball.
  • Has driven in 90 runs. Also a far cry considering Miggy’s RBI output the last two years (137 and 139 respectively), but only four players have more. Three of those four players would be home run mashers Mike Stanton, Jose Abreu and David Ortiz. In other words, players who get a lot of their RBIs from the long ball. Cabrera only has 17 homers this year, further showing his ability as a complete hitter (as if he needs to show that).
  • Despite his lower numbers, Cabrera still has scored only nine less runs than Angels’ wunderkind Mike Trout. I should also point out that Trout is a threat on the base paths and has speed—Cabrera doesn’t check either of those boxes.
  • Also has a top 10 rankings in the AL in OPB (ninth, .369), Slugging Percentage (tenth, .496) and OPS (eighth, .865).
  • Ranks eight in the AL in hits with 151. Players with fewer hits include Trout, Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez.
  • Top 10 rankings in total bases (tied for seventh, 246) and runs created (eighth, 89).
  • Only Trout and Jose Abreu have more extra base hits in the American League.
  • Only five players have reached base more times than Cabrera (206 times) in the AL.
  • Drives in the runs any way he can—leads the AL in sacrifice flies with 10.
  • Still strikes fear into opposing pitchers, he has ten intentional walks on the year. It may not be as high a number as teammate Victor Martinez’ 22, but it still shows the danger Miggy presents to pitchers.

They may not be the leaderboard leading numbers the world is used to from Cabrera, but for a “down year” they’re pretty fantastic.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Detroit Tigers: The Importance of Victor Martinez

As the Detroit Tigers claw their way back into the playoff picture, one player remains as important, and consistent as ever—Victor Martinez.

The man referred to as V-Mart is turning in his best season as a pro. Not only is passing previous career highs, his 26 home runs are one more than previous best and his 22 intentional walks are 10 more than he’s ever had in a season, but at times he is carrying a Tiger offense that has sputtered occasionally. With Miguel Cabrera mired in the midst of a down year (by his own high standards) and Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter and JD Martinez struggling at times, V-Mart has been the constant presence in Detroit’s lineup.

Miguel Cabrera’s “protector” in the lineup has always been a vital position in Detroit—or in other words, a batter to hit behind Cabrera that will keep pitchers honest so they can’t simply intentionally walk the MVP and deal with a much lesser hitter.

There’ve been all kinds of hitters protecting Cabrera since the former Marlin arrived in Detroit. Ranging from Carlos Guillen to Brennan Boesch to Prince Fielder, there was certainly diversity in terms of hitter types. However, Victor Martinez has been the best of the group. It may have been a forgone conclusion before, but now it should be set in stone.

Martinez is a complete hitter. He used to catch on a full time basis before becoming a designated hitter. He’ll get the odd start at first base when Miguel Cabrera gets a day off from the field, but for the most part V-Mart is a DH. That fact may prohibit him from gaining serious traction in an MVP race, but he certainly deserves to be part of the conversation.

Once thought of as a hitter more acclimated to contact than power, Martinez has brought it in the slugging department. His 26 home runs are the most he’s ever had. His previous high was 25 and it took him 27 more games to accomplish it. And it’s not just the home runs; the former Indian’s slugging percentage is half a point higher than it’s ever been. At .555, his slugging percentage ranks fifth in the Major Leagues. Notable hitters with a lower number include David Ortiz, Jose Bautista, Paul Goldschmidt and all-worldly Miguel Cabrera.

Martinez hasn’t fallen off in terms of hitting for contact either. A quick glance at MLB’s statistical leaderboard finds the Tigers’ DH in the top 10 in batting average (second), on base percentage (sixth), OPS (third), total bases (seventh) and runs created (tied for fifth). He also is tied for tenth in the AL in hits.

You could list stats proving Victor Martinez’ worth as an elite hitter until your blue in the face, but the most telling and important stat is his strikeout to walk ratio. Most elite hitters draw a ton of walks, but they also strike out a lot. Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout have respective walk totals of 87 and 69. They both have more than twice as many strikeouts as they do base-on-balls.

Martinez doesn’t walk as much, he only has 54, but his strikeout total is miniscule—38. This territory isn’t new to the former Red Sox hitter; he had one more walk (75) than his strikeout total in 2009.

Strikeouts are rally killers. They let the opposing pitcher gain more confidence and feel like he’s getting into a grove, especially the first time through the order. The fact that Martinez doesn’t punch out much means that when he gets out, he isn’t constantly hitting into double plays and destroying scoring chances.

Moving into the cleanup spot has worked wonders for Victor Martinez, he’s already surpassed his RBI total from last season in 39 fewer games. With two more home runs he’ll have doubled his total from last year.

To sum it up, Victor Martinez is immensely important for the Tigers, down the stretch and otherwise.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

 

Detroit Tigers: Why Justin Verlander will be the Tigers’ Key to Reaching the World Series

Thanks to the Detroit Tigers’ recent acquisition of David Price, many pundits and fans alike are earmarking the team for the World Series. However, it won’t be Price, reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer or superstar Miguel Cabrera who will be the key to Detroit reaching baseball’s biggest stage. Granted, those players will play their part, but Verlander will be the most important.

David Price gives Detroit five premium starters—himself, Scherzer, Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello. In the playoffs, teams generally use only four starters and use their fifth starter in relief. This situation falls firmly under the “good problem to have” banner. Regardless, the idea has been floated that Verlander should be the fifth starter and moved to the bullpen.

This would be foolish. Admittedly, Verlander’s numbers are down this year, as they were last season, but he brings it in the playoffs. Last season the former MVP went 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA across 218+ innings and 34 starts. Decent numbers for most pitchers, but for the seemingly super-human Verlander, that was a down year. Despite the pedestrian showings, the Tigers’ ace turned it on for the playoffs. In three postseason starts, he threw 23 innings, allowing one run on ten hits while posting an absurd 31/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If you like translating ERAs, you would know that Verlander’s would equate to 0.39 in last year’s playoffs. It’s not just the flashy stats that made Verlander a strong performer for the Tigers last year, he also went deep into games, often protecting a shaky bullpen that ended up being the team’s undoing.

The Tigers’ longest tenured player will not only be important because of his past success in the playoffs, but also because of the teams Detroit will be playing. Verlander dominates the A’s in the playoffs. He eats them for breakfast. He wipes the floor with them. He uses their jerseys as dish rags. Ok, one of those examples isn’t true, but the fact is that Justin Verlander is Oakland’s playoff kryptonite. In the last two years, the Detroit pitcher has made four postseason starts against the Athletics. Here are his results against them.

(* indicates deciding game)

2012 ALDS Game 1- Tigers win 3-1. Verlander: 7 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 earned run, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts.

*2012 ALDS Game 5- Tigers win 6-0. Verlander: 9 innings pitched, 4 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts.

2013 ALDS Game 2- Oakland wins 1-0. Verlander: 7 innings pitched, 4 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts.

*2013 ALDS Game 5- Tigers win 3-0. Verlander: 8 innings pitched, 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts.

Oakland has scored one run off of Verlander in 31 innings. Over that same span, Oakland batters have struck out 43 times compared to a paltry seven walks.

If you’re Brad Ausmus, you want this guy at the top of the rotation for October—if not for Game One, then at the very least Game Two so he can pitch the deciding game should the series get there.

And it’s not just Oakland that Verlander excels against; he owns a 9-2 all-time record against playoff contender Baltimore while also posting dominant numbers against New York and Boston in the last two postseasons. He went at least eight innings in each game, held both teams to a run each and walked a cumulative one batter across both starts.

Despite Justin Verlander’s struggles (by his own high standards) in the last two years, he still brings it in the playoffs. He did it last year, and there’s no reason to think he won’t do it again this year. That, and his overall dominance of Detroit’s biggest rival for the AL crown, Oakland, make him a lock to be the Tigers’ most important player in reaching the World Series.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

 

Detroit Tigers Acquire David Price: How, Why and What it Means for the Tigers and the Pennant Race

Who Was Acquired: The Tigers acquired starting pitcher David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade.

Who They Gave Up: Centerfielder Austin Jackson, starting pitcher Drew Smyly and minor league shortstop Willy Adames.

Who Else Was Involved: The Seattle Mariners, who acquired Jackson while also sending infielder Nick Franklin to Tampa Bay.

What it Means for the Tigers:

Detroit acquired one of the premier starting pitchers in the game, David Price. The cost? Austin Jackson, Willy Adames and Drew Smyly. The price to pay (if you excuse the pun) wasn’t as high as say the pieces Kansas City gave up for James Shields, but it was still high. Jackson is as good of a defensive centerfielder as you’ll find and brings pop and speed to the lineup. Smyly, on the other hand, is a young, controllable and versatile pitcher who has quality numbers in his career out of the ‘pen and in the rotation. Adames is in the lower minors and is a long way away from the Majors.

The Tigers didn’t pay a whole lot for Price. You could arguably say that the Red Sox got a better haul for either Jon Lester or John Lackey. Chicago may have gotten a better deal for Jeff Samardjiza. Detroit can now pencil in some combination of Price, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer for games one through three of the postseason. That’s not even mentioning Rick Porcello, who is finally showing all the potential and promise he had earlier in his career, or Anibal Sanchez who not only was ridiculously dominant against Boston in the playoffs last year, but also led the American League in ERA last season.

This trade was partly made possible due to offseason acquisitions Rajai Davis and JD Martinez. Before their acquisitions the outfield was very clearly Jackson, Torii Hunter and some combination of players filling the third spot. Now with Martinez hitting like a middle-of-the-order bat and occupying the corner outfield spot opposite Hunter, the team can slide Davis to center to fill the void created by Jackson. Davis’ skillset also made it easier to part with Jackson. Last season, Jackson was the lone source of speed in the lineup— something that was exposed in October. Davis can cover ground in the outfield, can steal a multitude of bases (even more than Jackson) and hit for some power. On a minor note, this solves the Andy Dirks issue. When he’s healthy, Dirks will be the fourth outfielder, something that wasn’t clear before, due to all the outfielders and Dirks’ injury.

Price’s acquisition also sets up an all-out war for the American League pennant. With all due respect to Anaheim and Baltimore, the AL champ will be from Michigan (more likely) or the Bay Area. The Tigers and A’s have met in the last two postseasons, with Detroit winning both matchups. Oakland has made big acquisitions as well, bringing in Jon Lester and Jeff Samardjiza. The A’s made these trades to win it all, but also to get by Detroit who have knocked them out of the playoffs the last three times Billy Beane’s team have made it.

The acquisition of Price also gives the Tigers insurance down the road. If Max Scherzer leaves, the Tigers now have Price as cover, if you want to call one of the best pitchers in the game “cover.”

If anything, this trade signifies pitching as king in baseball. The Tigers now employ the last three American League Cy Young winners in the league. If the previous thinking holds, and pitching is king, the Tigers have it in spades. Look out World Series, here comes Detroit.

Kingdome Crossover- Why Michael Saunders Is the Most Important Player in the Seattle Mariners’ Lineup

Here is a piece I wrote over at http://www.kingdomeofseattlesports.com/ on why Michael Saunders is the most important player in the M’s lineup. Thought you all might enjoy it.

Big name additions Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales might be viewed as the most important players in the M’s lineup. It might be the development of budding stars Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager. Or it could be Michael Saunders.

Michael Saunders who hit .727 (that being 8 for 11 for all of you who didn’t major in some sort of math at MIT) in the World Baseball Classic. Michael Saunders, who I gave the nickname Grand Torrido to despite “Torrido” meaning torrid in Italian and the M’s having one of the more prominent Italian players in the game of baseball in their organization: Alex Liddi. Whatever, Saunders is the most important player in the lineup and this is why.

He extends the lineup.

The M’s current group of hitters, which I so pleasantly outlined for you here, comprises of a lot of power hitters. Or lack of top-of-the-order guys. Dustin Ackley will likely hit leadoff, something he can do, but probably would be slightly better utilized elsewhere in the lineup. Ackley also isn’t a speed demon on the base paths, something the M’s haven’t had since Ichiro.

Even if you hit Ackley leadoff, you don’t have a full time number-two hitter. Morse and Morales will hit in the middle of the order. As will Jesus Montero. Brendan Ryan fits the bottom half of the lineup better. Kyle Seager probably belongs with the first group. That really only leaves Saunders, Guti and Smoak/whoever plays first as your options. Smoak/first base committee is a no. Obviously. After that it’s a tossup of either Guti or Grand Torrido. Guti is well… I don’t know if he personifies a two-hole hitter.  That leaves Saunders.

In the piece I noted that you could hit Guti second because of his penchant to get extra base hits. Something that looks really good when happening in front of the big boys in the order. But Guti isn’t a big speed guy. Something you need at the top of the order. Ackley, as mentioned, isn’t a huge speed demon, so you need as much extra speed as you can get at the top of the order. Saunders, I will add, lead the team in stolen bases as well as placing second in extra-base hits. That not only plays into his candidacy for the second spot in the order but for hitting down in the order, say in the five spot.

I also wrote about how Saunders lost it with his torrid hitting in the WBC, hitting behind two established, middle of the order guys. I’m not saying Morse and Morales are Joey Votto and Justin Morneau, but the comparison is somewhat plausible. The point is that if you hit Saunders behind two good middle-of-the-order hitters, he will produce.

If you hit him there, he also adds speed in that position as well. Something (speed) that the Mariners need at nearly every position.

Whether you hit Saunders second or fifth, he is going to be an integral part of the M’s. Extending the lineup with his speed or slugging, Saunders is going to be a big part of the M’s this year.

You can see the piece in all it’s glory at kingdome here. 

The Mariners Really Need to Trade Felix Hernandez

The Upper Echelons of Major League Pitchers-

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. David Price, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver
  3. Matt Cain, RA Dickey , James Shields, Zack Grienke, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez
  4. Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg,  Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Johnny Cueto
  5. Ian Kennedy, Anibal Sanchez, Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo, Trevor Cahill, Jordan Zimmerman etc.

Those, in a nutshell, are the top pitchers in baseball. Notice the placement of RA Dickey and James Shields. Both have been traded in the last month, yet both are ranked below (in my estimate) Felix Hernandez. In addition to those two big offseason moves, the Angels signed Josh Hamilton. I say this for one reason, Texas isn’t going anywhere,  and Los Angeles just added Hamilton to their team. The other team in the division is Oakland who, I might point out, was probably the second best team in the AL playoffs last year.

Regardless of Seattle’s current talent (meh,) the team is in a stacked division. Anything besides last place is probably a miracle (barring an Angels’ season-long flop.)

The team isn’t going anywhere soon. Thus it makes sense to trade Felix Hernandez, especially since their top two pitching prospects (Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen) are ranked fourth and eighth in terms of the top 100 prospects in the game per Jonathan Mayo.

There are two, if not three, (James Paxton could be special as well) potential Hernandez replacements waiting in the system. Yes, the fences are being moved in and the Mariners need to sell tickets, but dealing Hernandez makes sense.

Let’s put a few things out there. One, Hernandez is four years younger than Shields and twelve younger than Dickey. Not surprisingly, King Felix is a much better pitcher than both. The point on Shields, or even Dickey, is that Shields fetched the number three overall prospect (again all this per Mayo,) Wil Myers, who has at least “star” potential if not more. Another prospect that went to Tampa was starter Jake Odorizzi, ranked the 30th best in all of baseball. Tampa also picked up two other prospects who are ranked in the top 20 of their system.

New York got the 11th and 83rd best prospects in the game by selling high on a 38-year old.

What I’m getting at, if you haven’t gotten there first, is that the Rays and Mets got some of the better packages of prospects that the trading market has seen in the past few years. I would think that the Mariners would want to cash in with a haul of that kind.

The Mariners need a hitter to lead them into the next phase of the franchise (hopefully contending.) I’m sure they’d jump at a package of Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt (not that Texas would consider that seriously.) But Seattle needs a corner stone. They need the next Miguel Cabrera or Evan Longoria. They need someone who can carry a team on his backs/bats. Maybe Felix Hernandez is the way to find that player.

Surely if James Shields and RA Dickey can fetch outstanding hauls of prospects, then a younger and better pitcher (Felix Hernandez) can get a better one.

What do you think? Should the Mariners trade King Felix or should they keep him and try to contend?

The Cleveland Indians Should Have Pulled the Trigger on A Certain Asdrubal Cabrera Trade

It’s been tossed around that Cleveland is shopping their shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. It is also common knowledge that Arizona wants to trade their own star player, Justin Upton. It’s equally common knowledge that the Diamondbacks really want a shortstop. And what’s even more plain to public perception is the Texas Rangers’ desire to find a power bat to take Josh Hamilton’s place.

That seems like decent grounds for a trade, right?

The supposed proposed trade would have sent Cabrera to Arizona, Upton to Texas and rising stars Mike Olt and Trevor Bauer to Cleveland.

What on Earth is wrong with Cleveland?

I know that it’s a three-team trade, so everybody has to be on board with it, but come on, make this trade. Continue reading

Miguel Cabrera Wins the AL MVP: Finally Putting the Debate to Bed

The race for the American League MVP is over. Some may find the occasion a joyous one (i.e. myself, other Tigers fans, “baseball traditionalists,” Cabrera himself) while others’ thinking tends to side with the other side of the coin (i.e. “statisticians”, “stat geeks” and probably every White Sox fan in America).

Cabrera rightfully won. That’s the big point here, but there are a few things I want to hit on before I finally put the matter to bed myself. Continue reading

Torii Hunter’s Impact with the Detroit Tigers

I’ll admit I didn’t see the signing coming; I’m a bit of a homer when it comes to placing trust in Andy Dirks, Brennan Boesch and Quintin Berry, so I didn’t want the signing initially. But the more I look at it, the more there is to like.  Yes, Hunter is getting up there in years, but after further digging, he’s still a very good player in this league despite being 37.

Last season, the Tigers were knocked for not having a good defensive team. That criticism was mainly placed on the infield. But in terms of “elite” defenders, the only one the Tigers had who could change a game in the field was Austin Jackson. Infield aside, the corner outfielders were a tad suspect with the glove. Dirks, Boesch, Berry and Avisail Garcia’s collective number of runs saved above average per 1,200 innings (from the folks over at baseball-reference) was -26. Dirks was the only one of the group whose number was a positive one with three runs scored above average. The point here is that the overall defense in the outfield corners could have been better. Enter Hunter, who despite being nearly a decade older than every one of the previous four, saved 16 runs above average per 1,200 innings.

The beauty of the signing is this: yes, Hunter is valued defensively, and maybe he was needed defensively, but he also brings a whole lot to the table offensively. So often teams bring in an outfielder or use an internal option that is a far superior defender, but lacks completely with the bat.  Teams feel they need to upgrade defensively and save runs there and completely mail it in offensively. But this is the beauty of the signing. Hunter upgrades the defense and offense drastically.

The other bonus of having Hunter as well as Jackson in the outfield means Jim Leyland has his pick of outfielders to use strategically on a game-to-game basis, whether that be Berry, Garcia, Boesch or Dirks.

The Tigers won the American League pennant last year. They also won it, when at times the death-row duo of Miguel Cabrera and Fielder looked like the walking dead. But now Victor Martinez will be 100% healthy, and Torii Hunter joins the mix. Death row just got a whole lot deadlier.

Wrapping Up the Tigers’ Regular Season: MVP Voting, Playoffs and More

While the much-hyped MVP discussion is heating up, the regular season is cooling down.

The Tigers joined the San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds as the only teams in baseball to clinch their own divisions.  Also joining those clubs in October baseball are the Atlanta Braves,  New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s. The Tigers also became the first AL team to clinch their division. The second year in a row that they’ve done that.

But really, no one is reading too much into the playoffs. Yet. Now, the baseball-related discussions are about that AL MVP race and something you might have heard of called the Triple Crown.

Coincidentally or not, both of those discussions involve one Miguel Cabrera who also plays for the Tigers.

Triple Crown & MVP

I’ll start with the Triple Crown first, to get it out of the way.

Continue reading