Monthly Archives: July, 2013

How Was The Game? (July 31, 2013)

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

A slaughter. 

Tigers 11, Nationals 1

A day after the Tigers got to Stephen Strasburg, they backed Justin Verlander (23 GS, 143.2 IP, 3.88 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 3.1 WAR) with 11 runs against Gio Gonzalez thanks to two innings in which they batted around and scored 5 runs. Hunter led the way with four hits including a homerun and Avila added his second homerun in as many days and his first against a LHP all season long. It was an all out assault on offense and Verlander was certainly good enough. He struggled in the first inning and walked 5 overall, but got through 6 innings of 1 run baseball while gathering 6 strikeouts. He wasn’t his old self, but he did break off some nice curveballs, which he had been missing thanks to issues with his release point. The win is the Tigers 5th straight and 9th in their last 10 tries pushing them to 16 games over .500 at 61-45 as they get set for a weekend set against the White Sox. Doug Fister (21 GS, 135 IP, 3.67 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 2.9 WAR) will take the ball in game one on Friday, likely with new Tiger Jose Iglesias behind him with a suspension likely coming to Jhonny Peralta this week. Should Peralta’s regular season effectively be over, it certainly was one of his best as he finished with a .307/.363/.460 line good for 126 wRC+, and 3.3 WAR.

The Moment: Santiago and Avila both drive in a pair in the second to put this one away early.

Advertisements

The Morning Edition (July 31, 2013)

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

 

From Last Night:

  • Tigers, Red Sox, and White Sox consummate a 3 team deal with Iglesias, Peavy, and Garcia on the move (Tigers coverage)
  • A’s add Callaspo from the Angels for Grant Green
  • Wheeler flirts with a no-hitter, Mets win in extras
  • Davis homers to beat the Astros
  • Pirates sweep a double headed with division rival Cards

What I’m Watching Today:

  • Gonzalez and Verlander (1p Eastern)
  • Dickey faces Colon (330p Eastern)
  • MLB Non-Waiver Trade Deadline (4p Eastern)
  • Wainwright and Locke hook up in game 4 of the NL Central Series (7p Eastern)
  • Kuroda and Kershaw out west (10p Eastern)

The Big Question:

  • How’s your team doing at the deadline?

I spend much of late Tuesday covering the Tigers deal (link above) so I don’t have a lot of thoughts. I’ll give you quick analysis of tomorrow’s deals in this spot and on Twitter. I like the Callaspo move for the A’s. Like the big deal for all parties involved. Enjoy the deadline.

 

Dynamic Standings Projection (July 31, 2013)

In case you missed it, in April we launched our Dynamic Standings Projection feature on New English D. A full explanation of the methodology can be found here or by clicking the tab at the top of the page. This project seeks to provide a reasoned and cautious approach to updating our beliefs about the baseball future. You can find a summarization of the original projections here. You’ll notice a column on the far right that indicates the difference in projected wins from the preseason prediction. Positive numbers mean teams are now projected to win more games and negative numbers mean a team is now projected to win fewer games. You’ll notice a series of graphs below the standings section that track how the projections have evolved over the course of the year.

This Dynamic Standings Projection is updated through the July 30 games.

31-Jul W L   PreDiff
TB 95 67 0.586 4
BOS 90 72 0.556 13
BAL 87 75 0.537 5
NYY 84 78 0.519 -1
TOR 79 83 0.488 -8
W L   PreDiff
DET 93 69 0.574 -1
CLE 83 79 0.512 12
KC 80 82 0.494 4
CWS 70 92 0.432 -13
MIN 69 93 0.426 4
W L   PreDiff
OAK 92 70 0.568 8
TEX 89 73 0.549 -2
LAA 79 83 0.488 -9
SEA 76 86 0.469 1
HOU 56 106 0.346 -4
W L   PreDiff
ATL 93 69 0.574 3
WSH 84 78 0.519 -11
PHI 79 83 0.488 -5
NYM 76 86 0.469 -2
MIA 62 100 0.383 -1
W L   PreDiff
STL 93 69 0.574 5
PIT 92 70 0.568 10
CIN 90 72 0.556 -2
MIL 73 89 0.451 -6
CHC 72 90 0.444 4
W L   PreDiff
LAD 88 74 0.543 6
ARZ 82 80 0.506 0
SF 78 84 0.481 -13
SD 76 86 0.469 -2
COL 72 90 0.444 9

pic1 pic2 pic3 pic4 pic5 pic6

Tigers See Their Chance, Grab Iglesias From Red Sox

pic1

Late Tuesday night, reports came down that Avi Garcia was pulled from his game in Toledo. This time of year that meant he was in the middle of a big trade rumor and it looks like that came true around 11pm as multiple reporters confirmed that the Tigers got involved in a three team deal that sent Garcia to the White Sox, Jake Peavy to the Red Sox, and Jose Iglesias to the Tigers. Additionally, the Tigers will send Brayan Villarreal to Boston and the Sox will send low level prospects to Chicago.

On the surface, it works for everyone. The White Sox get a high ceiling prospect in Garcia, the Red Sox get the starting pitcher they needed, and the Tigers get a SS to fill in for Jhonny Peralta who is, at this point, sure to be suspended this week. The Tigers gave up a young, cheap player from a position of strength for a young, cheap player at a position of weakness. The Red Sox gave up a young, cheap player from a position of strength for much needed pitcher. The White Sox traded a starter who won’t be a part of their future for an OF who could be.

This seems like a deal that works for everyone. I’m a Tigers writer, so I’m going to focus on the deal from their perspective. Jose Iglesias is an elite defender at SS and makes the Tigers starting pitchers, particularly their two elite level ground ball starters Porcello and Fister, much better. At New English D we judge pitchers on only what they can control, but it is also important to realize that run prevention wins games, not expected run prevention. The Tigers as a whole got much better at preventing runs with the addition of Iglesias, even if it doesn’t actually change anything about the pitchers themselves.

Porcello and Fister are very good pitchers, but their ERA’s will be helped a great deal by a player like Iglesias who will swallow up baseballs that Peralta couldn’t. Peralta isn’t a bad defender, but he’s not on Iglesias’ level either. And Peralta is getting suspended. Porcello and Fister are 2nd and 3rd in MLB in Ground Ball Percentage and the team just added someone who can get to ground balls with the best of them. Not only will Iglesias get to more balls than Peralta, but he can also get to a few ground balls in Cabrera’s zone as well that Peralta has been unable to help on.

pic1

The Tigers traded an OF who isn’t expected to be a player on the 2013 club and doesn’t really have a place on the team for 2014. With Jackson locked in center, Hunter under contract for 2014, and Castellanos twiddling his thumbs in AAA, there isn’t really a place for Garcia right now especially with absolutely no way to find ABs at DH until at least 2015. Garcia may prove to be a better player than Iglesias, but the immediate value Iglesias can bring to plug the whole at SS with excellent defense during a championship run is worth the cost. Iglesias profiles as a guy who could hit, but might not. He started hot this season but has cooled off this month. As long as he can provide something more than Worth or Santiago at the plate, it isn’t even worth talking about and Brayan Villarreal barely registers as a cost to the team.

Iglesias is a great defender at shortstop who won’t be a free agent for five more years. He’s 23. Garcia has a higher ceiling, but has plenty of risk too. This is the move you make. It’s the most Dave Dombrowski move since he traded for Fister. I like it a lot.

Iglesias can pick up some slack for Peralta at the dish, but he’s going to make up the lost value on the other side of the ball. He’s Brendan Ryan but with a reasonably decent bat. And he’s younger. And under team control. Dave rarely rents players. He finds opportunities to exploit an evolving market.

He heard the Red Sox wanted Peavy and he saw an opening to grab the SS he wanted. The Sox have Drew this year and top prospect Bogaerts coming. It was a chance to get a player that can help the Tigers now and in the future.

He went for it.

Now Iglesias doesn’t have enough big league time for me to do an in depth statistical breakdown, but everything I know about him says the value will be there on defense. Given the alternative, this is a smart move that could be a great move. Defense plays up in October and the Tigers were going to need a SS next year anyway. Dombrowski said he was probably done dealing at his press conference Tuesday afternoon, but we all knew that wasn’t true.

Dave doesn’t stop, he lurks. He waits. On Tuesday he grabbed a SS who makes the team better without paying too much. That’s a tough thing to do in a sport devoid of shortstops.

Maybe Garcia becomes and All-Star and this looks foolish in 2016. But it’s a gamble you take because, despite how much of a cliche it may be, flags fly forever.

5 Ways To Make The Trade Deadline More Fun

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

It’s that time of year again, when trade rumors overwhelm actual news, and life in general. Jon Heyman, Ken Rosenthal, Jon Morosi, and Buster Olney pretty much take over the world by reporting “sourced” info about teams talking to other teams about potential trades. Almost every rumor is entirely useless and in many cases is just about driving page views. Some actual news will break and teams will make deals that they hope will improve their chances to win a World Series, but for the most part the attention devoted to trade rumors is a giant waste of time.

But for some reason people love the speculation. I don’t. I like analyzing the actual trades but I have zero interest in listening to “sources” telling a reporter that teams have or have not “checked in” about a player. The actual deals are cool, but so much of the deadline is about the deals that don’t get made.

Which leaves us with an opportunity to make it better. I’ve got five suggestions.

5. Move the Deadline to 4am

No matter when the deadline comes, teams will always work right up until it comes. Until recently it was midnight. What if we moved it to 4am and once a year we all stayed up watching the deadline unfold AFTER the day’s games? That sounds like fun. We’d all drag ourselves into work the next day comparing notes about when we finally gave up and went to bed. It would add an interesting, sleepover element to the affair and on-air commentators would be so slap-happy the would say even crazier stuff than they will anyway.

4. A Dedicated Twitter Account to Track Minor League Players Being Removed from the Game

This doesn’t need much explanation. You know you love the moments before a deal is announced when you hear prospect X just got pulled in the 4th inning. A trade is about to happen and you have no idea what it is but you know it’s serious because they took the player out of the game. How this doesn’t already exist, I have no idea.

3. Dugout Hugs Cam

Another no-brainer. When the players, minor and major leaguers, get pulled from the game because they are traded they hug their teammates goodbye. We should dedicate an MLB.TV channel to jumping around behind dugouts looking for hugs just like MLB Tonight jumps around games looking for big moments.

2. Trolling GM’s

This is a response to #3 and #4. While everyone latches on to players coming out of games in late July, they also make too much of it. We need more GM’s to call their minor league teams and have them take players out of the game for no reason. Imagine it. “Breaking News: Carlos Martinez pulled in the middle of the 3rd inning despite retiring first 7 batters,” and then everyone erupts about a trade coming down the pipe. Then nothing happens and it turns out the Cardinals were just messing with everyone. That would be awesome.

1. The Accountability Check

One of the things that bugs me about trade deadline season is that the Trade-Industrial Complex reporters answer to no one. Their connections in front offices help them hear about actual trades, but it also puts them in position to hear and report about rumors that are not at all newsworthy. Like, not even close to newsworthy. This is an actual report (I know it’s from May but it’s my favorite example ever):

So here’s what I propose. We catalog all of these reports from all of the major guys and keep a live tally of how much what they report turns out to be nonsense. I don’t know for sure, but it seems like their accuracy rate would be hilariously low and might show them that not everything they hear is worth sharing. Also, it would offer us a fun way to compare current rumors about the same player. For example, on Tuesday, Jeff Sullivan grabbed these two gems at pretty much the same time:

When those two things pop up at the same time, you know at least one of those reporters is playing it fast and loose. I think it’s fun to call them on it. They take their job way too seriously and act as if they are guarding Deepthroat as a source instead of an Assistant GM who wants to make friends in the media.

So those are my suggestions and I’d love to hear yours. I’m often annoyed by the trade deadline because I don’t generally enjoy the parts of it most people seem to enjoy. I like analyzing the trades when they happen and I don’t care about dreaming them up or hearing what “sources” have to say. These five might make the deadline more fun, and some of them could actually happen. Seriously, #3 and #4, someone get on that.

How Was The Game? (July 30, 2013)

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

A crushing blow.

Tigers 5, Nationals 1

In the day’s marquee matchup, Anibal Sanchez (18 GS, 111 IP, 2.59 ERA, 2.46 FIP, 3.8 WAR) finished with 7 innings of 1 run baseball and got the better of Stephen Strasburg after dueling early. Both teams scored single runs early in the game and were shut down by the two starters until the bottom of the 6th. At that point, the Tigers broke through. Cabrera made the first out before Fielder singled, Martinez doubled, and Peralta walked. With the bases loaded Andy Dirks struck out swinging and left it up to Alex Avila. Avila worked himself into a 2-1 count, before turning on a 96 mph fastball from one of the game’s best and deposited it in the right field seats to give the Tigers a 5-1 lead. That would be all they would need as Leyland called on Veras for the 8th and Benoit for the 9th who shut the door easily. The win is the Tigers’ 60th of the season and their 8th in their last 9. A quick turnout will put the Tigers on the field during Wednesday’s trading deadline with Justin Verlander (22 GS, 137.2 IP, 3.99 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 3.0 WAR) on the mound trying to rediscover his release point.

The Moment: Avila’s grand slam puts the Tigers ahead for good.

Hidden Value: Assessing the Tigers on The Bases

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

Baserunning is pretty much the red-headed stepchild of baseball analysis. We care a lot about hitting. We care a lot about pitching. Most people given a courtesy nod to defense, even if they basically ignore it. But no one talks about baserunning aside from stolen base totals, or maybe stolen base efficiency.

But there is so much more going on on the bases that we could be talking about. Going first to third, scoring on singles, not making outs you don’t have to make. All of these are critical aspects of baserunning that we don’t talk about, but very easily could. In the text of this post I’ll be introducing some statistics (which are very simple) and discussing them in the context of the 2013 Tigers to date (July 30th).

Let’s start by digging deeper on stolen bases. Stolen bases add value to the team, about 1/4 of the value added by a single. But getting caught is costly, and is about twice as costly as stealing a base is beneficial because the value of moving up a base is not as important as not making an extra out. In other words, you need to steal at about a 70% rate or better in order to be adding value to your team overall.

Name wSB
Andy Dirks 0.7
Don Kelly 0.3
Hernan Perez 0.2
Miguel Cabrera 0.1
Matt Tuiasosopo -0.1
Ramon Santiago -0.1
Omar Infante -0.2
Alex Avila -0.2
Austin Jackson -0.3
Torii Hunter -0.4
Avisail Garcia -0.4
Prince Fielder -0.6
Victor Martinez -0.8
Jhonny Peralta -0.9
Brayan Pena -0.9

Presented above are the number of runs each Tiger has added via SB and CS. As you can see, nobody is doing much of anything. The Tigers best basestealer isn’t even up to a full run (10 runs = 1 win) of value and the worst basestealer costs about the same. The Tigers don’t steal a lot of bases, but they don’t get caught a ton either.  All told they are a -3.7 wSB, which means their basestealing exploits has cost the team about one-third of a win. Not very significant.

Now let’s take a look at UBR, which is simply the same formula for all other baserunning activities. This includes the value of going first to third and the cost of getting thrown out trying to stretch something. I’m going to talk about some pieces of this in a moment, but first let me give you the overall numbers.

Name UBR
Austin Jackson 5.0
Don Kelly 2.1
Omar Infante 1.6
Avisail Garcia 0.7
Miguel Cabrera 0.6
Alex Avila 0.6
Ramon Santiago 0.3
Hernan Perez 0.1
Andy Dirks -0.2
Bryan Holaday -0.6
Jhonny Peralta -0.7
Brayan Pena -0.7
Torii Hunter -1.2
Prince Fielder -2.1
Matt Tuiasosopo -2.8
Victor Martinez -4.6

Here we have a chance to see more overall value impact. It will not surprise you to learn that Austin Jackson is the Tigers best runner and that he has been worth half a win to the team simply on the bases (this does not include stealing). Kelly ranks well in this department and despite being slow, Cabrera’s solid instincts help him add value here as well. Dirks is a bit surprising because he’s the team’s best basestealer, but it looks like he doesn’t help much with the ball in play. Overall, the team has a -1.9 UBR, which is just a tick below average. Adding wSB and UBR together, the Tigers have cost themselves something like half a win this season with their baserunning (25th in MLB). You’re not happy about that, but given their collection of lumbering sluggers, it’s nice to see they aren’t giving runs back on the bases they are earning with the bat.

So now that we have an idea about the Tigers overall baserunning value, what are some other things we can track. Let’s start with outs made on the bases. The table below is sorted by total outs, but includes where each out was made. These are outs made when the runner was not forced, so it would include something like getting thrown out at the plate trying to score from second, but not getting forced out in the middle of a double play:

Player OOB1 OOB2 OOB3 OOBHm OOB
Torii Hunter 1 1 1 1 4
Victor Martinez 0 1 0 3 4
Matt Tuiasosopo 0 0 1 3 4
Andy Dirks 1 0 0 2 3
Prince Fielder 0 0 0 3 3
Omar Infante 1 0 1 1 3
Austin Jackson 0 2 1 0 3
Jhonny Peralta 1 2 0 0 3
Miguel Cabrera 0 2 0 0 2
Don Kelly 0 0 1 1 2
Alex Avila 1 0 0 0 1
Avisail Garcia 0 0 0 0 0
Bryan Holaday 0 0 0 0 0
Brayan Pena 0 0 0 0 0
Hernan Perez 0 0 0 0 0
Ramon Santiago 0 0 0 0 0

You’ll notice the Tigers have made 32 outs on the bases while the average team has made 33. Essentially, the Tigers know their limitations like with stolen bases. This is not a club blessed with speed, but they know not to push it and don’t run into an inordinate amount of outs. It’s important to recognize that the base coaches are partially responsible for this, so don’t look at Fielder’s 3 outs at home and put it all on him. This isn’t a perfectly individual situation and it’s important to consider the context of every action and game situations. It would just be way too difficult for me to show you the percentage of time Fielder scored on singles from second versus the times he stopped at 3B versus the times he got thrown out in a simple table.

Now let’s look at the Tigers’ Extra Bases Taken Percentage. This is how often a player takes an extra base when the opportunity presents itself. Note that this is how often they go from first to third when the opportunity comes up not how often the make it when they try for it.

Player XBT%
Omar Infante 55%
Torii Hunter 49%
Austin Jackson 48%
Miguel Cabrera 41%
Avisail Garcia 40%
Jhonny Peralta 37%
Ramon Santiago 36%
Don Kelly 33%
Hernan Perez 33%
Andy Dirks 29%
Prince Fielder 29%
Victor Martinez 23%
Alex Avila 17%
Brayan Pena 13%
Matt Tuiasosopo 8%
Bryan Holaday 0%

League average is 40% and the Tigers as a unit take 35%. Some Tigers do this very well and some do it quite poorly. It’s important to think about the last two stats together. The Tigers make an average number of outs and take a slightly below average number of extra bases. This is a team that knows what it can and can’t do and doesn’t run into a lot of outs relative to the rest of the league. Remember our lesson from the stolen bases section. Not making outs is more important than moving up a base.

You can break these stats down further to each base situation. I’ll just give you one to demonstrate. Let’s try for how many times each Tiger has scored from second base on a single:

Player 2ndSH
Torii Hunter 14
Austin Jackson 11
Victor Martinez 11
Miguel Cabrera 9
Omar Infante 8
Jhonny Peralta 7
Andy Dirks 6
Don Kelly 4
Ramon Santiago 3
Alex Avila 3
Avisail Garcia 2
Prince Fielder 2
Brayan Pena 2
Hernan Perez 0
Matt Tuiasosopo 0
Bryan Holaday 0

It’s important to think about all of these numbers in the context of opportunity and situations, but they are valuable to know. Baserunning doesn’t swing entire seasons dramatically (usually 1-2 wins over an entire season), but it does matter and could easily be talked about more often. In just a few short minutes I’ve given you some other ways to think about baserunning. Stolen bases are important, but they can be measured a bit more accurately too. Additionally, there are stats readily available at sites like Baseball Reference that can tell you more about baserunning value such as XBT% and Outs on the Bases.

As always, there is a lot of information out there and I think you’ll enjoy your baseball watching experience a lot more if you know just a little bit more. Baserunning is about more than raw speed and there are ways to measure which players add value on the bases beyond the stolen base. The 2013 Tigers aren’t the poster children, but they seem to know their game is more about swinging that motoring.

Torii Hunter Plays The Field

pic3

A couple of weeks ago I took a look at Torii Hunter’s late career offensive resurgence and explained that a change in his approach has paid off for the Tigers’ RF. Hunter has had a very nice career overall and was once consider one of the game’s elite defensive players. If you’re curious about Hunter’s current and former swing, check out the link above, but thanks to a reader question over the weekend, this post is going to discuss Hunter’s defense.

The genesis of the discussion was the reader wondering how Hunter’s defensive numbers look this season compared to last season because the reader noticed he’s seemed to make some bad plays out in RF. My eyes tell me the same thing. Hunter has made a number of poor plays this season at bad times.

Let’s take a look at Torii Hunter’s defense this season and throughout his career. Let’s start up front and say that I’m going to present the numbers, drawing heavily from Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), and leaving the reputation to the side. Hunter won a lot of gold gloves and was all over the Web Gems in the late 90s and early 00s. You may remember him making amazing plays in center, but this presentation is about data. I don’t feel comfortable giving you a real scouting report from his early days because that was before the days of MLB Network and MLB.TV when I couldn’t watch all the baseball I wanted to. I’ve seen him for 100 games this year so I’ll give you the scouting report from this season and the raw data from other seasons.

Let’s take a look at the overall numbers. Remember a few things. Up through 2009 he played almost exclusively CF and after he started blending into RF and has played just one game in center since the start of 2011. What is important here is that defensive metrics judge players compared to average at their position meaning that a +10 in CF is a better defensive player than a +10 in RF. Additionally, defense peaks early. Hunter should get worse as he ages, everyone does.

Total Zone is an approximation based on play by play data that covers players up through 2001. In 2002 UZR becomes available and DRS comes in 2003. So these numbers will get more accurate as we move forward and Hunter’s best seasons happen to overlap with the infancy of advanced defense. Don’t take these numbers as gospel. They aren’t perfect, especially early. I’m just presenting the information. A final aside is that defensive metrics are generally a good description of what happened in a given season, but they take very big samples (close to 3 years) to provide a lot of predictive value about a player’s true skill level. Every 10 runs by these defensive scores equals about 1 win.

pic1

This Fld number is Total Zone until 2002 and then UZR. This is what FanGraphs uses for the defensive component of Wins Above Replacement (WAR). What you see on the surface here is that Hunter is essentially an average defensive player over his career with a couple of fantastic seasons and a couple of poor ones. The overall picture says Hunter isn’t a great defensive player overall and is pretty much in line with his career numbers this season.

Now let’s take a look at UZR and DRS in his career in CF only.

pic2

What is pretty interesting about these numbers is that DRS has almost always liked Hunter better than UZR. DRS is scored by hand and UZR is done with an algorithm. This consistency likely indicates that Hunter is doing something very pleasing to the human eyes. Let’s look at RF:

pic3

I think this is pretty interesting. He didn’t play a ton of RF in 2010, so I’m not too worried about it. In 2011 and 2012 DRS likes Hunter better in RF than UZR does, but in 2013 it flips. And that actually corresponds perfectly to what I’m seeing with my own eyes. Hunter’s range actually looks pretty good to me this season. What Hunter is doing poorly this year, in my opinion, is coughing up easy plays. I can think of at least five instances off the top of my head where Hunter got himself to medium difficulty fly ball and he just botched the catch after doing the hard work. He’s also made some atrocious throws in terms of accuracy and has misjudged the wall a few times. Hunter is making bad mistakes this year, and the data seems to suggest that this might be new.

You can see that he’s been pretty consistent in making errors in his career but is already at his quota for the season:

pic4

So the defensive metrics disagree about Hunter. Defensive Runs Saved thinks he’s pretty good (averaging about +5 DRS per season since 2003). Ultimate Zone Rating thinks he’s right about average overall with some heavy year to year variation. If you trust UZR, he’s having an average season at the end of an average career. Defensive Runs Saved says he’s having a bad season at the end of a pretty good career. In total, over the last 11 seasons the difference between Hunter’s UZR and DRS works out to about 4.5 WAR. That’s an interesting difference and it’s one that makes sense.

Let’s take a look at another statistic that I like. What is his defensive efficiency? What percentage of the balls hit to his defensive zone does he catch and how many out of zone plays does he make?

pic5

In his CF days he made more plays that average early in his career and started falling behind a little bit as time went on. That makes sense. In his early days he had great range and as he aged the young kids coming up started passing him. Here are the numbers in RF.

pic6

This continues the theme we’ve been seeing. Hunter was right around average in his first two seasons and has basically collapsed this season. Hunter is making fewer plays on balls in his zone this season, likely because of the misplays I’ve been talking about. It’s not limited range, it’s Hunter making mistakes. That’s how I blend this information and my own observation. Hunter seems just as athletic, but he’s not executing.

pic7

pic8

What these two charts show us is that Hunter has been in the ballpark of league average in making plays outside of his defensive zone. Recognize that these numbers were brand new in 2003 and are constantly being refined, he’s sometimes been better and sometimes worse than average.

So what does this all mean? For me, it says that Hunter has obviously declined as he’s aged but that he hasn’t lost a ton of his range relative to what you would expect given typical aging curves. Generally speaking, human scorers like Hunter’s defense more than the machines, until this season when the humans have turned on him. That turn, which lines up with what the plays/balls in zone data tells us and my own visual inspection, tells us that Hunter is getting hit this season for making mistakes fielding the ball, not getting to it.

On several occasions Hunter has gotten to  medium difficulty ball and dropped it or misjudged the wall or given up on a ball in front of him a little too early. These kind of plays aren’t called for errors, but they are absolutely mistakes made by Hunter that should count against him.

So the story here is that Hunter was probably not quite as good a defender as you thought he was coming up, but that he was pretty good and remains pretty good given his age. This year he’s struggled, not with declining range, but just some stupid mistakes. You can judge that how you will, but it appears to be a sign that his defense could improve rather than continue to decline for the rest of the season. Hunter’s bat has been a nice addition for the Tigers this year and his defense, despite its current issues, is still dramatically better than what Brennan Boesch offered the last few seasons.

The Morning Edition (July 30, 2013)

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

 

From Last Night:

  • The Pirates ride a strong start from Liriano over the Cards
  • Giambi walks off against the White Sox
  • The Rangers get two homeruns in the 9th to come back against the Angels
  • Price leads the Rays past the Sox
  • CarGo goes 5-5, but the Braves walk off

What I’m Watching Today:

  • Lynn and Burnett continue the 5 game set in Pittsburgh in Game 1 (4p Eastern)
  • Peavy scheduled to start in Cleveland, but might be traded beforehand (7p Eastern)
  • Strasburg and Sanchez (7p Eastern)
  • Wheeler faces Eovaldi (7p Eastern)
  • Wilson and Holland go in Texas (8p Eastern)
  • Latos and Volquez start opposite one of the players for which they were traded (10p Eastern)

The Big Question:

  • Did you enjoy bullpen upgrade day?

The Tigers added Veras, the Braves got Downs (good move), and the Rays gambled on Crain (good move). Will the next two days include any big name starters or position players? I’m sure the TradeRumor-Industrial Complex is hoping so. They’ve been tweeting out rumors for so long they will look pretty silly if there aren’t a lot of players moved in the next 36 hours. We’ll have complete coverage of any Tigers moves here and some quick thoughts on the rest of the deals as well. Follow me on Twitter if you’re looking for up to the minute reaction to things that happen in baseball because most of my day is spent thinking about baseball and deciding if I have something interesting enough to share with other people. Usually the answer is no, but sometimes it is yes!

Tigers Pull The Trigger, Grab Veras for Vasquez

pic1

The Tigers have been looking for a bullpen piece for a long while, essentially all season long. They’ve had great contributions from Benoit and Smyly, but do need a trusted arm to round out the back end of the bullpen. What they need is a righty who dominates righties and can get lefties out as well in big situations. That’s pretty much what they got. They needed a healthy Dotel, which they don’t have yet, so they went out and traded for one.

The deal looks like this. The Tigers sent 19 year old OF prospect Danry Vasquez and a Player to Be Named Later to the Astros for RHP Jose Veras. Veras will be used in late inning setup situations in tandem with Drew Smyly and instead of Bruce Rondon. I like this trade, let’s break it down.

Jose Veras is a journeyman reliever on a cheap contract that includes a cheap team option for 2014. The Tigers are getting a year plus of Veras in this deal and at almost no financial cost. Veras has thrown 43 inning in 42 games this season and has a 9.21 K/9 and 2.93 BB/9. The strikeout rate is very much in line with his career pace, but the walks are a big step forward. He has a 2.93 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 0.6 WAR, which all point to a very good overall season. He’s also doing it in the AL West, so his competition is actually going to get easier.

Veras is having his best season to date and his win probability added and run expectancy numbers are also in line with his stat line. All told, it looks like the Tigers are getting a solid relief pitcher and there aren’t any red flags involved. By New English D’s own reliever metric, SOEFA, Veras comes in at 0.24, which is an above average number.

Veras throws a sinking fastball, curveball, and splitter which all seem to be effective pitches for him and he doesn’t have a big platoon split.  What is very encouraging for me about the Veras pick up is that the entire key to his improved value is his decreased walk rate. Take a look at his BB/9 over his career:

pic2

What I find encouraging about this is that I think this is coming from a real change in his approach on the mound. Something I found out while researching a piece about Adam Wainwright and Matt Moore is that throwing strikes overall is less important than throwing first pitch strikes. Getting ahead early is more important than hitting the zone period. Check. This. Out.

pic3

Veras is throwing dramatically more first pitch strikes this season than ever before and it seems to be leading to fewer walks. If Veras has really changed his approach this much, I can completely buy into the drop in walk rate. If Veras really is a 3 BB/9 guy with his K rate, he could be a very solid and valuable piece for the Tigers as they go deep into October.

This move doesn’t just improve their 7/8th combination, but it makes the middle relief better by pushing Alburquerque and Rondon earlier into the game. Veras makes the Tigers better.

As for what they gave up, I’m comfortable with it. Vasquez ranks 5th in TigsTown’s midseason update and #8 on Marc Hulet’s preseason list among Tigers prospects. He has plus potential at the plate, but there are questions about his defense already. He’s 19 and already a LF only type player, it seems. The key to Vasquez is that he’s at least three seasons away from the majors and won’t be ready to contribute until about 2016 and beyond. The Tigers window is now and another solid bullpen arm could be very helpful in October. The Tigers are trading potential value from 2016-2022 for a shot at a title in 2013-2014. As far as I’m concerned that is a risk you take when the prospect isn’t a top tier guy. Unless the PTBNL is a significant piece, the cost is worth the benefit.

The Tigers needed another high leverage reliever for the stretch run and the postseason and they got one in Veras who seems to have turned a corner in his ability to limit runs via a lower walk rate. That walk rate looks real given his first pitch strike rate. They gave up a good prospect to get him, but that prospect is far from the big leagues and the Tigers are in a very real position to win now.

Veras should help the Tigers down the stretch and could be a difference maker in October. Flags fly forever and this is a move that makes a flag more likely without a huge cost.

%d bloggers like this: