As lots of you probably know, I got a new job in February and keeping up with those demands and all of my various writing commitments has left little room for much else in my schedule. In June, I authored my final TigsTown post in an effort to focus my efforts and today I’m announcing the end of the nightly recaps, “How Was The Game?”
The upshot of this is that I’m going to reinvest the HWTG time into putting up more analysis on the site. Lately, I’ve been writing one main post a week and I’d like to get back to doing more, now that I’ve opened up some time. The recaps generally didn’t take a ton of time given their brief nature, but 10 minutes a night is more than an hour a week and that’s probably time I could spend adding two more real posts a week. And in reality, the recaps get much, much less traffic than the analysis and commentary, so I’m probably also disappointing a couple of you.
I’ve spent the last few months figuring out how to blend writing into a normal 830-5 schedule, and I think I’ve figured it out. With commitments at FanGraphs, managing duties at BTBS, and the occasional Hardball Times piece, I want to make sure the time I devote to the Tigers is value added time. The recaps, while fun at times, feel more like a burden and I don’t want to feel burdened by baseball.
So, less HWTG, more other content. Everything else is the same. Thanks for reading and go Tigers.
Pirates 5, Tigers 4
Things didn’t start out very well on Tuesday, as Justin Verlander (3 GS. 17.2 IP, 5.09 ERA, 6.95 FIP) couldn’t find the strike zone and surrendered three runs in the first three innings, digging an early hole. The Tigers got one back in the 5th on a James McCann double and then added another in the 7th to pull within one. Unfortunately, they gave a run back in the top of the 8th and things looked bleak. And then, JD Martinez came to the plate and did that thing where he ties the game with a home run. Fast forward to the 14th inning, and we have one of the weirdest plays of the year. With a man on first, Davis just missed catching a ball in the RCF gap. The runner, Gorkys Hernandez thought he caught it and started to go back to first, forgot to retouch second, and wound up out on an appeal. Naturally, Gorzelanny gave up the lead one batter later. Not to be outdone, Kinsler and Miggy singled in the bottom half and VMart grounded into a double play to end it quickly. Alfredo Simon (14 GS, 85.2 IP, 3.57 ERA, 3.93 FIP) later today.
The Moment: JD Martinez game-tying home run.
Tigers 5, White Sox 4
It didn’t look good. It didn’t look good at all. David Price (16 GS, 110 IP, 2.62 ERA, 2.89 FIP) had given up four runs in six innings and the bats hadn’t done anything. And then, just like that, this happened.
McCann singles. Iggy walks. Gose singles. Kinsler HBP. Now Cabrera’s up in a huge spot, but strikes out. That’s why you have VMart, though, who doubled in everybody and tied the game. Soria worked a perfect 9th and then after a Castellanos punch out, McCann finished the rally he started with a walk-off home run to complete the series win. They’ll take a day off and then lean of Justin Verlander (2 GS, 11.2 IP, 6.17 ERA, 7.65 FIP) on Tuesday.
The Moment: McCann sends everybody home.
Back and forth.
Tigers 5, White Sox 4
It was another one of those Anibal Sanchez (16 GS, 105 IP, 4.63 ERA, 4.39 FIP) starts where he gave up three home runs but everything else was fine. It’s a weird problem to have, but fortunately his hitters kept responding. The first two responses were Cabrera and Iglesias, and then it was Cespedes into triple’s alley to make it 3-2 Tigers. After the Sox tied it and retook the lead, it was Rajai Davis clearing the wall to tie it and JD Martinez crushing one put the Tigers ahead for good. We saw good Rondon and Soria pitched out of trouble to even up the series at one game a piece. Kyle Ryan (3 GS, 23.2 IP, 4.56 ERA, 5.39 FIP) will go on Saturday.
The Moment: JD Martinez crushes the game winning homer.
Too good to be true.
White Sox 8, Tigers 7
There was plenty of scoring in this one. First, Alfredo Simon (14 GS, 85.2 IP, 3.57 ERA, 3.93 FIP) had a bit of a rough day, giving up three runs in the first eight batters and then allowing two more in the 5th. Fortunately, the Tigers clawed back. Kinsler hit a two run shot in the first and JD Martinez answered with his own in the 5th. In the 8th, Castellanos doubled and Romine took over to score on the Iglesias sac fly, sending it to extra innings where the White Sox promptly jumped on Joba Chamberlain for three runs. The Tigers struck back in the bottom of the 10th when Holaday delivered a two-run single, but they couldn’t get that final run. Anibal Sanchez (15 GS, 98 IP, 4.59 ERA, 4.16 FIP) is the Friday night starter.
The Moment: JD Martinez homers, again!
Mostly what you’d expect.
Indians 8, Tigers 2
So the Tigers started Buck Farmer (2 GS, 10.1 IP, 10.45 ERA, 6.20 FIP) against the Indians and Cabrera got the day off as the Tigers faced Carrasco. The results reflected that reality. Farmer did his thing the first time through the order, striking out five and walking two, and then the Indians bats jumped on him as soon as the lineup turned over, getting five hits in a row. He surrendered a homer later and then the bullpen did things, too. Without Cabrera, it was left to the other noted Indians killed, JD Martinez to get the obligatory dinger. They still take the series, and face the Sox on Thursday with Alfredo Simon (13 GS, 79.1 IP, 3.29 ERA, 3.85 FIP) on the hill.
The Moment: JD Martinez dinger.
Almost exactly a year ago, I put words on the page about JD Martinez’s breakout. At the time, he was on fire, or en fuego if you’re 15 and want to sound like you’re cool because you know words in another language. Looking at Martinez using that article as a bookmark (through June 19, 2014).
Martinez’s walk rate and strikeout rate got a little better no matter the split you compare it to and his ISO got worse as well. You also have the matter of a much lower BABIP in 2015 compared to the summer of 2014. In other words, the discipline got a little better and the BABIP and power regressed. But they didn’t regress to pre-Detroit levels. Let’s look at it this way. Since becoming a Tiger, Martinez has 767 PA and a .379 wOBA (.365 BABIP).
About two weeks later, I wrote about Martinez again for TigsTown. I can’t find the link, but here’s the PDF of the draft I submitted. My assessment, to save you the time, was that he had improved himself from a .300 wOBA nothing to a .340 wOBA real baseball player over the course of a few months. He wouldn’t stay that hot, but he would be good.
And I was right on the money until he hit three dingers on Sunday and shot up to .360 wOBA. The projections now say he’s a .340-.350 wOBA guy and I think they’re right. JD Martinez is, in fact, about 20% better than the average hitter. His plate discipline holds him back from becoming a world-beater, but his ability to smack the ball is enough to make him legit. There’s virtually no way to be consistently better than .360ish if you have his BB and K numbers, but that’s plenty good. And a .340-.350 wOBA guy who is average-ish or so in a corner is like a 3 WAR player.
And he’s in his age 27 season, under team control through 2017. The Tigers are going to pay him less than $30 million for 2015-2017 and they’re going to get something like $70 million in production. Al Avila, take a bow.
His underlying discipline numbers are the same, he’s a hitting a more fly balls, and his BABIP is settling in at an appropriate .320 or so. This appears to be JD Martinez. Not a hitter on par with Cabrera and Trout, like he was in 2014, but one on par the Cespedeses of the world. And they got him for free.
I want to point out one bit of confirmation. Obviously, the numbers are good and they’ve been good long enough that we’re starting to believe it. If you look at something like Hard Hit% (percentage of batted balls classified as hard-hit by Baseball Info Solutions), Martinez’s rate went up from high 20s in 2011-12 to mid 30s in 2013 to low 40s in 2014-2015.
We shouldn’t pretend that the JD Martinez of 2014 is the true JD Martinez, but at this point, it’s time to accept him as a legitimate hitter whose bottom probably won’t fall out. It’s tough to be a good hitter with a walk rate below average and a strikeout rate about 25%, but Martinez hits the ball hard enough to make it work. There’s really no way to sustain what he did last year with those BB and K rates, but there absolutely is a path to sustain his 2015 performance. “Swing changes” are almost always nonsense explanations. Not this time.
Tigers 7, Indians 3
The 5th inning is where this game was won. It was 1-1, courtesy of an Andrew Romine (!) home run when he Tigers fell backwards into a six run inning. Romine started it off with a double, and then Davis and Kinsler worked a pair of walks to load the bases with one out. Danny Salazar got a weak ground ball from Cabrera to set up the double play, but he botch the play, opening the door to a pair of singles and a double. That was the all the offense David Price (15 GS, 104 IP, 2.42 ERA, 2.82 FIP) would need, as he wen 6.2 strong innings in pursuit of the series win. It looks like it will be Buck Farmer (1 GS, 5 IP, 12.60 ERA, 8.51 FIP) Wednesday afternoon in lieu of Verlander.
The Moment: Tigers push through in he 6th.
Tigers 8, Indians 5
It wasn’t exactly Kyle Ryan’s (3 GS, 23 IP, 3.91 ERA, 5.54 FIP) finest night, but that’s okay because Miguel Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes did the thing where they get on base a lot. Cabrera had two hits and two walks, while Cespedes collected three hits, including a line drive homer to right center field. Iglesias played it smooth to start a couple of double plays and the bullpen, save for solo dingers allowed by Joba and Joakim, held things in check to allow the Tigers to coast to a nice victory. David Price (14 GS, 97.1 IP, 2.50 ERA, 2.94 FIP) will try to secure a series win on Tuesday.
The Moment: Cespedes clears the fence on a line.
Tigers 12, Yankees 4
After a rough opening to the series, the Tigers slammed their way to a salvage game on Sunday. Anibal Sanchez (15 GS, 98 IP, 4.59 ERA, 4.15 FIP) had one rocky inning, but was otherwise solid. He didn’t need to be, however, as he got plenty of support from single homers from Victor Martinez and Andrew Romine and three home runs from JD Martinez. It was a comprehensive victory after a pair of disappointing performances and the Tigers will head to Cleveland looking to keep the bats rolling. On the pitching side, they’ll turn to Kyle Ryan (2 GS, 19.1 IP, 3.26 ERA, 5.69 FIP) on Monday.
The Moment: JD Martinez puts three into the seats.