Thursday, June 30, 2011

Swapping Problems Isn't a Solution

When the Tigers announced that Phil Coke would be a member of the teams starting rotation following the 2010 season, I was skeptical. Coke had worked primarily as the stereotypical fastball/slider reliever during his time with the Yankees before mixing in his changeup last year when he was traded to Detroit and it was effective enough (1.40R/C - runs above average/100 pitches).

Still, the thought of moving someone who had worked largely with the platoon split - while showing a significant platoon split - to the rotation seemed risky. Coke posted a 32K/8BB ratio in 28.2 innings vs lefties last year, but had a 21K/18BB ratio in 36.0 innings vs righties, which should've let anyone paying attention know that he would struggle mightily in the rotation, where he can't be protected from seeing twice as many right handers as left handers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lornezo Cain Begging For Promotion

No, not literally, though he could be forgiven if he was.

Twenty five year old Lornezo Cain, who was acquired in the Zach Grinke trade this winter has been crushing AAA pitching to the tune of a .301/.373/.513 triple slash. Following this winter's trade however I fully expected that Cain would be handed the starting center fielder job given his solid .306/.348/.415 line in 158 plate appearances with the Brewers last season, even though it was heavily BABIP fueled. On top of the solid offense, Cain also played strong defense, posting a +5.7 UZR/150.

The team however followed up that trade by bringing in Melky Cabrera from the Braves, and it became apparent early in spring training that the center field job was his to lose. So far, he hasn't really done anything to lose it, per se, he's hitting .275/.315/.435, good for a .750 OPS that's above the MLB average of .750. He's been worth a total of 1.7 WAR so far in 2011, a solid mark that would put him on pace for around 3.0.

In His Own Words: Kyle Gibson

This interview was conducted by Nate Rowan, a recent graduate of Concordia College, Moorhead where he majored in Print Journalism and Communications, and did play by play work for Cobber athletics.

Kyle Gibson was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the first round (22nd overall) in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Missouri. In 2010, spending time at single-A Fort Myers, double-A New Britain and triple-A Rochester, Gibson was 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 26 starts including two complete games. He walked only 39 batters in 152 innings of work.

So far this season, Gibson is 3-7 with a 3.89 era in 14 starts. He was named the International League Pitcher of the Week for the week ending May 29. In that stretch, Gibson posted a 2-0 record with a 1.42 ERA in two starts while surrendering just seven hits in 12 2/3 innings.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tigers Option Danny Worth, Activate Brandon Inge

Today the Tigers will get back one of their most beloved, and reviled players, Brandon Inge. A fan favorite, as well as whipping boy, Inge has been out for the past 20 games with mononucleosis (mono) which was likely at least somewhat to blame for his hideous .211/.279/.286 triple-slash over his first 181 plate appearances.

For his career Inge is a .236/.306/.390 hitter who's offensive value comes almost exclusively from his ability to crack 15-20 home runs per season as he neither hits for average, nor gets on base at an enticing rate. In addition to his home run power, Inge has generally played plus defense at third base, with a +5.7 career UZR/150. It's worth noting however that his UZR slipped below the 5.0 level for the first time since 2005 last year (3.5), and is at just 2.7 in 2011.

If Inge can't continue to be a legitimately plus defender, his inability to get on base at a respectable rate will render him an essentially worthless player.

The move will give the Tigers back their regular third baseman, while utility infielder Danny Worth will be optioned back to AAA. Worth was given just 31 plate appearances in Inge's absence but made the most of them, putting together a .310/.355/.379 line. He'll likely be the first call-up should the team suffer another infield injury.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tigers Demote Adam Wilk, Recall Ryan Perry

After a solid 2010 campaign, the Tigers and their fans were undoubtedly hoping that young, hard throwing righty Ryan Perry could build on his performance and leap into the discussion of elite setup men. A classic hard throwing (94-95mph) fastball/slider reliever, Perry instead struggled mightily to open this season, boosting his strikeout rate to an impressive 8.71, but simultaneously displaying horrendous control, walking nine batters in his 10.1 innings of work.

How much of those struggles were related to an infected eye that was originally thought to be the by-product of allergies this summer is uncertain, though it seems likely that a pitcher like Perry, who has never had great control, but also never experienced control issues this bad, was certainly adversely affected by the issue. With his control back (1.65BB/9 in 16.1 AAA innings of work) Perry and his powerful fastball/slider combo seem ready to rejoin the Tigers bullpen and hopefully help add further strength to a unit that already features three high quality arms.

For his part, the left handed Adam Wilk pitched about as well as could be expected. Despite possessing underwhelming raw stuff (his fastball works in the 87-88mph range) and getting hit fairly hard (5.91 ERA), he gave the team 10.2 innings, mostly in long relief, and flashed strikeout and walk rates that could play long-term in a long-relief role or as a lefty specialist. He'll head back to AAA where he can continue to improve and hopefully return one day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Amazing Vanishing Offense and What it Means for the Game as a Whole

Over the past decade many baseball fans have become accustomed to games scores like 6-4, or 7-3 - and if you grew up around the baseball of the mid-90s and early 2000s (like me) you likely know of little else. Runs being scored in bunches has been more of less a fact of life for the past twenty years.

Of course, things weren't always this way.

If you're somewhat older than my twenty eight years (almost) of age, and can recall watching baseball in the 70s and 80s, you'll recall a game that was dominated by the pitcher. Unfortunately, that bygone era of the 3-2 game has long been thought dead, a victim of lowered mounds, juiced hitters, and league expansion that left too few quality arms available.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Real Brennan Boesch Has Stood Up

In examining Brennan Boesch's 2010 season, one sees the easy study in contrast - the scorching hot .387 BABIP fueled start to his season in which he raced off to a .345/.397/.593 start - and the inevitable crash that followed that.

Prior to this season I examined that dichotomy in detail and did my best to project what we could expect from Boesch during the 2011 season, eventually determining that he could become a .250/.330/.500 type of bat. So far in 2011 Brennan has produced a .297/.356/.482 that is higher on batting average and on base percentage, and lower on slugging that I expected, but still right on the OPS line (I projected .830, he's at .838). He's still been a bit BABIP lucky, posting a .318 mark, the difference however, is in the degrees.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Joe Mauer Returns, Twins Outright Brian Dinkelman

It's been a long season for the Minnesota Twins, who've suffered through injuries to essentially every key member of their team - and ineffectiveness even when healthy. But with the return of second baseman/shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and reliever Glen Perkins yesterday, the team put itself on a path to health that should continue for the next couple of weeks.

While those two returned yesterday, the Twins will get their best player back today as Joe Mauer makes his much awaited return to the Twins lineup. Since leaving the team with what was initially diagnosed as bi-lateral leg weakness, a neurological condition in which weakness in the legs is caused by misfirings in the brain, spinal cord, or nerves - there has been a massive amount of hand wringing, speculation, and misinformation - and a notable lack of information coming from either the organization or Mauer himself. Whatever the problems Mauer was having were, they were most certainly exacerbated by a prolonged bout with the flu which left Mauer (along with other members of the team) hospitalized and taking fluids.

Indians Activate Travis Hafner, Option Travis Buck

The Indians, who have been in free-fall mode for the past two weeks got a welcome bit of good news today as they activated slugging DH Travis Hafner from the disabled list.

Hafner should help shore up an offense that has produced just 30 runs in the teams past fourteen games. In that time span, the team has won just three games, part of a larger overall slide that has seen them go just 6-16 since May 24th. They've also watched what was once a six game lead crater into a one game deficit. The offense, which has produced just 2.14 runs per game since June second (they had a 13 run outburst on the 1st), isn't solely to blame however as the team has also allowed 71 runs over the same time span as the early season pitching that had carried the team suffered some of the expected regression.

Indeed, the Indians are struggling in all facets of the game at the moment, and the return of any one player - even one as talented as Hafner - won't solve those woes on his own. But the slugger, who was in the midst of a remarkable comeback year, hitting .345/.409/.549 should add considerable clout to a middle-of-the-order that could use some.

To make room for Hafner, the team has once again optioned outfielder Travis Buck to the AAA. This will be Buck's second trip down. He's struggled offensively, posting an OPS of just .617, though he's played very strong defense in left.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Felipe Paulino OffTo A Surprising Start

Unless you were a fan of the Royals or Rockies, the news that the Royals had traded setup man Robinson Tejeda to the Rockies for reliever Felipe Paulino probably fell off your radar. That's reasonable given that Tejeda has spent essentially the entirety of 2011 either ineffective or on the disabled list. Still, that the Royals were willing to part with someone who provided 2.1 WAR out of the bullpen the past two seasons came as a bit of a surprise to me. That they were willing to give him up for someone with a career 5.53 ERA perhaps was more surprising still.

Paulino however, was an extremely interesting acquisition. A live arm who has averaged 95.4mph with his fastball since reaching the Majors at 24 years old back in 2007 with the Astros, he pairs that exceptional heat with a very good slider, a curve and a change. Beyond the raw stuff, he's posted solid peripherals, with a career K rate of 8.00 and a GB rate just shy of 45%. However like many power pitchers, he's struggled with his command, walking 3.73 per nine innings. In all, that's a solid package of raw stuff and strong rate metrics.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tepid Optimism for Alex Avila

Alex Avila has been a more than pleasant surprise for the Detroit Tigers this season at catcher. After disappointing starts to the season from a number of Tigers, Alex Avila has done his best to keep the team afloat on offense. Through 204 plate appearances Avila has a .907 OPS with 9 home runs, 13 doubles, and even 3 triples. He currently has a .258 ISO and an absurd .389 wOBA both marks are first for qualified catchers by a mile (among unqualified catchers his ISO is second to Mike Napoli).

Needless to say, Avila has been one of, if not the top backstop in the MLB the first two months of the season. The question then becomes, can he keep it up? At first blush the answer would seem to be definitely not. This is the same guy coming off of a wOBA of .297 in his first full season and .112 ISO, numbers on the lower side even for a catcher. As a result, his improvement this season is well beyond any kind of reasonable expectation of improvement anybody could have had for him coming into this season.

H & M: A Fashionably Good Duo

With the arrival of Mike Moustakas to the majors, Kansas City has both halves of their prized infield prospects up with the big club, the other being first baseman Eric Hosmer. While it is still way too soon to accurately conclude that either player will be a bona fide major league star, the initial returns certainly match the pedigree.

For Eric Hosmer, in a decent sample he has proven himself to be a fairly impressive rookie hitter. Currently, he boasts an .888 OPS in 156 plate appearances with the Royals. Impressive but not entirely surprising since Hosmer absolutely crushed minor league pitching over the last year and change, hitting well over .300 with great power.