Monday, February 27, 2012

Fielder’s Fielding Impact on the Tigers

The recent acquisition of Prince Fielder has many present and future implications for the Tigers. One of the primary topics of conversation that developed from that signing and the subsequent reassignment of Miguel Cabrera to 3b is the Tiger’s defense. The fair assumption that most have been making is that the change from Cabrera to Fielder at first base hurts the team defense, that the change from Inge/Kelly to Cabrera at 3b hurts the team defense, and that generally, the team defense is now inferior to where it was a year ago.

Everyone seems to be expecting the worst with this change, specifically for Doug Fister and Rick Porcello, two groundball heavy pitchers. I have heard the sentiment expressed that the Tigers now have three DHs (Cabrera, Fielder, and Young). Highly respected baseball people have wondered aloud just how long the Tigers can ‘survive’ with this arrangement. Many have suggested that Cabrera is very likely to not last at 3B over the course of the entire season. Is it really doom and gloom for the Tigers this season?

Jacob Turner and the Tiger's Aggressive Approach

Recently, the current group of management with the Detroit Tigers has been given a reputation of rushing pitchers to the major leagues. This reputation seems to have been largely garnered on the back of Rick Porcello’s early debut several years ago and is being continued with the possible aggressive promotion of Jacob Turner. As a statistician, this label seems to be more than a little unfair. After all, rarely would I take two specific cases and extrapolate that into a ‘theme’ being displayed by a front office.

It is hard to argue that Rick Porcello was not ‘rushed’. He was dominant in his one full season in the minors in his first year in pro ball straight out of high school and saw full time major league action the very next year. However, his first year was high A ball, and he only threw 125 innings, and he averaged just over 5 k/9, and you get the point. Rick was highly talented compared to other A ballers, compared to other 19 year olds, but not really compared to major leaguers. He had a solid low 90’s four seam fastball, sinker, a slow looping curve and change up at 19, and about 4 years later he basically is the same pitcher with a par slider added to the mix. Porcello was a good prospect to be sure but it’s hard to imagine a guy who strikes out only 5 guys per nine inning in high A obtaining any kind of immediate or even long term success in the majors without seeing more at some point.