The Cleveland Indians completed a series sweep of the Detroit Tigers on May 24 lifting their season record to 26-18, the fifth best mark in all of baseball. Their lead in the division was up to three and a half games over the Chicago White Sox, and six games over the heavily favored Tigers. Cleveland’s sports writers had already been talking playoffs for a few days, but something wasn’t quite right. Although they sat eight games above the .500 mark, they had only scored one more run than they had allowed.
Run differential isn’t altogether definitive or completely predictive, but it does usually give a different (usually more accurate) view of the team’s actual performance than win-loss percentage does. Could the Indians continue to win at a .591 clip while only marginally out-scoring their opponents?
Justin Verlander gave the bullpen the day off on Sunday with his 117-pitch complete game victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the Tigers’ relief corps, as currently constructed, has been lights out when asked into the game. As a group, they’ve allowed just one earned run to score in their last 17 innings of work (since the extra inning loss to the Rockies 10 days ago). But the solid goes back further than just the last week and a half. In the month as a whole, Tigers relievers have logged 66.1 innings while only allowing a 2.44 ERA.
There have been some rocky moments with Tigers relievers on the mound this season to be sure, but most of those moments came earlier in the year with the likes of Collin Balester and Daniel Schlereth in the ball game. Because of some of these outings, the Tigers rank 12th in the American League in bullpen ERA, but the guys currently out in the bullpen have pitched much better than that.no comments
I don’t make it any secret that I don’t think Quintin Berry will be much of a major league hitter. I’ve posted to that effect both on this blog and on my Twitter account (be my friend). But these sort of statements have caused a divide among Tigers fans the perhaps rivals that caused by one Charles Brandon Inge.
First of all, let me clear up one thing. Just because I think his success at the plate is due to luck (and won’t continue) doesn’t mean I’m rooting for him to fail. I clapped my hands together (Quintin style) just as hard as anyone when he knocked in the winning run of Thursday’s game, but I’m not going to ignore the numbers and believe that he’s any sort of long-term solution in the outfield. Often times, bloggers such as myself will throw out the term unsustainable BABIP (batting average on balls in play), but we won’t really say why such a number is unsustainable.
Here’s what I mean (I’m sorry if you don’t care for numbers).
The middle innings for the Tigers have a new look. Hard throwing right hander Brayan Villarreal has become the middle reliever of choice for Jim Leyland and the Tigers. Villarreal, the 25 year old right-hander from Venezuela, has appeared in 20 games (23.1 innings) and currently has a 1.16 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP.
With a fastball that touches 98 miles per hour at times and a nice slider, Villarreal is the power arm that the Tigers seem to like in the bullpen. Villarreal has also shown good control for the most part, walking 10 batters in his 23.1 innings pitched. He has the ability to go multiple innings in relief as well, with his longest outing being 2.1 innings against the Pirates on May 19th.no comments
As expected, Jacob Turner was recalled from the minor leagues following Wednesday night’s loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. He will be effectively taking the place of Drew Smyly, who has been on the disabled list with a blister on his throwing hand since June 11. Smyly isn’t eligible to come off the DL until next Tuesday, but his finger is apparently feeling much better, so he’ll be making a rehab start today in Toledo to prepare for his return to the big leagues. Luke Putkonen was sent back to the minor leagues to make room on the active roster for Turner.
Turner, at just 21 years old, was the consensus number one prospect in the Tigers’ organization coming in to the year, and he was in the running to make the team as the fifth starting pitcher out of camp until some shoulder soreness limited his spring action. So instead of joining the Detroit Tigers in April, he became a member of the Lakeland Flying Tigers for four starts to work his arm into shape against A-ball competition before resuming his role in the AAA rotation.no comments
We need to be very careful whenever we discuss advanced defensive metrics, such as UZR (click here for a UZR explanation), when the sample size is small. Conventional wisdom says three years of defensive data is as reliable as one year of offensive data (due to factors such as number of fielding opportunities and the limitations in available batted ball data), so our current 67 game sample on Miguel Cabrera would be akin to 22 games worth of batting numbers.*
So we obviously can’t make any “true talent level” claims based on this small data set, but we also can’t say that UZR tells us what has happened so far this year. All we can discuss is what UZR has recorded as having happened so far this year. The distinction may seem small, but it’s important.
*We know that 22 games of batting data is full of noise due to random variation. For example, Ramon Santiago hit .163/.208/.224 through his first 22 games this season. Since then (29 games), he’s hit .284/.392/.388. Are either of those stretches his true talent level? No. In fact, we probably get closest if we just average the whole year together to get his .233/.318/.319 line.
But it wouldn’t be fun to simply put aside the data while calling it unreliable would it? Let’s take a look at his UZR data (as reported by FanGraphs) for this season.no comments
The production the Tigers have received from second basemen* this season has been atrocious. Ryan Raburn, Brandon Inge, Danny Worth, Ramon Santiago and Hernan Perez have combined to hit just .187/.256/.264 in 363 total plate appearances.
*None of these players, with the exception of Perez is only a small handful of games, played second base exclusively for the Tigers this season, but they’re the players that have been in the mix at the position, so I’m lumping their batting totals together. This represents their total hitting line, not just while playing second base (Inge’s totals only represents his time in Detroit this year).
I’m sure Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers’ scouts have second basemen on their radar ahead of July 31’s non-waiver trade deadline, but I can also imagine that it would be difficult for the organization to pull the trigger on a move for a couple of reasons.no comments