Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tiger Troubles

The off-season for the Tigers meant paying the big bucks for Prince Fielder. They paid a whopping 214 million dollars for a nine-year contract.  That should have assured a berth in the new playoff scenario come October. It appears that without a huge change in their fortunes, the Tigers will not be there when they need to be. I know it is still early, but they have fallen on weak hitting and worse pitching. Both are on a par with each other. The team OPS+ is 101 and ERA+ is 98. For a whopping 99.5 combined. Below average and so they are. Not what Jim Leyland wanted.

And that’s where they are sitting: a third place and a record of 23/27, .460. At the start of the season I predicted that the Tigers would, in fact, take the AL Central. 
As in the East, surprise has been the name of the game. With Indians and White Sox back and forth for first in the Central, I would suggest that the AL Central is more about the Tigers’ failures than the others’ success.

The year started great with the Tigers taking the first series against the Red Sox – they just lost 3 to the Red Sox, very average. Twenty games in, they were 10/10. At thirty, 15/15. At forty, 19/21 and now at fifty games 23/27. A slow slip from .500 ball to .460.

The money-man, Prince Fielder, has not produced as advertised.  He is way off pace to compile his HR average of 37 per year. He is on pace for 28. As for RBI, the same story applies.  He is another ten RBI lower than his average. So, for his first year of a nine-year deal, he has not shown the pop they ere expecting with the loss of Victor Martinez, whose numbers for last year were: RBI – 103, BA – .330 and OPS+ – 137. Fielder will have to step up to match his own or even Martinez’s record. 

Having gotten rid of Branden Inge, Ryan Rayburn is still not an offensive producer. His BA is .146 and Inge is now way up to .216 from a very lowly .100.

Added to this list of underachievers are Jhonny Peralta, Brennan Boesch, and the social commentator, Delmon Young. This makes five of the starting line-up below their own average performance. Alex Avila and Miguel Cabrera are at their usual pace. Austin Jackson is way above his pace and, at just three years in the majors, he has somewhat eased the pain of the loss of Curtis Granderson.  For the Tigers’ sake, I hope that Jackson is in fine form after a stint on the 15 day DL.

Batting average is not the only criteria for who is a plus on the team. For pitchers and batters, I like the ERA+ and OPS+. What’s not factored in is the percentage of BB and SO to each other. For pitchers a high number is good when you divide the number of SO by the BB. For Justin Verlander, the number is 4.86 for the best Tiger. Verlander is best in others categories as well. For example ERA – 2.14, ERA+ -188, WHIP – .802 and SO/BB at 4.86. He is still the best on the team.  The team strikes over balls is 3.01. Better than the Jays with a mere 1.77 – way too many walks.

Jose Valverde is below par this year. His WHIP is 1.655 with only nine saves. His ERA+ is 90. The pitchers have given up 53 HR this year with 452 hits and 227 earned runs.

For the hitter, it is BB divided by SO and again the higher the number the better. For Austin Jackson the number is .689, followed by Jhonny Peralta – .653 and Miguel Cabrera at .576. Below average is Prince Fielder at .483. Meaning more than twice as many SO as BB.

As for OPS+, Austin Jackson is at 163 but Rayburn is a very lowly 16. That’s right, sixteen! It would be better to send him down than have this in the starting line-up.  Another blow is that Jackson is on the DL for a few days. As the Tigers’ best offensive player, it is indeed a disaster. 

While the pitching has been decent this season, it is the hitting that has let the team down. The Tigers have lost ten of the eighteen one-run games they have played. Five of the eight wins were early in the season. The Tigers swept the first series of the year against the Red Sox and had not won a series until April 18 against the Royals. Now they have just swept the Twins and got swept by the Red Sox. Looking at the innings played, the Tigers score runs in bunches. They get to a pitcher, and then cannot seem to carry that momentum forward.

Michael Ilitch and Dave Dombrowoski will have to make some moves. They need to fill spots at second base, DH, right field and maybe catcher. All these positions are below average and some, way under. They will have to make changes, and soon, to get them back where they should be. You cannot blame Fielder for all the problems. He is having a slow start but so have Pujols and Bautista.

Now that Doug Fister – 0/3 – is on the DL again, the Tigers are in an even more precarious position. Can Phil Coke fill the gap?

This just in, the Tigers sent Rayburn down to the Mud Hens. But what will happen in the long run? I hope that’s not the only move they make.

The Tigers will have to play .821 ball, from here on in, to have a chance at a play-off birth this year. Whew!!

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