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Entries in Detroit Tigers (64)

Tuesday
Aug072012

Verlander Dominates Yankees with Secondary Stuff

When most people think about Justin Verlander, they think about the triple-digit fastball that he can unleash whenever the occasion calls for it. But Verlander's dominance is the result of much more than elite heat. He has thrown his fastball a career-low 50% of the time in 2012, relying more upon his quality changeup (23%), curveball (16%) and slider (11%). Verlander's four plus pitches were all on display during his 14-strikeout shredding of the Yankees last night. Ichiro summed up the daunting task of facing the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner:

"In the eighth inning, he still had a 100 mph fastball," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "The rest of his pitches are great, too."

Verlander did indeed hit 100 in the eighth inning, but overall he used his fastball just 44% of the time against New York's lefty-laden lineup. Instead, he called on his tumbling changeup (30%) and Looney Tunes curveball (21%), with a few sliders mixed in for good measure. Verlander kept away from lefty hitters' wheelhouse, throwing 72% of his pitches away to them:

Verlander's pitch location vs. Yankees, 8/6/12

 

He recorded most of his Ks with his secondary stuff, punching out four hitters apiece on changeups and curveballs and getting one with his slider. Most of those strikeouts came on those low-and-away pitches to lefties:

Location of Verlander's Ks vs. Yankees, 8/6/12

 

Pitching backwards and hitting the corners -- not exactly what you'd expect from a guy with 100 MPH heat facing one of the game's best offenses. But that's why Verlander has emerged as one of this generation's greatest pitchers. He can beat hitters with breaking and off-speed stuff and then Blitzkrieg them with his fastball whenever he wants. Verlander can send batters slouching back to the dugout so many different ways. Just ask Ichiro.

 

Monday
Jul162012

Porcello, Tigers Cursed By Shoddy Infield D

As a low-K pitcher who keeps the ball on the ground, Rick Porcello couldn't be in a worse spot than Detroit. Porcello and the Tigers' plodding, super-sized infield featuring Miguel Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta and Price Fielder go together like peanut butter and...motor oil.

It's no surprise, then, that Porcello sports the third-highest batting average on balls in play (.354) among MLB starters, and has a 3.83 Fielding Independent ERA that is more than six-tenths of a run lower than his actual ERA (4.47). Porcello takes the mound tonight against the Angels (7 pm ET, ESPN) with a BABIP on ground balls that is 40 points above the big league average:

Highest BABIP on ground balls, 2012

PitcherBABIP on grounders
Nick Blackburn 0.322
Josh Johnson 0.302
Joe Saunders 0.295
Jeremy Guthrie 0.295
Ivan Nova 0.294
Cliff Lee 0.291
Anibal Sanchez 0.288
Bartolo Colon 0.288
Rick Porcello 0.278
Zack Greinke 0.276
MLB Avg. 0.238

 

When you sport the fifth-lowest strikeout rate (13.2 percent) and the 15th-highest ground ball rate (53.2 percent) among starting pitchers, leaky infield D is a major problem.

Overall, Tigers pitchers have a .267 BABIP on grounders, which ranks third-worst in the big leagues behind the Yankees (.270) and the Royals (.273). You have to think that a Brendan Ryan or Jamey Carroll-type acquisition would be on Dave Dombrowski's wishlist, with Porcello being the biggest proponent.

Wednesday
Jun272012

My All Star Starters: AL 3B

While voting for the All-Star game ends tomorrow, I will still be producing these articles to discuss who I believe should have the starting nod and who should be on the team. Up tonight is the American League hot corner. This is a position that requires great reflexes coupled with a great arm, and, being a corner infield position, it is expected that this will be a position of hitting strength. All of the men being considered here are exceptional at their position and are all deserving of being in the conversation. Voting numbers can be found here.

#1. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers 3,073,541

Beltre leapt into first place since the last update, leading by almost 400,000 votes, and it has been well deserved. Since Beltre signed a one year deal with the Red Sox in 2010, he has been one of the most consistent third basemen in the game, showcasing unbelievable glovework coupled with an ability to hit for average and power. His power numbers really spiked after a down year in '09 where he only managed to put 8 out of the park. Since then he has gone deep 73 times. Below is a picture of how Beltre has adjusted an begun hitting more pitches for power.

Beltre is well known for his ability to go down on one knee and muscle balls out of the park. If you haven't seen it before, here is a link to see one from his Red Sox days. 

Beltre is not without fault though, as he sports a much higher groundball rate versus left handed pitching than righties, which has hurt his average versus southpaws.

Left (versus Righties) - Right (versus Lefties)This has not been too much of a problem, but if he can increase his flyball rate versus lefties, especially on the outside part of the zone, he may find that his average could increase even further. Now on to the stats.

71 G, 274 AB, 42 R, 90 H, 17 2b, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 1 SB, 16 BB, 34 SO, .328 AVG, .361 OBP, .533 SLG

Beltre could also afford to be a little more patient and draw some walks to boost the on-base percentage, but if he continues to get hits when he puts the ball in play, I can't really blame him for being a free swinger. Beltre continues to be an all-star on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, and I wholeheartedly believe that he should have a place on that team when all is said and done.

 

#2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers 2,692,047 

Something has to be said for Cabrera's durability after the move back to third. He has played in 74 games, even after taking a hard hopper to the eye in spring training, which happened to leave a nice battle scar. The move back to third also hasn't hurt his ability to rake. Cabrera is one of those unique hitters that has power to all fields, and he is showcasing that this season. He has hit seven home runs to left, four to center, and four to right field, totaling up to fifteen big flies. Below is a chart of the spread of his hits throughout the season.

Cabrera has taken advantage of pitches left up in the zone and driven the ball all over ballparks, including a mammoth 514 ft Home Run to left field off of Jake Peavy of the Chicago White Sox. Cabrera has also managed to get hits off the hard stuff, averaging .350 against pitches with a velocity of at least 91 mph. If the velocity drops down below that, he tapers off, hitting only .273.

 

As long as pitchers continue to throw him the hard stuff, Cabrera will remain an all-star caliber hitter. Lets look at his stats.

74 G, 299 AB, 43 R, 91 H, 22 2b, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 3 SB, 26 BB, 46 SO, .304 AVG, .363 OBP, .528 SLG

Cabrera has Beltre beat in overall power numbers, but that could be a 25 at bat factor that has allowed the Tigers' third basemen more opportunity to hit the long ball. Cabrera is mashing the ball this season, but I do not believe that he should be considered the started over Beltre.

 

#3. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees 1,748,534

Compared to the first two guys on this list, the rest have been underwhelming. ARod hasn't been awful, but he also hasn't been able to live up to the performance of Cabrera and Beltre. Strangely enough, ARod has seen a concentration of pitches located dead in the strike zone, but he hasn't been able to capitalize to boost his average. 

ARod has been excellent in one strike counts this season, with an ISO rate of .323.

 

71 G, 264 AB, 40 R, 70 H, 6 2b, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 6 SB, 32 BB, 63 SO, .265 AVG, .355 OBP, .436 SLG

Comparing his stats to the vote leaders, he is matching them well in the HR numbers, but he lacks in the total extra base hit department. He is drawing walks at a higher rate, which has put his OBP in the same range, but the SLG is down 100 points. ARod has had an amazing career, but this is not an all star year for the third baseman.

 

#4. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays 1,688,509

Before a major injury sidelined his season before the thirty game mark, Longo was on pace to be better than any third baseman in the league. He had drawn one less walk in that time than Beltre has all season and he had more doubles than ARod has compiled. His AVG, OBP, and SLG would be at the top of the list for AL third basemen, but he hasn't played in over a month and probably will not be ready for the all-star game either way. His BABIP was way up, so it is conceivable he may have tailed off a bit. Here is a look at that heat map.

23 G, 82 AB, 15 R,  27 H, 7 2b, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 2 SB, 15 BB, 17 SO, .329 AVG, .433 OBP, .561 SLG

I'm a huge Longoria fan, and I hope he tears it up in the second half.

 

Wild Card: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

Readers must understand that he is not the everyday third baseman and has played more of a DH role, but I believe he is worthy of consideration here. He has 21 HRs! That ranks him near the top of the league, nevermind among 3rd basemen. Also, his .572 SLG ranks him fifth in the American League. His power numbers versus southpaws has been unreal, with a .371 ISO.

It's almost as if anything in the zone is getting hit for extra bases with this guy. If you don't believe it, look at the numbers:

71 G, 269 PA, 44 R, 77 H, 14 2b, 21 HR, 52 RBI, 6 SB, 28 BB, 53 SO, .286 BA, .361 OBP, .572 SLG

This guy has been revitalized. If he can continue this pace throughout the year, the Blue Jays will have quite a formidable lineup with Encarnacion hitting behind Bautista.

 

Results

1. Adrian Beltre

2. Miguel Cabrera

3. Edwin Encarnacion (due to less starts at 3b)

4. ARod

5. Brett Lawrie (Encarnacion's teammate and starting Blue Jays Third Baseman is having a good year)

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