Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Why the hate for the Triple?

Going along with the theme of misguided statistical notions (i.e., my “wins” post from last week); the triple has been significantly underrated by baseball historians and fans. Depending on how one looks at the triple, it could either be viewed as a lucky feat that doesn’t merit much consideration when evaluating a player, or a feat that isn’t recognized enough. My hope is for the baseball world to adopt the former view as its own. When comparing player statistics, most people look at career statistics like home runs, RBI’s, runs, hits, doubles, and walks. This punishes players that had above average speed. In most cases, a hit that results in a triple is no different than a hit that results in a double. They both require hits in the gap that go to the wall or hits down the line that go to the wall. Either way, a double or triple is usually achieved by a batter lacing a drive to the wall. Faster runners turn doubles into triples more often.

People often forget the fact that a triple is actually a double first. In fact, a triple is essentially the same thing as a home run in terms of driving runs in. The only difference is the run by the hitter that results from a home run. When there are men on base, a triple always clears the bases. The same is usually true for a double. The triple might be harder to achieve but that doesn’t mean that it is a statistic that should be regarded as an anomaly. I think the best way to give proper credit to players that are fast enough to hit triples on a regular basis is to combine doubles and triples to make a new statistic.

In recent years, OPS has become one of the premier statistics in baseball. OPS is derived by adding On Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Percentage. This relatively new statistic has given baseball fans a way to compare hitters to one another. OBP is one of the most important indicators of a player’s value. The players that get on base the most usually score the most runs and drive in the most runs. Also, players with the highest Slugging Percentages are usually the best hitters because a high Slugging Percentage is generally attained by hitting more extra-base hits. When the statistics are combined, you have a meaningful statistic that works better together than it did as two individual statistics. The triple and double are statistics that work better combined than they do separately. Adding triples and doubles together gives a fairly accurate indication of how many times the batter drove a ball past the outfielders. Since many players admit that they don’t usually try to hit a home run, driving a pitch past the outfielders is usually the result that the batter is hoping for. This statistic would give more credit to line drive hitters. Some of the best hitters in the game merely hit line drives. The line drives that end in a triple are rarely counted when comparing players because it’s viewed as a “lucky” statistic. That problem could be alleviated by combining the two.  

Now, people may argue that the OPS is all that really matters which essentially combines everything there is to combine in baseball. This may be true. Slugging Percentage already takes into consideration triples, doubles, home runs and singles. So, if the argument is that combining doubles and triples to make a new statistic is irrelevant, those people that only use OPS have a point. I can understand that. Another argument worth mentioning is the fact that triples were significantly more prevalent in baseball’s dead-ball era in the early 20th century. Bigger ballparks allowed for the ball to travel farther to the wall than balls hit to the wall today. By combining doubles and triples, players that played in the dead-ball era would be given an advantage. All triples were not created equal which would distort this statistic towards players from long ago. However, that only becomes a problem when comparing a player from pre-1920 to a player post-1920. As long as each player in the comparison is either before or after 1920, there are no problems. That doesn’t seem like a caveat that’s too difficult to follow.

In baseball, the players that hit the most home runs usually get the most fanfare. However, as I mentioned above, most good hitters go to the plate looking to drive the ball to the gap. It could be argued that most hitters are just trying to get on base in whatever way possible. However, when a player swings at a pitch, the desired result is usually to drive the ball to the gap or down the line. Thus, the players that have the most doubles and triples (combined) are usually the best hitters in baseball. This is not to take away from the home run. Ideally, every player would want to hit a home run every time. Unfortunately, trying to hit a home run usually results in an out or a swing with limited control. This is why most players say they rarely try to hit a home run. Ken Griffey Jr. has gone on record numerous times stating that he is a line-drive hitter and that he doesn’t try to hit home runs. Home runs are good but the best pure hitters usually are the ones that hit the most doubles and triples (combined).

When the merits of great sluggers like Albert Pujols are discussed, rarely does a triple enter the discussion. Triples are so rare in baseball that they are pretty much left out when talking about Pujols or any other great hitter. Triples are often attained as a result of a bad bounce in the outfield or a ball placed in the perfect spot that had considerably more to do with luck than with skill. It’s important to remember, though, that even the luckiest triple was a double first. Triples may come far and few between but they are just glorified doubles. Discrediting triples all together is a mistake that will likely inflate the merits of some players over the merits of other deserving players. For example, here is a list of the MLB leaderboard in doubles for the 2005 season:

2005 MLB Doubles Leaders

1     D. Lee          50
2     M. Tejada     50
3     Marcus Giles     45
4     Helton          45
5     H. Matsui     45
6     Brian Roberts     45
7     J. Bay          44
8     M. Cabrera     43
9     J. Randa     43
10     A. Soriano     43
11     C. Crisp     42
12     T. Hafner     42
13     G. Jenkins     42
14     B. Wilkerson     42
15     D. Wright     42
16     C. Delgado     41
17     C. Lee          41
18     M. Teixeira     41
19     C. Biggio     40
20     Cantu          40
21     Chavez          40
22     D. Ortiz     40
23     M. Young     40
24     B. Hall          39
25     M. Sweeney     39

A fan may look at this list and conclude that these were the best players in MLB at hitting doubles. This list should indicate which players, aside from hitting a home run, were the best line-drive hitters in baseball. I included the top 25 doubles hitters in baseball as to not leave anyone out that deserves to be recognized as being a proficient line-drive hitter.

Now, compare that list to the top 25 hitters in 2005 in a new category, doubles plus triples:

1     M. Tejada     55
2     D. Lee          53
3     Brian Roberts     52
4     J. Bay          50
5     Marcus Giles     49
6     B. Wilkerson     49
7     J. Rollins     49
8     H. Matsui     48
9     Sizemore     48
10     Crawford     48
11     Helton          47
12     C. Crisp     46
13     B. Giles     46
14     M. Cabrera     45
15     J. Randa     45
16     A. Soriano     45
17     M. Young     45
18     B. Hall          45
19     C. Utley     45
20     C. Delgado     44
21     M. Teixeira     44
22     G. Jenkins     43
23     D. Wright     43
24     T. Hafner     42
25     Lugo          42

Clearly, Miguel Tejada and Derrick Lee’s dominance has not changed. They hit so many doubles that even when triples are taken into consideration, they remain at the top. Calculating doubles plus triples should identify the best hitters in baseball and Tejada and Lee were clearly among the best in 2005. What becomes apparent, though, when comparing the two lists is that merely looking at the doubles list does not adequately identify the best line-drive hitters in baseball. On the doubles only list, Jimmy Rollins, Grady Sizemore and Carl Crawford don’t even show up in the top 25. Conversely, they all show up in the top 10 of the doubles + triples list. One would have no idea how good Rollins, Sizemore and Crawford were in 2005 by simply looking at their doubles totals. Since triples are often overlooked, these three players would certainly be overlooked in terms of their true impact. None of the three players is a home run hitter. Combine that with the fact that none of the three players is even in the top 25 on the doubles list and you have three players that are set up to be severely underrated. Even though all three players were among the league leaders in triples, the fact that triples are viewed as a lucky statistic would make their place on the triples list meaningless to most baseball fans.

Another way of looking at the comparison is to look at the players that rank high on the doubles list but don’t rank high on the doubles plus triples list. These players include Travis Hafner, Craig Biggio, Jorge Cantu, Eric Chavez, Carlos Lee, and David Ortiz. Hafner missed a good amount of games due to injury so his totals would’ve been higher. However, Biggio, Cantu, Chavez, C. Lee, and Ortiz all rate in the top 25 in doubles well ahead of Rollins, Sizemore, and Crawford. Despite this, there is no question that Rollins, Sizemore, and Crawford were significantly better line-drive hitters than Biggio, Cantu, Chavez and C. Lee in 2005. The problem is that few people would know it by simply looking at the doubles totals.

As I mentioned above, all of this gets sorted out in OPS because Slugging Percentage takes into account home runs, triples, doubles and singles. However, line-drive hitters are usually undervalued by the OPS because they do not hit as many home runs. Generally, the OPS statistic favors home run hitters. Since most home run hitters also hit more doubles than the average player and less triples than the average player, the OPS can undervalue line-drive hitters just as much as merely looking at doubles. By simply looking at OPS, doubles, or home runs, nobody would have the slightest idea how good Rollins, Sizemore, and Crawford were in 2005.  

Here is a look at how each fared in those three categories in 2005:


Rollins .769
Sizemore. 832
Crawford .800


Rollins 38
Sizemore 37
Crawford 33

Home Runs

Rollins 12
Sizemore 22
Crawford 15

None of these three players would show up in the top 25 in any of these categories. They are undervalued by virtually every statistic. Their triples totals would hardly make a noise in player comparison because of the relative lack of value of a triple. These players are essentially punished by their speed. If they were as slow as Mark McGwire or Travis Hafner, they would all be in the top ten in doubles and be regarded as exceptional line-drive hitters. The fact is that these players aren’t slow. In fact, they are some of the fastest players in baseball and unbeknownst to the baseball world, some of the best line-drive hitters in baseball.

One of my favorite websites to visit is This site has pretty much every statistic you could possibly want in MLB history. Every award, accomplishment, salary, playoff and season is filed for easy access. One of my favorite features is the Hall of Fame Monitor. This feature takes into consideration every statistic to predict which players are Hall of Fame bound and which players come up short. Every player in MLB history has a score. The higher your score, the better chance you have at making the Hall of Fame. Here is a brief description:

This is another Jamesian creation. It attempts to assess how likely (not how deserving) an active player is to make the Hall of Fame. It's rough scale is 100 means a good possibility and 130 is a virtual cinch. It isn't hard and fast, but it does a pretty good job. Here are the batting rules.
Also, I require a minimum of 30 points in this metric before the value is displayed for a player.
  1. For Batting Average, 2.5 points for each season over .300, 5.0 for over .350, 15 for over .400. Seasons are not double-counted. I require 100 games in a season to qualify for this bonus.

  2. For hits, 5 points for each season of 200 or more hits.

  3. 3 points for each season of 100 RBI's and 3 points for each season of 100 runs.

  4. 10 points for 50 home runs, 4 points for 40 HR, and 2 points for 30 HR.

  5. 2 points for 45 doubles and 1 point for 35 doubles.

  6. 8 points for each MVP award and 3 for each AllStar Game, and 1 point for a Rookie of the Year award.

  7. 2 points for a gold glove at C, SS, or 2B, and 1 point for any other gold glove.

  8. 6 points if they were the regular SS or C on a WS team, 5 points for 2B or CF, 3 for 3B, 2 for LF or RF, and 1 for 1B. I don't have the OF distribution, so I give 3 points for OF.

  9. 5 points if they were the regular SS or C on a League Championship (but not WS) team, 3 points for 2B or CF, 1 for 3B. I don't have the OF distribution, so I give 1 points for OF.

  10. 2 points if they were the regular SS or C on a Division Championship team (but not WS or LCS), 1 points for 2B, CF, or 3B. I don't have the OF distribution, so I give 1 points for OF.

  11. 6 points for leading the league in BA, 4 for HR or RBI, 3 for runs scored, 2 for hits or SB, and 1 for doubles and triples.

  12. 50 points for 3,500 career hits, 40 for 3,000, 15 for 2,500, and 4 for 2,000.

  13. 30 points for 600 career home runs, 20 for 500, 10 for 400, and 3 for 300.

  14. 24 points for a lifetime BA over .330, 16 if over .315, and 8 if over .300.

  15. For tough defensive positions, 60 for 1800 games as a catcher, 45 for 1,600 games, 30 for 1,400, and 15 for 1,200 games caught.

  16. 30 points for 2100 games at 2B or SS, or 15 for 1,800 games.

  17. 15 points for 2,000 games at 3B.

  18. An additional 15 points in the player has more than 2,500 games played at 2B, SS, or 3B.

  19. Award 15 points if the player's batting average is over .275 and they have 1,500 or more games as a 2B, SS or C.

Notice that a player receives “2 points for 45 doubles and 1 point for 35 doubles.” Triples only show up once on the list and that’s a measly one point for leading the entire league. Players like Crawford, Sizemore, and Rollins would get hosed by this point distribution because triples count for virtually nothing. Why do triples not matter? If they’re lucky, then just group them in with doubles like I’ve suggested. Triples are better than doubles. Players should not be punished for being fast. Over a 15-20 year career, most players don’t hit enough triples to significantly affect their standing in terms of total extra base hits (not including home runs). One only needs to look at the active leaders in triples to see that even the most tenured players only have somewhere between 20 and 50 career triples. That hardly makes a difference for most players. However, it certainly makes a difference for the best line-drive hitters that happen to be fast like Crawford, Sizemore, and Rollins. The Hall of Fame Monitor above essentially counts triples as nothing but credits doubles. I understand that the Monitor only gives points based on what has historically gotten players into the Hall of Fame. Triples have been overrated by the masses in MLB. I find this bothersome since triples are hardly a non-event. While most players rarely hit triples, there are some that do it enough to the point that they should receive credit for doing so.

Here is another example of a player that has been slighted by the overall lack of credit for hitting triples consistently. Steve Finley doesn’t appear in the top 10 on the active career doubles list. When doubles and triples are added together, Finley jumps all the way to fourth behind only Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, and Luis Gonzalez. Finley’s triple total is hardly irrelevant in determining his place among active hitters. Since Finley has had an inordinate amount of triples, he has been punished in terms of how his career totals are viewed. Adding doubles to triples would eliminate this problem. A player that’s younger than Finley that will likely be underrated even more than Finley in Johnny Damon. Damon already has 80 triples. There’s a good chance that he’ll finish with somewhere around 100 triples or more. If things don’t change, Damon’s true value as a line-drive hitter will likely be undervalued as much as any player that has ever played the game.

This statistic won’t revolutionize baseball. In a sport where every conceivable action is quantified, baseball hardly needs more meaningless statistics. However, I feel that doubles + triples would certainly not be a meaningless statistic. It would help shed light on the ambiguity that the doubles leaderboard casts. It would stop fans from punishing players that are fast. It would help identify which players are truly the best line-drive hitters. Personally, simply looking at the doubles total only shows part of the picture.. Players like Sizemore, Rollins and Crawford had some of the best seasons in baseball in 2005. Their bevy of extra-base hits led to high run totals and high hit totals. Unfortunately, there is no real way of properly crediting non-home run, line-drive hitters in MLB. This statistic would be a start in giving these players their due. Now, I just need help coming up with a name. Unless a better name comes along the default name should be “Troubles” which could actually have a double meaning at least from a pitcher’s perspective.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Midwest Baseball Road Trip

This past weekend, I journeyed along with my brother to St. Louis and Chicago to pick up my car that the military was nice enough to drop off 600 miles from my home. Instead of letting the man get me down, I decided to make a baseball weekend out of it. I took in the St. Louis Cardinals/Colorado Rockies game on Friday night and then drove to Chicago where I watched the Tigers dismantle the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday.

The Gateway to the West.

I arrived in St. Louis on Friday morning. This gave me a few hours to site-see around the downtown area. After a failed attempt to enter the Edward Jones Dome (wearing an Edward Jones Investment shirt I should add), I walked over to the New Busch Stadium. The block just before the stadium featured the “Official St. Louis Cardinals Team Store” in a make-shift trailer. I believe they were still finishing the store at the stadium. Anyhow, I went inside the double-wide to check out Cardinals merchandise. I had pretty much decided that I was going to buy my son (18 months old on Friday) an Albert Pujols jersey. After discovering earlier in the year that the Tigers had an awful supply of toddler-merchandise, I didn’t expect to find much. To my surprise, the Cardinals had everything I could’ve wanted and more. They had Pujols jerseys in every size imaginable in every style imaginable. I was all set to buy it until I read the price tag. That’s when I found out that things are different in St. Louis. Unlike the Tigers, the Cardinals have been good for a long, long time. As a result, people are expected to pay more for watching a contending baseball team year in and year out. This goes for Cardinals’ tickets as well. The price tag on the jersey read $75. I was prepared to spend $40. So, I left without the jersey but unexpectedly impressed by the toddler selection.

Since I didn’t have tickets for the game yet, I walked over to the stadium where I got my first up-close glimpse of New Busch Stadium. The worst tickets available were $31. $31 will get you premium seats at Comerica Park. When the Tigers start winning consistently in the next few years, you can bet that the Tigers will follow the Cardinals’ lead and raise ticket prices considerably. Since teams don’t raise prices during the season, a ticket to a Tigers game this year is the best bargain you will ever see in MLB. You can get tickets for as low as $6. My advice to you is to see them cheap while you can.

New Busch Stadium seen from the St. Louis Arch.

Anyhow, I arrived for the game about 30 minutes before the opening pitch. New Busch Stadium is nice. I can honestly say that it has nothing on Comerica Park though. I kind of expected more from a stadium that still has the new-stadium smell. You’d think it would have all of the bells and whistles but anything extraordinary was noticeably absent. It wasn’t bad. I enjoyed the game and the atmosphere. I have no complaints about the stadium. I think it just made me appreciate Comerica Park more. St. Louis is just like Columbus, Ohio where Ohio St. is all that matters. The Cardinals rule the town. The stadium was at capacity for one of the least attractive games the Cardinals will play this year. First of all, St. Louis was without Albert Pujols. Second, the pitching match-up was below average at best. Third, the opponent was one of the least recognizable teams in baseball. Yet, 90% of the stadium was wearing red. I can honestly say that I did not see a single Colorado fan among the sell-out crowd.

New Busch Stadium brought to you by Budweiser.

New Busch Stadium brought to you by Bud Light.

I enjoyed St. Louis immensely. It’s an underrated town to say the least. The skyline from the stadium is second to none with the St. Louis Arch in the background. The stadium seems more like a place for a game to be played than a landmark which is probably how the St. Louis faithful want it anyways. St. Louis is unquestionably a great baseball town.

The St. Louis skyline.

After an unfathomable and grueling seven hour trip to Chicago (it’s supposed to take 4.5 at the most) due to countless traffic holdups, I was able to change from merely a “baseball” fan to my preferred role as a Tigers fan. My home team was in town to play at one of the most historical ballparks in baseball history. Immediately upon arriving to the Windy City, we went to Gino’s East for some delicious Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. I had never been to Gino’s so I was looking forward to comparing it to Pizza Papalis which is a local favorite in Detroit. The online reviews make Pizza Papalis sound like a single (A) farm team compared to Chicago’s best pizza. After Gino’s, we went to the ESPN Zone in Chicago where we sat at the bar for five hours watching the Tigers/Cubs, White Sox/Reds, and Edmonton/Carolina. Time flew as we acquainted ourselves with various characters at the bar. As was the case on the streets and at the game, the ESPN Zone was littered with Tigers fans. Cubs fans must have been overwhelmed and White Sox fans were clearly irked if their reactions at the ESPN Zone were any indication. After leaving the ESPN Zone, we headed to my brother’s friend’s apartment to watch Winky Wright battle Jermaine Taylor. Let’s just say that Taylor was lucky to leave that fight without a loss. Wright could’ve all but guaranteed a win if he had just shown up in the last two rounds. Even still, Wright probably deserved the win.

On Sunday morning, we hit up Giordano’s (Chicago’s number one pizza according to various outlets) for an up-close comparison to Gino’s East. After bites one and two, I was convinced that Giordano’s was better. However, that would be like judging a boxing match on the first two rounds. After those two bites, it was all Gino’s. Giordano’s clearly had better cheese. Although cheese is important, it’s not important enough to offset Gino’s advantage in crust, toppings (pepperoni and sausage), sauce, and size. The win goes to Gino’s. However, the big winner of the weekend was Pizza Papalis. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Pizza Papalis was better than Gino’s or Giordano’s but I certainly won’t say that Pizza Papalis is overmatched. Chicago-style pizza gets a reputation for being the best deep-dish in the world. However, it’s silly to say that any deep-dish pizza outside of Chicago doesn’t stand up. An oven in Chicago is the same as an oven in Detroit. Pizza Papalis is excellent. I can’t say that I left Chicago feeling bad about being 300 miles away from Chicago-style pizza because Papalis is more than adequate.

Wrigley Field in all its glory.

We then left Gino’s for Wrigley Field. Just to give you an idea of what the area is like around Wrigley, imagine a baseball stadium falling directly across from the Huxtable’s residence. The surrounding area is hardly consistent with that of your typical big-city stadium. It’s an unassuming site that blends in with North Chicago’s humble scene. I immediately noticed a big difference between my St. Louis experience and what I was seeing outside of Wrigley. Whereas the New Busch Stadium featured a bevy of fans donning Cardinals’ red, Wrigley field was more like the stomping grounds for a mass of formerly repressed Tigers fans. A Tigers fan in a taxi held a giant broom out the window as to indicate the pending Tigers’ sweep. I initially wanted to greet fellow Tigers fans since I thought they’d be few and far between but had I done that, I would’ve never gotten to the game. The scene was truly remarkable.

Inside Wrigley Field is just what you’d expect from a stadium that’s older than 99.9% of the World’s population. It’s old and uneventful to the naked eye. However, when put into proper prospective with the old scoreboard, bleacher-laden outfield, unpredictable winds and the ivy walls, it’s quite an experience for any baseball fan. The game started off with a bang for the Tigers. I was initially nervous that Mark Prior would take advantage of a strikeout-prone Tigers’ lineup but those worries were put to rest immediately. The Tigers hit three home runs in the first inning and eight home runs all together. Kenny Rogers picked up a double, and more importantly, his 200th career win. The Tigers dominated the Cubs in every way possible.

Our initial seats were sub-par at best so we went to the upper deck where we happened upon the best view in the stadium. Seriously, is there a better view than the first row of the upper deck? If I were going to buy season tickets, there is no question that this would be the place. Foul balls were plentiful. The view of home plate and the mound was fantastic. Mark Prior was rocked in his first start back. He was taken out to a scatter of boos but those boos quickly turned to cheers as other fans realized how ridiculous it was to boo a guy who hadn’t pitched in a year. Anything short of an injury was good news for Prior and the Cubs with regards to his performance. The Tigers were working on all cylinders as Brandon Inge and Chris Shelton had two home runs a piece and Vance Wilson went deep from the three-hole. I can all but guarantee that will never happen again.

Mark Prior B.G. or Before Granderson!

Mark Prior A.G. or After Granderson!

On our way out of Chicago we passed US Cellular Field which is, of course, the home of the Chicago White Sox. Hopefully it won’t be long before I attend a game on the South Side. Realistically, there is little chance that a game will ever be as fun from a fan’s perspective as the Cubs game on Sunday. I’ll just be hoping for a Tigers’ win.

I'll be back for you!

Monday, June 19, 2006

When a Win is Not a "Win"

An element that makes Major League Baseball so interesting to follow is the seemingly unlimited number of recordable statistics. No other sport can match baseball’s statistical advantage. While I have enjoyed following baseball and these various statistics since I was a kid, there are a few things that have irked me in terms of how certain stats are achieved and/or recorded. Specifically, I can’t stand the requirements that go into a pitcher attaining a “win”. Here is the rule for a “win” as stated by the MLB rule book:

WINNING AND LOSING PITCHER 10.19(a) Credit the starting pitcher with a game won only if he has pitched at least five complete innings and his team not only is in the lead when he is replaced but remains in the lead the remainder of the game.(b)The “must pitch five complete innings” rule in respect to the starting pitcher shall be in effect for all games of six or more innings. In a five-inning game, credit the starting pitcher with a game won if he has pitched at least four complete innings and his team not only is in the lead when he is replaced but remains in the lead the remainder of the game.(c)When the starting pitcher cannot be credited with the victory because of the provisions of 10.19(a) or (b) and more than one relief pitcher is used, the victory shall be awarded on the following basis:(1) When, during the tenure of the starting pitcher, the winning team assumes the lead and maintains it to the finish of the game, credit the victory to the relief pitcher judged by the scorer to have been the most effective;(2) Whenever the score is tied the game becomes a new contest insofar as the winning and losing pitcher is concerned;(3) Once the opposing team assumes the lead all pitchers who have pitched up to that point are excluded from being credited with the victory except that if the pitcher against whose pitching the opposing team gained the lead continues to pitch until his team regains the lead, which it holds to the finish of the game, that pitcher shall be the winning pitcher;(4) The winning relief pitcher shall be the one who is the pitcher of record when his team assumes the lead and maintains it to the finish of the game. EXCEPTION: Do not credit a victory to a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when a succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain the lead. In such cases, credit the succeeding relief pitcher with the victory.(d) When a pitcher is removed for a substitute batter or substitute runner, all runs scored by his team during the inning in which he is removed shall be credited to his benefit in determining the pitcher of record when his team assumes the lead.(e) Regardless of how many innings the first pitcher has pitched, he shall be charged with the loss of the game if he is replaced when his team is behind in the score, or falls behind because of runs charged to him after he is replaced, and his team thereafter fails either to tie the score or gain the lead.(f) No pitcher shall be credited with pitching a shutout unless he pitches the complete game, or unless he enters the game with none out before the opposing team has scored in the first inning, puts out the side without a run scoring and pitches all the rest of the game. When two or more pitchers combine to pitch a shutout a notation to that effect should be included in the league’s official pitching records.(g) In some non-championship games (such as the Major League All- Star Game) it is provided in advance that each pitcher shall work a stated number of innings, usually two or three. In such games, it is customary to credit the victory to the pitcher of record, whether starter or reliever, when the winning team takes a lead which it maintains to the end of the game, unless such pitcher is knocked out after the winning team has a commanding lead, and the scorer believes a subsequent pitcher is entitled to credit for the victory.

If a pitcher throws nine scoreless innings, but his team doesn’t take the lead until the 10th after the pitcher has been taken out, that pitcher cannot get the win. Instead, the win goes to a guy who pitched one inning. How does that make sense?

MLB states that a win cannot be attained if the game is tied at the end of the inning when the starting pitcher leaves the game regardless of his performance. The logic behind the rule is lacking at best. If a pitcher leaves the game at 1-1, and his team eventually wins 2-1, isn’t the fact that the starter only gave up one run the reason why the team won the game? It certainly had more to do with the starter only giving up one run than it does a reliever pitching one scoreless inning.

Another bunk aspect of the rule for attaining a win is the fact that a pitcher cannot get a win if the game becomes tied AFTER he leaves the game. If the starting pitcher only gives up one earned run and has a 4-1 lead when he leaves the game, how does it make sense for that same pitcher to not get the win if his team wins? If the opposing team ties it up at 4-4, but still loses, the starter that gave up only one earned run won’t get the win. Essentially, a relief pitcher in this instance is “rewarded” with a win by not pitching well.

Statistics like home runs, hits, and wins garner a lot of interest from baseball fans. The All-Time list for wins by a pitcher isn’t likely to change much considering the way the game has evolved over the last three decades. With most teams using a five-man rotation, starting pitchers just don’t get the same number of starts as their predecessors. The result has been a dramatic drop-off in career wins by even the best pitchers. If MLB adjusted its current rule on wins, to something more reasonable, it would solve two problems at once. First, it would be correcting a rule that has unjustly cost pitchers wins for decades. Second, it would be increasing the number of wins that pitchers would achieve in a career which in turn would facilitate more interest on the fans’ part in a statistic that has lost some of its luster.

The likely retort from MLB on this issue would be that baseball has used the same rules for 100+ years and isn’t interested in changing them. However, I contend that a). the rule isn’t fair to begin with, and b). the game has evolved to a point that the rule is outdated. The average pitcher in the first half of the 20th century would pitch eight or nine innings per game. In that situation, the winning pitcher didn’t have to lose the win to a reliever. Since most starting pitchers in present day baseball only pitch 6-7 innings, that enables relievers an extra 1-2 innings to steal a win from the starting pitcher. The current rule likely did not “steal” many wins from pitchers back in the day. Today, relievers often pick up wins for pitching one inning or less.

The MLB rule on crediting a win to a pitcher skews win totals against present day pitchers. If MLB wants win totals to still have relevance in baseball, it should adjust the rule to reward pitchers who pitched well enough for their team to win. Pitchers already are at a disadvantage with less starts per year. They don’t need another disadvantage by losing out on wins to a pitcher who may pitch one inning. Every inning is as equally important as every other inning in baseball. Runs scored in the third count just the same as runs in the ninth. Therefore, a pitcher who pitches seven innings has seven times the effect as a pitcher who pitches one inning. It just doesn’t make sense to punish the starter by giving up the win to a reliever who didn’t have nearly the impact on the outcome.

The best possible rule would be one that rewards the starting pitcher with a win if he gives up less runs than his own team scores as long as the starter pitched at least five innings. Amendments could be made for extra inning games that involve a reliever pitching five or six innings. Relief pitchers only have to worry about pitching one inning, if that. They have no business picking up the majority of the wins they receive. If MLB wants to reward relief pitchers, it should increase the notoriety of the “hold” statistic.

Here is a recent real-life example of how ridiculous the current rule for wins can be:

A few games ago, Jeremy Bonderman pitched six innings and gave up two earned runs. When he left the game after the 6th inning, the Tigers were up 5-2. Joel Zumaya pitched a scoreless 7th inning so the Tigers were still up 5-2 going into the 8th inning. Fernando Rodney came on to pitch the 8th inning. Rodney gave up three earned runs and was taken out before finishing the inning. Todd Jones came in with the score tied 5-5. At that point, Jeremy Bonderman could no longer get the win. Why should Bonderman be punished because Rodney pitched so poorly? If the Tigers ended up winning the game, it would only be because Bonderman pitched so effectively for six innings. Imagine how things would’ve turned out if Rodney pitched the whole game? Also, if Rodney was not taken out of the game and finished the 8th inning without giving up any more runs (so the score is tied 5-5 entering the ninth) and then finished the ninth and the Tigers scored a run in the bottom of the ninth to win 6-5, Rodney would’ve gotten the win despite the following lines:

6 ip 2 er 5-2 lead

2 ip 3 er lost 5-2 lead

Here is a fictitious example that could occur under the current rules:

Jeremy Bonderman pitches seven innings and gives up zero earned runs leaving the game with a 10-0 lead.

Fernando Rodney pitches two innings and gives up 11 earned runs. The Tigers score two in the bottom of the ninth and Rodney gets the win.

The odds of this happening are remote at best. However, the fact that a starting pitcher can be penalized by a poor performance by his bullpen doesn’t make sense. MLB is very protective of its history and record books. It would likely unwelcome a significant change in the way wins are recorded because it eliminates the ability for fans to compare apples to apples (wins from the 50’s/60’s/70’s/80’s etc. to wins after the change) so to speak. A home run in 1940 is fairly consistent with a home run in 2006 (aside from the illegal drug use). An RBI from 1940 is fairly consistent with an RBI in 1940. If the way a win is recorded is changed in 2006, then a win in 1940 would no longer be the same as a win in 2006. At least that would be the argument you would get from some baseball people. However, I would argue that a win in 1940 is already different than a win in 2006. Bullpens in 1940 didn’t receive nearly the same work as they do today. Also, as I mentioned above, baseball teams used four-man rotations. A win in 1940 was easier to achieve than a win in 2006 and nothing has been done about it. Finally, baseball has a chance to recalibrate the present day value of a win to something more consistent with a 1940-win. While the sticking point on a potential rule change would likely be the fact that it clashes with what baseball has long used to determine a win, the most important aspect should be what’s fair. Is it fair for starting pitchers to be penalized by their own bullpen’s failures? Is it fair for starting pitchers to be penalized because his team scored the winning run in a 1-0 game after the pitcher was taken out?

The same injustice can be found in the rule for how a loss is awarded. In a Detroit-Tampa Bay game two weeks ago, Tyler Walker entered the game in the 8th inning with Tampa Bay leading by two, 3-1. He allowed two runs in the ninth inning allowing the Tigers to force the game into extra innings. After the ninth inning, Walker was replaced by Brian Meadows. Meadows ended up pitching two innings while giving up zero earned runs. A Detroit runner reached base on an error and was promptly driven in on a single. Walker entered the game with a two-run lead and blew it. Meadows entered the game with the scored tied and pitched effectively without giving up an earned run. Yet, Meadows was credited with the loss. Going off of MLB’s rules, Meadows earned the loss. Going off of any sense of fairness, Walker was clearly the guy that was responsible for Tampa Bay’s collapse.

I doubt these issues will ever be addressed. In fact, I doubt there will ever be enough talk on this subject for it to ever qualify as an “issue”. However, the rules need to be changed for the betterment of the game. It would give present-day starters a chance to compete with their predecessors in terms of career win totals. More importantly, it would give pitchers the credit that they rightfully deserve. In a sport ruled by statistics, the current way that wins are recorded is flawed. I would love to see this changed and I’m guessing I know five guys on the Tigers that would be on board as well.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My "Todd Jones Policy" Paid Off Big-Time Tonight

Last week, I declared a new policy towards televised (or games that I attend) Tigers baseball games that include an appearance by Todd Jones. The policy was simply that, "I will never watch Todd Jones pitch again." The Tigers scored a run in the ninth inning Wednesday night to send the game into extra innings. Joel Zumaya came on to pitch effectively for two innings. Then, it happened. Jim Leyland brought in his favorite 6.00+ ERA-closer. Then I simply turned the game off. The result? I was spared having to watch another Todd Jones game-losing performance. Had I watched the game, I would still be screaming Jones' name in vain. However, since I didn't actually watch the debacle, it's no different than any other Tigers' loss. I invite all of you to adopt my Todd Jones policy as your own. It will save years off of your life.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

2006 Detroit Tigers Prospect Rankings

The Detroit Tigers find themselves in the awkward position of being in playoff contention entering the summer months. They also find themselves in the awkward position of having enough minor league prospects that a trade for an elite player is not only possible, but probable. There has been much speculation about the Tigers’ interest in Dontrelle Willis. The Tigers could use a dominating lefty to team up with Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman for the next decade. Willis would be the ideal choice. There has also been some speculation that the Tigers might be interested in Bobby Abreu. Remember, Abreu broke the all-time home run derby mark at Comerica Park last season. Abreu obviously likes Comerica Park and would be the perfect fit for the Tigers. He bats left, plays outfield, gets on base, and has speed to burn. These are all areas that the Tigers desperately need help in.

If the Tigers are going to make a run at Willis, Abreu, or any other impact player, they will have to put together a package enticing enough to force a team to pull the trigger. With Joel Zumaya and Verlander in Detroit, they no longer fit the bill as “prospects” and are likely “off limits”. Considering their youth and ability, I would certainly not be willing to give up either of those two players in a trade unless it was something unbelievable. I would also be unwilling to trade Jeremy Bonderman considering he is only 23 years old. The following is a ranking of the top prospects in the Tigers organization that I’ve put together. In making the list, I took into consideration the following; current trade value, age, potential, minor league success and/or big league success. When the Tigers talk trade with the Marlins, Phillies or any other team, these will be the names that are thrown around. I did not include Nook Logan, Jack Hannahan, Roman Colon, and Zach Miner on the prospects list but those players could be discussed in trade talks as well. Below the prospect rankings, I will put together some trade proposals that could bring Willis and/or Abreu to Detroit.

Disclaimer: These rankings are likely to be as accurate as the success rate of a team that drafts a high school pitcher in the first round. If MLB GM's can draft high school pitchers in the first round, then I can put together a list of the top Tigers prospects.

Top Detroit Tigers Prospects in 2006


1. Humberto Sanchez RHP AAA 23

Sanchez is easily the Tigers number one prospect in the minors right now. In 11 starts at Erie, Sanchez was 5-3 with a 1.76 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 86 K’s in 71.2 innings. Those numbers are better than what Joel Zumaya did at Erie last year. Sanchez will be the major bargaining chip for the Tigers as they make a push for a big time player before the trade deadline. Sanchez was up and down the last few years before finally putting things together. Even as recent as a year ago, the Tigers couldn’t have expected Sanchez to be this good. Sanchez was just promoted to AAA this past week and responded with 5.2 innings of one run ball.

2. Cameron Maybin CF A 19

Since this list is based on a combination of potential and current trade value, Maybin only checks in at #2. If this list was designed to predict who will end up being the best player in the Majors, Maybin would be number one hands down. Maybin marks the second of three first round picks in a row that Dave Dombrowski seems to have hit home runs on. A thumb injury put a scare in Tigers fans but Maybin has already returned and continues to dominate low A ball. With the exception of a noticeable lack of power, Maybin’s numbers are a fantasy owner’s dream. He’s hitting .330 with a .919 OPS. With Curtis Granderson’s emergence as a suitable centerfielder, Maybin’s future in Detroit might not be in center field as originally thought by most. It’ll still be a few years before Maybin makes it to Detroit but when he does, expect the fanfare to be greater than any other position player in the organization in the last two decades. It is safe to say that Maybin will not be involved in any trades regardless of who the Tigers are looking at.

3. Jordan Tata RHP AAA 24

Jim Leyland’s selection of Tata to make the opening day roster surprised a lot of people. Tata has been consistently good for the Tigers since he was drafted in the 16th round in 2003. Tata started off rough at AAA Toledo but his numbers have been impressive ever since. He’s 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA at Toledo this year. Any package the Tigers put together to lure Dontrelle Willis to Detroit will likely have to include either Sanchez or Tata, if not both.

4. Andrew Miller LHP unsigned 21

Although Miller hasn’t signed yet, and likely won’t for the foreseeable future, he will immediately be regarded as one of the elite prospects in the organization. The Tigers have long coveted a dominating lefty pitcher. Miller fits the bill and some. Recently drafted players rarely ever find themselves involved in trades. I doubt Dombrowski is in a hurry to part with the highest rated player that he’s ever drafted. Miller’s role in Detroit will be as a Barry Zito-type dominator rather than an avenue to bring in a missing piece via trade.

5. Wil Ledezma LHP AAA 25

Most people gave up on Ledezma after his failed stint with the Tigers in 2005. He has quietly worked his way back into to position to make an impact in the big leagues. In 11 games this season with Toledo, Ledezma is 2-2 with a 2.80 ERA. He also has 60 K’s and a 1.15 WHIP in 64.1 innings. Power-lefties are valuable commodities in MLB. Ledezma’s trade value might never be higher than it is right now. The Tigers might be better off leaving him at AAA where he can continue to pile up impressive numbers. If the Tigers make a push for Willis, Ledezma will likely be one of the Tigers prospects discussed.

6. Kevin Whelan RHP A 22

As recently as two months ago, the words Whelan and “closer of the future” were being thrown around in the same breath. Whelan dominated A West Michigan last season with a .73 ERA and 16 K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings). There was some talk that Whelan could actually join the team this season. Joel Zumaya’s dominance has put an end to that speculation. Likewise, Zumaya’s presence has also shed serious doubt on Whelan’s future as a closer in Detroit. Zumaya is younger and better. Whelan’s second season in the organization has not been as successful as the first. His K/9 is still through the roof in A Lakeland but his ERA is unimpressive at 4.43 and his WHIP is even more unimpressive at 1.48. Considering Whelan’s age and dominance at A ball last season, he has to be considered one of the Tigers' top prospects regardless. Whelan has turned it on lately so hopefully that is a sign of things to come.

7. Jair Jurrjens RPH A 20

Even the most knowledgeable Tigers fans would have a hard time telling you who Jair Jurrjens is. Jurrjens first pitched in the Tigers organization in 2003 at the tender age of 17. Still only 20, Jurrjens' stat line reads like a first round fantasy baseball draft pick. Jurrjens is 5-0 with a 2.01 ERA, .87 WHIP, and 53 K’s in 67 innings. I have a hard time understanding why Jurrjens is still at A Lakeland considering how masterful he has been. Teams that do their homework would likely ask Jurrjens to be included as a “throw in” in any trade request. The Tigers would be smart not to give Jurrjens away at this point. His value will likely skyrocket in the next two years.

8. Jeff Larish 1B A 23

In an organization where pitching far outweighs the hitting in terms of minor league talent, Jeff Larish is by far the best infield prospect that the Tigers have. With Chris Shelton producing adequate numbers with Detroit and only being two years older, Larish is prime trade bait. The Tigers certainly have the pitching to offer up but they may be dealing with teams that want pitching and position players in return. Larish is potent with the bat and bats left. Barring an injury, Larish will continue to be a sought after commodity for the Tigers or possibly (and hopefully) somebody else.

9. Nate Bumstead RHP AA 24

If you’re sensing a theme here, you’re right. The Tigers best prospects are primarily pitchers. That bodes well for the Tigers in trade talks. Most players packaged in trades for elite prospects are pitchers with upside. The Tigers have plenty of them. Bumstead is another one of Dombrowksi’s drafted-gems. The Tigers took Bumstead in the 32nd round in 2004. Bumstead is having a nice season at Erie where he’s 4-5 with a 3.27 ERA. His control could be better but his 53 K’s in 66 innings are impressive. Aside from a mediocre WHIP, Bumstead is also older than most pitching “prospects.” Since the Tigers have possibly the deepest pitching in all of MLB, Bumstead becomes a prime trade candidate. His numbers have been impressive at all levels. If the Tigers do put together a package involving three pitchers for Willis, Bumstead could be one of them.

10. Kyle Sleeth RPH A 24

Sleeth was supposed to be the first elite prospect of the Dombrowski regime. Unfortunately for Sleeth, his health lasted all of one season. Until this past week, Sleeth hadn’t pitched since 2004. He enjoyed some success initially at A Lakeland but he struggled at AA Erie before going down with a debilitating elbow injury. After rehabilitating for the past year and a half, Tigers fans are holding their collective breath that Sleeth can stay healthy and live up to his number one pick billing. Unfortunately, Sleeth now finds himself pitching in A ball at the not-so-ripe age of 24. With the talent the Tigers have at the Major League level along with a few prospects in the minors that are ahead of Sleeth, the former number one pick now becomes trade bait. The problem is that no team will likely want to take on the risk of a young pitcher who has already had Tommy John surgery unless there is a reason to do so. Sleeth needs to bounce back within the next year and re-solidify himself as a top prospect. My guess is that the Tigers would get .10 on the dollar if they tried to trade him now. The problem is that Sleeth isn’t getting any younger.

11. Kevin Ardoin RHP A 23

Ardoin is a bit like Jurrjens in the sense that he has been tearing up the minor leagues with little to no fanfare. His numbers are slightly north of Jurrjens in all categories but they are nothing to scoff at. Ardoin is 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. Jurrjens gets the advantage for being three years younger and a significantly better K/9 ratio. If Ardoin can continue his impressive numbers at AA Erie, his name will come up often in trade talks.

12. Ryan Raburn 2B AAA 25

Going into the 2005 season, Raburn was listed as the #8 prospect in the Tigers' organization by Baseball America. Raburn fell out of Baseball America’s Tigers top ten this season after a less-than-stellar 2005. However, Raburn is hitting pretty well at AAA Toledo this year. Raburn faces the same problem that Marcus Thames had to deal with the last few years. Like Thames, Raburn is an older prospect at a position of relative strength for the Tigers. Placido Polanco isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Raburn isn’t getting any younger. The wait paid off for Thames and the Tigers this year. It remains to be seen whether or not the Tigers will be able to fit Raburn in somewhere. Raburn would be a good candidate for a trade.

13. Tony Giarratano SS AA 23

When I think of Alan Trammell’s time in Detroit, I immediately think of his affection towards Giarratano. Trammell raved about Giarratano’s ability and all but promised that he would be a star in Detroit before his time was up. Those were the days. Giarratano has fizzled this year with a .677 OPS at AA Erie. His value will likely never be higher than it was two years ago when he tore up Lakeland. At 23, Giarratano still has some time to develop his offense but few people thought he would be playing AA-ball this year after his call-up last season. Like Raburn, Giarratano is a middle-infielder in the mold of Omar Infante. All three are versatile without much punch at the play. Still, teams would likely take Giarratano with open arms as a throw-in.

14. Dallas Trahern RHP A 20

Baseball America gave Trahern the distinction of having the best slider in the farm system. That’s high praise for a guy who just turned 20 last November. Trahern’s numbers aren’t quite on the level of Jurrjens but they are impressive for someone two years removed from high school. His K/9 is up significantly from last season. This is a guy to keep your eye on.

15. Brent Clevlen OF AA 22

As recently as January, Clevlen was regarded as the Tigers #4 prospect by Baseball America. Six months and a .195 batting average later and that #4 ranking looks a bit too high. To be fair, Clevlen has struggled after each of his promotions but his current funk is so bad that it probably goes beyond a struggle. Clevlen’s trade value is probably shot right now. Any team looking at Clevlen would be scared off by a guy who is struggling to make contact with the ball at the AA level. Assuming he finds his groove, his value may climb back up a bit. Clevlen’s value is no different than a stock with a roller coaster reputation. The next time Clevlen’s value goes up, they should unload ASAP unless of course they think he can become the real deal in Detroit. With his struggles in the minors and the crowded outfield on the big league team, the Tigers would jump at the chance to unload Clevlen in a deal for someone like Willis.

16. Eulogio De La Cruz RHP AA 22

De La Cruz was listed by Baseball America as one of the top ten Tigers prospects going into the 2005 season. After a relatively successful 2005 campaign, De La Cruz was not on the list heading into this season. His value was probably at an all-time high last season but this is a guy to keep an eye on. He has control issues but his fastball is above average and he’s still young.

17. Wilkin Ramirez 3B A 20

I think it’s safe to say that Baseball America likes Wilkin Ramirez. They had him listed as the #5 prospect in the organization headed into this season ahead of Humberto Sanchez and Jordan Tata. I can’t say I understand where the hype comes from. Ramirez was given the distinction as being the “best power hitter” in the organization. In his previous two seasons, Ramirez has OPS’s of .771 and .729. He’s followed those seasons up by batting .217 with a .618 OPS this season. I can’t see a single bit of evidence that would suggest that Ramirez is a good power hitter or even an average power hitter. Ramirez is still young at 20 years old. He may end up being a good prospect but the folks at Baseball America must have been sniffing glue when they listed Ramirez at #5 just six months ago.

18. Jeff Frazier OF A 23

Frazier was voted by Baseball America as having the best outfield arm in the organization. While that is worth nothing, Frazier is about to turn 24 and still finds himself at A Lakeland. Considering he’s only managed a .681 OPS in A ball, Frazier needs to pick up the progression in a hurry.

19. Chris Robinson C A 22

Robinson immediately became the best catching prospect in the organization when he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2005 MLB draft. Unfortunately, the Tigers were so dire at the catcher position that being the “best catcher prospect” doesn’t necessarily say much. Robinson is still fairly young at 22. However, his offensive production, or lack thereof, leaves a lot to be desired. The Tigers drafted six catchers in the 2006 MLB draft this past week so Robinson will have some competition. With Pudge reaching the twilight of his career, Robinson has an opportunity ahead of him. Robinson is probably too inexperienced to garner interest in a trade.

20. Kody Kirkland 3B AA 23

Kirkland is a little different than Giarratano. His bat packs some punch but his affinity for the strikeout leaves a lot to be desired. In 213 at-bats this season, Kirkland has an unbelievable 78 strike outs. Baseball America voted Kirkland as the Tigers prospect with the "best in-field arm" coming into this season. Despite a .235 batting average, Kirkland has produced somewhat decent numbers with an OPS of .804. Kirkland has also struggled with the glove this season committing 12 errors. Given the choice, Giarratano would probably garner more interest than Kirkland.

21. Preston Larrison RHP AA 25

If Larrison was a few years younger, he’d probably be higher on this list. Unfortunately, Larrison is 25 years old and has toiled in anonymity for his entire minor league career. He has a cool name and a 3.99 ERA which still counts as being under 4.00. That could garner some interest from other teams. Just as a comparison, Larrison and Ledezma are the same age. Ledezma has been on the big league roster the past three seasons and has pitched well this season at AAA Toledo. Larrison is still in AA ball. I actually think Larrison’s best days are ahead of him but that will probably be for another team.

22. Jay Sborz RHP A 21

The Tigers have had horrible luck with their second round picks since Dave Dombrowski took over. Dombrowski took Sborz in the second round of the 2003 draft. He followed that up by taking Eric Beattie in the second round of the 2004 draft. At least Sborz has managed to keep his ERA under 20.00. Sborz has a K/9 that’s through the roof. However, if his WHIP is any indication, he has serious control problems. In only three games this season, Sborz has managed a 2.40 WHIP after posting a 2.16 WHIP last season. It sounds like he might need some glasses like “The Wild Thing” Rick Vaughn. Regardless of how high your ERA and WHIP are, if you’re young and can strike people out, teams will wait on you to come around.

23. Clete Thomas OF A 22

I doubt Thomas’ playing ability will ever be as good as his first name. Thomas is just one of a boatload of position players that are struggling mightily in the minor leagues this season. Thomas, Clevlen, Kirkland, Robinson, Frazier, Giarratano, and Wilkin Ramirez have all been extremely disappointing. Coming into the season, the Tigers appeared to have tremendous depth in the field. Fast forward two months and the Tigers have to be hoping that one of these guys works out. Thomas is a long way from being a major leaguer.

Dontrelle Willis trade proposals:

Jordan Tata, Kyle Sleeth, and Brent Clevlen/Tony Giarratano

Humberto Sanchez, Kyle Sleeth, and Kevin Whelan

Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Nate Bumstead

Best offer:

Humberto Sanchez, Jordan Tata, and Kevin Whelan

This is likely the best package the Tigers would offer for Willis unless a player like Mike Maroth or Nate Robertson is included. If that’s the case, then Maroth or Robertson, Humberto Sanchez and a position player like Clevlen or Giarratano should suffice.

Bobby Abreu trade proposals:

Humberto Sanchez, Craig Monroe and Kevin Whelan

Humberto Sanchez, Jordan Tata, and Nate Bumstead

Humberto Sanchez, Jordan Tata, and Kevin Whelan

Best offer:

Humberto Sanchez, Jordan Tata and Craig Monroe/Marcus Thames

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Tigers would not be able to bring in both Willis and Abreu. My philosophy on this is “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” If Dombrowski plays this thing right, he could put together reasonable packages for both guys. Here is how the Tigers could put together the two best offers to score both of these guys:

Nate Robertson, Jordan Tata, and Kevin Whelan for Dontrelle Willis

Humberto Sanchez, Kyle Sleeth, and Craig Monroe for Bobby Abreu.

If the Tigers could somehow secure both Willis and Abreu, they would immediately be considered the odds-on favorite to win the World Series assuming Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney agree to couples counseling.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Two Stooges

Let me first start off by saying that I am a Tigers fan. Let me then say that I will never watch Todd Jones or Fernando Rodney pitch again in my life. I am predisposed to cardiovascular disease already so I don’t need the soul-crushing devastation that comes from watching those two hacks pitch. That’s all for now.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Who is Andrew Miller?

Andrew Miller was the consensus number one pick going into the 2006 MLB draft and……the newest member of the Detroit Tigers! With the Tigers picking sixth in what has widely been considered a mediocre draft, Andrew Miller is not anyone that Tigers fans should have concerned themselves with. At least that was the case before the Tigers were the benefactors of Miller’s slide out of the top five due to signability issues.

Dave Dombrowski proved that the Tigers are no longer a draft day nightmare. He also proved that the Tigers will no longer hassle over a few millions dollars if it means getting prime talent into the organization. Miller was slated to go number one to the Kansas City Royals by virtually every scouting organization. It is not often that a polished, 6’6 left-handed pitcher gets passed up when he is considered the number one draft prospect. The Tigers have pitching depth at every level of the organization. The addition of Miller eliminates one of the Tigers ongoing problems in the minors. The problem, if you want to call it that, is that virtually all of the Tigers’ pitching prospects are right-handers. In fact, the number of elite, young left-handers in all of MLB is closer to zero than ten. Dontrelle Willis and Scott Kazmir are the two brightest young left-handers in the league and that’s about it. There are other potential impact lefties in the league right now like Zach Duke and Cole Hamels but both are too young to anoint as dominating pitchers.

Since Miller is a three-year college guy, he’ll likely take the abbreviated route to the big leagues. At 21, he’ll probably spend a 1 ½ to 2 years at the most in the minor leagues before making his big league debut. At that time, Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman should be stalwarts on one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Miller will give the Tigers the left-hander that has eluded the franchise for decades. In the meantime, rumors will circulate about the Tigers trying to acquire a dominating left-handed pitcher for the playoff run. The Tigers have the prospects necessary to make a run at Dontrelle Willis. It doesn’t take much to imagine a rotation that includes Verlander, Bonderman, Willis, and Miller in just two short years. Throw in Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney and the Tigers will have the deepest staff in MLB. That says nothing for Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson who are more than adequate left-handers.

Just a few short years ago June stood for everything that was wrong about the Tigers organization. This June, the Tigers find themselves with the best record in MLB and the owners of the number one pitching prospect in America. Dombrowski has all but ensured the Tigers will be better in two, three, and four years than they are right now. Considering they have the best record in the majors; that is something that makes this Tigers fan ecstatic.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I'm Guaransheeding a Pistons loss in game six

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but to quote the great teller of the future Kirk Herbstreit; the Pistons have “no chance” of winning game six in Miami. I suspect that most of you know this already. I don’t expect the “pie in the sky”-diehards to admit this nor do I want them to. Those are the people that make you think that anything is possible and I like knowing that “those people” are out there. However, this series is over. There are a lot of people in the Detroit area that are trying to figure out what went wrong with the Pistons. The novice fan may think that the Pistons are just in a “funk”. The reality of the situation is that the Pistons are only a shell of the 2004 and 2005 teams for various reasons.

The Pistons could not reach their potential under Rick Carlisle because of Carlisle’s inability to bring offense to a defensive-minded team. Likewise, even though the Pistons won the NBA title under Larry Brown, the Pistons could not reach their potential under Brown because Brown saddled the team offensively. Under both Carlisle and Brown, the Pistons were ferocious defensive teams. The hiring of Flip Saunders was supposed to signal an infusion of offense to a team that primarily focused on defense. The regular season proved that the Pistons could be so much better on offense with the right coaching. The results were a franchise best win total of 64 and the number one seed in the NBA Playoffs. What couldn’t be seen at the time was that the Pistons were actually worse off for the playoffs than in previous seasons. The defensive-expertise that the Pistons had become synonymous with was put on the back burner. Since the offense was so efficient during the regular season, it didn’t seem to matter.

The first round of the playoffs gave Pistons fans exactly what they thought they would see. The Pistons were like a well-oiled machine on offense just like the regular season. However, what came in the next two rounds was a shock to just about everyone in Detroit. The Pistons have struggled mightily against Cleveland and Miami. The real problem, however, isn’t that the Pistons had difficulty with Cleveland and Miami. The problem is that the Pistons have made no noticeable adjustments. It’s as if they don’t look at game film at all. Every game is a repeat of the previous. The Pistons make the same mistakes. The Heat use the same game plan. It all just seems like a waste of everyone’s time. Most fans probably end their criticism at, “the Pistons are getting killed and aren’t doing anything about it.” In layman terms, that’s exactly what’s happening. However, there is a reason why this is happening and I’ll take you through how the Pistons have just about played themselves out of the 2006 Playoffs.

First, let’s end any speculation that this team has passed its prime or just isn’t good enough to beat a team like Miami. This is the same team that annihilated the Lakers in ‘04 and almost repeated last year against the Spurs. This team is fully capable of dominating any team in the NBA. The cause for the Pistons dreadful performances over the past three weeks has been entirely self-inflicted.

Here are the problems that they have failed to address and the solution for each:

1). Chauncey Billups has been the catalyst for the Pistons offense ever since he arrived in Detroit in 2002. Billups can penetrate the paint at will. I have yet to see a player that has been able to keep Billups from driving to the basket with efficiency. The only thing keeping Billups out of the paint is Billups himself. He is bigger and stronger than Jason Williams. Williams has no chance at guarding him one on one at the top of the key or in the post. Billups’ unwillingness to create off the dribble has stifled the Pistons offense.

2). Rasheed Wallace has turned into a soft post player right in front of our eyes. In fact, I use the term “post player” lightly because Rasheed has hardly been a post player over the past three weeks. His affection for the three-point shot during the regular season was fine since he hit over 40% from behind the arc. However, his three-point shot has disappeared in the playoffs. He just keeps shooting and missing. If this was Wallace’s only negative during the playoffs, the Pistons wouldn’t be in such bad shape. The problem is that Wallace has been even more ineffective in the paint. In fact, he refuses to even enter the paint with the ball in his hand. Wallace has always been a dangerous player because of his ability to get to the basket on anyone. Instead of taking the high percentage shot two or three feet from the rim, Wallace has fallen in love with the fade-away. Rasheed’s unwillingness to take a high percentage shot by taking Udonis Haslem or Antoine Walker to task in the post has led to a 37% field goal percentage and a deplorable 23% mark from three-point range. Sheed is unstoppable in the post when he displays an array of post moves. He becomes as worthless as Chris Dudley in the post when he refuses to shoot nothing but off balanced fade-aways. As if the love affair with the fade-away isn’t bad enough, he takes himself out of the play for an offensive-rebound and causes unnecessary congestion for Billups, Prince and Rip behind the three-point line.

3). Rip Hamilton is not a good ball handler. I repeat; Rip Hamilton is not a good ball handler. He cannot create off the dribble and he cannot lead a fast break. Anybody who has watched Hamilton during any of his seasons with the Pistons knows this already. This is not a recent development. Hamilton is also among the worst players in the league at shooting the ball in end-of-game situations. He often fails to get a shot off at all. Hamilton is a good player when he’s used correctly. Hamilton is virtually unstoppable coming off screens. Even if Dwyane Wade is seemingly shutting Rip down defensively, the fact that Rip is running him around the court is a plus for the Pistons. Wade loves seeing Hamilton with the ball in his hands at the top of the key. He would gladly welcome that all game. The Pistons need to do themselves a favor by making Rip more efficient. As it stands now, Rip is a mess. His shooting percentage is dreadful. His turnovers are plaguing the team. Rip has more turnovers than anyone on the team and it’s not even close. Rip has had a role on this team for the last four years. When he plays his role, he’s exceptional. When he tries to be a different player, he is awful and that’s putting it nicely.

4). The free-throw shooting has been ridiculous. Granted, Miami took bad free-throw shooting to new level in game five. However, entering game five the Pistons had shot a paltry 71% from the free-throw in the playoffs. In fact, if it weren’t for Billups, the Pistons would be shooting 66%. Ben Wallace has killed the Pistons by shooting 13 for 58. Wallace is a liability. Pat Riley should employ the hack-a-Ben strategy to start every game. He should start Michael Doleac, Wayne Simien, Derek Anderson, Dwyane Wade and Shaq. He should allow Doleac, Simien, and Anderson to foul Wallace on every possession. The Pistons would be lucky to score 8-10 points per quarter. I don’t understand why Riley hasn’t done this yet. It’s almost as if he feels bad. Regardless of feeling bad or not, there would be a 100% chance of success if Riley employed that strategy. It has worked every time thus far. It’s easy to dismiss Ben’s lousy free-throw shooting as a necessary evil for having the best defensive player in the league. However, his inability to make anything at the line has cost the Pistons multiple games in the playoffs. Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess have also choked at the line in the playoffs. While McDyess’ funk has hurt, Rasheed’s struggles have hurt the Pistons even more. He gets to the line more often than McDyess and thus has a bigger impact from the line.

5). Most people don’t realize this yet, but Dwyane Wade is better than LeBron James. In fact, Wade is probably the best player in the league. Wade is unstoppable when he wants to get to the basket. His mid-range jumper is the best in the league. His athletic ability is freakish. If you could build a perfect guard, Wade would be what you would build. I hate admitting this because Wade is a complainer. I can’t stand complainers (yes, even the Pistons get on my nerves). But, the fact remains that Wade is virtually unstoppable when left one on one. The Pistons won an NBA Championship by letting Kobe Bryant and Shaq shoot as many difficult shots as they wanted. The Pistons are now getting slaughtered by the Heat because they are allowing Wade to waltz into the lane where he seemingly shoots 90%. The Pistons need to force Wade to give up the ball and then double Shaq. It sounds difficult but it can be done. I’d rather Gary Payton, Antoine Walker or Jason Williams shoot a three than have Wade drive to the basket without help. However, the key is to double Wade before he gets to the paint. Once he’s in the paint, it’s over. The Pistons learned to force LeBron to make a decision out at the top of the key. They must do the same with Wade. When they do that, they are usually successful. They often go long stretches where they don’t do this which is equal parts maddening and equal parts stupid. Also, game five showed just how ineffective Shaq can be when he’s constantly double-teamed. There is a correct way to defend the Heat and the Pistons have failed to do this 90% of the time. They finally had the right game-plan for game five and the results were fantastic. It is almost inconceivable that a team could ignore the obvious for so long but the Pistons have done just that. If they don’t continue what they did in game five as far as their defensive strategy for Shaq and Wade, it will get ugly in a hurry.

6). The coaching staff has failed to make any significant adjustments with the exception of game five. Problems 1-5 are the faults of the players and the coaching staff equally. As the coach of the Pistons, Flip Saunders has to understand how important it is for Billups to drive the lane. When Billups drives past his primary defender, it elicits the aid of the help defender leaving holes in Miami’s defense. Without Billups penetration, the holes are not there. Saunders is getting paid millions of dollars to figure this out. It is unacceptable that this problem has not been addressed for three weeks running.

It is also intolerable that Saunders has not forced Rasheed Wallace to play more in the post. How can the Pistons get the Heat into foul trouble if their primary post player doesn’t take the ball into the lane? Also by being a force in the post, Rasheed creates double teams which inevitably create open looks from behind the three-point line. Miami is imploring Rasheed to take his fall-away jumper. They love the fact that he hovers around the three-point line. Wallace has been a non-factor and Saunders deserves to be chastised for letting this go on. I can’t imagine that a coach could be paid so much money to miss such obvious errors in strategy.

I also blame Saunders for allowing Hamilton to play the role of “turnover machine” rather than his normal role of “unstoppable, coming off screen guy.” Any play that calls for Hamilton to create off the dribble should be immediately discarded from the play book. Hamilton can shoot. He can even shoot three-points now. He can’t dribble or drive. Saunders has gaffed big-time on the use of Hamilton.

The failure to employ the correct game-plan defensively is almost entirely on the coaching staff. Shaq struggles when he’s double-teamed. Wade struggles when he’s double teamed or trapped at the top of the key. The Pistons rarely do either. Go figure! Saunders adjusted for game five and the results speak for themselves. However, why on Earth did it take four games for Saunders to realize this? They just had a case study on how to guard a seemingly unstoppable perimeter player against LeBron James in the second round. It took them six games to figure out how to do that. By the way they’ve played Wade defensively thus far you would think they learned nothing from that seven-game series against Cleveland. What a waste.

While I blame Saunders for the reprehensible use of Billups, R. Wallace, and Rip Hamilton as well as his inability to even come close to employing the right defense in games 1-4, he can’t be held accountable for the poor free-throw shooting. Ben Wallace has been playing basketball for no less than 18 years. To be an NBA player and shoot 23% from the free-throw line is unacceptable. Most big-men that have problems shooting free throws cite “big hands” as a factor. From all accounts, Big Ben has small hands which makes his trouble at the line even more infuriating. How hard is it to shoot 50% from the line? Shaq shoots double Ben’s percentage!

A common saying in the NBA among analysts, players and coaches is that this is a player’s league. This series is highlighting just how wrong that statement is. The Pistons have the exact same team that dominated the playoffs in 2004 and almost won it again in 2005. Yet, they aren’t even close to achieving the same results. The only change has been the coaching staff. Coaches have more influence in the NBA than most people could possibly imagine. The only other sport that even comes close to a coach’s influence is the NFL. The NBA is about match-ups and adjustments. The players do not make the adjustments. Coaches do. The Pistons can be extremely efficient on offense when everyone does what they do best. When everyone does what they don’t do best, we get what we’ve seen these past three weeks. Considering that Saunders hasn’t changed anything over the last three weeks despite multiple telling losses, I do not expect things to magically change for game six in Miami. As a result, there is no way the Pistons will beat Miami in Miami on Friday.

For those of you that don't remember, Herbstreit said before the Michigan St./Ohio St. football game in ’98 that MSU had “no chance” of winning the game. Just a few hours later, OSU was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten and had its National Championship hopes ruined. I would love to be wrong. I would love to be ridiculed for being a know-nothing ninny with a blog or better yet, Herbstreit-esque. However, the facts speak for themselves. The Pistons haven’t played a complete game (including games two and five) in this series. They were torched both games in Miami. I fully expect to see an array of fade-away misses from Sheed, Billups deferring to a teammate rather than taking J. Williams off dribble, Hamilton trying to create off dribble, and Wade penetrating at will. If you find yourself seeing this stuff in game six, then you can turn the TV off and save yourself the trouble and heartache. In fact, the owner of the Miami Heat would probably pay $10 million out of his own pocket if it guaranteed that those things would happen. He would essentially be buying a spot in the NBA Finals. If these things continue to happen in game six, you can file Flip Saunders’ 2006 salary as the biggest waste of money ever spent in professional sports.

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