Category Archives: numbercrunch

As a vulture might do with a favorite rotting corpse, Roar of the Tigers once again gazes upon the 2008 season.

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

What is the worst thing? ‘Though you may think it, the worst thing is not a terrible season. A terrible season is overtly Terrible, but it is not Worst. No, the true worst thing is a tired, old, moth-gnawed rehashing of a terrible season.

And that is what blogs are for. To present to you the very worst thing.

So yes: now we do the worst thing.

How bad were the Tigers?

Out of 14 American League teams, the Tigers had the third worst win/loss percentage, with a glorious 74-88 record, meaning that they won 45.7% of their games. As we so often wailed this past season, that is under .500. Only the hapless Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners lost more games, and the Mariners lost 101 games so they might not even count as a real team anymore.

The Tigers had a 27-45 record against their own division, meaning that they won 37.5% of the games they played against AL Central teams. This makes them the second worst against their own division in the AL, behind only the Orioles (who won a super sadfaced 30.6% of the games they played against AL East teams).

Tigers pitching managed to put up the third worst team ERA in the AL, with a fifth-starter-esque collective ERA of 4.90, surpassed only by the increasingly hilarious Baltimore and the Texas Launching Pad Rangers. Compare this to the Toronto Blue Jays, who had a team ERA of 3.49.

Do you know how many INDIVIDUAL Tigers starters had an ERA under 3.49?

ZERO.

I’ll give you a minute to wipe the vomit off your chin.

Lest you begin to rumble about the unreliability of ERA (valid concerns!), I will point you towards OOPS (ha ha, that is correct), or Opponents On base Plus Slugging (OPS-against, if you will). The Tigers have the third worst team OOPS in the AL, clocking in at .790, which means that opposing batters were OPSing .790 against them.

That is PRETTY BAD. Compare that again to the Jays, whose opponents averaged a .689 OPS against them. That is approximately what Brandon Inge OPS’d for the year. And remember, kittens, Brandon Inge slugged .369 this season. Just think about that.

The Tigers also had the second worst fielding percentage in the AL (.981), although this is a difficult stat to put much stock in and there was very little variation at all in the league, with the best FP going to the Jays again at .986 and the worst to Texas at .978.

The more glaringly obnoxious number is Total Errors Made. The Tigers worked together to make 113 errors this season, good for second most errors made in the AL (Texas wins/loses again with an astonishing 132 errors made, and the Yankees, weirdly enough, made the fewest, with 83).

Despite this woeful fielding, the Tigers did have the second best Stolen Bases Against percentage in the AL, with only 66% of all stolen base attempts by opponents resulting in success (the absolute best was Oakland at 63%; the worst was the Wrong Sox at 82%). The league average was a 73% success rate, putting the Tigers well into the ‘hot damn a positive aspect of the team’ zone. This is partly attributable to the time we had left with Pudge (*sniff*), the ferocity of Brandon Inge’s arm, and Kenny Rogers.

They also have the fourth best team batting average (.271, behind the Twins, the Red Sox, and Texas on top at .283) and the third best team slugging percentage (.784, behind the Red Sox, and Texas on top at .816). Although the Tigers definitely, DEFINITELY had bat-related struggles this season, and these were apparently timed to perfection for MAXIMUM CHAOS, hitting was not as huge a problem as it might have been. Pitching KILLED the ’08 Tigers.

I am starting to depress myself with these numbers, so I’ll cut this short for now. I reckon this is quite enough to be going on anyways.

(Most numbers combed from MLB.com and the ’09 Bill James Handbook.)

Sidenote: It sure sounds like the Royals are sticking with Miguel Olivo right now, what with the whole ‘re-signing and declaring him the new main starter’ schtick. I know his name had been tossed around a bit as a potential trade commodity or somesuch with the Tigers, so it’s worth noting that he seems to be off the market now.

I’m not sure exactly what this means for John Buck, their now-deposed former starting catcher, but, uh, we don’t want him anyways.

still blaming the bats in Detroit

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Ugh, you know what? I can’t even. I am getting sick and tired of flinging the same fecal matter around over and over again. The Tigers are so out of synch that it’s not even funny except in that grim gallows-humor kind of way. Slow asphyxiation? HILARITY! Verlander’s win total? LOLARIOUS!

Did you know that they’ve had 11 quality starts in 40 games? That’s a terrible stat. Twenty-eight percent of the time they take the mound, Tigers pitchers have a quality start. I have to be up at 5 am tomorrow so I am not even going to dig around and find out what that percentage is like for the rest of the league, but I would be willing to bet Chuck Hernandez’s left kidney that it’s a good deal higher than 28%.

BUT WAIT, IT GETS BETTER.

Of those 11 quality starts, the Tigers have won only 6. PRACTICALLY HALF THE TIME THEY GET A QUALITY START OUT OF THEIR PITCHER, THEY BLOW THE GAME ANYWAYS. No freakin’ wonder this team has only won 16 bloody games.

Also: there have only been 5 times, in the 40 games we’ve seen so far, where the Tigers have scored more than 3 runs and still lost the game. There have been 20 games where they’ve scored more than 3 runs. Obviously this is a logic thing– you score a load of runs, you’re much more likely to actually win the game– but what you’re looking at is another percentage telling you how ‘in synch’ the bats and the pitching are. At least 6 innings with 3 or fewer runs allowed is a quality outing for a pitcher; I’m roughly calling more than 3 runs scored a quality outing for the bats.

HALF the time the pitchers have a quality outing, the bats screw it up. A QUARTER of the time the bats have a quality outing, the pitching (starters or bullpen) screws it up.

Since the Tigs are averaging a ‘quality’ offensive outing 50% of the time, and are getting a ‘quality’ pitching performance 28% of the time, you could definitely argue that the starters are the largest source of trouble here. But when it comes to undermining their own teammates, the bats are certainly the bigger culprits.

Does it do any actual good to assign blame here? So the bats hate the pitchers more than the pitchers hate the bats: who cares? The point is that the Tigs are sitting unpretty at .400 and dead last in the division, 5 games back from the pitching-charmed if still un-PC-ly-mascotted Indians and 3.5 games behind the FREAKING ROYALS. Stab me in the FACE, that looks awful when you type it all out.

So no, it doesn’t ACTUALLY matter that the bats are dropping the proverbial ball when the pitching actually manages to give them a metaphorical ball to hold. But the first step to overcoming a problem is admitting you have a problem, and maybe if we can realize WHERE the problem is, it can be targeted and destroyed by, I don’t know, some sort of covert baseball coaching military mission.

Most of us have been saying that this can’t go on, not with this lineup, the Tigers will hit hard and often soon enough, etc. How long can they keep doing this? There are GOOD HITTERS in this lineup, LOTS of them.

But look at poor Verlander, with his 1-and-7 record. Opposing teams have scored 37 earned runs off of him in his 9 starts. He’s not exactly averaging a quality start every time he comes out. But the Tigers have scored 20 runs in games he’s pitched (and 10 of those came in 1 game, so it’s really like they’ve scored only 10 runs for 8 of his starts). They have scored more than 3 runs in games that he started exactly twice. When Justin goes 5.2 innings and gives up 6 runs it is for sure his fault, but what about the game where he pitched 6 with only 1 earned run, or even a game where he went 7 and gave up 4?

That’s not his fault. That’s the fault of the Lineup That Should turning into the Lineup That Inexplicably Can’t.

Bye bye Byrdak, but why?

photo by Samara Pearlstein

So, Tim Byrdak’s been released.

I don’t know. I understand the basic rationale here: he looked pretty good last year, yes, but he hasn’t exactly had stellar numbers throughout his career, and his performance this spring (what was it, an ERA over 13.00?) was looking an awful lot like a regression to those numbers. And what’s done is done. It’s not like second-guessing this move is going to get him back on the roster.

But this is a blog. Second-guessing is what we do here!

It’s impossible to not notice the fact that 2007, the first season he’s pitched his way to a sub-4 ERA, was also the first season he threw 40+ innings in the majors. Now, obviously this is a chicken/egg kind of problem: a guy who pitches well is going to be given more innings to pitch, the more innings he pitches the less his stats will suffer from small sample size horrors and he’ll look better (assuming he’s a moderately competent and healthy pitcher in the first place), so he’ll get more innings to pitch, and so on.

You get a guy who’s borderline so far as the team is concerned and he hits the pitching chicken/egg wall. If he has one or two good outings, he gets more and more outings and everyone pats themselves on the back and feels clever. If he has one or two bad outings, nobody wants to put him in the game, so those bad outings sit and fester in his stats and he doesn’t get any chances to redeem himself by adding more innings and tidying up the bell curve.

The question here is simple. What IS this particular pitcher’s bell curve? If you give him more innings, will he actually settle down and those occasional awful outings will be just bad-luck flukes that everyone gets? Or are those few bad outings actually indicative of a bad pitcher? (Of course you can switch this around and have a bad pitcher who throws a few good innings and gets lots and lots and lots of rope to hang himself with too.)

Since he first popped up to the majors with the Royals (briefly) in 1998, Byrdak has had 4 stops, minor and major and what I think is independent league, where he pitched 40+ innings. His average ERA for those stops? 3.45. His average WHIP is 1.43, and his average BB/K ratio is 0.53. Not SPECTACULAR– he’s not going to be a premier closer any time soon– but definitely not awful either. Definitely serviceable for a middle relief-type. And yes, of course you have to look at the fact that independent league ball and AAA are very different from facing big league batters, but the one year where Byrdak has had lots of innings against big league batters, he did just fine. The year where he threw his second-most innings in the majors (2005, 26.7 innings), he ALSO did OK: an ERA of 4.05, a WHIP of 1.80.

I mean, yeah, he was awful in 2006, when he had a 12.86 ERA in the majors; even assuming we all agree on the inherent shadiness of ERA as a measure of pitchers, I think we can also all agree that a good pitcher does not put up a 12.86 ERA. But, kids and kittens, Byrdak only pitched 7 innings in ’06. He only pitched 13.1 innings that entire SEASON, major and minor league! (I assume he was hurt?) Of course he was going to look miserable.

I’m not trying to say that releasing Tim Byrdak is the WORST MOVE THE TIGERS HAVE EVER MADE EVARRRRRR OMG NOOEEEZZ DEATH AND DESTRUCTION ETC. I’m just saying that it’s kind of puzzling to me, more especially because almost all spring we’ve been hearing from Leyland that Byrdak’s a lock, Byrdak’s going to be a part of the bullpen, so on and so forth. And I thought, OK, the Tigs see that maybe he’s having a rough spring, but they understand everything I just went into in this post, so they’re willing to give him a shot and see if it works out. Now, all of a sudden: BAM! Unconditional release! In yo face!

AND he’s a lefty. I just don’t know, guys. I know that we need the roster space, but… you almost have to believe that the Tigers have some move planned for the bullpen now. It’s just damn weird otherwise.

Tigers young and old


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Age is one of my main concerns for next year…. not just old age, mind you (I’m no ageist!), but extreme youth as well. The Tigers are not going to be the oldest team in baseball, and they’re not going to be the youngest, but they might very well be the most extremely split.

Going on the currently posted active roster, the Tigers’ average team age will be 30.3 next season. Yes, I REALIZE that the roster that’s up right now is not going to be the roster we end up seeing in April, but a lot of the same guys will be there, and in the number-crunch that follows I’ll use that same not-quite-realistic current posted roster for each team. The idea is that while the Tigers’ roster is currently skewed with kids who’ll end up in the minors come April and some people who will get traded and one or two old dudes who’ll retire, everyone else’s roster is in the same boat (I’m not looking at the Red Sox, Racist Logos, Yankees, or Angels, because they all still have un-expanded 25-man rosters posted. Fair is fair). So we will all just have to inhale deeply and take this with a small but delicious grain of salt. Anyways.

30.3 isn’t a bad average age. Of the teams I looked at, the average average age (oy) is 29.11. The Tigers’ 30.3 is the highest of those, but the lowest is the Twins at 28.53, so there’s not a ton of variance. What’s interesting (and to me, worrying) is how that 30.3 breaks down.

What I did here was look at the standard deviation of ages on each team. The standard deviation tells you how closely your numbers hold to the average. So if you have a set of numbers with an average of 30 and you have a relatively SMALL standard deviation, your set would contain numbers like 30, 31, 32, 30, 29, 30, 31, 30. If your set had an average of 30 but a relatively BIG standard deviation, your numbers would look more like 45, 20, 30, 21, 38, 35, 43 and so on. A big standard deviation means that your numbers DEVIATE more from the average.

What standard deviation does for us here is tell us how widely variable a team’s ages are. A team with an average age of 30 and a relatively low standard deviation would have lots of guys right around age 30. A team with an average age of 30 and a relatively high standard deviation would have some guys right around age 30, but also lots of extremes, i.e. more really old guys and really young guys, and fewer ‘average-age’ guys.

My ~*~vague impression~*~ was that the Tigers would have a higher standard deviation in age than most teams. This impression was formed the same way comments about Derek Jeter’s calm eyes or David Eckstein’s scraptardation are formed: mostly baseless pattern-seeking tendencies in the human brain. I FEEL like the Tigers have unusually lots of really old or really young guys, but who knows, right? That might just be the result of me not paying such close attention to the rest of MLB.

This is not a stat blog. But I didn’t want to make a statement like that when I knew full well it could actually just be my own personal bias talking, and when it was something I COULD check. So, with no further ado, I present to you the average ages and standard deviations in age for the American League in 2008 (minus teams with unexpanded rosters at the moment).

Athletics
average age: 28.8
standard deviation: 3.95

Blue Jays
average age: 29.71
standard deviation: 4.31

Mariners
average age: 29.05
standard deviation: 4.23

Orioles
average age: 29.39
standard deviation: 4.06

Rangers
average age: 28.81
standard deviation: 3.75

Rays
average age: 28.84
standard deviation: 4.07

Royals
average age: 28.71
standard deviation: 3.71

Tigers
average age: 30.3
standard deviation: 5.23

Twins
average age: 28.53
standard deviation: 3.45

Wrong Sox
average age: 29
standard deviation: 4.21

Mmm, sweet juicy vindication.

As you’ll note, the Tigers have the highest standard deviation, by a lot. This means that, compared to most other AL teams, the Tigers have an unusually high number of Extreme Age players: guys who are either old and decrepit and Kenny Rogers, or guys who are young and bubbly and Cameron Maybin.

All of this is a very roundabout way of hammering home my concern. I’m not worried that the Tigers are too old or too young; I’m worried that the Tigers are too old AND too young. We’ll be suffering through inexperienced players trying to find their feet and older players physically breaking down AT THE SAME TIME. That’s what freaks me out. That’s not the norm for a baseball team. Usually it’s one or the other, or something else entirely. Both at once… I don’t know. I don’t like it. We need our team to merge back in towards the mean. The young kids have to grow up and the old guys have to sputter through the ends of their contracts.

What ALSO worries me is the way that our Extreme Age players seem to fall in places where we really don’t want them. It wouldn’t be SO bad if a lot of the pitching staff was on the older end, because you get older, mostly-effective pitchers fairly often. But look at our infield. Guillen and Polanco are both riding up on 33; that doesn’t seem so old, but it’s on the upper end of effectiveness for leaping, stretching, baserunner-impacting infield positions, especially for guys who already have injury histories. If we have to have super-young players, why can’t they be infielders? Alas, instead we have a fairly aged infield, some extremely young pitchers, and a pretty young outfield (assuming that we’ll have Granderson, and then even if Maybin starts the year in the minors, Clevlen and/or Raburn will stay). You can hide old guys in the outfield or on the pitching staff, but you can’t hide them at second base or at catcher.

I’m not sure if there’s a solution here. It may be that 2008 is the year we spend waiting for everyone to either mature or expire. I very much don’t want it to be, especially because I think we had the raw talent to go the distance THIS year if it hadn’t been for rotten luck and injuries… But. The young guys who just came up at the end of the year, in addition to the natural aging of everyone else, pushed our standard deviation of ages all out of whack. I don’t reckon we can re-whack it, and that worries me.

Tigers mess with superstition


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Baseball superstition dictates that, following their 20-hit, 16-run outing against the Yanks, the Tigers should have been unable to hit anything at all in this game. The purported view here is that batters tire after hitting a lot, or else they grow overconfident and get smacked back down to earth the next time they head out all swaggering.

Of course there’s also the view that there is a certain number of hits allotted to a team by the baseball gods and when they use up a bunch of them at once, that’s it– they’ve used those hits up– so they’ll hit a lot less the next time out. It’s some sort of strange baseballian cosmic system of checks and balances. It is, of course, completely and utterly insane. My point is that the first view is equally crazy.

(It’s also worth noting that some people say they hold view A, but really, deep down, in their hearts, mean view B. These are often the same kinds of people who think that all baseball management positions should be held by good old semi-retired baseball men instead of people who might be wildly competent but have the misfortune of having never played baseball professionally.)

Because I believe this hypothesis (that the two views are equally crazy), I did a little easy but boring experiment. I went through the season and looked at how many hits the Tigers were scoring in each game. For the purposes of the experiment I considered 10 or more hits in a game to be “big”, and 15 or more hits per game to be “superbig”. If the standard baseball superstition is true, then “big” games should be followed by very unbig games– just a couple of hits, and usually losses. If my view of things is true, there shouldn’t be anything statistically interesting about games following “big” games– they should be about equally “big” and unbig, about equally wins and losses.

Here’s what I found:

Of the 132 games played so far, 70 are “big” and 17 of those 70 are “superbig”. The Tigers, so far this season, are getting 10 or more hits 53% of the time. This is one heck of an offense.

When the Tigers had a “big” game, 46% of the games immediately after would also be “big”. There was also a 46% likelihood of a game following a “big” game being a win, regardless of the number of hits (in addition to the “big” games that followed “big” games and were wins, there were 8 times this season where a “big” game was followed by an unbig game, with less than 10 hits, and the Tigers still won). When the Tigers hit 10 or more runs, almost 50% of the time they go on to win the next game they play… that doesn’t bode well for old superstition.

Does this change with the “superbig” games? The problem here is that there’s obviously a much smaller sample size to look at, since the Tigers have only had 17 “superbig” games (where they had 15 or more hits) so far (with two of them in the last two days!). Eight of the “superbig” games are immediately followed by at least “big” games. That means that 47% of the time, when the Tigers have 15 or more hits in a game, there is a 47% likelihood that they will have at least 10 in the follow-up game.

You’ll notice that all of these numbers are hovering right around 50%, and I’d bet that the more games you looked at (the bigger your sample size got), the closer to 50% they would get.

What does this mean?

Well, it means I get to pet my hypothesis on the head: baseball superstition is just superstition, nothing more. The Tigers are just as likely to follow a “big” game up with another “big” game as they are to follow it up with a cruddy two-hit outing, and they’re about as likely to win after a “big” game as they are likely to lose.

Now, you’ll notice that I was only looking at hits here, not runs. Runs were not necessarily tied to the number of hits, which is what we saw in last night’s game, where the Tigs managed to bang out 16 hits but only got 3 runs and a loss to show for it. This is not baseball superstition slapping the Tigers in the face for daring to defy it, though. Unfortunately for us, if the Tigers have a 46% chance of winning a game following a “big” game, that means they have a 54% chance of losing it, even with another mega-hit performance. Statistically speakin’, this game wasn’t so weird at all. It was pretty much what you could expect.

Now, can we PLEASE lay this myth of multi-hit games sapping a team’s strength to rest once and for all? The best way to do that, Tigers, would be to keep getting tons of hits in these games, one right after the other…. pretty please?

(This is why I don’t do number-licious posts. I actually FELL ASLEEP in the middle of writing/researching this last night. Which is why it’s getting posted at 10 in the morning the next day. I’ll leave the numbers to those more facile with them next time ’round.)

and in a pinch you can feed him to your pet python

David Eckstein: the Derek Jeter of the NL? Only you take “true Yankeedom” and “calm-eyed intangibles” and replace them with “moderately small size” and “grit”. And you take “metrosexually confident heartthrob” and replace it with “heartthrob only to sportswriters and people who are turned on by small white things such as albino lemmings and/or cotton balls”. I don’t mean they’re similar as players, I just mean they’re similar in how the media reacts to them.

We’ve taken to calling him “The Lab Rat” around here, because he looks very much like one and, if you listen to EVERYONE WRITING ABOUT BASEBALL EVER, he’s approximately the size of one. He’s pretty hairless, though, compared to your average lab rat, so maybe he’s more like an ONCOMOUSE (capitalized because I love the word). Just imagine this as ecce eckstein. Small in stature but huge in impact for the possible fate of the human race! The noble Eckstein-oncomouse will CURE OUR CANCERS even though it is but a small, overlooked, small, humble, and small creature! Isn’t that David Eckstein in a nutshell? NO HYPERBOLE HERE, MY FRIENDS.

BEST SHORTSTOP EVAR

Even without getting into Fancy Stats, let us look at some basic, basic things that happened this season. Let us make this so simple that even I, an art student who has about the understanding of math and stats that one would expect from an art student, can understand.

This season, David Eckstein batted .292/.350/.344.
This season, Carlos Guillen batted .320/.400/.519.

There is no comparison there, anywhere. Guillen was better across the board. He hit for more average, got on base at a better clip, and hit for more power. He was a better hitter. He IS a better hitter. But he lacks SCRAPPY DETERMINATION. Brandon Inge (if we’re being fair here) has SCRAPPY DETERMINATION, but we’re talking about shortstops right now, and media lovefests.

This season, David Eckstein walked 31 times in 500 at-bats.
This season, Carlos Guillen walked 71 times in 543 at-bats.

Carlos Guillen is not a leadoff hitter. Carlos Guillen plays for a team that values the walk just slightly more than it values the sludge that Vance Wilson leaves in the clubhouse toilet after a particularly spicy postgame spread.

OK, and this one is my favorite.

This season, David Eckstein stole 7 bases and was caught stealing 6 times.
This season, Carlos Guillen stole 20 bases and was caught stealing 9 times.

I had NO IDEA about this before I looked it up. If you read ANYTHING written about David Eckstein, it would lead you to believe that he’s the sort of player who steals INFINITE bases, not because he’s some sort of Dave Roberts-esque speedster, but because that is the sort of GRITASTIC, SCRAPPY, SCRAPALICIOUS old school baseball favored by 1) Tony The Russa, 2) the National League, 3) winners, 4) Real Men, and 5) David Eckstein.

Carlos Guillen stole 13 more bases and was only caught 3 more times. But I guess he wasn’t stealing them very grittily. When Carlos Guillen steals a base his uniform remains squeaky clean, because he’s not grinding his tailbone into the mud like David Eckstein is. He can’t be. He lacks that essential Ecksteinity.

Also, does anyone else get the feeling that Eckstein’s always written about as though he’s a Little Leaguer, or at least a kid fresh up from AAA? I mean, some of it is his stature and the emphasis sportswriters place on his “boundless enthusiasm for the game” or whatever, but even just the overall tone of the stuff written about him. If you read 50 articles about David Eckstein and 50 articles about Carlos Guillen (if you can find 50 articles about Carlos Guillen), you’d probably come away with the impression that Guillen is somewhere in the realm of middle-aged for a baseball player, and Eckstein is a fresh-faced kid. It’s kind of freaky.

For the record, Carlos Guillen is 30 years old and has been in the majors for 9 seasons. David Eckstein is 31 and has been in the majors for 6 seasons. But they’ve all been scrappy seasons!

I also demand that you all, each and every one, go read this Ecksteinful masterpiece by Fire Joe Morgan, because in all honesty I laughed so hard I cried painful, semi-suppressed tears of mirth.

ALCS Game 4: when the dust settles

See, the first thing you gotta understand is, there’s this number.

There’s this number, in the American League. It doesn’t care about who won the division. It doesn’t care about who has what banner hangin’ back home. It doesn’t care about last year, or the year before that, or 10 years before that. It doesn’t care about what the newspapers say. It doesn’t care about payroll. It doesn’t care about who has the prettiest third baseman.

It doesn’t give a flyin’ fox fruit bat about any of that, because it’s just a number, see? And numbers don’t care. They don’t care about what was, or what will be, or what might have been. They just care about what IS. ‘Cause numbers are pretty concrete, pretty much live-for-the-moment kinda things, unless you get into imaginary numbers and baseball has enough trouble accepting common algebraic formulas.

So there’s this number. And it’s the number of American League teams left standing.

And that number is One.

OK, and this is baseball, so nothin’ more complicated than algebra, right? Wouldn’t want Joe Morgan’s head exploding or Tony The Russa havin’ a heart attack out there. We’ll stick with algebra. And in algebra, see, sometimes the numbers have names. C’mon, you all remember this. A=2, and B=36, and C=7.564.

So, there’s this number. And we’re gonna play a little game. Take DETROIT. Yeah, good word. Let’s just have some fun here, assign some numbers some nice little names, algebra being about the speed of baseball, I think we’ve all agreed.

D=23, Jeremy Bonderman’s age.
E=29, Nate Robertson’s age.
T=41, Kenny Rogers’ age.
R=23, Justin Verlander’s age.

Average those together and you get 29, the average age of the current Tiger pitching staff. Still with me?

O=2006, that’s today.
I=1984, that’s the last time the Tigers were, you know, there.

2006-1984, that’s 22 years, man, that’s a long time. Heck, longer’n I’ve been around.
29-22, that’s 7.

T=6, that’s the number of runs we scored today, that’s the number that got us over and in and thank you Magglio, 6, I think, is a pretty cool number, that way. It’s the number of letters in ‘Tigers’ and it’s Al Kaline’s number, which is a good sort of thing to be thinking about today.

7-6, kids. That’s 1.

DETROIT=1. Simple math, really.

But of course that’s not how this number got the name “Detroit Tigers” tagged onto it. That’s just something I made up on the spot. Really this number got its name just because it describes a thing, a place. A state of being. The last team in the American League to make it through. That number is one, and that team is the Detroit Tigers, and

The Tigers. Are. Number. One.

In the AL. Which is not everything, of course. But it’s a start. They don’t call it a championship for nothing, you know. And it’s way, way more than we’ve had in years and years and years.

One more thing.

A year ago, the best thing baseball could bring to this city was an All Star game, and everyone agreed that that was OK, but it wasn’t VERY good, and Pudge was the only Tiger there anyways.

That wasn’t true.

Because before the big boys played, before The All Star Game, there was something called the Futures Game. And that was in Detroit too. And there were a couple of kids there. At the time I was calling them the End of the Alphabet Boys. I thought it would be funny if they both made the big league squad next year (this year). I didn’t think it very likely, but I thought, and wrote, hey, how neat, what if.

The End of the Alphabet Boys. V and Z, see. Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya.

The best thing baseball could bring Detroit last season was an All Star game, and the best players Detroit could put in there would do nothing at all except decide that wasn’t enough, they wanted more, and they would be absolutely vital in bringing something more to Detroit the next time ’round. A World Series, even.

No one expected this. No one. Not the fans, not the writers, not the owner or the players themselves. No one expected it, but do you SEE? Do you see how it was BREWING?

Verlander and Zumaya no more remember the last time the Tigers were playing like this than I do. This is a new generation of Tigers, and Tigers fans and we are GOING TO THE FREAKIN’ WORLD SERIES.

So there’s this number. And it’s not THE number, not yet. Maybe we won’t get THAT number. But we’ve got this one, this One, and I don’t care what team you are, I don’t care how rich you are or how special or deserving you think you are, you can’t take that away from these Tigers.

Also, I am incomparably happy that Polanco got the MVP, since he deserved it 10 times over. I am only saddened that he did not wear his snood to accept it.

For the love of cats, get a GRIP, people!

Pudge is underperforming, Pudge isn’t hitting at all, Pudge is a drain on our team, Pudge is sitting too often, whine whine whine etc.

These numbers are comparing catchers over all of MLB, mind you, not just the AL. I’ve knocked out all the catchers with less than 100 ABs, because it only seems fair, you know. All stats taken from the official MLB site, so if they’re wrong, blame Bud Selig, not me.

Batting Average
League leader: .306, Robert Fick, Padres.
Pudge: .294, good for 6th place.

Slugging Percentage
League leader: .569, Javier Valentin, Reds.
Pudge: .466, good for 6th place.

Home runs
League leader: 16, tie between AJ Pierzynski (Wrong Sox) and Jason Varitek (Red Sox)
Pudge: 9, good for a 10th place tie with Sal Fasano (Os), Jason LaRue (Reds), Mike Lieberthal (Phillies), Javy Lopez (Os), Mike Matheny (Giants– Michigan Wolverine!), and poor astigmatic begoggled Jason Phillips (Dodgers).

Triples
League leader: 4, Pudge.
OK, so Comerica probably has something to do with that.
Next best: 2, tie between Michael Barrett (Cubs) and Robert Fick.

Doubles
League leader: 27, Pudge.
I don’t think Comerica has much to do with this one. Pudge has always been a doubles hitter, and it’s not hard to believe that he’s the best double-hitting catcher in baseball right now.
Next best: 25, Mike Matheny.

RBI
League leader: 53, Victor Martinez, Indians.
Pudge: 40, good for 12th place.

Runs
League leader: 57, Pudge.
That’s leading all catchers in baseball, you do realize.
Next best: 49, tie between Jason Kendall (As) and Jason Varitek.

Hits
League leader: 109, Pudge.
Next best: 106, Jason Kendall.

Stolen Bases
League leader: 8, Joe Mauer, Twinkies.
Pudge: 6, good for a second place tie with Jason Kendall.

Number of at-bats
League leader: 391, Jason Kendall.
Pudge: 371, good for second place.

This is really the only gaping hole in his game:
OBP
League leader: .384, Jason Varitek.
Pudge: .304, good for 30th place.

So, basically, everyone needs to calm the hell down. You can’t say that Pudge is sitting too often, because he demonstrably is not. He’s playing in more games than almost every single other catcher in baseball. If you want to whine about him sitting at the same time as a bunch of other big bats, rather than spreading out the off-days, by all means, go ahead. But you can’t say he’s sitting too much.

You can’t say that he’s some sort of terrible offensive presence, because he very obviously is not. Say you’re somehow able to move his contract… who the hell do you put in there? There isn’t any other catcher in baseball like Pudge; there isn’t anyone who is putting numbers up like Pudge, even this year, when Pudge is underperforming from his usual Pudge levels. Cripes, what do you people want? He’s got to bat .400 and slug .600 before we’re satisfied with what he’s doing out there? Now, if you want to whine about the complete and utter lack of walks he’s taking, feel welcome to do so. I’ll whine with you.

But to talk of trading him for what is basically a guaranteed downgrade at the catcher position… you cats are wicked insane.

New stats for a new ERA of Tiger awesomeness!

I know you’re excited.

In case you’ve been living in a blog-free hole, Rebecca, a Red Sox blogger, has been tinkering with a new stat for judging pitching efficiency, which she first called the Pitching Efficiency Index but is now calling Bases Per Batter (BpB). She’s been running through and taking looks at the Sox pitchers, especially the chipmunk-cheeked and excessively frustrating Alan Embree, and it’s all been terribly interesting.

It’s a pretty good little stat she’s worked up, sort of like a slugging percentage for pitchers. Very simple, just bases awarded/batters faced. It does seem to be pretty indicative of efficiency, and makes you wonder why no one had been calculating it before (although maybe they have been– I’m not exactly the most SABR-minded of fans). So I figured I should go ahead and try to apply the fledgling stat to some Tigers pitchers, just to see what their efficiency has looked like.

For basic reference, 0 is perfect, anything over .500 is kind of ugly, and anything over 1 is send-’em-back-to-AAA ugly.

I’ve only got Jeremy Bonderman and Mike Maroth done up so far, since it’s a fairly simple stat to calculate, but getting the info is a bit annoying. Batters faced is in the boxscore, so that’s easy, but bases awarded is trickier. I’ve been using ESPN’s game play-by-play recaps and just counting up bases, so if anyone can think of an easier way to get this info from straight-up boxscores, or another site that would have it, please let me know.

Anywho.

Jeremy Bonderman
[DEAD IMAGE LINK]

Bondo’s average BpB as of right now is 0.488. His average for April was better, at 0.396, but his average for June is much worse, at 0.6296.

His best outing so far was on June 21, his complete game against the Twinkies. His BpB that day was 0.290. His worst outing was the very next one, this last offering, which saw a 13-7 loss to the Purple and Teal Snakes and a shiny happy fun 2 innings pitched for Bondo. His BpB for that night was 1.333, which is ‘throw it back in the pond’ territory. Just one game, though, and if you look at his chart you can see that it’s way out of line with everything else he’s done so far this year, so I’d take that panic and tuck it away for later use, like when Carlos Guillen next decides to sharply test his knee in the field.

Mike Maroth
[DEAD IMAGE LINK]

Exceptional Mental Makeup Mike’s average BpB as of right now is 0.494, and he’s been relatively consistent in April, May, and June, although his May was slightly higher (above .500). I admit I was surprised, I was expecting Bondo to be much more efficient than EMMM, but he’s not… at least, not markedly so.

His best outing so far was June 15, when he went 8 innings against the Pods. His BpB that day was 0.241. His worst outing was back on May 31, in the 8-2 loss to the Rangers, when he went only 4.2 innings and put up a 0.75 BpB on the day. His chart makes it look like he’s been less consistent than Bondo, but Bondo’s chart is squished down because of that one aberrant horrible outing, so it’s misleading in a way. They’re actually much more comparable than you’d maybe expect.

I’ll maybe do Gator and JJ later and I also want to do a couple of really good pitchers (Clemens, Pedro) and a couple of just godawful pitchers (BHKim springs to mind) for comparison, to see what really good and really bad BpB stats and charts look like. So you kids have that to look forward to.