Tag Archives: detroit tigers

Why Your Baseball Team Sucks, 2012 Edition

Spring training has arrived, and with it comes the barrage of features from your favorite beat writers about how good certain players look, how people coming off injury look 100%, how so-and-so looks to be in the best shape of his life, and how one of your younger players looks primed for a monster season.

If you’re an optimist, that’s all well and good. But frankly, 29 teams are going to fail this season, and 20 of them (or 22 of them, depending on whether or not Bud Selig can make up his mind) aren’t even going to get the chance to play in the postseason. So despite all the sunshine and rainbows that are shining upon your favorite team right now, something is inevitably going to go wrong for them at some point. So, amidst the barrage of “the ballclub looks great!” articles you’re sure to see in the coming weeks, including the ones where various Houston Astro players tell reporters that they feel as if they can contend if a few things break their way, I offer this pessimistic alternative: Why Your Baseball Team Sucks.

Granted, this is pretty much a collection of everything that could possibly go wrong, and these complete worst case scenarios will not happen for every team (plus, unexpected things will inevitably go right, too). But hey, it’s better to shatter illusions now, isn’t it?

If you remember this post from last year, expect something similar to that.

And so, without further ado, the second annual Why Your Baseball Team Sucks. Optimists are advised to read on at their own risk.

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30 Tigers in 30 Days – #30: Clete Thomas

2011: .250/.316/.401, 12 HR, 53 RBI (with Toledo)
Career: .253/.336/.391, 8 HR, 48 RBI

2012 Projections

ZiPS: .215/.279/.337, 8 HR, 37 RBI

Expected Role: Reserve outfielder/Toledo

We’re discussing Clete Thomas because Jim Leyland has frequently cited him as an outfield option, although I don’t think he has much of a shot at making the team. Thomas is still not that far removed from microfracture surgery, and while he got a fair amount of playing time on the major league club in 2009, the 2012 Tigers are deeper and better than that team. Assuming the Tigers take Delmon Young, Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch, and Andy Dirks north with them, there isn’t really a spot on the roster for Thomas. ZiPS is the only one to project him, and they don’t see him doing well at all. So while Leyland may be saying good things about Thomas, it’s really difficult to imagine him claiming a spot on the Opening Day roster barring injury or a staggeringly good spring.

30 Tigers in 30 Days – #29: Don Kelly

2011: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0 BB, 0 K in 0.1 IP

2012 Projections: N/A

Expected Role: Late-inning fireman

While Don Kelly’s .000 BABIP likely will not sustain itself, his 3.03 FIP could be indicative of good things to come. Kelly’s obviously not going to throw as hard as Dotel and Benoit or Valverde – his fastball only averaged 84.5 MPH – but he offsets it by keeping hitters off balance by mixing in a 71 MPH curveball. The lack of a third pitch will keep him relegated to bullpen duty, but the track record is there for him to be successful in that role. The xFIP is a little uglier because the 100% fly ball rate didn’t yield any homers, but the curveball should induce a few more grounders in the future, negating that issue. It’s difficult to make any conclusions because of the small sample size, but I expect good things from Kelly going forward.

An added bonus for Kelly – he’s a very capable defender for a pitcher and fields his position well. Expect him to be a key contributor in the Tigers bullpen going forward, and a nice compliment to the flamethrowers the Tigers house in the back of their bullpen.

Next: Clete Thomas

30 Tigers in 30 Days – #28: Brennan Boesch

2011: .283/.341/.458, 16 HR, 54 RBI
Career: .269/.330/.436, 30 HR, 121 RBI

2012 Projections

Bill James: .279/.337/.469, 17 HR, 62 RBI
ZiPS: .269/.332/.438, 17 HR, 63 RBI
RotoChamp: .274/.337/.446, 17 HR, 61 RBI

Expected Role: Starting right fielder

I’m a big believer in Brennan Boesch (alliteration!) having a very good 2012 season. Not because he’s hitting in front of Cabrera and Fielder – there’s really no proof he’s going to get more fastballs or whatnot, so don’t pretend that’s a realistic notion – but he’s just a good hitter. His season was unfortunately cut short last year due to that thumb injury, but that’s healed now and Boesch has been entrusted with a starting role, replacing Magglio Ordonez for good in right field.

Boesch isn’t a great defender, but he won’t kill anybody out there, and seeing him hit above .280 wouldn’t be a surprise to me. Look for him to score a lot of runs this year, too – I think he’ll do plenty of getting on base in front of the big guns.

Next: Don Kelly

30 Tigers in 30 Days – #27: Alex Avila

2011: .295/.389/.506, 19 HR, 82 RBI
Career: .270/.362/.453, 31 HR, 127 RBI

2012 Projections

Bill James: .277/.376/.477, 19 HR, 76 RBI
ZiPS: .254/.348/.420, 14 HR, 66 RBI
RotoChamp: .265/.368/.458, 17 HR, 66 RBI

Expected Role: Starting catcher

The only question about Alex Avila’s incoming regression is how bad it will be. A .366 BABIP is not going to sustain itself, and I’d be very happy if the Bill James projection materializes. Avila has a nice swing, but he still strikes out a ton (among semi regulars and regulars, only Raburn, Inge, and Jackson had higher K% last year). Avila can still hit, but considering catcher isn’t supposed to be a majorly productive offensive position, .275 with 15-20 homers is still very good for the position – plus, Avila walks a lot as well.

Avila’s still a capable defender, of course, and now that he has a regular backup, they won’t have to run him into the ground like they did last season. I don’t think Avila will have another All-Star season, but he’s certainly capable of another decent offensive season and will remain steady at catcher.

Next: Brennan Boesch

30 Tigers in 30 Days – #26: Jose Valverde

2011: 2-4, 49 saves, 2.24 ERA, 34 BB, 69 K in 72.1 IP
Career: 23-27, 242 saves, 3.02 ERA, 221 BB, 602 K in 521.1 IP

2012 Projections

Bill James: 5-3, 42 saves, 3.04 ERA, 37 BB, 83 K in 77 IP
ZiPS: 3-2, 3.55 ERA, 29 BB, 56 K in 58.1 IP
RotoChamp: 3-3, 35 saves, 3.30 ERA, 28 BB, 59 K in 60 IP

Expected Role: Closer, designated dancer

How lucky was Jose Valverde in 2011? His BABIP was actually higher than in 2010, but still freakishly low at .247. Valverde has been able to maintain a pretty low BABIP throughout his career, but even for him .247 is a bit low. There will almost certainly be some regression on Valverde’s part this year, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t remain a very good closer. There’s no use citing his 3.55 FIP, because Valverde has outperformed his FIP in every year but one. It appears to be an ongoing thing.

Valverde’s strikeouts went down last year, which can probably be attributed to his increased reliance on a two-seam fastball instead of the splitter he became so well known for. His ground ball rate wasn’t as freakishly high as 2010, but he’s still getting a fair amount of grounders and keeping everything in the park. It’s worked for him. Don’t expect a repeat of 2011 by any means, but Valverde will remain reliable and will get the job done more often than not.

Next: Alex Avila

30 Tigers in 30 Days – #25: Danny Worth

2011: .270/.308/.324, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Career: .259/.298/.350, 2 HR, 8 RBI

2012 Projections

ZiPS: .231/.286/.328, 6 HR, 32 RBI
RotoChamp: .267/.307/.342, 1 HR, 13 RBI

Expected Role: Reserve infield/Toledo

Danny Worth is probably a longshot to make the team out of spring training barring injury, but don’t rule out seeing him at some point. He’s a capable defensive infielder who can play multiple positions, but isn’t much of a hitter (which is true of a lot of these utility infielder types, isn’t it?). Worth may well be the first man up if an infielder either totally sucks or falls due to injury, but otherwise, the Tigers’ positional group is pretty well set.

Next: Jose Valverde

30 Tigers in 30 Days – #24: Jacob Turner

2011/Career: 0-1, 8.53 ERA, 4 BB, 8 K in 12.2 IP

2012 Projections

ZiPS: 5-5, 4.82 ERA, 46 BB, 78 K in 134.1 IP
RotoChamp: 7-8, 4.56 ERA, 46 BB, 101 K in 140 IP

Expected Role: Fifth starter/Toledo

Is Jacob Turner the frontrunner for the fifth starter role? That depends on who you ask. Turner, of course, is the top prospect in the Tigers’ system. He showed flashes of promise in his three spot starts last year, but he wasn’t very effective holding runners, and as time went on, he wasn’t very effective period. People will want to see more strikeouts out of him, most likely, but the bottom line is he’s succeeded at every level of the minors he’s pitched at.

How would Turner fare this year? Hard to say. The projections give him decent numbers, certainly passable for a fifth starter, but he’s still 20 years old until May. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Tigers start him in AAA – he only has three career starts at Toledo, and they might want to make entirely sure he’s ready. On the other hand, the Tigers haven’t been shy about giving youngsters rotation spots out of spring training before. If Turner has a good spring, don’t be surprised if the club takes him north with them.

Next: Danny Worth

30 Tigers in 30 Days – #23: Brandon Inge

2011: .197/.265/.283, 3 HR, 23 RBI
Career: .235/.305/.388, 139 HR, 587 RBI

2012 Projections

Bill James: .226/.307/.373, 10 HR, 41 RBI
ZiPS: .222/.296/.357, 12 HR, 50 RBI
RotoChamp: .220/.297/.341, 9 HR, 45 RBI

Expected Role: Second base?

Ah, this one’s always fun to write.

First, I’m not necessarily doubting Brandon Inge’s ability to play second base. He might be able to play the position decently after six weeks of work during spring. Defense, however, has never been the primary reason people worry about Brandon Inge.

Inge, of course, hit below .200 last year, and the projections are not forecasting much of a recovery. The question becomes how much the Tigers value defense. If Inge is hitting .220 and not really going for double digit home runs, there’s no reason to play him ahead of Ramon Santiago when Santiago will be playing comparable defense and posting better OBP numbers, has more speed, and is a better bunter out of the 9 hole.

If Inge wants to play second base, it’s not just defense he has to worry about. Brandon Inge has to hit again. If he posts another .220/.290/.350ish season, there is no reason to keep playing him ahead of anyone. That’s basically all it boils down to.

Next: Jacob Turner

30 Tigers in 30 Days – #22: Daniel Schlereth

Get ready! These are getting done today!

2011: 2-2, 3.49 ERA, 31 BB, 44 K in 49 IP
Career: 5-6, 3.87 ERA, 56 BB, 85 K in 86 IP

2012 Projections
Bill James:
 3-3, 3.70 ERA, 36 BB, 62 K in 56 IP
ZiPS: 3-2, 4.26 ERA, 38 BB, 53 K in 57 IP
RotoChamp: 2-2, 4.68 ERA, 32 BB, 47 K in 50 IP

Expected Role: Lefty reliever

Daniel Schlereth somehow managed a sub-4 ERA with a 5.03 FIP last year, so his numbers are a bit of a mirage. The walks were high but the BABIP was low, and it saved him from a really horrible-looking season. His abnormally high strand rate helped in that department, too. The walks are manageable if he can get the K/9 back over 9 (which didn’t happen last year) and he can keep the ball in the park – and he keeps getting lefties out, which is his primary job anyway. Schlereth’s numbers are misleading, but he’s not a lost cause. With some improvement, he is capable of keeping the ERA below 4 a bit more legitimately.

Next: Brandon Inge