Detroit Tigers: Missed Opportunities

Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has made an interesting lineup switch recently.  Over the last two games against the Angels Rajai Davis has batted leadoff while Austin Jackson is hitting sixth.  Davis has now ledoff in half of Detroit’s games this season.

Each player has been exclusively in the AL for the last five seasons, here are their on-base percentages over this time:

Davis – .309 OBP

Jackson – .344 OBP

Lineup construction is a low-risk, low-reward activity.  Give your highest on-base guys the most chances over the course of 162 games and you will gain an extra win or two.  Give more at-bats to poor run producers and you loose a couple games you should have won.

The difference between the two Tigers equates to more than just a rounding error.  Austin Jackson clearly deserves more at-bats than Davis.  Is Brad Ausmus aware of this?


The Rise of the Missed Bat

Before 1996 there was never an MLB season which featured more than four starting pitchers who averaged at least one strikeout per inning.  In 1965 and 1986 there were four starters who posted at least 9 Ks/game.  The ’60′s were led by Sandy Koufax and Sam McDowell while the 80′s featured fire-ballers Nolan Ryan and Bobby Witt.

As the strikeout began to rise during the steroid era we saw eight high K starters (9+ SO/9 innings) in 1998 and ten in 2002.  From ’02-’04 alone there were 29 individual high K starting pitcher seasons.  Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Jason Schmidt, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez averaged at least one strikeout/inning in all three seasons.

There was a slight dip in high K starters during the next four seasons before an explosion in 2009.  An all-time high of thirteen high K starters appeared in ’09, a feat matched in 2010.  This record was quickly broken in 2012 with fifteen and subsequently tied last year.

Five pitchers recorded at least 9 strikeouts/game in each of the last two seasons, they are: Yu Darvish, Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer amd Jeff Samardzija.  How many of these will repeat the feat in 2014?

*Thank you to for all this awesome data.

The New Kent Hrbek?

A new addition to our “It’s Early” post is the Minnesota Twins slugger Chris Colabello.  The new version of Kent Hrbek is leading the American League in doubles and RBI.  To boot he is batting .350 through 16 games.

Perhaps you haven’t heard of Mr. Colabello.  That’s because he played seven years of baseball in the Canadian-American Association.  The Twins signed him out of Indy ball at age 28 and sent him to double-A.  He moved up to triple-A last year and raked.  In 2013 he led the International League in slugging percentage while cranking 24 home runs.

Again, it’s early and this is a very small sample size.  Twins fans and Colabello should enjoy the ride.

King Felix Moving Up the K Record Book

Despite the Mariners loss to the Rangers Wednesday night Felix Hernandez hurled a gem.  Seven innings, one walk, one run allowed and a two-to-one groundball-flyball rate.  He also whiffed nine Rangers which brings his career total to 1,742.

Just last night King Felix passed Bob Friend, Tom Candiotti, Ed Walsh (HOF) and Dave Stewart on the all-time strikeout list.

A great night’s work despite the loss.

30 Months Later, a “Home Run!”

Texas Rangers third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff hit a home run on Tuesday night in Arlington.  This was the first long ball off his bat in over thirty months.  3-0 months.

The former Padres standout hit his previous three major league home runs off the following pitchers: Xavier Cedeno, Lance Pendleton and Henry Sosa.  These names make it clear that it’s been a while.

Welcome back Kouz!

Ten Facts: It’s Early in the Baseball Season

Here’s ten facts that prove it’s really early in the baseball season:

Power Hitting Catchers

After averaging 36 HR’s and 39 doubles in two short seasons in the minor leagues the Seattle Mariners have inserted Mike Zunino into their starting lineup.

Take a look at this long bomb he hit last night.

Zunino reminds me of former slugging catchers Mike Stanley and Mickey Tettleton.  At 23 years old and with power like this I would think they are set at receiver for at least the next five years.


Speed Kills a Billy Hamilton Highlight Reel

The St. Louis Cardinals were simply outrun yesterday by the Reds Billy Hamilton.



The Upside of the Cabrera Contract

Now that the Detroit Tigers have locked up future hall-of-famer Miguel Cabrera through age forty we are hearing a lot of backlash against the contract.  The criticism is fair and relevant but I want to peek at the upside.

In the past six decades I found a dozen productive power hitters at age 40 or older.  One occurred just last year in Seattle.  Raul Ibanez hit 29 home runs at age 41.  This just happened!

Will Miguel Cabrera be a better hitter at age 40 than Raul Ibanez?  If so, then this deal doesn’t look that bad.

Other really good power hitters after age 39 include: Darrell Evans (34 HR’s, 135 OPS+), Harold Baines, Dave Winfield and Edgar Martinez.

The worst of this lot was Ibanez and he went for 20 doubles, 29 HR’s and 123 OPS+ at age 41.  I think the Tigers would be pleased if Miggy had an Ibanez-like year in 2023.

Tom “Big Hall” Verducci

Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci was interviewed today on The Dan Patrick Show.  When Dan asked about hall-of-fame voting (specifically comparing the baseball vs. football HOF process) Verducci replied with:

“I don’t know that anyone has been voted info the Hall-of-Fame that doesn’t deserve to be in there, as far as the baseball writers go.”

I would say that Tom Verducci’s statement is mostly correct.  Of course this depends upon how big you like your hall.  A “Big Hall” guy would include the writers’ recent inductees Jim Rice, Kirby Puckett, Tony Perez, Bruce Sutter and Catfish Hunter.  If you are a “Small Hall” guy then these five inductions from the past three decades conflict with Verducci’s statement.

If Tom is a “Big Hall” guy then his statement is accurate and he would support the hall cases of Tim Raines, Kenny LoftonTommy John, Curt Schilling, Billy WagnerLou Whitaker, Larry Walker, Trevor HoffmanFred McGriff, Jeff Kent and Alan Trammell.  Consistency would merit eliminating the cap on the number of players that the writers could vote for leading to a much larger Hall.


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