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I've been a little burnt out lately, and I probably need to take a long rest. But I do have some thoughts on the 2006 American League champions.

In the immortal words of Butch Cassidy, "who are those guys?"

The Tigers won 95 games this year, which is exactly what their Pythagorean projection would lead you to expect. Now 95 wins means 285 Win Shares, so let's see where the talent came from. Each player's Win Shares for 2006 are provided, while I hereby tip my hat to the generally invaluable Hardball Times.

C - Ivan Rodriguez (25) - Free Agent, signed to a four-year $40 million contract, February 2004.
C - Vance Wilson (5) - Trade, from New York Mets for Anderson Hernandez, January 2005.
1B - Chris Shelton (9) - Rule V Draft, from Pittsburgh, December 2003.
1B - Sean Casey (4) - Trade, from Pittsburgh for Brian Rogers, July 2006.
2B - Placido Polanco (13) - Trade, from Philadelphia for Ugueth Urbina and Ramon Martinez, June 2005.
3B - Brandon Inge (18) - Amateur Draft, by Detroit in the 2nd round, 1998.
SS - Carlos Guillen (26) - Trade, from Seattle for Ramon Santiago and Juan Gonzalez (not that one!), January 2004
INF - Omar Infante (4) - Amateur free Agent (undrafted), signed in 1999.
INF - Ramon Santiago (0) - Free agent (released by Seattle), signed January 2006.
INF - Neiffi Perez (0) - Trade, from Chicago Cubs for Chris Robinson, August 2006
LF - Craig Monroe (14) - Waiver selection, from Texas, February 2002.
CF - Curtis Granderson (20) - Amateur Draft, by Detroit in the 3rd round, 2002.
RF - Magglio Ordonez (20) - Free agent, signed to a five-year, $75 million contract, February 2005.
OF - Alexis Gomez (3) - Waiver selection, from Kansas City, October 2004. Re-signed as a free agent, November 2005.
OF - Brent Clevlen (2) - Amateur draft, by Detroit in the 2nd round, 2002.
DH - Marcus Thames (12) - Free Agent, signed December 2003.
DH - Dmitri Young (2) - Trade, from Cincinnati for Juan Encarnacion and Luis Pineda, December 2001.
DH - Matt Stairs (1) - Waiver selection, from Texas, September 2006.
SP - Kenny Rogers (15) - Free Agent, signed to a two-year $16 million contract, December 2005.
SP - Justin Verlander (15) - Amateur draft, by Detroit in the 1st round (2nd pick), 2004.
SP - Jeremy Bonderman (14) - Trade, from Oakland along with Carlos Pena and Franlyn German for cash (to Oakland) and Jeff Weaver (to NYY), August 2002.
SP - Nate Robertson (14) - Trade, from Florida along with Gary Knotts and Rob Henkel for Mark Redman and Jerrod Fuell, January 2003.
SP - Zach Miner (4) - Trade, from Atlanta along with Roman Colon for Kyle Farnsworth, July 2005.
SP - Mike Maroth (4) - Trade, from Boston for Bryce Florie, July 1999.
RP -Todd Jones (7) - Free agent, signed to a two-year $11 million contract, December 2005.
RP - Fernando Rodney (7) - Amateur free agent (undrafted), signed in 1997.
RP - Joel Zumaya (12) - Amateur draft, by Detroit in the 11th round, 2002.
RP - Jamie Walker (4) - Free agent, signed November 2001.
RP - Jason Grilli (3) - Free agent (released by White Sox), signed February 2005.
RP - Wilfredo Ledezma (4) - Rule V draft, from Boston, December 2002.
RP - Roman Colon (2) - Trade, from Atlanta along with Zach Miner for Kyle Farnsworth, July 2005.
RP - Chad Durbin (1) - Free agent, signed in November 2005.
RP - Chris Spurling (1) - Waiver selection, from Milwaukee, September 2006.

Trades - 88 (30.8%)
Free Agents (professional) - 87 (30.5%)
Amateur Draft - 67 (23.5%)
Waiver selections - 19 (6.7%)
Rule V - 13 (4.6%)
Free Agents (amateur) - 11 (3.9)

It's early days yet, but the Carlos Guillen trade is looking like one of the most lopsided transactions in the history of baseball. Ramon Santiago went 8 for 47 over two seasons in Seattle and was released. Guillen would be a worthy MVP choice this season. This trade is going to be remembered like Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio, or Ryne Sandberg thrown into a swap of aging shortstops.

As noted the Tigers exactly fulfilled their Pythagorean expectation. Nevertheless, there's something strange about their numbers. They improved by 24 games, and they did it on both offense (they scored 99 more runs than in 2005) and on defense (they allowed 122 fewer runs than in 2005.)

Much of the defensive improvement is fairly easy to see. Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson were both roughly league average, or maybe a bit below, in 2005. This year, they were both solidly above-average pitchers in an equivalent number of innings. Mike Maroth, also a little below average in 2005, was hurt for most of 2006 - his innings were taken by Kenny Rogers who was considerably better. And rookie Justin Verlander took over most of the innings tossed in 2005 by Jason Johnson - another significant improvement. All four major starters were considerably better than the top four men the year before.

The rotation - that's where the bulk of the improvement comes from. The Tigers actually had an effective bullpen in 2005 - while it lacked definition (after Percival got hurt, they went through numerous different closers), it had no shortage of people who pitched effectively.

But the offensive improvement - the more I look at it, the stranger it seems. There were two very positive developments - Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez, both of whom missed more than 70 games in 2005, were healthy and produced outstanding seasons. But the rest of it just doesn't seem to add up - at least not to a 99 run improvement.

      G   AB   R    H   2B 3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA   OBP  SLG  SB CS GDP HBP SH SF IBB  OPS+
2005 162 5602 723 1521 283 45 168 678 384 1038 .272 .321 .428 66 28 138 53 44 52 24 100
2006 162 5642 822 1548 294 40 203 785 430 1133 .274 .329 .449 60 40 120 45 45 36 27 100

They hit 35 more home runs, and drew 46 more walks. That led to another 99 runs? And otherwise, what's different?

Or compare Detroit's offense to Toronto's Here is the Blue Jays offensive line.
  G   AB    R   H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO   BA   OBP SLG  SB CS GDP HBP  SH  SF IBB  OPS+
162 5596 809 1591 348 27 199 778 514 906 .284 .348 .463 65 33 166 63 16 52 31 106

The Tigers scored 13 more runs than the Blue Jays - not many more, but more. But the Blue Jays had 43 more hits and drew 84 more walks. They had more men reach as hit batters. They had lots more people on base.

Did they move them around? Well, Toronto hit 4 fewer home runs, and 13 fewer triples - but the Jays did hit 54 more doubles which would seem more than enough to make up for it. The Blue Jays also stole more bases and had fewer runners caught stealing. They hit more sacrifice flies.

The Jays did hit into 46 more double plays, which really is a big deal. But it's the only significant offensive advantage Detroit had over Toronto. So how did they score more runs?

It's reasonable to suggest that Detroit's offense may truly be better than Toronto's - the Tigers do play in a pitcher's park, and the Blue Jays play in the other thing. But that's not the point I'm concerned with here. I'm wondering how these partiuclar offensive elements led to this number of runs crossing the plate.

And I think it's... fishy. I think the Tigers scoring 822 runs this year has F-L-U-K-E written all over it. All of which means that their hitters could be better next year but the team could very well score the same number of runs. Or fewer.

But that don't matter this year. No rules in a knife fight.

TDIB Monday (yeah, sure) - The AL Champs | 26 comments | Create New Account
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Mike Green - Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 09:37 AM EDT (#156994) #
The 2002 draft was one of the least impressive in memory.  To pull Granderson and Zumaya out of that one was a helluva result.  On the other hand, early results from 2003 were not quite so good.

The Tigers, like the Jays of 05, have had an over-efficient offence, although the comparison with the 06 Jays overstates their efficiency because the 06 Jay offence was so under-efficient.  There is no particular reason for the Tigers' efficiency that I can see. The team did not hit especially well with runners in scoring position.  The club did not invest many outs in one-run strategies.

Marcus Thames has a cool "Deer-in-the-spotlight" line. 26 homers, 37 walks and 92 Ks in 390 at-bats. Most impressively, for a relatively slow right-handed hitter, no GIDP.  And, it's not much of a fluke, as 75% of his balls in play are in the air. 

Mike Green - Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 10:51 AM EDT (#156998) #
The top BBRef comparable for Kenny Rogers is David Wells. How do they know? 

Both Wells and Moyer had pretty good age 42 seasons, but Tommy John didn't get really good until he reached 44!
Wildrose - Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 11:12 AM EDT (#157000) #
Sometimes it helps  to look at how a team does in a relatively neutral  environment , like on the road, especially when  a home park like Comerica skews the numbers so much.

According to ESPN's  park factors in 2006,( one year park caveats apply), a 9%  spread between the R.C and Comerica in terms of scoring runs applies, ( a 47% spread exists with!)

At any rate Detroit was pretty good offensively on the road, note they led the A.L. in road homers. The pitching/defence on the road was also pretty strong. This squad, unlike Toronto, appears to be a pretty balanced road team.

Mike Green - Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 11:16 AM EDT (#157001) #
In non-Tiger news, Tim Raines' tenure as a bench coach in Chicago came to an end on Friday. He does have a long association with the Great White North. It would be a delight if the Jays had an appropriate opening for him somewhere in the organization.
Craig B - Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 12:20 PM EDT (#157004) #

I think the Tigers scoring 822 runs this year has F-L-U-K-E written all over it.

Don't use the Jays for comparison, as the Jays' offense was extremely inefficient this year - more inefficient than the Tigers were efficient.   The Jays scored 809 runs with offensive elements that would normally produce 853 runs.  The Tigers scored 822 runs with offensive elements that would normally produce 787 runs.  They were a bit lucky, but they also faced tougher-than-average pitching.

This efficiency/inefficiency doesn't tend to reproduce itself from year-to-year, meaning that you would normally bet that the Jays will outscore the Tigers next season, all things being equal. 

Combine it with the same analysis for pitching and adjust for strength of schedule, and with the Pythagorean theorem of baseball, and you get what Baseball Prospectus calls "third-order wins and losses".  3OW this season suggested that the strongest teams in the AL were...

  1. Yankees 97-65
  2. Tigers 92-70
  3. Twins 91-71
  4. Blue Jays 91-71
  5. Angels 91-71
  6. White Sox 89-73
  7. Indians 89-73
  8. Rangers 87-75
  9. A's 83-79
  10. Red Sox 82-80
  11. Mariners 80-82
  12. Orioles 74-88
  13. Devil Rays 67-95
  14. Royals 64-98

With only the Yankees and Red Sox notably old among these teams and likely to decline, and only the Twins (and Rays) being notably young and likely to improve, you really see how the arms race in the AL has created a tough league.  I'd say that there are 11 teams in the the AL that begin this offseason with a reasonable shot at getting into the 2007 World Series.

Jordan - Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 01:25 PM EDT (#157008) #
Magpie, kudos on both opening and closing with a Butch Cassidy reference.
Marc Hulet - Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 02:38 PM EDT (#157012) #
Not sure if it was mentioned in another thread but Jays' prospect Chi-Hung Cheng tore his labrum and had surgery. Most pitchers do not come back from this type of injury, but here's hoping he does.
Craig B - Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 04:27 PM EDT (#157017) #

Jonny, I found a reference to it on this blog...

See the October 13 entry.

GabrielSyme - Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 06:44 PM EDT (#157020) #
Is the observed standard deviation from the Pythagorean mean greater than the predicted deviation?  There are all sorts of unquantified aspects to the game.  If there was greater deviation, that would be evidence for the idea the the unquantifiables are significant.
danjulien - Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 07:14 PM EDT (#157021) #
You know what's great about that Jeremy Bonderman trade?
"In a three-way deal; the Oakland Athletics traded Carlos Pena, Franklyn German and a player to be named later (Jeremy Bonderman) to the Detroit Tigers, the Tigers traded Jeff Weaver to the New York Yankees, the Yankees traded Ted Lilly, Jason Arnold and John-Ford Griffin to the Athletics."

All three of the players the Athletics received in this trade became Blue Jays later on. Do you think Ricciardi had something to do with this three-way deal while he was in Oakland? 

Marc Hulet - Wednesday, October 18 2006 @ 09:14 AM EDT (#157023) #
Sorry, you can also read about Cheng's injury at
Craig B - Wednesday, October 18 2006 @ 09:53 AM EDT (#157024) #

Gabriel, I don't know anyone who's studied this.  Not 100% sure what you mean by "predicted deviation" in this case... based on the leaguewide spread of runs scored/allowed totals in particular games?  I don't know if that would have much evidentiary value, since teams do in fact play to the score.

MatO - Wednesday, October 18 2006 @ 12:46 PM EDT (#157025) #
Cheng must have been pitching hurt since he didn't miss any starts that I recall. Nothing in his performance seemed to indicate that he had any injury
Mike Green - Wednesday, October 18 2006 @ 02:28 PM EDT (#157026) #
Cheng may have started in the instructional league when the problem occurred.  There was no indication of it during the season and during the playoffs.  The velocity on his fastball had apparently increased this season.
MatO - Wednesday, October 18 2006 @ 04:07 PM EDT (#157028) #

When does the instructional league start?  Same as the AFL?  One of the things I know and hear the least about is the instructional league.

Mike Green - Wednesday, October 18 2006 @ 04:26 PM EDT (#157029) #
At some point in September.  Here's the instructional league notebook for September 27.
Marc Hulet - Thursday, October 19 2006 @ 02:49 PM EDT (#157041) #
According to a press release from the Jays, and confirmed at, the Jays outrighted Pete Walker, Josh Towers, Kevin Barker, John-Ford Griffin and purchased Tracy Thorpe's contract, keeping him from becoming a minor league free agent.

The Jays have 38 players on their 40-man roster with more additions (ie Thigpen) coming soon

Mike Green - Thursday, October 19 2006 @ 03:21 PM EDT (#157043) #
The Jays apparently expect Cheng to resume pitching by mid-season 2007.
TDIB Monday (yeah, sure) - The AL Champs | 26 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.