The Tigers and the Other Side of the Win Curve

To be honest, I really don’t like to speculate on offseasons. Especially offseasons of previously aggressive teams, with so many quality players remaining on the market. I just recently heard about a significant trade that came within a hair of happening between two hopeful contenders, and no one ever caught wind of it as a rumor. There’s a whole lot that goes on as an industry secret, so I really don’t know what teams are up to. But, forced to speculate, I’d say the Tigers seem just about finished. I don’t think that’s a team that’s going to make another splash, and the roster looks more or less like a finished product.

And so, for the Tigers, it’s been an interesting and uncharacteristic sort of offseason. The Tigers, unquestionably, are in position to contend, and to contend for the World Series. Teams like that, you usually see add players and add payroll. But for Detroit it was more an offseason of acting on fiscal responsibility. The biggest name involved in their offseason is Prince Fielder, and he was sent away. They waved goodbye to a pair of quality free-agent middle infielders. They dealt a good starter to D.C. for a young and underwhelming package. Overall, the Tigers saved some money and set themselves up better for the future. It was odd timing, but there’s an angle that might help explain the thought process. At least, it’s an angle that recognizes what the Tigers still are.

In terms of significant players, it’s a simple offseason to summarize. Doug Fister is gone, and Drew Smyly will take his place in the rotation. Jhonny Peralta is gone, and Jose Iglesias will take his place at shortstop. Prince Fielder is gone, and Miguel Cabrera will take his place at first, with Nick Castellanos then taking Cabrera’s place at third. Omar Infante is gone, and Ian Kinsler will take his place at second. Joaquin Benoit is gone, and Joe Nathan will take his place at closer. Also, Rajai Davis and Joba Chamberlain and Ian Krol are new, replacing other role players. Once again, it’s a good team that feels pretty light on depth.

These moves seem to represent something of a step back, at least in the immediate. Smyly’s talented, but he’s no Doug Fister. Iglesias is talented, but he’s no Jhonny Peralta, probably. Castellanos is talented, but there are questions about both his offense and defense at third base. Kinsler, at least, is roughly Infante’s equivalent, if not a bit better. Nathan’s got a hell of an arm. Davis is perfectly useful in a limited way.

Contending teams don’t often take apparent steps back. A year ago, the Tigers were one of the very best teams in baseball, making them the definition of a team that wants to win now. And yet, despite everything, the Tigers remain one of the very best teams in baseball. If this offseason has influenced their odds, it hasn’t influenced them by very much.

Our team-level projections are flawed, because they’re based on human-generated depth charts and imperfect player projections. So, they’re not good science, but they are good for conveying an idea. Conceding that the offseason isn’t over, right now the Marlins project for the fewest WAR in the majors. At the top, one finds the Red Sox, despite their losses. And right there in second are the Tigers, sandwiched between the Sox and the Rays. They’re ahead, of course, of the Royals, and they’re ahead, of course, of the Indians. It’s not even worth mentioning the Twins or the White Sox.

The likelihood is that, right now, the Tigers remain the clear favorites to win the AL Central. The Royals have a chance, and they’ve seemingly improved, but they’ve also lost Ervin Santana and their rotation leaves plenty to be desired. The Indians have a chance, and they’ve made a few interesting low buys, but they’ve also lost Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir and they threw a lot of pretty good innings. All three contenders are flawed, and the Tigers might be the least flawed, and so it seems they remain the team to beat.

So we can talk a bit about the win curve. It’s basically playoff probability based on a team’s win total, and wins become the most important right around the fringes of contention. Wins become ultra-valuable to teams that might be pushed over the top. All wins, of course, are some kind of valuable, but they tend to be most valuable when you’re trying to close a gap. If you want, you can think of those as “high-leverage” wins. This kind of thinking is used to justify what might seem like overpayments. It’s why Shin-Soo Choo would be more valuable to, say, the Rangers than the Astros.

Wins are important to the Tigers. They’re going to need many of them! And there’s value in maintaining or expanding a gap between yourself and another contender. But because the Tigers are the division favorites, a lost win for them means less than a gained win for the Royals. The Tigers have a fairly high playoff probability, and a fairly high ALDS probability. The teams behind them have lower and more volatile probabilities, with more to gain and more to lose. The simplest way of thinking about it: the Tigers are reasonably secure as favorites, allowing them some flexibility provided they didn’t dismantle themselves somehow.

And they didn’t do that. They got maybe a little bit worse, but they improved their situation in the future. They have no long-term commitment to Peralta, or Infante. They get to see what Iglesias and Castellanos can do, and they could be parts of a long-term core. Most significantly, the Tigers swapped Fielder’s money for Kinsler’s money. Even with Detroit chipping in $30 million to go to Texas, that still comes out to a total savings of $76 million, which is an enormous amount of money, even if it means less than ever before. That money means future wins, provided it doesn’t end up in an owner’s pocket, and pretty much every move is about balancing the present against the eventual present.

The Tigers are built to win now, but that doesn’t mean they should just forget about the future. This offseason they borrowed a little from the present to improve the future picture, but because of their present situation that doesn’t look like such a bad idea. Of course the Fister trade is still weird and it still looks like it was a bad call, but the Tigers were going to move one of their starters. Going forward, the Tigers’ playoff odds are a little bit worse than they could’ve been. But they’re still really strong, and now they’re stronger for subsequent seasons. Trying to win now doesn’t mean trying to win now at all costs.

Had the Tigers elected to keep the band together, they’d be in slightly better shape for 2014. As is, they didn’t do everything perfectly, but they took a step toward sustainability. And the roster they still have, in case you haven’t looked at it, is really pretty super.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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Timeghoul
Member
Timeghoul
2 years 9 months ago

I’m glad this article was written. I don’t see the Tigers taking a step back at all, honestly. They underperformed their pythagorean record by 6 wins last year, which was 99-63. On top of that, their offense underperformed the expected number of runs relative to their wRC+ by 40 runs. As a result, last year’s team was probably a true 103-104 win team or so based on the results they had. Due to their terrible lack of speed and volatile bullpen, they didn’t come close to their true performance level. This year, I think they’ll be much closer with their much more balanced lineup that can actually run quite a bit now. They should coast to another Central title.

Dan
Guest
Dan
2 years 9 months ago

agreed.

They won their division by only 1 game, but Pythagorean records showed an 8 game difference between them and Cleveland with KC well behind.

Even with the minor decreases in the strength of their team this upcoming season, they are still overwhelming division favorites in 2014 (probably a bigger favorite than any other team in any other division) since neither KC nor Cleveland appear to be drastically better than last year.

Since the playoffs are a complete crap shoot, why not trim some fat from the future budget? Fister was their #4 starter anyways and would have minimal value in a playoff series when you can already trot out Verlander, Scherzer, and Sanchez with either Porcello or Smyly as reasonable #4 starters that would be better than most other teams they would face.

Jaack
Guest
Jaack
2 years 9 months ago

And based on 2nd order wins, the Tigers had a 19 game lead over the Indians!

Joe
Guest
Joe
2 years 9 months ago

So here’s a thing about Pythagorean expectations. They take no account of MOV game to game. You only need a one run lead to win, basically. You’d probably get a more nuanced view of how well the Tigers actually played if you could account for the fact that they had more 10 run wins than any other team last year, for instance. Indeed, given how historically terrible they are defensively at certain positions, I’d argue that the wins they lost due to defense fallibility more than explains why their pythagorean expectation didn’t match up with their actual total.

Dan
Guest
Dan
2 years 9 months ago

is there any evidence whatsoever that teams with bad defenses win more games by 10+ runs and fewer games by 1 run?

Joe
Guest
Joe
2 years 9 months ago

other than simply if two teams score equivalent runs and one has more ten run wins they’re going to win fewer games than the other team?

asdfasdf
Guest
asdfasdf
2 years 9 months ago

Historically terrible? Hyperbole much?

Slimy
Guest
Slimy
2 years 9 months ago

You’re forgetting they lost Fister; Scherzer most likely had a career year; Sanchez definitely had a career year; they lost Benoit; they lost Smyly as a reliever; Miguel Cabrera likely had a career year; they lost Peralta; and they lost Infante. It’s not as easy as saying what the 2013 team was supposed to do since they’re not the same team.

Timeghoul
Member
Timeghoul
2 years 9 months ago

Well this is a pointless comment. Avila had the worst season of his career, Jackson had the second worst season of his career, Dirks was atrocious b/c of an injured knee all year long, Peralta didn’t even play the last 50 games anyway, Infante missed 50 games with injury (and Kinsler is better so…), Smyly pitched almost exclusively in low-leverage situations so his dominant numbers didn’t even matter, Benoit was replaced with Nathan, Sanchez might’ve had a career year but Porcello’s ERA was drastically higher than his peripherals, Verlander has one of the worst seasons of his career…

do I have to go on?

Slimy
Guest
Slimy
2 years 9 months ago

If you want, you can continue. Dirks posted career high defensive #s and it’s not like he’s a true talent 132 wRC+ hitter. Peralta missed 50 games, but he still had a career year when he did play in the other 100. Kinsler is only a slight upgrade over Infante (who was also very good when he was healthy), plus you’ll be missing Fielder now. Porcello’s ERA has consistently been higher than his FIP.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s agree on what my main point was: it’s not as easy as saying X team underperformed their wRC+ and Pythagorean. It would require a much more detailed anaylsis that would also look at how players underperformed or underperformed (and I agree with you that some Tigers underperformed as well as overperformed).

Dan
Guest
Dan
2 years 9 months ago

Peralta’s WAR last season was the 4th highest of his career. When you account for the 50 games missed, it most certainly was not a career year.

The Party Bird
Guest
The Party Bird
2 years 9 months ago

Prince only contributed two wins last year. He wasn’t a main reason why the Tigers were good.

Re: Porcello, 2014 will probably have the best infield defense he’s ever pitched in front of. His ERA is going down.

Aidan Hall
Member
Aidan Hall
2 years 9 months ago

You’re forgetting that Smyly is more valuable as a starter, Nathan is probably a slight upgrade over Benoit, Iglesias is probably only a slight downgrade from Peralta due to his defense and Peralta had close to a career year last year, they replaced Infante with Kinsler and Cabrera will be more valuable at first base. They’re not the same team, but they’re basically just as good.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
2 years 9 months ago

Oh, give me a break. Pythag doesn’t prove anything.

Detroit Michael
Guest
Detroit Michael
2 years 9 months ago

Don’t forget that the Tigers lost about 20 runs (or two wins) due to baserunning. Not steals / caught stealing but the rest of baserunning. It was a slow team.

That’s a slight adjustment to your calculations.

Bob
Guest
Bob
2 years 9 months ago

What was said rumor that was a hair away?

Pale Hose
Member
Pale Hose
2 years 9 months ago

This. What a tease.

WhatLeylandNoooo
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Yeah, I don’t think that came across the way he wanted it to because it comes off a tad smarmy.

Was he trying to suggest the Tigers were one of the two teams but since it wasn’t completed, the Tigers are probably done? I don’t know because he says “hopeful” contender while the Tigers are “actual” contenders (unless I’m putting a different connotation on the word “hopeful”). It would be nice to have more clarification as to why the trade was even brought up at all.

Bounty
Guest
Bounty
2 years 9 months ago

Didn’t the Tigers barely win the Central last year?

AK7007
Member
AK7007
2 years 9 months ago

They did. But they were much better than their record, and other teams were worse than the records they put up.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
2 years 9 months ago

They clinched a week early and sat a lot of their players in last handful of games, or so.

Bill
Guest
Bill
2 years 9 months ago

They were 5 up with 4 left, then lost the last 4 (meaningless) games.

Detroit went like 2-8 in the last 10 and still won the division.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
2 years 9 months ago

Only in retrospect. Nobody was ever worried about the Tigers losing the AL Central. And only diehard Indians slappies actually thought they would win the AL central.

They dominated the Indians in the second half going 6-1 against them, including sweeping a 4 game series and outscoring them 25-8 in that series. After that, math was a vicious foe to the Indians.

The Indians really overperformed what anyone figured they would be at the beginning of the season due to some solid pitching and a lot of key at bats. But there was no way they could out muscle Detroit in a protracted pennant race.

Johnny
Guest
Johnny
2 years 9 months ago

Tiger lost at least 3-5 wins this off season. If Royals young position players bounce back/ improve then they could be in serious jeopardy.

wattts?
Guest
wattts?
2 years 9 months ago

WAT?!

AK7007
Member
AK7007
2 years 9 months ago

And if they still had Meyers, and all their pitching prospects had turned into aces, and a million other hopeful things, they’d win the world series!

But those things didn’t happen, things happened the way they happened in real life, and the Royals are just an above average team that is unlikely to win their division.

Dan
Guest
Dan
2 years 9 months ago

If the Royals get lucky and see several unexpected big improvements, they could threaten to win 90 games. And that’s catching a lot of breaks. If Detroit has a bunch of things go wrong, they might only win 88 or 90 games.

Don’t bet on KC this season in the Central. Probably less than a 10% chance of them winning the division.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 9 months ago

Royals are tied with Dodgers for FanGraphs projected WAR.

I actually do wonder how this happened.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
2 years 9 months ago

“FanGraphs projected WAR”? What are you talking about?

Mr. X
Guest
Mr. X
2 years 9 months ago

The Royals don’t have Kershaw, Greinke, or Ryu.

Stuck in a slump
Guest
Stuck in a slump
2 years 9 months ago

The Tigers didn’t have THAT much go wrong and they were only a 93 win team last year, if shit were to hit the proverbial fan they may very well end up an 82 win team. Castellanos and Iglesias have fairly large question marks surrounding them, and if they flop offensively, the Tiger’s lineup looks much worse than it was in 2013 and don’t forget that Jackson is prone to fairly large BABIP swings and putting balls in play is his entire game.

This Tigers team has a lot of great talent, but if something goes wrong, their lack of depth will be a serious problem.

Dan
Guest
Dan
2 years 9 months ago

you can win a lot of money gambling if you want to wager a team with their rotation and bats in lineup will only win 82 games, especially when they get to play 38 games against the Twins and White Sox.

Stuck in a slump
Guest
Stuck in a slump
2 years 9 months ago

I’m not sure how you got that I thought that the Tigers were only going to win 82 games. I only stated that they have a tendency to under perform in the wins column and that the division is often closer than it should have been.

Add to it that these things happen without tremendous injuries/under performance/bad luck and that they are relying on two offensively unproven guys to man 3B and SS, they added additional injury risk in Kinsler, and Jackson relies on his flaky BABIP to sustain his production and you have a recipe for potential disaster.

I said that this team has a lot of great talent, but if “shit hits the proverbial fan”, as in enough bad things happen at once, and this is a team that could be significantly hurt by its lack of depth and could see their wins total drop to 82. I don’t think that they are any better than they were in 2013, but I also don’t see them as being more than marginally worse, but I also don’t see this team winning more than 95 games next year meaning that their floor is lower IMO than a lot of people believe.

Dan
Guest
Dan
2 years 9 months ago

I don’t even know what a “tendency to underperform” even means. Well I do know, it’s just incorrect.

In 2013, Detroit underperformed their Pythagorean record by 6 games.

In 2012, Detroit outperformed their Pythagorean record by 1 game.

In 2011, Detroit outperformed their Pythagorean record by 6 games.

In 2010, Detroit underperformed their Pythagorean record by 1 game.

In the last 4 years combined, they’ve been an aggregate even with their predicted record with -6, -1, +1, and +6 records.

Stuck in a slump
Guest
Stuck in a slump
2 years 9 months ago

In the last two years, the Tigers were picked to basically run away with the division, last year they lead by one, two years ago they lead by three. They were pretty much the same team from 2012-2013, when they went from 88 wins to 93. The only time the ran with it in the last three years was 2011 despite being heavily favored.

They were predicted to be better in 2012 than they were, they were predicted to take the division and run with it in 2013, but they didn’t. This is what I am talking about when I say that they under performed. People have similar expectations right now, and I’m calling BS. They are a very good team on paper, but they never live up to the hype that the paper brings, not even when they are winning and they aren’t without critical flaws (unless they add more in FA).

Dan
Guest
Dan
2 years 9 months ago

So your opinion is that the 2012 Tigers who were +52 in run differential were “basically the same team” as the 2013 Tigers that were +172 in run differential.

Really? That’s as valid as saying the Braves and Mets were basically the same teams this past season.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 9 months ago

I think the larger point here is the previous commenter stated that if a bunch of things go wrong the might win “only 88 or 90 games”, which is a pretty outrageous claim. A bunch of things going wrong could easily result in a record closer to .500.

Stuck in a slump
Guest
Stuck in a slump
2 years 9 months ago

Dan: How many players changed? Anibal Sanchez was added mid-season 2012, but the top 5 pitchers by WAR is otherwise unchanged.

Then they added Hunter and Infante. With 50 games to go, they added Iglesias, but the core of the team remained in tact, this isnt a case like where the Marlins basically traded half of their team right after signing a bunch of big name FA’s to upgrade all over the place.

The team stayed the same at 7/9 hitting positions and really didn’t change at all in their rotation and the bullpen was mostly unchanged. The players stayed just about the same with some usage differences.

Timeghoul
Member
Timeghoul
2 years 9 months ago

Slump, you are stupid as hell. The 2013 team added Infante, Martinez, and Hunter to the lineup. Are you saying that isn’t a big deal? Really?

Stuck in a slump
Guest
Stuck in a slump
2 years 9 months ago

Time: I didn’t include Martinez because he was already a part of the team, he wasn’t an acquisition. the point is the didn’t go out and sign a ton of new guys or trade for a ton of new guys, they made two offensive upgrades and that was pretty much it, and even then they weren’t huge splashes, they were mid-tier signings.

Would you have said that adding Hunter and Infante would have improved the team that much? And the fact that in 2013 V-Mart was worth less one WAR should make you rethink calling me stupid since he didn’t contribute that much to the team’s success.

Dan
Guest
Dan
2 years 9 months ago

Martinez missed the entire previous season with injury. If he wasn’t an addition in 2013, I don’t know what is.

Scotch
Guest
Scotch
2 years 9 months ago

Stuck in a slump,

Victor Martinez had a 147 wRC+ in the second half of the season. That’s the second highest on the team, and fifth highest in the AL during that time. His first half of the season was spoiled by a lot of bullets that were hit right at defenders (and a sub-.250 BABIP in April through June). Clearly you didn’t actually watch the games.

The Party Bird
Guest
The Party Bird
2 years 9 months ago

When does Jackson’s BABIP stop being fluky and start being considered a skill? He’s been playing for four seasons now and has the 13th highest mark in baseball history.

Anyone claiming that Mike Trout’s success is overstated because of his fluky BABIPs would be quickly laughed out of the comments section, and he has a similar number in half as big of a sample.

JKB
Guest
JKB
2 years 9 months ago

See “Jeremy Hellickson” ERA vs. FIP

sportznut
Guest
sportznut
2 years 9 months ago

Bullpen remains their biggest question mark for me. Its true Nathan is an upgrade over Benoit, but closer was truly the least of their problems. Joba has been bad for quite sometime now, Krol couldn’t get righties out last year, Rondon has durability questions, and Alburquerque often struggles to find the plate. Coke might as well throw the ball underhand b/c that’s what it looked like he did.

The offense definitely takes a hit, but they’re younger, faster, and more athletic now. It will no longer take 3-4 hits in an inning to drive in one run. Kinsler will replace Omar’s offense, and Castellanos will replace Peralta’s (at least where counting stats are concerned) except for average. Its Prince’s offense that will be difficult to replace, but I expect a Dirks/Davis platoon to actually be a solid one, and expect them to be a much better base running team.

I also see a considerable difference to the infield defense they’ll have on Opening Day in 2013 as opposed to last year.

byron
Member
byron
2 years 9 months ago

The Fister trade was so head-shakingly terrible that anytime I try to build any optimisim, it just crumbles.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
2 years 9 months ago

Seems bad, and will likely always be bad, but we should see what unfolds in the next year or two with both Fister and Ray before we begin catastrophizing it.

Yan Fucking Gomes
Guest
Yan Fucking Gomes
2 years 9 months ago

“to be honest”

I was hoping you’d lie to us, Sullivan.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 9 months ago

One wonders if Cabrera takes a step back with Fielder or an equivalent gone. The Tigers offense looks a bit weak to me w/o Peralta and Fielder. They really needed another bat, and another arm in the pen, so if they are done they can forget about winning a championship in 2014.

The division is a lock given the collection of AAAA team they compete against there (although the Royals may close the gam a bit), so maybe that’s all they care about now and hope to get lucky in the playoffs and make it to the ALCS before being bested by a better team.

Timeghoul
Member
Timeghoul
2 years 9 months ago

Why would Cabrera take a step back with Fielder gone? You aren’t suggesting that Fielder was protecting Cabrera right? If you are, please get off of fangraphs.

Slimy
Guest
Slimy
2 years 9 months ago

More likely, Cabrera will regress because he is over 30; coming off surgery; and he enjoyed a career year. Of course, Cabrera with regression is still .325/.420/.590.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
2 years 9 months ago

Man that’s absurd how good Miggy can hit.

It was kinda like JV last year. He had a “terrible” year….. for JV.

Mr. X
Guest
Mr. X
2 years 9 months ago

He had a minor surgery, it’s not like a pitcher having Tommy John. Cabby will be fine.

Dan
Guest
Dan
2 years 9 months ago

Cabrera will likely take a step back because it’s damn hard to repeat the year he just had. It won’t have a thing to do with Prince Fielder, but Tim McCarver and Joe Buck will talk at length on Fox about how Cabrera isn’t as good without Fielder behind him.

Timeghoul
Member
Timeghoul
2 years 9 months ago

Also, I like how 2nd in projected WAR = FORGET ABOUT WINNING THE WORLD SERIES!!!!!11

Lakeside
Guest
Lakeside
2 years 9 months ago

Wait, where is the write up on Joba?

Anywho,

Overall I tend to agree with the FG community and say the Tigers were unlucky in the expected numbers and where they ended up and the Royals / Indians were luckier then the expected numbers. As a GM the goal is to make the playoffs and after that seems setup its time to setup for the future.

Anon
Guest
Anon
2 years 9 months ago

Our team-level projections are flawed, because they’re based on human-generated depth charts and imperfect player projections.

And NL teams are projected for ~70 away interleague games (300 PA for NL DH??).

The concern I have is the magnitude of the error present. I wouldn’t be surprised to see error of 10 WAR for a couple teams.

Leo
Guest
Leo
2 years 9 months ago

And the NL and AL DH WAR values are clearly calculated differently. Every NL team has negative WAR for DH, and every AL team has positive, even where the wOBA of the teams is almost exactly the same.

Mr Punch
Guest
Mr Punch
2 years 9 months ago

The Tigers’ moves, starting with the acquisition of Iglesias, have improved their defense significantly. At their position on the win curve, that’s a big positive. One (no doubt simplistic) way of looking at what they’ve done is to say that they’ve retained plus hitting and pitching while addressing 2013’s minus fielding and baserunning.

Metrologic
Guest
Metrologic
2 years 9 months ago

They should still be above average offensively, but with a bunch of question marks (Castellanos and Iglesias most of all, but also whether either Avila or Jackson will have another good season, Victor Martinez will be 35, Torii Hunter will be turning 39, etc.). But like you said, they’ve definitely improved on defense and base-running, and it remains to be seen whether these improvements with compensate for whatever offensive value they lose.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
2 years 9 months ago

The one thing Detroit has lost, that seems to be unaccounted for here, is their loss of depth. Not only was Smyly a great bullpen piece, but if they would have sustained a serious injury in the rotation, they had an excellent in house replacement. Now they didn’t need it – all 5 Detroit starters made at least 29 starts, but knowing that this option was there is valuable. Same thing with a guy like Castellanos. Yes, he didn’t contribute last year, but I’m sure Detroit had some confidence knowing they could call him up if necessary. We can ignore Detroit’s depth because they didn’t need it last year. If they do this year, it seems as if it will be lacking.

Metrologic
Guest
Metrologic
2 years 9 months ago

I doubt Smyly would start any games in 2014 if he were in the bullpen. He didn’t in 2013 – those starts went to Jose Alvarez, who started 5 games in place of Sanchez. You’re right that they don’t have starting pitcher depth in 2014, but it’s not like their moves this offseason created that problem. However, Robbie Ray, who they acquired in the Fister trade, will be pitching in Triple A this season, so he gives them an option now. Maybe not a great one, but it will probably be an improvement over a guy like Alvarez.

Jim Price
Guest
Jim Price
2 years 9 months ago

I’d call Tigers recent moves (go back to Iglesias trade) pragmatic. Let’s be honest– their competition in Central is the weakest in baseball. Yeah, Cleveland or KC could challenge but there is a big talent gap. They should be able to win a weak division. Why not position yourself to be a little better for the future too? Their team speed and defense were definite weak points and now those aspects are improved. Maybe there will be fewer 10-4 wins, but also maybe more 3-2 wins. If Smyly or Castellanos doesn’t work out as planned, then fix it mid-year, not like they’ve never done that. I think they could have got more for Fister but the other moves make sense.

Some Scientist
Guest
Some Scientist
2 years 9 months ago

Steamer’s projected WAR totals for Royals: Pitchers: 15.1 Batters: 25.4

Steamer’s projected WAR totals for Tiger: Pitchers: 19.8 Batters: 24.0

Steamer’s projected arithmetic mean ERA for Royals staff: 3.93

Steamer’s projected arithmetic mean OPS for Royals position players: .709

Steamer’s arithmetic mean ERA for Tigers staff: 4.01

Steamer’s arithmetic mean OPS for Tigers position players: .703

These numbers suggest that the Royals are expected to be deeper in terms of total pitching staff quality (unweighted for IP) and positional players, but that the Tigers’ opening day roster of starters will be very much better than the Royals’.

Even if the Tigers’ rotation doesn’t live up to expectations (say, they only have one only Cy Young candidate instead of three) then they are still favorites to win the AL central by WAR and pythag (regressed from projected OPS and ERA). The Royals would have to have multiple positive surprises AND the Tigers would have to have multiple long term injuries for the Royals to come within a game of the Tigers at the end of the regular season.

Aidan Hall
Member
Aidan Hall
2 years 9 months ago

You should never jeopardize the future of your organization for the present. The moves they made this offseason set them up for more sustainable success even if it did cost them 3-4 wins in the present.

RMD
Guest
RMD
2 years 9 months ago

They’re doing what the Phillies should have done two years ago…

walt526
Guest
walt526
2 years 9 months ago

Jeff, I think that you’re neglecting to consider the role that risk aversion plays in what essentially is a portfolio decision on the part of a contending baseball team. While I agree with your premise that there is symmetry in the probability density function of a team making the playoffs and that that suggests diminishing marginal returns, that only descriptive of expected wins (i.e., first moment). But there are second moment considerations that are factors in the team’s optimization decision. In other words, both return and risk are fundamental elements of the team’s decision-making process.

Teams don’t simply want to maximize the likelihood of making the playoffs, but minimize the likelihood of narrowly missing the playoffs. These are closely related, but distinct, objectives. In language of economics, to maximize their utility from spending to win, teams need to consider both the first and second derivatives. In your analysis, you’re essentially assuming that only the first derivative matters (i.e., marginal benefit equals marginal cost). However, if teams are risk averse, then you need a more complex analytical framework that somehow incorporates a second derivative. As in any investment decision, accounting for relative risk aversion should not be ignored.

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