Torii Hunter: Newest Tiger

Torii Hunter is now back in the AL Central after spending the last 5 seasons with the Angels. The 38-year-old will provide needed support to a punch-less Tigers’lineup with the exceptions of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. Mid-2012 season swing adjustments elevates his value higher than his projections.

By moving to the Tigers, a few changes will occur with Hunter and his new team.

1. The right-handed Hunter will transition from a park with a 96 park factor to one with a 102 park factor. Not a huge change, but the new home park will provide some help.

2. He is going from a 4.7 R/G Angels offense to a 4.5 R/G Tigers offense. A small downgrade.

3. The Tigers’ 2013 lineup will be improved with the additions of Hunter and Victor Martinez (injury). The big question for 2013 is how will the 4 main power hitters be arranged. I predict the following top of the lineup:

Jackson (R)
Hunter (R)
Fielder (L)
Cabrera (R)
Martinez (B)

This lineup makes sure the 2-5 hitters are a right and than a left-handed hitter. Also, Hunter has more speed than Martinez. By hitting 2nd, Hunter will see less RBI chances and an increase in his Run chances.

The move to the Tigers is very neutral and should not change his production given a talent level.

Setting the talent level on Hunter should be easy, but a strong second half gives some hope for improvement at this late stage in his career. He has been experiencing a slow decline in both his power and speed. Hunter’s career is long enough to know what to expect from him.

The drop looked to continue until he was moved to the Angels’ #2 spot in early June. When moved up, he decided to shorten down on his swing

“I cut down my swing as far as swinging hard and trying to go deep like I usually do,” Hunter said. “I cut my swing down and try to swing at strikes and take the base hit, and that’s why I’m swinging a lot better.” (Source)

After shorting down on his swing on June 8th, his 2012 season turned around.

Before June 8th: .238/.319/.392, 160 PA, .289 BABIP
On and after June 8th: .340/.383/.473, 424 PA, .423 BABIP

Even with the shorter swing, his ISO only went down from .154 to .133. While no .423 BABIP is sustainable, the chances for him exceeding his 2013 projections are high. The Bill James Projection’s have him hitting .271/.336/.428. I could see him exceed those numbers based on his new swing.

Torii Hunter has a new new home in Detroit. The new scenery should not change his value much. The most important factor for his fantasy value in 2013 will be if he maintains the changes he implemented in his swing 1/3 of the way through the 2012 season.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

6 Responses to “Torii Hunter: Newest Tiger”

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  1. supgreg says:

    Being a Tigers fan, I get to see them almost everyday and Leyland is not one to move his stars around, at least the superstars. Cabrera will not bat 4 with Fielder 3.

    3-4-5 will be Cabrera-Fielder-Martinez and it’s likely that Hunter and Dirks will rotate from 2-6 depending on the opposing starter in the same way that Swisher and Granderson did for the Yankees and how Infante and Dirks did last year for the Tigers.

    Cabrera won a triple-crown hitting 3rd, it’s not going to change in 2013, trust me.

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  2. Tak says:

    Cabrera will bat third, Fielder fourth. That’s not up for discussion. Leyland pencils those two in (161 of 162 plus all of the postseason- Cabrera was injured one game), then builds the rest of the lineup.

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  3. J A Klarr says:

    Nice analysis . This is a “right now” move & costs only money. Garcia & Castellanos will be in corners in 2014.
    Still need a closer & a reliable 4th starter

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  4. Kevin says:

    That depends on if we can sign Sanchez for the reliable starter…. jury still out. Yet if Scherzer can perform even at a slightly lower level than what he did last year, you still have 2 top pitchers and one elite pitcher who happens to be the best in the game, baseball writers choosing Price be damned.

    Garcia and Castellanos are unknowns. Neither are very disciplined on defense. The latter was just converted to an outfielder this year, so no clue how that experiment can hold up. If he can only hit average or sub average, we already have one who does that with no defense: his name is Brennan Boesch.

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  5. OlSalty says:

    How do you know his performance post-June 8th was because of the change in his swing and not just good luck? His pre-June 8th babip is way closer to his career average and he wasn’t doing so hot with that.

    It would make sense that a shorter swing could lead to a higher batting average (with less power) but how do you separate the skill from the results in a small sample? It could very well be a skill change, but it doesn’t match anything he’s done before so it could just be an aberration.

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  6. Silverman says:

    I think he started hitting better when he batted ahead of Pujols, Trumbo and Morales!

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