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 RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first season in Tout Wars, he won the H2H league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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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.