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Auditing The Detroit Tigers 2008 Season
Christopher Reina. 19th December, 2008 - 7:12 pm

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2008 Record: 74-88
2008 Pythagorean Record: 78-84
FIC Rank: 14th
5th in AL East
2008 Payroll: $137.7 million (2nd in MLB, 2nd in AL)
Cost per win: $1.86 million (28th in MLB, 12th in AL)

Like many people, I was very wrong on the Tigers. I expected them to flirt with scoring one-thousand runs and have a good front end of the rotation.

Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, and Placido Polanco all had significant decreases in production from their 2007 levels.

Dontrelle Willis was horrible; Justin Verlander disappointed; and Joel Zumaya was hurt again.

It all added up to the Tigers being the biggest disappointment in the MLB.

* Individual FIC Rank, Season FIC and Reina Value appear in parenthesis next to each player's name.

The FIC is a statistical system that attempts to objectively rank all players and the Reina Value determines how that performance relates to their contract.

A player with a positive Reina Value outperformed his contract while a negative one means he likely was overvalued.


Catcher

Ivan Rodriguez (616th, 42, -97%) hit .295/.338/.417 in 82 games with the Tigers before they dealt him to the Yankees for Kyle Farnsworth. Since 2004 when he hit .893 in his first season in Detroit, Rodriguez has progressively declined in his production at the plate.

Brandon Inge (610th, 43, -93%)

First Base

Miguel Cabrera (97th, 191, -19%) led the Tigers in OPS with a mark of .886, but his first season in the Motor City has to be categorized as a disappointment. His OPS dropped 80 points from 2007 and 112 points from 2006, but he did eventually reach his comfort zone in July and finished the final three months slugging .613 in each individual one. He struggled at third base and quickly moved to first in a swap with Carlos Guillen. Cabrera will never win a Gold Glove at first either, but the improvement in his defensive play was dramatic.

Second Base

Placido Polanco (139th, 165, +47%) didn't drop to his 2006 .693 OPS, but he did come back to a more typical season for himself, hitting .307/.350/.417. His BAbip in 2007 was .346 and just .319 in 2008. He's never been one to strikeout or walk frequently, but he went from +7 walks in 2007 to +8 strikeouts this season, which is statistically significant when you have fewer than 100 combined instances where the ball is not put in play.

Third Base

Carlos Guillen (236th, 122, -67%) had slugged over .500 in each of the two previous seasons and three out of the previous four, but he had a significant power decrease in 2008. His AB/HR rate declined from 26.9 to 42.0 and though he was walking more and striking out less, his OPS fell to .812, which is just four points better than his career high.

Shortstop

Edgar Renteria (386th, 78, -88%) may be fourth cumulatively among shortstops in OPS since 2002, he was 15th in 2008, but third in 2007. That third slot of 2007 was largely attributed to an unsustainable .375 BAbip, which predictably dropped all the way down to .290 this season. Because of that number, he should bounce back in 2009 with the Giants, but his absolute ineptitude against righties (.598 OPS) is concerning. His walk rate dropped and he also has declined defensively at shortstop.

Left Field

Marcus Thames (551st, 51, -66%) had an absolute power tear in June, hitting 10 in 72 at bats, which helped him drop his always solid home run rate to one for every 12.6 at bats. But Thames still struck out far too frequently and was error prone in left field.

Matt Joyce (542nd, 52, +12%) was called up to the Tigers after hitting for an OPS of .902 in 200 at bats in Toledo. A former 12 round pick in 2005, Joyce hit .252/.339/.492 with 12 homers, 16 doubles and three triples, which gives him an IsoP of .240, a number that would be amongst the top-30 in baseball. He could not, however, sustain his initial success in July in which he hit 1.038, as his August and September numbers were .729 and .543 respectively. He was dealt to Tampa Bay for Edwin Jackson.

Center Field

Curtis Granderson (103rd, 188, +750%) had a historic 2007 season and though there was a predictable drop, it was an impressive follow-up for a few reasons. Though his IsoP dropped from .250 to .213 (his rate of doubles and triples dropped significantly), his home run rate actually improved slightly. But more importantly he hit lefties far better than he has before and he walked in 11.3% of his plate appearances and drastically reduced his strikeouts from 20.8% to 17.6% of his plate appearances.

Right Field

Magglio Ordonez (123rd, 176, -52%) had his second best season since 2004 this year, so a 159 point drop in OPS is forgivable when the OPS is still .870. His 28 homers became 21, his 54 doubles became 32, his .434 OBP became .376 and his .595 slugging became .494. Defensively, Ordonez is a liability in right field and he could really use the move to DH.

Designated Hitter

Gary Sheffield (363rd, 84, -88%) hit for an OPS of .726 (lowest total since 89 in Milwaukee and was largely responsible for the Tigers have the second worst production at that position in the AL. He is one homer shy of 500, so he'll get that out of the way immediately, but will he stay healthy and reclaim some of that prowess? I predict he bounces back to his 2007 levels.

Starting Pitching

Justin Verlander (121st, 178, +586%) had a 4.84 ERA and 11-17 record. His WHIP elevated to 1.403, as his K/BB rate declined and just proved to be hittable in general. Verlander was hit especially hard in April and in September.

Armando Galarraga (102nd, 189, +2,052%) led the Tigers in ERA (3.73), wins (13), WHIP (1.192) while maintaining a nice K/BB ratio. He came over last February from Texas in a trade fro Michael Hernandez (the Rangers have been searching for pitching for how many years now and they trade Edinson Volquez and Galarraga in one offseason?) To give Texas credit and to temper expectations in Detroit, his 2008 is highly unlikely to be duplicated. He isn't a strikeout pitcher and gave up 28 homers. That WHIP and therefore the ERA was helped tremendously by giving up an unsustainable BAbip .237. To put that into context, it's the third lowest BABip in a single season of any active starter and the lowest career mark by any active starter is .268 (surprisingly Barry Zito).

Jeremy Bonderman (504th, 59, -94%) turned 26 during the World Series and after another disappointing season, this one injury-shortened, the expectations for his career have decreased. Even though his ERA decreased from 5.01 to 4.29, his strikeout and walk rates dipped dramatically, which was largely due to excellent numbers when there were runners in scoring position.

Nate Robertson (234th, 123, -6%) saw his ERA balloon to 6.35 in 2008, after a 4.76 mark in 07 and 3.84 in 06. He has never been very tough on righties, but he at least was very dominant against lefties, but that OPS against of .490 in 06 became an .858 this season. Not only was he allowing more base runners than ever before, he also yielded a 1.116 OPS with RISP, which is next to impossible to overcome and still give your offense any chance to help your cause.

Kenny Rogers (230th, 124, -50%) had a 5.70 ERA and that late career surge in which he made the All-Star game in 04, 05 and 06 appears over.

Dontrelle Willis (929th, 9, -94%) was an unmitigated disaster in 2008, throwing just 24 innings of 9.38 ERA ball before being demoted. Righties hit for an OPS of 1.005 against him, so essentially he was turning every righty he faced into Manny Ramirez (career 1.004 hitter). Maybe Matt Treanor, who caught Willis in Florida and is now in Detroit will make a difference? The Tigers really have no realistic idea of what to expect from Willis once pitchers and catchers report.

Zach Miner (274th, 107, 632%) made 31 appearances out of the bullpen in April, May, and June and then first became a starter in July where he remained for the balance of 2008. He pitches to contact, and I believe his ceiling is just about where he was this season with a 4.27 ERA.

Relief Pitching

Todd Jones (323rd, 93, -71%) threw his last pitch in 2008, capping off a 16-year career in which he saved 319 games and has a career ERA of 3.97. His strikeout rate had been dipping significantly since 2005, and he just couldn't be counted on like he once did, but he did a nice job in bridging Detroit to Rodney and Zumaya.

Fernando Rodney (469th, 63, -53%) looked like he was on the cusp back in 05 and 06, but his BAbip has gone from .238 in 06 to .304 this season. Rodney has upped his strikeout rate since then, but his walk rate also increased.

Joel Zumaya (852nd, 15, -7%) once again battled injuries and finished the season on the 60-day DL with shoulder soreness. When he is on the mound, however, he is striking batters out at an excellent rate still although his ERA and walk rate have increased.

Aquilino Lopez (375th, 81, 260%) had his best season since 2003 with the Jays, as he threw 78.7 innings and had a 3.55 ERA. He didn't give up very many walks and struck out 61 batters in 78.7 innings.

Freddy Dolsi (642nd, 38, +3%) made his big league debut and had a 3.97 ERA in 47.7 innings. Not a strikeout pitcher, he had just 29 strikeouts and was hit hard by lefties.

Bobby Seay (525th, 54, +16%) followed up a career year in 2007 in which he had a 2.33 ERA by having a 4.47 ERA in 56.3 innings. His strikeout rate improved, but his WHIP rose to 1.491 with a BAbip against of .357 from the .285 of 07.

Casey Fossum (635th, 39, -19%) was the centerpiece of the Curt Schilling to Boston deal, but he's bounced around a bit and became a full time reliever in 2008. His ERA was 5.66 and he had a WHIP of 1.500. He was effective against lefties, but he couldn't really get out a righty at all.