Old English Report: Conflict in the D


The Old English Report is Impact Sport’s Detroit Tigers Blog produced by Zachary Barnes, Kyle Turk and Zach VanNieulande

No Tigers fan wants to hear it. I don’t want to hear it. The Detroit Tigers need to sell. Put child block on every website that has “MLB Standings” on it. Heck, I grew up checking the morning paper every day to see the new standings. Cancel all subscriptions (sorry newspaper industry).

The Tigers cannot let the disgusting American League Central Division con them into thinking they can win. Cheesy quotes aside, I guarantee every player and coach in the Detroit locker room wants to make a push for the playoffs. But those in the front office need to lay down the hammer, because this group already had plenty of chances to win together.

The competitive rebuild doesn’t work. Especially when it seems like the Tigers’ efforts to get “younger and more affordable” have been non-existent. One Cameron Maybin trade is getting younger and cheaper?

Record: 30-33

Games out of First: 4

Games out of Wild Card: 3 (with six teams between them and the Cleveland Indians who hold the second spot).

That tidbit about all the teams in the hunt for a wild card is just more proof to sell. You can make an argument that five of those six (Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers) are genuinely considering scenarios where they are buyers and trying really hard to make a run.

The Rangers have a small window left to win after making the bold move to trade for Cole Hamels two years ago while under .500, and Yu Darvish heading to the free agent market after the season. It’s seemed like the M’s having been trying to make that first playoff appearance since 2001 for three years now. The Jays are not in a rebuild yet. The O’s have been regulars in the playoffs as of late and still (somehow) have the pieces to compete despite a starting rotation, combined with Camden Yards, that is abysmal. And the Rays can’t rebuild every year, they’ll take every chance they can get. Bringing us back to the Tigers.

You basically announced your window is done by stating JD Martinez could be dealt “even if they remain in contention,” as reported by Ken Rosenthal. It only makes sense, too. Martinez would be another $20+ million deal for a team that is trying to get money off the books. Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimermann are already causing a huge cog in the payroll. They can’t keep operating like this unless they really think this group can win. But that hasn’t shown to be the case.

Beat the best to be the best

The Tigers are 14-13 against teams that are in either first or second in their division. Right around where they are overall. A majority of the wins came at the beginning of the season.

There are two ways to look at this. Either A. they can hold their own with the top tier teams and if they feed on the bad teams they could make a run or B. this plays into the issue that the Tigers are just in purgatory. They aren’t elite, but by no means are they down there with some of the teams tanking.

This goes back to not looking at the standings. You have something magical with JD Martinez, but have that be the starting point to shopping other guys. Because with JD this is a different ball club. You take an instrumental piece from this team and it could totally change the makeup.

But I’m about to go MythBsuters on you (and on myself).

The Tigers do have a consistent offense

Often you will see the idea that the Motor City Kitties leave too many runners stranded and don’t sustain rallies, circulating the Twittersphere. Especially when they draw nine walks and get shutout, which is almost impossible to do. But in reality they are a fairly efficient team.

Using an algorithm from SB Nation’s “Beyond the Box Score,” that divides runs by total number of baserunners, the Tigers are converting 38.3% of their baserunners into tallies on the scoreboard. For reference, the all time record of efficiency is 43.1%, and according to the BTBS article, the league leader in offensive efficiency in 2013 was at 38.7%. There is bound to be some regression by the Tigers, but this gives some room for hope.

Or will there be regression?

The Tigers have a BABIP of .303. Just three notches above the league average. What does that mean? They haven’t been unlucky or lucky. They are hitting just about what they should when you factor in things like the talent on their squad, the defenses they’ve faced and the luck that just happens in sports. For instance, if they were at .323 like the Colorado Rockies, they would be seen as a pretty lucky team and that they would slowly regress to the mean. So with the Tigers, what you see is pretty much what you’re going to get.

This leaves room for the offense to carry this team.

But the bullpen won’t allow the offense to carry the team

It really won’t. It is so bad. And I know you know that. But let’s figure out why, because that is what we do here at Impact 89FM.

Second highest FIP. 26th in baserunners they leave stranded. Third to last in WAR. 22nd in K/9. ninth in runs allowed. Oh, and back to BABIP (yeah it works for pitchers too), they’re at .298. So it’s not like they have had just a bunch of bad breaks, they’re just bad. The craziest thing about all of this, is the fact the bullpen is allowing all this damage yet they are still 27th in bullpen innings pitched.

Examining further no one guy has stood out as serviceable.

Justin Wilson, who has had his share of blow ups and control issues, is rocking a negative pitch value on his slider, which should be his put out pitch. But he’s been ok enough to get a prospect for in a trade. The Tigers got Jacoby Jones for Joakim Soria, and Wilson is worth more than that as a power lefty.

Alex Wilson has allowed damage in half of his last six appearances. That adds up. When each guy is taking turns blowing the game you are beating yourselves. You are asking your offense to do a lot.  

Warwick Saupold looks like a fun piece, but I’m not sure if his success is sustainable. He has around a -5 pitch value, which is very bad, on both of his offspeed pitches. Now although that metric is not predictive, it does show his offspeed has been garbage thus far. And you can’t survive in this league with just a fastball and cutter.

From here it’s just a circus. Detroit isn’t getting any help from Shane Greene, Joe Jimenez, Blaine Hardy, Francisco Rodriguez, Bruce Rondon and Kyle Ryan. Going into the year, fans could say that looks like a fairly deep pen with diverse resources. But it’s not a resource if it loses you games. Seriously, that is way too many names giving you negative production and forcing the front office to scramble.

Take Tuesday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Tigers marched all the way back from down 6-0. It was looking like it would be a triumphant, confidence boosting win… Then Justin Wilson blows it. That really has been the narrative all year.

Young core

What makes it even harder for the Tigers choice to either compete or sell is how poorly their few young guys have played. Michael Fulmer is great. But Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris have not been able to produce strong innings over a long period of the game. Nicholas Castellanos and Jame McCann, two of the only homegrown Detroit prospects, have been poor offensively and defensively.

So do you just blow the entire thing up? I’m talking trading away everyone. Later down the line even Castellanos and McCann because they won’t be apart of a winning future as that could be up to 10 years away. Or do you let it play out with the small young core you have, putting all your faith in those average to above average prospects (sans Fulmer), and let the mega contracts expire?

Where it gets complicated

As if this piece hasn’t been conflicting enough, we need to consider “tanking” is no longer a novel concept. Teams turn to the Astros and Chicago Cubs and go “see, look what they did by tanking and getting good draft picks.” But this was years ago. Now you have the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres (I thought the Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers too) all essentially trying to lose. Not everyone can get the first pick or hit home runs with their draft picks like the Stros and Cubbies. Too many trying to do the same thing is problematic.

Frankly, Detroit is late to the tanking party. Management should have dumped this expensive team years ago, now they’re looking to waste three seasons and THEN go into rebuild mode. But as mentioned, teams have a way bigger start than them in terms of rebuilding. (The White Sox are going to be SO good. Look at these prospects. And more are coming once they inevitably move David Robertson and Jose Quintana).

Commit to something though. Either sign JD and just eat up another large contract and continue to buy wins, or sell him with other players and start a full on rebuild. The competitive rebuild is a myth.

Around the League

No awesome story about Edinson Volquez and his late brother or Albert Pujols’ 600th home run this week, but moreso something to talk about with your roommates or co-workers.

How are the Yankees so good?

Peter Botte of the New York Daily News wrote a piece titled “Yankees’ powerful offense is overshadowing a pitching staff that is exceeding expectations.” Aaron Judge has already made us forget he is a rookie and has gotten a Babe Ruth comparison (don’t say that), and is taking the league by storm, but the pitching should be the real story. This was not supposed to be a good staff. Luis Severino, 23, was said to have a lot more to work on after a tough 2016. Michael Pineda struggled in the minors for two and a half years after a stellar all-star rookie season, and once in the majors seemed like a slightly below average starter. CC Sabathia, 37, was written off as dead years ago. But now those three were a large reason the Yanks had a 41-6 aggregate score last week in a four game span against division rivals and offensive teams; the Boston Red Sox and O’s.

They can say whatever they want, I don’t think the Bronx Bombers thought they were going to be this good. They’re slightly ahead of time of when they were going to start competing again. Now they look like a legitimate threat to take the title.

And if you’re a Dallas Cowboy, Los Angeles Lakers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Yankees, dynasty hating person, you’re in for a rough next couple of years. Because the Yankees have a loaded farm system on top of the fact they will be freed from a lot of financial commitments just in time for the stacked free agent class of 2018.

But back to 2017, I keep saying the Yankees pitching won’t be able to last. But they have continued to not just be serviceable, but great. Baseball is a weird game. Sometimes you just can’t explain.