For those of you who have made the unfortunate decision to follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I don’t think Al Avila is all that bad a General Manager. He’s no Dave Dombrowski (which, to be fair, nobody is Dave Dombrowski, the greatest general manager of his generation), but the guy was tossed into a bad situation and has mostly done what he’s needed to do. The farm system has gone from terrible to very good, with most services having it ranked in the top five. The Tigers have bolstered their analytics department, have hired a new-school manager in AJ Hinch, have moved in on big names in the international market (Cristian Santana being the most recent), and have fully embraced pitching analytics with the hiring of Chris Fetter.Continue reading
With the news of Boston’s intent to trade Andrew Benintendi, this a player the Tigers should see as a prime trade target to bolster a team, and outfield, desperately in need of an injection of talent. The Tigers are rolling into 2020 with an outfield, but what the outfield actually is nobody knows.
JaCoby Jones, a personal favorite, always seems to be on the cusp of a realization of potential until a freak injury happens, while Victor Reyes tears the cover off the ball and had a good 2020 but whether he can piece it all together in a full season remains to be seen. Newcomer Robbie Grossman and holdovers Daz Cameron and Christin Stewart round out the outfield options and I’d expect a heavy rotation of all 3 of those last options.
This is where Benintendi can bring stability and talent to the roster. Andrew is a former top 10 pick, former top prospect in baseball, and a player that had a tumultuous 2020 during the pandemic that turned up to the season TOO in-shape, may be looking for a change of scenery according to Marlins reporter Craig Mish.
Per sources Red Sox continue to be open to moving OF Andrew Benintendi. Marlins and several other clubs are pursuing. Miami has pieces that make sense and looking for RF help. Change of scenery type move, if it happens. It could.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) January 19, 2021
AJ Hinch has stated that the Tigers are looking for a players that hit righties well and Benintendi does just that. With a career OPS of 821 against righties and a wRC+ of 115, and a 10.5% walk rate against both handedness, he’s the perfect injection of offense that the Tigers need. Not an overly powerful guy, he does give you 15 to 20 homers a year with good gap power, a future table setter for Torkelson that can also drive runs in when needed. Athletic and agile with an average arm, he’s perfect to patrol one of the corners in Detroit.
Benintendi has 2 years left on his contract at an average of 5 million a year as a 26 year old, an easily affordable contract given that the Tigers are currently 30 million dollars behind in spending this year as opposed to where they were last year. What also makes this attractive is that as a player without a lot of team control and in a market where we just watched Lindor and Darvish be traded for peanuts, Benintendi should come relatively cheaply with Daz Cameron likely being the best piece going back to Boston. If Boston wants a pitcher in return, it’s just as easy to swap Cameron with Faedo and give Packard or Kody Clemens. The Tigers have a top system in the league with good depth to work from that would make a trade like this work well for both sides involved.
Game 6: Rays 1, Dodgers 3. LA wins the World Series 4-2
After their conservative approach to game 2, the Dodgers rested their best arms and threw everything at the Rays for games 3-5. Outside of a catastrophic 9th inning meltdown in game 4, the Dodgers were able to secure an advantage in the series 3-2. They won games 3 and 5 after clutch pitching performances from Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw.
Going into game 6, the Dodgers faced an identical matchup to game 2: Tony Gonsolin vs. Blake Snell. Snell dominated in game 2, surrendering only a 2-run home run to Chris Taylor as the Rays went on to win 6-4. In game 6, Snell picked up right where he left off; he carved through the Dodgers’ lineup, striking out five of the first six batters.
The Rays’ Randy Arozarena broke the scoring open in the first inning, taking a slider to the opposite field for a single-postseason record 10th home run. The Dodgers’ game plan was to have Gonsolin function as a regular starter. That plan quickly fell apart as his pitch count elevated and he struggled to throw strikes. Gonsolin exited having thrown just 48 pitches in 1.2 innings.
Everything changed in the 6th inning for the Dodgers. Battling with a one run deficit, the offense finally arrived. Austin Barnes led off the 6th inning with a single up the middle off Blake Snell. It was just the second hit given up by Snell at that point, on only 73 pitches. With one out and one on in the 6th, Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled Snell and went to the bullpen.
The Rays turned to reliever Nick Anderson. After missing in location with the first few pitches, he gave up a double down the line to Mookie Betts. With Austin Barnes at third and Mookie at second, Anderson spiked a slider that got away from Mike Zunino and the game was tied. With Corey Seager batting next, he weakly grounded to first and similarly to game 1, Mookie made a phenomenal jump and beat out the throw to score a critical run.
With this appearance, Anderson had given up a run in his 7th consecutive postseason appearance, breaking the previously held record by José Paniagua with the 2000-2001 Seattle Mariners. As Cash’s plan imploded, so did the Rays’ season. This begs the question, did Kevin Cash cost the Rays a championship? The obvious answer seems to be yes. My answer? No, but he is not free from blame. More on that later.
Mookie again proved why he is worth every penny of his 12-year $365 million extension. He homered in the 8th, extending the Dodgers’ lead to 3-1 and sealing victory for a long-awaited championship in Los Angeles.
In a similar fashion to game 7 of the NLCS, Julio Urías entered the game and pitched 2.1 perfect innings to close out the World Series. The Dodgers bullpen went on to do everything asked of them and Dave Roberts played his matchups perfectly. They threw 7.1 scoreless innings, striking out 12 batters and giving up just 2 singles. The Dodgers won the 2020 World Series and ended a 32-year title drought.
Kevin Cash’s management was less than perfect, but analytics are not to blame.
It seems easy to bash the decision to remove Blake Snell. It prompted an onslaught of anti-analytics rhetoric and how it “ruins the game.” Here’s the breakdown by the numbers.
Removing Blake Snell was the correct analytical decision. Snell last completed 6 innings of work in July of 2019. After hitting the upper 90s with his fastball for most of the night, the last fastball Snell threw was his slowest of the night, registering at 94.3 mph. This season, including the postseason, here are Blake Snell’s splits each time through the batting order entering game 6.
|Snell 2020 Splits||Batters Faced||Opponent AVG||Opponent OPS||Strikeout %|
It is no question Snell’s effectiveness decreases the longer he stays in the game, and with more appearances the opponents’ power jumps off the charts. With former MVP Mookie Betts stepping to the plate for a third time and a lefty/righty matchup, it was the correct decision to end the night for Snell and move to the bullpen. Kevin Cash’s choice of Nick Anderson is where he made a fatal mistake.
Nick Anderson had been dominant in the 2020 regular season posting a 0.55 ERA, a strikeout rate of 44.8% and posting an even 1.0 WAR. The postseason was a different story, however. Entering game 6, he had given up a run in 7 of his 9 postseason appearances, with 6 of those runs allowed coming in consecutive appearances. He posted an ERA of 5.11, had given up 15 hits, 4 walks, 3 home runs and collected just 9 strikeouts in 14.1 innings. To put it simply, he was bad.
Peter Fairbanks or Diego Castillo were better options to face Betts. Cash’s trust in an underperforming Anderson in the biggest moment blew up in his face, and the Rays lost the World Series. This was not an analytical decision. This was a mistake.
This may raise the question, “You argued in favor of Brandon Lowe last article about sticking with the best players in the biggest spots. Doesn’t this contradict the argument?”
It is a little complicated, but the argument is different for two reasons. First, the Rays do not have many offensive weapons, as the previous article stated. They ranked in the lower half of the league in most offensive categories. Demoting Lowe in the batting order or replacing him entirely likely would not yield different results. Sticking with Lowe in the two hole gave the Rays critical home runs that provided them victories in game 2 and 4. He had proven himself to stay in his role, delivering in the clutch to keep the Rays’ season alive. The second reason is the Rays are known for their arsenal of relief arms. They can plug many different talented relievers in different situations to find success. The difference here is Anderson’s performances had presented no recent signs of success, and his failure cost them the World Series. The Rays had more reliable options to turn to that they failed to use.
So, analytics are not to blame, Kevin Cash royally screwed up and the Rays lost. The blame goes to Kevin Cash, right? Well, again, it’s not so simple.
The Rays have managed baseball games in this style for years, and it rewarded them with an AL pennant, coming up just 2 victories short of a championship. The way the Rays play baseball was a massive success. There was no reason for them to abandon their philosophy with their season on the line. The failure lies within their choice of replacement, not the removal of Snell itself. Cash can be blamed for his mistake, but the holes in the Rays roster that were repeatedly exposed by the Dodgers were out of his control.
Andrew Friedman is a genius and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg cost them the World Series.
Friedman, President of Baseball Operations for the Dodgers, previously made a name for himself with the Tampa Bay Rays. As Friedman and Sternberg shared a love for the analytics, they began to mold the former expansion franchise into what it is today. Friedman started his career in their front office in 2004 and became the club’s General Manager in 2005. In 2008, the Rays reached their first World Series. The Rays continued to field successful teams despite coming up against their big money counterparts within the AL East.
In 2014, Friedman left the Rays for the Dodgers, bringing along his analytical model and marrying it with the Dodgers’ big spending ways. Since 2014, the Dodgers have been the most successful team in baseball and show no signs of slowing down soon.
The problem with Sternberg’s analytical model is his refusal to invest money into the product on the field. Smart spending correlates with winning. Check out this article from GHF in 2019: https://glasshalffulmer.com/2019/09/30/spend-money/
The Tampa Bay Rays were third to last in baseball with a 2020 payroll of $28.3 million. The biggest trick of the league is owners making us believe there are “small markets” and “big markets.” The reality is there are just big markets and bigger markets. The Dodgers had a payroll of $107.9mil, second behind only the Yankees. When one takes into consideration the value of these franchises, the Rays are still not proportionately spending as much on their roster as the Dodgers. They might not be able to afford players like Mookie Betts or Clayton Kershaw however, they can easily afford some free agent upgrades to improve their roster. The highest paid player on the Rays was Charlie Morton at $15 million before pro-rated for the shortened 2020 season. He is one on a very short list of free agents for Tampa Bay.
The Rays offense sputtered in the World Series. Their inability to score runs ultimately led to their demise. The Rays were forced to rely on inadequate offensive options in the face of one of the greatest teams ever constructed. It is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the players and coaching staff that they only fell 2 games short of a title.
The blame for the Rays failure resides with Stuart Sternberg, who refused to invest into his product. With a few offensive upgrades, the current Rays roster likely turns the tide against LA and probably doesn’t end up in the situation of preserving a 1-0 lead to save their season. No manager is perfect. Cash’s mistake was his own doing. Without a lineup to provide any cushion, though, Sternberg created the situation for his manager to fail.
Where do the Tigers end up in all this?
This World Series is a lesson to all that a lack of investment is not enough to win. Against their toughest challenge, the Rays’ formula crumbled. It was not solely because of analytics; it was not solely because of Kevin Cash. It is because they refuse to spend money at the rate of their competition.
The Dodgers are truly MLB’s model franchise. Their commitment to analytics and a payroll of All-Stars won them a championship. Tigers owner Chris Ilitch is a multi-billionaire. With the Tigers’ commitment to analytics, they are taking the right steps toward success. Since they started their rebuild in earnest in 2017, they have consistently avoided spending money and produced subpar results. This rewarded them with top prospects Casey Mize, Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson through the draft.
Unfortunately, these players won’t be enough to bring a championship to Detroit. As the Tigers emerge from the rebuild, it is time to spend and spend big. Through the Ilitch family, the Tigers have the power to establish themselves as leaders of the new school, marrying the analytical approach with a large payroll. Will they seize the opportunity? Or will greed hinder their opportunities in their franchise’s most important moments? Only time will tell.
by Travis Leonardi
It was no surprise to once again see the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. With an extensive number of homegrown All-Stars, a commitment to analytics and a top ranked farm system, they have dominated the regular season for nearly a decade. Although the Dodgers have failed to secure a title, their eighth consecutive division title and third NL pennant in four years somehow feels like just the beginning for Dodgers fans.
Although they held the best record in the American League at 40-20, the Tampa Bay Rays are a different story. Branded as a “small market” team in the AL East, constantly contending with the powerhouse franchises of the Yankees and Red Sox is a difficult feat. However, in the past 3 seasons the Rays’ commitment to analytics and player development is consistently paying off. Their surplus of prospects from their top ranked farm system and bullpen of flamethrowers won them 90 games in 2018, 96 games in 2019 and a .667 win percentage in the shortened 2020 season, second in baseball to the Dodgers.
Though the Tigers became known as an “old-school” franchise that did not rely heavily on advanced analytics, the Tigers have made great strides in modernizing the organization since Al Avila took over GM duties. The franchise has installed Statcast at all their developmental facilities, created their own analytical database CAESAR, and plucked hires from the Driveline talent pool, to name a few. They now find themselves behind only the Rays as the second ranked farm system. Through consecutive top picks and an improved drafting strategy, the Tigers have quickly risen as one of the league’s most exciting groups of young talent. All signs point to following the model of the new-school franchises. As the Tigers emerge from the rebuild over the next few seasons, will this new model resemble the Dodgers, the Rays, or somewhere in-between? Can the Tigers find sustained success?Continue reading
Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to that feeling.
— Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
As we speak, the Detroit Tigers — yes, those Detroit Tigers — are in contention for the eighth and final American League wild card spot. Yes, we know what you’re saying. The Tigers don’t have a chance. It’s just a pipe dream. The odds are against them. There are too many better teams ahead of them. They’ll never make it in so why bother.
These are all justifiable positions one could take on the current state of the Detroit Tigers’ postseason hopes. Detroit Tigers fans are used to having their hopes and dreams stomped on and spit upon by the Detroit Tigers.
The sharp sting of our postseason disappointments are still fresh and painful. The fanbase is reluctant to be hopeful in a season, a year, where Murphy’s Law reins supreme. The Tigers don’t have a chance so why should I get my hopes up? Why are you enjoying this? They’ll just blow it in the end. Don’t you remember 2006-2011-2012-2013-2014-2016, etc.
Why get our hopes up? Well, why not.
Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal are headlining the youth movement in the Tigers’ rotation. Isaac Paredes, Willi Castro, Daz Cameron, and other prized position prospects are emerging from the haze of the alternate training site. The bullpen is finally — FINALLY — somewhat competent! For the first time in four years the Tigers are dancing around the edges of the wild card hunt! The Tigers’ farm system is among the top ranked systems in baseball after years of being maligned for the lack of depth. And there are even more exciting prospects on the verge.
Why shouldn’t we enjoy the ride? Who knows when the next playoff race will find its way back to Detroit? The Tigers went nearly twenty years between postseason appearances not so long ago. Are we all so jaded that a close wild card race isn’t enough to shake us from our perpetually negative, fatalistic mindset?
It’s okay to embrace things that are fun, and have hope that good things will come. Wild card races, regardless of the likely result, are fun and good. Let yourself enjoy it. Sometimes the ending point isn’t what truly matters, it’s the journey taken, the memories made along the way, and the promise of a better future just on the horizon.
You’ve probably heard the news by now and if you haven’t, well, you’re hearing it now! Due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, MLB has suspended spring training and will push back the start of the regular season by at least two weeks.
BREAKING: Major League Baseball has officially suspended spring-training games and will delay the start of the regular season by at least two weeks.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 12, 2020
Get those DVRs and MLB.tv accounts fired up. We could be looking at a lengthy hiatus. In the meantime, follow us at @glasshalffulmer for the usual inanity.
Take care, everyone.
On Tuesday, USA Today released their annual win predictions for the 2020 Major League Baseball season, and somewhat predictably, the Tigers were projected to be the worst team in baseball with a 54-108 record. After losing 114 games in 2019, largely thanks to one of the worst offenses in the history of baseball, the idea that Detroit will be awful is a pretty safe take.
However, historically bad teams are hard to actually build. Last year was largely the result of a perfect storm of horrible: regression by Miguel Cabrera, Josh Harrison, and Jeimer Candelario; injury issues on the part of Jordy Mercer, JaCoby Jones, Tyson Ross, Matt Moore, and Michael Fulmer; and historically bad performances by rookies like Grayson Greiner and Christin Stewart.
Two good things happened to the Tigers at the major league level last year, and their names were Matthew Boyd and Niko Goodrum.
More after this!
It’s that time of year again, the offseason, a time where we all go crazy and get mad at the Tigers for not doing what we all think is the best move, particularly pertaining to the Rule 5 draft. Happens every year, we see former top prospects that pop up as eligible and we immediately clamor for them with partial belief that while they’ve lost some sheen, the majority of what made them top prospects remain. Riley Ferrell did it to me last year and the Tigers took Reed Garrett. I was a giant fan of Ferrell out of college. Big, tall righty with a high 90’s fastball and plus hammer. Turns out, Riley and the strikezone were mortal enemies and that trend continued with the Marlins as their R5 pick until they returned him back to Houston.
Point being, corndogs. Corndogs before, corndogs now, corndogs forever.
I won’t sugarcoat it. Baseball wasn’t much fun for the Tigers or their fans in 2019. This season featured one of Detroit’s worst teams in the history of the franchise, and easily the worst team since the dreaded 2003 season. It was ugly, frustrating and seemed at times the end was nowhere in sight. Thankfully, it’s finally over. Fans can enjoy the postseason with no additional stress. Finishing with the worst record in baseball at 47-114, the Tigers secured the #1 overall pick for the second time in three years and are poised to significantly upgrade an already rising farm system. Competitive baseball is likely a few years away, but that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom. Let’s dive into what the Tigers can look forward to in 2020 and beyond.
At some point, someone here at Glass Half Fulmer will pen an elegy for the 2019 season. I’m pretty sure readers can predict the major beats of that story: the farm got better, the major league club was abysmal, the future will probably be better. You’re going to read that piece in varying degrees a lot this offseason.
I’m not here to write that piece. I’m here to focus on something that Tigers fans seem to know but also tend to overlook in favor of focusing on the farm system and player development.
It’s time for Chris Ililch to spend money. Continue reading