Dr. Jazayerli dissects the early makings of the game's best team--your 2006 Detroit Tigers.
Which is what makes the delirious success of the 2006 Detroit Tigers so fascinating. Winning teams are not put together overnight. Even teams that suddenly rise up from years of mediocrity to create a dynasty had a foundation of mediocrity to build upon. The New England Patriots were not a good team before they won three Super Bowls in four years, but they weren't a bad team either--they had gone 43-37 over the previous five seasons.
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Jason Giambi and Ken Griffey Jr. won the Comeback Player of the Year Award in their leagues as voted by the fans. Is there a more objective way of handing out the award?
This bounceback comes in three steps: the first peak, the valley and the second peak. In order for a player to qualify for our 2005 Objective Rebound Award (or ORA, because we love acronyms and we're hoping that the winner has that special something about him), the second peak should come in 2005. For the initial run, we're only going to consider players whose first peak came in 2003 and valley came in 2004. Later, we'll open it up to look at larger windows, up to five years from peak to peak. Although the subjective Comeback Awards are given out by league, we'll make no such distinction here, to avoid having to split playing time across leagues.
Overall, the level of the rebound is measured by the distance dropped plus the distance gained back, or (Peak 1 VORP - Valley VORP) + (Peak 2 VORP - Valley VORP). Although this method would leave us open to having some rebounds that appeared large because of one large peak on either end, there are so many seasons in question that the highest rebounds end up having large peaks on each end. Once we start to limit the sample sizes down to three consecutive years ending in 2005, you get some interesting "rebounds." Although we could place limits on these, it would take arbitrary cut-offs, and since it's an inexact science and simply a toy at this point, we can eliminate these by sight as they come up.
Will Carroll and Mike Carminati wonder if swinging and missing is that big of a deal, and their findings may surprise you.
Just as an out-of-the-blue bolt of plate discipline presaged Sosa's assent, his decline might have been predicted by his tendency to swing and miss that haunted him even in his stellar 1999 season. Sosa swung at and missed 475 pitches in his record-setting 1999 campaign. This is the highest total for any major-league batter over the last five seasons and isn't the "swing and a miss!" call of the announcer the cruelest fate in baseball? But what does it mean in the greater scheme?
Does having a tendency to swing and miss more than most impair a batter's productivity as we have been told since Little League? Do batters with better batting eyes tend to be more productive than the average batter? Is it better to be patient at the plate or go for the first pitch you can hit? Does this data tell us anything new and could that be used to help build a better team or find successful players?
Should you panic if your stud players have suffered through a terrible April? Erik Siegrist has the answer.
Is it true though? Is a slow start really just a statistical blip which will sort itself out over the next five months? It's never a bad idea to challenge conventional wisdom, and every self-respecting Baseball Prospectus writer needs only the feeblest of excuses to start playing around with numbers. So let's test the hypothesis that production comes in fits and spurts, not steadily over the course of the season, and see if there's anything that can be learned in the process.
Five players who could follow in the footsteps of 2004's biggest surprises.
As Bill James wrote 20 years ago--I'm obligated by contract to quote James in at least one-third of my articles--"A chart of numbers that would put an actuary to sleep can be made to dance if you put it on one side of a card and Bombo Rivera's picture on the other."
We recognize the tale that the numbers tell because while the specific numbers may be unique from player to player, the patterns tend to become recognizable. We look at Miguel Cabrera's two rows of numbers and hear in our minds the echoes of numbers we've seen before next to names like Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson. A stroll down Randy Johnson's lines conjures memories of other pitchers who found greatness after taming their wild heat, from Nolan Ryan to Sandy Koufax.
The Angels spent lots of money on their rotation this offseason, but was it worth it? Kerry Wood is having a fantastic spring, with improved control. The Tigers have spent the past few weeks upgrading their bullpen in a search for 65 wins. A number of Expos are taking trips to ''club med.'' The Giants have failed to upgrade their offense, while the Dodgers have made small strides. And the Blue Jays traded Jayson Werth, but perhaps for good reason.
But they spent so much money (Part II)... Last time, we looked how Arte Moreno's money isn't going to buy a whole lot of runs. Apparently, Moreno's money won't save a lot of runs either. The Angels spent $66.75 millio to sign Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar, who are projected to post EQERAs in the 4.00s and be worth just a few wins above replacement, apiece. The Halos' starting staff needs to beat PECOTA's projection if the club is to be playoff bound.
The Expos need to find a replacement for Tony Armas. The Giants' rotation may be in trouble. The Blue Jays should expect improvement from Josh Phelps and Eric Hinske. These and other news and notes in today's Prospectus Triple Play.
Call to Arm(a)s: One of the major questions at camp is whether the Expos' pitching staff can recapture the form and productivity it displayed in 2003. Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. was recently thought to be on the mend, and the Expos were optimistic that he'll begin the 2004 campaign in the rotation. But that was before word came in just before press time that Armas was suffering from tightness in his right deltoid, and is now back on le shelf. This after missing most of 2003 with a shoulder injury and sustaining a biceps injury early in camp.