Why the Tigers should win

DMZ · October 20, 2006 at 7:41 pm · Filed Under General baseball 

I know that I should have been more interested in the NLCS than I was, and Game Seven was great watching, but for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get myself interested in it, and ended up watching while thinking about what I was going to do about my house’s plumbing, which is a whole other topic.

Anyway, during the playoff posts and comment threads I repeatedly said that I figured whoever came out of the NL was likely to be cannon fodder to the AL, and I’ve kept at it, writing that either the Cardinals or Mets were going to be mowed down by the Tigers.

Why, in a short series, would I be so certain about that? That’s a good point – in seven games, the chances the better team wins aren’t all that great anyway. I was being cavalier about it. But here’s my thinking.

Pitching-wise, the Tigers have a series of really good matchups. I don’t know that given the layoff I’d have run my rotation out like this, but look at this

Game 1: RHP Reyes (Cards) v RHP Verlander (Tigers)
Game 2: RHP Weaver (Cards) v LHP Rogers (Tigers)
Game 3: RHP Carpenter (Cards) v LHP Robertson (Tigers)
Game 4: RHP Suppan (Cards) v RHP Bonderman (Tigers)

Detroit hit .766 v LHP and .782 against RHP, which isn’t a huge advantage, but the Cardinals have nobody to throw at them from that side. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are .731/.784 and they’re going to see two lefties in four games.

Anthony Reyes is homer-prone, gives up walks, but did get his share of Ks (7.6/9 IP), which may mean that playing him in Game 1 in Detroit could help him a lot.

So compare him to Verlander.
Reyes: 20% line drive percentage, 35% ground ball, 46% fly ball
Verlander: 23% line driver percentage, 42% ground ball, 35% fly ball

But Reyes’ HRs come from a 14% of HRs of line drives where Verlander’s only getting like 10%. But then Verlander doesn’t walk guys nearly as often… it’s not quite the mismatch it seems initially (5.06 ERA to 3.83!!) but Verlander’s had by far a better year. For a Game 1 it’s kind of disappointing this is the matchup.

Then RHP Weaver v LHP Rogers. Weaver’s had a decent offf-season, but he’s not the pitcher Rogers has been all year.

Finally in game three, we get a decent matchup with RHP Carpenter v LHP Robertson. Carpenter’s by far the better pitcher.

But then in 4 it’s Suppan v Bonderman. Please. If Suppan’s good, Bonderman’s better.

What’s more, for all the stat-to-stat matching we can do, the Tigers put up their numbers against a much stronger division and league than those Cardinals pitchers did, just as their hitters, while not statistically that much stronger than the Cardinals, did so in a much more competitive environment.

So I look at this and the only game I’d pick the Cardinals for is #3, while I’d almost call two and four for the Tigers already.

I’m feel like the Tigers are rightly the heavy favorites to take the series, and I think there’s a good chance they’re going to make it short and ugly for the Cardinals.

That said, I don’t understand what Leyland’s doing.

October 13th – Rogers started
October 14th – Bonderman started
… then they’ve had six days off. They could have put together any rotation they wanted.

So who do you logically want to pitch as many times in the series as possible? Bonderman, right? Followed by Verlander/Robertson/Rogers depending on matchups. BONDERMAN. BON-DER-MAN

Game 1: Bonderman
Game 2: Rogers, say
Game 3: Verlander
Game 4: Robertson
Game 5: Bonderman
Game 6: Rogers
Game 7: Verlander

And in that last game, maybe you throw Bonderman in along with the kitchen sink, but likely it won’t come to that.

Maybe Leyland’s thinking he wants the fly ballers to pitch at home. Regular season FB%:
Bonderman 32%
Rogers 32%
Robertson 33%
Verlander 35%

That’s not enough of a difference to justify this. I don’t have good park factors for New Busch, so I’m not sure if there’s a huge LHP/RHP difference, but even then, the current rotation has one RHP, one LHP at home and then on the road.

So I don’t understand what Leyland’s doing if this is indeed his rotation. But I’ve now digressed too far.

My argument is that the Tigers took a much rougher road this season and I don’t see even their on-paper-comperable offenses as equal, defensively it’s about a wash (watching the talking heads today, I don’t think the Tigers are getting nearly enough credit, btw), and the pitching matchups are way, way in the Tigers’ favor.


30 Responses to “Why the Tigers should win”

  1. Coach Owens on October 20th, 2006 7:56 pm

    I like Suppan, he had two outstanding games, plus he wasn’t bad all year so I doubt its a fluke. Also Bonderman struggled last game he pitched so I think Suppan has a good chance of beating them.

  2. DMZ on October 20th, 2006 8:07 pm

    So your argument is that Suppan, because he’s been good in a couple of post-season games, is more likely to perform well in his next game despite his season of general unimpressiveness, while Bonderman, who was by far the better pitcher all year, is going to perform worse than that because he didn’t have a good game last time?

    That’s a pretty weak argument.

  3. David J. Corcoran I on October 20th, 2006 8:09 pm

    The Tigers may “should” win, but the Tigers suck and the Cardinals have Spiezio. Therefore, the Cardinals win 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

  4. David J. Corcoran I on October 20th, 2006 8:23 pm

    why haven’t there been a response in the last 11 minutes? This blog sucsk.

  5. The Ancient Mariner on October 20th, 2006 8:29 pm

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks Leyland’s nuts to set up his rotation the way he has. (Of course, I’ve thought a number of things Leyland’s done this postseason have been nuts, and they’ve worked out well enough for him . . . but in-game tactics/lineups/etc. are one thing, setting up your staff to get your best pitchers the most innings is quite something else again.) I really, really hope this doesn’t hose the Tigers. It shouldn’t, but you never know.

  6. pablothegreat on October 20th, 2006 8:39 pm

    4: How come you went from nearly coherent to completely blitzed and unable to type in 14 minutes?

    in seven games, the chances the better team wins aren’t all that great anyway.

    Is this really true? From a strictly mathematical perspective, I can’t agree with it. I think you’re making a “small sample size” argument, but in the end, the better team ought to win most of the time.

  7. Mat on October 20th, 2006 8:49 pm

    With regards to Mr. Bonderman:

    I basically agree with you, Mr. Zumsteg. If everyone’s available, the Bomber-man is the ace of that staff. Really, it doesn’t make all that much sense to me that Leyland is putting Bonderman all the way down to fourth in the rotation. I have only one theory:

    At the very tail-end of July, the Tigers were rolling against the Twins, up 3-0 in the eighth inning. Not only was Bonderman shutting the Twins out, he was doing so in a dominant fashion. But then, all hell broke loose. Through a series of dinks and dunks (and the most obvious bases-loaded balk you’ll ever see in your life) Bonderman gave up six runs and got only two outs before he was pulled. It’s described in more detail here.

    It was the sort of thing that a stat-head guy might say was really fluky, but old-school guys might consider it a colossal meltdown that proves Bonderman doesn’t have the cajones (or whatever) to pitch in difficult spots. He had a rough August, at least by traditional stats, and even despite a pretty great September, Leyland has never seemed to trust Bonderman that much since the “meltdown” against the Twins.

    Anyway, that’s the only reason I can think of why Leyland might not trust Bonderman.

  8. spokane dude on October 20th, 2006 9:35 pm

    My real problem with the way the Tigers’ rotation is set up is that Robertson is set to pitch game 7. I can understand wanting Kenny Rogers to pitch in Detroit, so I’d pitch him in the second game and have him ready to pitch game 6 in Detroit, if needed. I’d have Bonderman in games 3 and 7 and Robertson in game 4.

  9. JI on October 20th, 2006 10:10 pm

    What is truly amazing is that if STL wins it all, the won’t be the worst team ever to win the Serious; that honor goes to the 87 Twins (who, BTW, beat a vastly superior Cardinal team– so I’m hoping for some karmic retribution).

    Realistically, I don’t expect STL to win more than 1 or 2 games, especially with Rolen and Edmonds banged up, and Encarnacion hitting behind Pujols. Maybe they’ll benefit form having Duncan DH 4 games.

    Don’t get me wrong, SuperFan in me, however, is going WOO!!! RED MENACE!!! CARDS IN 4 BABY!!! WOO!!!

  10. DMZ on October 20th, 2006 10:15 pm

    Is this really true? From a strictly mathematical perspective, I can’t agree with it. I think you’re making a “small sample size” argument, but in the end, the better team ought to win most of the time.

    I should have been clearer, that’s not what I meant at all. I agree that the better team should win most of the time. I meant only that you can take two teams and one can be a clear favorite but that still doesn’t mean they’re a sure-shot to win even a seven-game series.

  11. Mr. Egaas on October 20th, 2006 10:31 pm

    I don’t think Leyland realizes how awesome Bonderman is.

    You want him going twice, potentially, and not Robertson. That’s all there is to it.

  12. Steve Nelson on October 20th, 2006 10:33 pm

    Let’s assume the Tigers are a 95-win team, and the Cardinals are an 85-win team. Over the course of a season, that difference is one extra win for the Tigers out of every 16 games played.

    If the difference between the teams is only one game out of 16, a seven game series can easily go to either team.

  13. Jim Thomsen on October 20th, 2006 10:45 pm

    The thing about Suppan is that very few pitchers somehow become substantively better and stabilize at that higher level unless they become like Mike Scott and learn a new pitch, or something like that. A few years ago, Suppan wasn’t good enough to start for the Royals and got his ass kicked in the playoffs when he was a Boston rent-a-hurler.

    And a look at his stats this year looks for all the world like 2004 Ryan Franklin all the way down the line, from hits per ninngs to K/W ratio to flyball rate.

    Suppan is due to feel the pull of his own personal gravity any minute. Don’t swallow this particular brand of Kool-Aid, folks.

  14. Jim Thomsen on October 20th, 2006 10:46 pm

    I should have added that pitchers don’t become substantively better and stabilize at that level AT SUPPAN’S AGE.

  15. colm on October 20th, 2006 11:46 pm

    The difference would be one game out of 16 versus the field – a roster of religiously league average teams. (And your reasoning ignores the likely differences in quality between the 2006 AL and NL).

    Now that they are playing each other, it depends on game to game matchups. Going into every game, the Tigers may have a 60:40 or 55:45 chance to win. Even facing Carpenter, they’re probably no worse than 45:55.

    I’d need to go and look at some probability tables to work that out, but Detroit has the edge.

  16. colm on October 20th, 2006 11:48 pm

    By the way, given his roster construction and bullpen usage through the post season, I suspect that Jim Leyland is not doing a whole lot of thinking at all. The dude has been more than a tad lucky with this team. Whatever skills he has, they don’t include Sabremetric analysis.

  17. Mr. Egaas on October 21st, 2006 12:07 am

    Is Zumaya going to be able to pitch in the Series? Entirelly different team without him.

  18. joser on October 21st, 2006 12:24 am

    And these teams actually faced each other in interleague play in Detroit:

    Jun 23 Verlander vs Carpenter : Tigers win 10-6
    Jun 24 Rogers vs Supan : Tigers win 7-6
    Jun 25 Bonderman vs Ponson : Tigers win 4-1

    That June 24th game Zumaya got the win after a blown save by Isringhausen — who’s hurt, so at least the Cardinals won’t have to relive that particular nightmare.

    Of course, that’s just three games, so usual caveats apply; however, it’s worth noting that the Tigers also played the rest of the NL Central in interleague play, and went 15-3 (.833) whereas the Cardinals went 39-42 (.481) (and yet somehow won the division, barely).

    Or, here’s another way to look at it: the Tigers swept the A’s, who absolutely owned the M’s, who dominated the NL West, who produced a division leader and a wild card with better records than the Cardinals.

  19. LB on October 21st, 2006 3:20 am

    #13: A few years ago, Suppan wasn’t good enough to start for the Royals and got his ass kicked in the playoffs when he was a Boston rent-a-hurler.

    It’s worse than that. The 2003 Red Sox got Suppan in a trade that included Freddy Sanchez, who won the 2006 NL batting title. In 10 starts for Boston, Suppan put up an ERA+ of 85 and watched the 2003 postseason from the bench, as he did not make the roster.

  20. firova on October 21st, 2006 7:41 am

    9. Actually, the Twins won 85 games that year and the Cardinals only 83 this year. St. Louis won five more games than the Mariners–kind of frustrating. Of course, Pujols probably accounts for the five wins by himself.

  21. msb on October 21st, 2006 8:00 am

    FWIW, according to Verlander, he was told that he would have been held back for Game 3 had the Mets won, prob. following the lefties (and keeping Rogers out of NY)…

  22. zzyzx on October 21st, 2006 8:02 am

    So I’m sitting in a hotel room in Portland right now, waiting for my girlfriend to wake up so we can drive back home. I’m bored enough that I wrote a quick world series odds simulator at http://www.ihoz.com/world-series.html … type in the winning percentage that you think one team would have over another and it will run 100,000 world series with those odds.

    What’s surprising me here is that the odds of winning a series is greater than the odds of winning a game. I suppose that makes sense if you run the numbers – which I didn’t, but a .530 winning percentage over the other calculates into winning the series 56% of the time and a team that would win 60% of its games against the others would win 70% of all series…

  23. terry on October 21st, 2006 10:16 am

    #12: yes in a vacuum but, in that scenario,the Cards managed 85 wins while playing division rivals Pittsburgh, the Cubbies, Houstan (last two weeks of the season surge be damned, the Astros were NOT good),the Reds and oh ya and the Brewers. Detroit had a differrent road to conquest in their division…

  24. The Ancient Mariner on October 21st, 2006 11:01 am

    Re #17: Word out of Detroit is that Zumaya’s fine and ready to go.

  25. joser on October 21st, 2006 11:42 am

    I like this introduction in the Washington Post:

    Everybody thinks Detroit, a team few thought had a chance just three weeks ago when it blew the American League Central Division on the last day of the season, not only will win the World Series that starts today, but quickly sweep away the St. Louis Cardinals.

    The Tigers probably will. Their league is better, their pitching deeper and they have the home-field frostbite advantage. They won a dozen more games than the truly humble, and currently quite injured Cardinals. Besides, Detroit just snuffed the Yankees and Athletics like contract hit men straight out of an Elmore Leonard Motor City crime caper. Blow the safe, grab the swag, no witnesses, just that telltale Tiger smell of smoke left hanging in the air from all those 98-mph fastballs.

  26. Mat on October 21st, 2006 12:31 pm

    So I’m sitting in a hotel room in Portland right now, waiting for my girlfriend to wake up so we can drive back home. I’m bored enough that I wrote a quick world series odds simulator at http://www.ihoz.com/world-series.html … type in the winning percentage that you think one team would have over another and it will run 100,000 world series with those odds.

    What’s interesting to me is the process of trying to estimate the odds that one team would beat another. You’d have to think that a team’s season winning percentage would be an upper bound on their probability of winning a game against a playoff team–since you’d think they would beat bad teams more often than good teams, then their odds of beating a good team are worse than their average and their odds of beating a bad team are better than their average.

    If we assume that the Cardinals represent a team in the middle of the overall group of teams that the Tigers played, then plugging .586 into your calculator gives us about a 68% chance of the Tigers winning the series. Or, we could consider that a 32% chance of the Cards winning the series. Willie Bloomquist’s on-base percentage this year was 32%.

    So with those parameters, the Cardinals have roughly the same chances of winning the series as Willie Bloomquist has of getting on base in a given at-bat.

  27. Mat on October 21st, 2006 1:24 pm

    Or, we could consider that a 32% chance of the Cards winning the series.

    Huh. After I wrote this, I looked at Jim Baker’s list of the 10 biggest mismatchups (BP subscription req’d) in the history of the World Series. The underdog won 3 of the 10 matchups, which is (admittedly kind of weak) evidence supporting that a ~30% chance for the Cardinals is reasonable.

  28. zzyzx on October 21st, 2006 2:14 pm

    More interestingly, if .586 is an accurate percentage, they’d only have a 32% chance of winning without bringing it back to Detroit.

  29. zzyzx on October 21st, 2006 3:31 pm

    …or to put it another way, when you hear someone say that the Tigers are definitely going to sweep this or at least win this in 5, what they’re saying is that the Tigers would be expected to win better than 7 out of 10 games played against St. Louis; even a .700 team against their opponent only would sweep 53% of the time.

    In other words, if the Tigers and Cardinals were in a two team league, the Tigers would go 113-49. Keep that in mind when you read commentary.

  30. vj on October 24th, 2006 8:01 am

    in case you’re still wondering on the Tigers rotation set-up, Rogers and Robertson are lefties. The Cards have not done well against LHPs this year, as you point out. Thus, two starts each need to go to Rogers and Robertson. Also, Rogers pitches better at home, so that he needs to start games 2 and 6 to have both starts there. Having Robertson start game 3 makes him the game 7 starter, if it comes to that. That leaves the choice, whether Bondermann or Verlander ought to get two starts rather than one. Now, as regards the question why Verlander was chosen, I have no idea.

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