Detroit Tigers 2015 Season Projections: Victor Martinez

Victor Martinez had a career year in 2014 and re-signed with the Tigers in the offseason. He loves it in Detroit, and the Tigers love having him, but most people agree that V-Mart is due for a regression in 2015. The question is, just how much will he regress? Age is a factor for the 36-year-old DH, but it seems for Martinez that with age comes maturity. V-Mart is one of the most disciplined hitters in the game, and approaches each at bat with razor-sharp focus. All the Tigers can hope is that those attributes are enough to counteract the forces of ol’ Father Time… or hope that V-Mart subscribes to the Hootie and the Blowfish Temporal Philosophy.

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The strange thing about Victor Martinez’s 2014 season is that outside of his power production, most of his other numbers weren’t totally out of the ordinary. He hit .335 in 2014, but he also hit .330 in 2011 and has gone over .300 eight times in his career. He walked nearly 11% of the time, but owns a career 9.5% mark, has gone over 11% before, and has gone over 10% three other times. He drove in 103 RBI, matching his 2011 total, but still only ranking as his fourth highest RBI output in the Majors. His BABIP matched his career average. So why was he so darn good? Well, when he hit the ball, he hit it freaking hard. And on top of that, he didn’t strike out a whole lot.

All of that is to say that most of Martinez’s marks should stay in line with his career output in 2015, even if his power numbers decline. Last season, V-Mart put up a respectable .230 ISO power rating that was well above his career .168 mark, and even towered over his previous high .210 ISO in 2004. His HR/FB ratio was a career-high 16%, aided by the fact that the average V-Mart fly ball in 2014 traveled 298 feet. As great a hitter as Martinez is, it seems unlikely that he’s getting any stronger as he moves into the later half of his thirties. Add in the fact that Martinez is dealing with another knee injury this Spring Training, and it looks like another 30+ HR year is pretty unlikely.

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What’s your take on V-Mart’s upcoming season? Let me know right down below.

 

Detroit Tigers 2015 Season Projections: Alex Avila

Alex Avila had a breakout year in 2011… and hasn’t done a whole hell of a lot since. The oft-concussed catcher has struggled to put the ball into play with authority over the last few seasons, but he does have a knack for getting on base and coming up with big hits in the clutch. Case in point: Avila hit five of his eleven dingers in the 7th inning or later last year and sported a .382 AVG in the 9th inning alone. Avila may fill a slightly different role for the Tigers in 2015, but how will that affect his offensive output?

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The biggest thing standing in the way of Avila and any sort of offensive success last season was his 33% K rate, which is just, I mean, come on. Avila has always been susceptible to swings and misses, and owns a career 26.4% rate, but last year was the worst of his career. Luckily for Avila, he managed a .322 BABIP. Without that we’d be looking at an average even lower than the pedestrian .218 mark he turned in in 2014.

The good news (?) is that Avila’s strikeout percentage can’t get much worse than it was last season, and bringing it back toward his career average should lead to a boost in hit production. Also in Avila’s favor is the fact that Brad Ausmus has expressed willingness to move Avila up in the order, slotting him into the number two position on occasion due to his high walk rate (13.3% last year, 12.8% career). Avila doesn’t have the speed of a typical fully grown human number two hitter, but his ability to find his way down to first via the walk is a bonus when you have the guys the Tigers do hitting behind him. At the same time, he may see better pitches to hit–that is, if you’re a person who believes in the idea of protection and not some soulless weirdo. Avila will be splitting time behind the dish this year with James McCann, and may even see some reps down at first base on occasion, so he should at least spend a little less time resting that rattled noggin of his.

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I think we can all agree we will never see the 2011 version of Avila again. I hope I’m wrong… but I’m probably not. What do you expect to see from the Tigers’ walking 5 o’clock shadow this season? Let me know in the comments below.

Detroit Tigers 2015 Season Projections: J.D. Martinez

The Tigers found a diamond in the rough last year in JD Martinez, who had been cast aside by Houston before finding a home in Detroit in Spring Training. Martinez tore through AAA pitching at the beginning of the 2014 season before being called up to the big club, and once he was aboard he never looked back. Martinez put together one of the more impressive seasons we’ve seen from a Tiger outfielder in a while, hitting to the tune of a .315/.358/.553 triple-slash line with 23 HR and 76 RBI. JD Martinez is a very good ballplayer, but he’s also a regression candidate in 2015. So what exactly will the Tigers get out of him this year?

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I’ll start by saying this: I think JD Martinez’s power numbers are for real. I think his 23 HR output last season was no fluke, and I see Martinez with the ability to hit 25-30 HR as an everyday outfielder in his first full season with the team. He had a .238 ISO power rating in 2014, which is damn near elite. It’s been well documented that Martinez changed a few things in his stance and swing last season, and those changes seem to have paid off. Martinez will be a huge factor in the heart of the Tigers’ order this season and (hopefully–I’m looking at you, Dave) for years to come.

Where Martinez will not match last year’s production is in the batting average category. Martinez’s average last year was largely inflated by a ridiculous .389 BABIP. Think about it: how else could a guy who strikes out 26.3% of the time hit .315 on the year? Those numbers are not sustainable. He’s going to have to get that K% way down in order to come close to collecting as many hits this season as he did last year.

Let’s not be discouraged here, though. Because even when Martinez’s average and OBP come back to Earth, what the Tigers will be left with is a solid-hitting corner outfielder with big power potential, which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick or another season with Torii Hunter.

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Am I giving Martinez too little credit? Too much? What are your predictions for JD in 2015? Holler at me below.

Detroit Tigers 2015 Season Projections: Nick Castellanos

Tigers fans waited quite a while to see top prospect Nick Castellanos break into the bigs; they finally got their wish at the end of the 2013 season, when he joined the team as a September call up and appeared in 11 games. Nicky-C made the Opening Day Roster in 2014 and put together a rather respectable rookie campaign: .259/.306/.394 triple-slash with 11 HR and 66 RBI. The Tigers have expected big things from Castellanos from day one, and his promising first year in the bigs appears to have set the stage for an even better sophomore season.

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Since we only have one year of MLB experience to draw from, it can be a bit difficult to accurately predict what we should expect from Castellanos this year. However, his MiLB numbers are promising. Let’s talk about his big-league stats first.

In 2014, Castellanos’ posted a .326 BABIP, which should have translated to better AVG and OBP numbers–except for the fact that he struck out 24.2% of the time, negating the high BABIP. Lots of people point to BABIP as a sign of luck, and it certainly can be indicative of an inordinate amount of bloop singles, but this doesn’t seem to be the case for Castellanos, who recorded a 28.5% line-drive rate last year, 7.5% higher than league average. In other words, when Castellanos does put the bat on the ball, he tends to hit it pretty well. His .130 ISO numbers were relatively mundane, but I expect to see those rise this year, along with the rest of his numbers.

While the aforementioned indicators have me feeling optimistic, the biggest reason I expect improvement from Castellanos is his MiLB production. I mentioned strikeout rate, which was pretty terrible last season. But at the AAA level, Castellanos only K’d 16.8% of the time. In other words, Castellanos has shown that he can put the bat on the ball more consistently than he did last year. With a full season under his belt and a better understanding of big-league pitching, we should see his K% drop at least a few points. That’s good news, considering the authority with which Castellanos often contacts the ball. In Toledo, Castellanos posted a .174 ISO rating, knocking 18 HR and 37 doubles in 134 games.

The Tigers don’t need Castellanos to deliver 25 HR or 100 RBI this season, although I think there are some scouts who believe he will eventually be capable of that type of output. For now, though, Castellanos needs to focus on doing what made him successful in the minors: hitting line drives for extra bases. I believe we’ll see him doing more of that this year, which is great news for the Tigers going forward.

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How optimistic are you about Castellanos this season? Let me know in the comments below. And as always: GO TIGERS!

 

 

Detroit Tigers 2015 Season Projections: Yoenis Cespedes

The Tigers traded away Rick Porcello after a breakout year in 2014 to land Yoenis Cespedes, a hard-hitting, dart-throwing, barrel-chested outfielder. Cespedes spent the first two years, and much of the third year of his career in Oakland before being dealt to the Red Sox for Jon Lester. (Man, the A’s really fucking went for it, didn’t they?). Over those three seasons, Cespedes has hit over 20 home runs each year while growing to become an above-average outfielder based on Defensive Runs Saved metrics. There are questions about his plate discipline and his presence in the clubhouse, but the Tigers seem to believe that Cespedes can help their team win with contributions on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

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When Cespedes broke onto the scene in 2012, he displayed jaw-dropping physical gifts and flashes of brilliance. It’s safe to say the physical gifts haven’t changed much: dude won the HR derby two years in a row. But don’t expect Cespedes to hit 30 home runs in a Tiger uniform in 2015. Actually, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t hit 25. Each of the last three seasons have shown a decrease in ISO power numbers for Cespedes: .214, .202, and .190 respectively. 2014 also saw about a 5% drop in his HR/FB ratio, down to 9.6% from 14.4% the previous year. On top of that, he strikes out nearly 21% of the time. So why are the Tigers so high on his ability?

Well, first of all, the Tigers like what Cespedes does with men on base, particularly with RISP. For his career, Cespedes holds a .303/.366/.501 triple-slash line with RISP, and those numbers tend to get better the closer those runners are to scoring. Check this out: with a runner on third base, Cespedes hits .395. Runners on second and third? He hits .500. Bases loaded? .435. Those numbers are significant because Cespedes will most likely hit 5th in the Detroit lineup behind Ian Kinsler, Rajai Davis, Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martinez. It’s pretty likely Cespedes will come to bat with men in scoring position fairly regularly, because even if Cabrera or Martinez drive some runs in, they’ll tend to do so with XBH.

Truly, though, I think the Tigers see Cespedes’ offense as a bonus. The Tigers really like what he has to offer on the defensive side of the ball. The Tigers’ outfield was a trash heap last season, and Cespedes drastically improves the corner-outfield situation now that the old curmudgeonly bigot Torii Hunter is back in Minnesota. Cespedes’ 8.4 UZR is a hell of a lot better than Hunter’s -18.3, and his arm is strong enough to make runners think twice about taking an extra base.

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Am I miscalculating this? Will Cespedes perform better or worse than I expect him to? Argue with me in the comments below. Go Tigers!

Detroit Tigers 2015 Season Projections: Ian Kinsler

Ian Kinsler’s first year in a Tiger uniform was, by all accounts, successful. In 2014, Detroit’s newly acquired second baseman had a career-high 684 AB, and he made the most of them, racking up 188 hits and 92 RBI, both of which were career-best marks. While it’s unlikely that Kinsler will top those numbers this year, we should expect to see similar production going forward.

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Kinsler’s ISO power numbers (.145) were in line with his typical career marks, the two most obvious exceptions being in 2009 and 2011 when he went off for 31 and 32 HR, respectively. Nobody expects Kinsler to achieve those power totals again, and the Tigers don’t particularly need him to.

What the Tigers do need is for Kinsler to get on base. Unfortunately, Kinsler posted a career-low .307 OBP last season, well off his .344 career mark. The fact that he also had a career-low 4% BB rate is a bit concerning, but that appears to be an anomaly: before last season, Kinsler had never posted a walk rate lower than 7.7%. For his career, Kinsler walks just under 9% of the time.

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Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 12.32.35 PMWhat do you think? Let me know your own predictions in the comments below. And, as always: Go Tigers!

 

Top Plays of the 2014 MLB Season: Number 2

Okay, okay. I know it’s been a long time. But we’ve been working on number two for a while, and it’s a good one. You might even say it’s the shit.

V-Mart’s Incredible Season

What can we say about Victor Martinez that hasn’t already been said? He is an unstoppable force, like Niagara Falls. He is hard-working and dependable, like your grandfather was before he had that hip surgery. He is hyper-competitive, like the admissions process for Chinese private schools. He is Hercules, The Rock, and The Incredible Hulk all rolled into one baseball-mashing human (?). He is the Machine that Florence was talking about. Nobody in baseball was an all-around better hitter than Victor Martinez in 2014. Click on this senior-portrait-inspired picture and check out some of these highlights, yo.

Nobody could have predicted that Victor Martinez would have the season he did last year. After missing all of 2012, Victor struggled to regain his form through the first half of 2013. Some people thought the Tigers should bench him. He went bananas after the All Star Break, but even though he finished that season on an absolute tear, there’s not an expert in the business who saw this coming.

V-Mart put together a tremendous .335/.409/.565 triple-slash line, belting 32 HR and driving in 103 RBI along the way. He also struck out only 42 times all season, a feat that is pretty impressive, even without taking into consideration the fact that just 8 of those strikeouts were of the caught-looking variety. There was actually a point in time where V-Mart had gone 579 consecutive plate appearances without striking out looking, spanning from May 2013 to May 2014. I don’t even play baseball, I’ve never gone a year without striking out looking. That’s some impressive shit.

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We have but one fantastic moment left to revisit from the 2014 season. There have been some pretty great plays and accomplishments on this list so far, but the next one is the grand-daddy of ‘em all, according to this made-up family tree I just created on a napkin I found under someone else’s chair at Rally’s.

Go Tigers!