Remember a Tiger: Robert Fick

Welcome to Remember a Tiger — our series where we look back on Tiger players from the days of yesterfar. Today’s contribution comes from Andrew Boggs, and can also be found on his blog.

Who: Robert Fick (Catcher / Utility) – Detroit Tigers (1998-2002)

What To Remember: Robert Fick had a breakout season for the Tigers in 2001, when he hit 19 homers. He was named as the sole representative for the Tigers in the 2002 All-Star Game, and scored the tying run for the American League in the now infamous All-Star Tie-Game. Fick is most remembered for recording the last hit at Tiger Stadium in September of 1999, a home run that hit off of the roof of the famous right field short porch.

What Happened?: Fick signed with the Atlanta Braves following the 2002 season. In a National League playoff game, Fick admitted to purposely trying to slap the catching arm of Cubs First-Baseman Eric Karros as he ran past the base. The “Bush League” play infuriated Braves management, who fined and released him shortly after the playoffs. Fick tried catching on with Tampa Bay, San Diego, and Washington but to no avail. He last played professional baseball in 2007.

Where Is He Now?: Fick, a recovered alcoholic and admitted steroid user, has cleaned up his life and is now trying his hand at the Sports Agency business.

Which MLB Team’s Starters Have the Highest Combined Ace Composite Rating?

Over the All Star Break I evaluated all MLB starting pitchers with seven or more starts in terms of their Ace Composite Rating. With the help of some friends, I also took a look at how individual ACR numbers over the last few seasons compare with individual pitching WAR numbers in the same timeframe. It was a jolly good time.

After I looked at the Tigers’ starting pitching numbers a little more closely, I started to wonder how their starters measure up as a unit against starting rotations around the league. The curious fellow I am, I decided to find out.

Using data from FanGraphs I compiled the numbers that go into ACR for every pitcher who has started a game this season. That sounds like a crazy amount of data, but it’s not. I just found the starting pitching stats for each team. Voila.

I’m going to go ahead and assume we all know how ACR works at this point. If you’re still unclear on it, though, you can read about it here. I don’t have time to keep explaining this stuff over and over, you guys.

Anywhosits, this is how each team’s starting pitching staff stacks up in terms of Ace Composite Rating at this point in the season.

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So the Tigers are right in the middle of the pack, but if you look closely you’ll notice something interesting: there are only four American League rotations (Athletics, Mariners, Angels, Rays) with a better combined ACR than the Tigers. Now, some people have pointed out that National League ACR numbers are likely to be inflated due to the absence of the DH in the Senior Circuit. I’m not exactly sure how to adjust for that, quite honestly, but I’m definitely not convinced that the pitching in the NL is that much better than that of the AL.

With the Tiger pitching staff having the highest combined ACR of any team in the AL Central, they should be poised to win the division for the fourth consecutive season — especially if they continue to hold opposing teams to under one HR/9. Cleveland, who took three out of four games from Detroit this past weekend, has a combined ACR just below league average, so it won’t surprise me when they fizzle out in August, the same way they have for the last couple years.

The Tigers open up their series against the Diamondbacks tonight, and Arizona’s pitching staff has struggled all season long. They also give up lots of hits and lots of dingers, so it should be a fun series for the Tiger offense.

As always, go Tigers!

 

The Relay, Tigers Links – All-Star Game Edition

Here at Musings, we often find ourselves scouring the internet for any Tigers information we can get our eyes on. Sometimes we stumble across some pretty interesting things; The Relay is our chance to pass them along to you. Anything you may have missed this week in a single post.

We’ve reached the midway point of the season and the MLB’s annual All-Star Game. Etc. Etc.

Miguel Cabrera Says He’s Not 100%…
I suppose this would explain his, ‘down’ year.

…Then He Goes Out and Shows Wainwright Who’s Boss
You didn’t miss this. We know you didn’t, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth re-living.

Saginaw Tigers Fan Went to Every Game in Cleveland for 3 Years
A lesson in sticktoitiveness courtesy of mLive.

JD Martinez is the Steal of the Off-Season
Bless You Boys’ Kurt Mensching provides some deeper analysis into JD Mart’s awesomeness to date.

Midseason Grades
mLive’s Chris Iott offers up his midseason grades for the Tigers.

Last, but not least…

A Look Back at When Babe Ruth Nearly Became the Detroit Tigers Player-Manager
What, what, what? We at Musings had legitimately never heard this story, but hot damn. History shows that the Tigers were better for not getting him, but can you imagine the Babe in the Old English D? It was almost a reality.

#TBT — Oh, Mickey, You’re So Fine

It’s Thursday, so let’s do like we do when the other team hits a homer. THROW IT BACK.

To Mickey Tettleton, and his ridiculous (but effective) batting stance.

MICKEY TETTLETON

Tettleton is the proud owner of a career .241/.369/.449 slash line. He also hit 32 home runs three different times in his career, twice with Detroit, and drove in a career-high 122 RBI in 1992.

His batting stance was also often imitated by at least one young Tigers fan in Mid-Michigan.

Go Tigers!

How Does ACR Compare with Pitching WAR?

Yesterday I published a piece on a new pitching statistic I created called Ace Composite Rating. I won’t go into all the details about ACR again here; I will just trust that if you give a crap you’ve either a) already read it, or b) will click on this link to go check it out.

I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from people on this post on Twitter, Bless You Boys, and RotoBaller (where the article first appeared). So, for that, I want to say thanks! I appreciate all of you fine people who take the time to read my blog, and especially those of you who engage me in critical discussion when I write something based in statistical analysis. Good job, you.

One of my favorite baseball bloggers at Midnight Baseball weighed in on the ACR statistic with a bit of added analysis of his own.

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Since I really respect the work I see on Midnight Baseball, I was pretty stoked to get this feedback. But homeboy took it a step further. He decided to take my ACR data and see how it stacks up against pitching WAR  over the last few seasons by using some custom-built tables in FanGraphs. Here’s what he found:

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Pretty consistent! Which, to me, gives some validity to this new-fangled ACR statistic I came up with.

He also decided to take a look and see which pitchers have the highest ACR over the last several seasons, and this chart is the result:

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 11.15.36 AMGreat stuff! Actually, everything you’ll see on Midnight Baseball is great stuff. If you haven’t checked out that blog yet, make sure you do so sooner rather than later, and be sure to follow along with Midnight Baseball on Twitter. Maybe it will help you pass the time over the next few days while there is no baseball to watch on TV.

 

 

 

Ace Composite Rating: The Best Starting Pitchers of the First Half

Ace Composite Rating is back, and now it makes more sense than ever. You may have already seen a version of this post on RotoBaller, where it first appeared, but I’m posting it here as well with a little extra discussion of Tiger pitching at the end of the post. Enjoy.

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In recent weeks I’ve been dabbling with a new statistic that I created to evaluate starting pitchers. That statistic is called Ace Composite Rating (ACR). Up to this point, I’ve only used ACR to evaluate the starting pitchers for the Detroit Tigers. The calculations I arrived at using ACR numerically confirmed what I was seeing out of Tiger pitchers: that Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez had been their best pitchers, that Rick Porcello has pitched quite well, that Drew Smyly is fitting in nicely in the Detroit rotation, and that Justin Verlander is struggling mightily.

While the numbers I came up with using ACR passed the eye-test, they still lacked context. I needed to know the Ace Composite Rating for all starting pitchers in MLB before the statistic could really be useful to baseball fans or fantasy owners. Now that we’ve arrived at the All Star Break, it seems like a perfect time to find out how all those pitchers stack up thus far.

Using data from Baseball-Reference I pulled the numbers from the first half of the season on all starting pitchers with seven or more starts. The numbers included in the calculations for ACR are ERA, H/9, HR/9, BB/9, K/9, and IP/GS. I purposely avoided using any sabermetric numbers in the calculations for ACR because I wanted the final number to be accessible for average baseball fans and useful for fantasy baseball owners.

These are the top 25 starting pitchers in all of Major League Baseball through the first half of the season based on Ace Composite Rating.

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If you’re interested, you can see the how the rest of the starting pitchers in MLB stack up in terms of Ace Composite Rating right here. Be warned — this chart is enormous.

If you’re not interested in wading through the entire chart, let me break it down for you. It turns out that the league average ACR for all starting pitchers with seven or more starts comes out to -3.16. That means that there have been 90 “above average” starting pitchers in all of MLB thus far. Once the ACR reaches the break-even point of 0, we’re looking at about the best 33 starting pitchers in MLB, roughly the top 20%; meanwhile, the top 10% of starting pitchers all hold an ACR of 1.75 or better. And Clayton Kershaw is, well… on another planet.

To put it more simply, let’s say this:

  • A pitcher with an ACR below -6 is a bad pitcher.
  • A pitcher with an ACR below -3 is, well, not that great.
  • A pitcher with an ACR of -3 is an “average” pitcher.
  • A pitcher with an ACR of 0 is a very good pitcher.
  • A pitcher with an ACR of 1.75 or better is an elite pitcher.
  • A pitcher with an ACR of 3 or better is an indisputable “ace.”

As far as Tigers pitchers are concerned, you can see from the chart above that Max Scherzer has been the 23rd best pitcher in all of MLB in terms of ACR, which puts him in the top 13% of all starters. Here is a look at how all five men in the Tiger rotation have fared over the first half, along with their overall ACR ranks out of 173 qualifying pitchers.

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I was actually surprised to see Max was only 23rd best overall in terms of ACR — I would have thought he would rank higher on the list. Still, it’s not too shabby to be considered among the top 13% of pitchers in all of baseball. Additionally, if we take out Jose Fernandez, who is done for the season, and possibly Jesse Hahn, who has the smallest sample size of any pitcher in the top 25, Max moves up the chart a little bit. I don’t know. Call me crazy, but I’d take Max Scherzer on my team any day over guys like, say, Josh Beckett or Michael Wacha, even if ACR says they’re the better bet.

Anibal Sanchez nearly cracks the top 20% of all pitchers in MLB. Honestly, if not for his start on July 5 vs. Tampa Bay in which he allowed 7 earned runs, Anibal’s ACR would probably be above the break-even point. I’m fairly confident that Sanchez will find himself on the plus side of zero before the season is over.

My gut tells me that Rick Porcello has been better than average — and the fact that he was included in the All Star Game Final Vote seems to speak to that as well. But in terms of ACR, Porcello is barely better than league average. My (and most people’s) perception of Porcello was likely aided by his back-to-back complete game shutouts that came right before the final vote was conducted. His best performances were fresh in the minds of baseball fans, who had forgotten about the time he allowed 7 earned runs against Texas on May 24. Still, I think Rick Porcello belongs in the discussion, if not in terms of ACR, then certainly in terms of ACR+, which includes all the same numbers as ACR but also considers complete games and shutouts. But we’ll talk about that another time.

With an ACR of -5, Drew Smyly is a bit below the league average. But when you’re talking about a guy who is working his first season in the starting rotation, and who was thought of as the Tigers’ fifth starter when the season began, “a bit below league average” is more than acceptable. I’ll take it. In fact, Smyly has been the Tigers’ fourth best starter overall. What a pleasant surprise.

As for Justin Verlander… well, in terms of ACR, he is flirting with the border of bad pitcher territory. In fact, at 124 out of 173, he’s in the bottom 18% of all MLB starters through the first half of the season. If his last few starts are any indication, though, Justin could see those numbers improve as the second half gets underway. At the same time, Justin’s biggest issue over the last couple of seasons has been his inconsistency. Sure, he could go out there in his first start after the break and throw 8 shutout innings with 10 K. But he could also go out there in his very next start and get hammered for seven earned runs, like he did in back-to-back starts against the ChiSox and the Royals in June. It’s frustrating. But all that frustration tends to go away in a hurry when JV turns on the postseason magic.

*****

Eight of the nine starting pitchers on the American League roster for the All Star Game are in the top 25 of MLB in terms of ACR, the lone exception being Mark Buehrle. In the National League, there were several replacements due to injuries and due to selected pitchers having pitched recently. Still, of the eight starters who were voted in, seven were in the top 30 of MLB, with the lone exception being Madison Bumgarner. With all those great pitchers, this year’s All Star Game should be a fun one to watch.

Enjoy the game tonight, and enjoy endure the next several days with no baseball. And, as always, go Tigers!

The Relay, Tigers Links for the Week of 7/11

Here at Musings, we often find ourselves scouring the internet for any Tigers information we can get our eyes on. Sometimes we stumble across some pretty interesting things; The Relay is our chance to pass them along to you. Anything you may have missed this week in a single post.

Kevin Rand Discusses Andy Dirks’ Rehab Assignment
Tigers trainer Kevin Rand talked with CBS Local about Dirks’ rehab assignment at Single-A Lakeland, which began Tuesday. He went 1-for-3 and reached on a fielder’s choice in his first game back.

When Andy Dirks Returns, Would the Trade Of an Outfielder Be Afoot?
The Freep’s John Lowe doesn’t delve deep into the question, but looks at the logjam of outfielders that the Tigers will feature once Dirks returns from his aforementioned rehab assignment.

How Lou Whitaker’s Forgetfulness Landed Him in the Smithsonian
This article is a throwback, of sorts, but it’s great nonetheless: The Detroit Athletic Co’s 2011 tale of Sweet Lou’s forgotten All-Star Game uniform.

Lifelong Tigers Fan to Be Honored at the MLB All Star Game
As part of the MLB and People magazine’s All-Star Teachers celebration, Kalamazoo’s Mike Sinclair will be on hand and honored in Minnesota.

Tigers Do Bad Things to the Royals
Typically, we don’t bother with game highlights or whatever, but hot damn how’s about the BEATDOWN the Tigers put on the Royals last night? Let’s take a look at the videotape!

Last, but not least…

Our Family Was Handed an Anonymous Note at a Baseball Game Last Night—This Is What It Said
Despite the clickbait title, this is actually a really nice article about a Tigers fan who did a nice thing for some strangers.