Watching Rick Porcello shut down the Astros on Wednesday night, and feeling like Rick may finally have found his groove this season, I had to dig into some of his numbers and see what I could find.
Right off the top, you see his name at the top of the stat charts for AL starting pitchers, second behind only Mark Buehrle in wins with a 5- 1 mark, and right up there behind Max Scherzer with a 1.00 WHIP. He also has the league’s second lowest BB rate.
When I wrote Kid Rick’s profile before this season, being a master of the obvious, I listed his key to success as being able to get left handed hitters out. After all, Porcello had the fourth best wOBA against right handed hitters in 2013, but lefties hit nearly .300 against him. Well sure enough, lefties were only hitting .242 .266 .393 against Porcello. Quite an improvement. If that trend continues, he may just make up for the loss of Doug Fister- then Smyly compensates for Porcello’s production, and there you go!
In other starter stats, Scherzer leads the league in ERA and strikeout rate, WHIP, and has stranded a whopping 91.6% of runners that he has put on base, and is whiffing 11.5 batters per nine innings.
In the bullpen, four current Tiger relievers- Chamberlain, Justin Miller, Evan Reed, and Drew Smyly have not allowed a home run this season. Ian Krol has not allowed a single walk, but his issues with the gofer ball continue, surrendering three long balls.
Al Alburquerque has also allowed a pair of home runs already, and if he walks his normal amount of batters- he led the league last year in BB/9, he’s in trouble. More peculiar about Al Al is that he has gone from throwing 64.7% sliders in 2013 to throwing even more- 74.5% in 2014.
Alburquerque allowed an average of just .158 against his slider last year, and that’s up to .289 this year. I’ve noted previously that over half of the runs that he gave up last season came in the four games where he allowed his five home runs for the season. Four of those five homers were hit on fastballs, which may explain his reluctance to throw the pitch. But if he’s going to be effective with the slider, he’ll have to throw the fastball more often. His K/9 rate is back up to 12.00 over the past 30 days, while his BB rate is down to just 3 per nine innings. less than half of last year's rate.
Chamberlain has settled down nicely after rough outings his first two times out as a Tiger. Over the past 30 days, Joba has an ERA of 2.61 and a FIP of 1.25. He has not allowed an earned run in eleven of his last twelve appearances and is striking out a team high 12.19 per nine innings. The Tigers have found their set up guy.
At the plate, we see that Nick Castellanos has come out swinging. In fact, he leads the league in swing percentage at 60.7%. He also leads the league in swings on pitches in the zone, having a go at almost 10% more pitches than the next highest batter. Castellanos makes contact just 70% of the time, which is the lowest contact rate on the team and in the bottom ten percent of the league, among qualified hitters.
When he puts the ball in play, Castellanos also leads the league in line drive percentage, with an impressive 33.2%. That should result in more hits, since line drives result in his much more often than ground balls or fly balls, but he has a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of just .257. That’s puzzling. Something has to give there. Nick also has yet to hit a fly ball in the infield, or lay down a bunt. I’m sure he’ll get around to that.
With Miguel Cabrera getting off to a slow start, there are no Tigers among the top 20 hitters in the league in WAR. Miggy is the highest Tiger at no 21 and he’s climbing. Over the past two weeks, Cabrera is hitting .375 .400 .542. Not MVP numbers, but very productive, for any hitter.
Rajai Davis has a BABIP of .403. Not even Phil Coke has a BABIP that high. Rain drops hardly fall in at a higher rate! He is also batting .349 .406 .413 against right handed pitchers. Expect some regression there, but he’s filling in nicely for Andy Dirks at least so far.
The Tigers have four of the top ten hitters in the league who are qualified for the batting title: Davis, Hunter, Victor Martinez, and Ian Kinsler. But with two hits on Wednesday, it is Don Kelly who leads the team in hitting with a .330 average.
Alex Avila has been a walking wonder, with 15.8% of his plate appearances resulting in BB's, plus has a .382 BABIP. He’s hitting .238, with a .360 on base percentage. That's quite a spread. Torii Hunter leads the team in slugging and wOBA, but draws a walk in less than 3% of his trips to the plate. Not usual for a number two hitter. Torii also shows a negative 7.0 defensive rating. That’s real number two stuff this early in the season.
In the field, Andrew Romine has the highest defensive value, with a plus 3.0. Alex Avila with plus 2.4 and Castellanos with plus 1.4 also shine bright. Small sample warnings apply to all defensive metrics, of course.
We’ve covered the Tigers’ league rankings in several categories, but suffice it to say that the team leads the league in batting average at .288, which is 23 points ahead of the next best team. They now also have the league’s best on base percentage and slugging percentage, and of course the best OPS.
The Tigers also lead the league in- wait for it- stolen bases per game. The team leads the league in runs scoring percentage, with 36% of all runners coming around to score. They were league average in that department last season. Overall, the Tigers have the second highest scoring average at just over five runs per game, trailing only the Chicago White Sox.
On the mound, the Tigers are second in the league in team ERA, lead the league in starters’ ERA by a country mile, and they have the best winning percentage in the major leagues, being on pace to win 112 games, more than any season in team history. It's early, but it's fun!