The Tigers overall won a lot more games this year than any of us thought they would, and most people here at MCB either thought they would win the Central or come up a game or two short. So what does that suggest for next year? As a rule of thumb, if a guy massively outperformed expectations this year – you ratchet up those expectations for next year, but you shouldn’t expect him to do quite so well as he did this year. Next year’s production should fall somewhere in the middle. Miguel Cabrera, as an example, would not be expected to ‘regress’ next year since he simply met the high expectations we all had. Alex Avila, on the other hand, hit better than we could have dreamed – so the same would not be true.
Well, I guess I let the cat out of the bag there, our first candidate for regression is:
Going into the season Avila’s ZiPS projection was a slash line of .239/.320/.365 – which you should remember would still have been an improvement over his .656 OPS in 2010. He finished the regular season at .295/.389/.506, played most of the Tigers games behind the plate and led all AL catchers in WAR. Didn’t see that coming. Avila did wear down by October and had a .366 BABIP in 2011, so it would be very surprising if he could maintain that level of production next year. Avila is young and is mostly just starting to show the power/patience combination we were hoping for but he’ll need to hit closer to 30 bombs to compensate for the drop we’re likely to see in BA.
ZiPS projected .260/.317/.729 out of Peralta, he finished at .299/.345/.478. For Peralta this wasn’t so much unexpected development as unexpected return to form – all he did is match what he had shown in 2008. But, a bad 2009 and a bad 4 months in 2010 caused the Indians to cut bait and ship him to the Tigers. 2009 and 2010 also set a new baseline for what people expected out of Peralta, now it’s time to readjust. Peralta also proved that he was capable of playing short – something many people doubted – but his +10 UZR/150 is probably not something he’ll be able to match in 2012 and beyond. Peralta’s .324 BABIP was only 10 points higher than his career average, so while we might expect a slight ‘luck-based’ regression from Peralta what we should mainly be concerned about is his history of variance.
ZiPS forecast an ERA of 3.35 for Verlander in 2011, it turned out to be a mere 2.40. Not that I’m suggesting that Verlander isn’t as good as he looked in 2011. But… what we’ve been expecting from Verlander for several years is a 6-WAR number-one starter and that’s probably what we should be expecting from him next year as opposed to the 8.6-WAR (according to BR) world beater that we saw. He’s got the talent to make a repeat possible, still it’s something you hardly ever see. His workload over the regular and post-season in 2011 could also be a concern. Let’s just hope the dropoff doesn’t look like Zack Greinke – who dropped from 9 WAR in his Cy Young season of 2009 to 2.3 in 2010.
I’m not going to do any Fister bashing, it wouldn’t look right coming from me. All I’ll say is that after his arrival in Detroit Fister was better than Greg Maddux and however good he’s going to be next year I can safely predict an ERA of at least 2. Which would be a noticeable regression.
His peripherals don’t look like something unsustainable – if anything we might expect him to give fewer free passes next season and show a lower WHIP. His ERA of 2.24 was a lot lower than his 3.47 projection and a lot of that boils down to an unsustainably low .250 BABIP. Valverde, over his career, has shown good BABIP skills (yes, they do exist) like Mariano Rivera – so while we’ll probably see his BABIP go up a bit we’ll probably also see his K/BB go up a bit and his peripherals – overall – should balance out. That said, he’ll probably allow more of his baserunners to score and, especially, he’ll probably give up more clutch hits – causing him to blow at least one save. Expect a significant regression in WPA for Valverde, even if his other numbers don’t budge.
Now it’s hard to say what we ‘expected’ out of Alburquerque, but it was basically nothing. He was a raw prospect that came with a low enough cost to be worth a flyer. ZiPS projected a 4.85 ERA for him, but for a player with no major league track record that seems like a stab in the dark. And after all they only projected 7.38 K/9… whadda they know? In reality he gave us almost twice that many strikeouts and an ERA of 1.87. What’s more – during the regular season Alburquerque allowed zero extra base hits. Alburquerque was ‘on’ in Detroit all season long, then switched to ‘off’ in the playoffs. And ‘off’ for Al Al is a guy that is both hittable and wild (bad combination). Since what we got in 2011 was the best case scenario, things can only be worse vis a vis Alburquerque in 2012.