No-hitters, Raburn’s D & Other Statistical Errata


In the midst of all this euphoria over Verlander’s no-hitter and this season’s magic moment – don’t forget the batters! The Tigers scored 9 runs, took some pressure off JV and made sure the outcome was never in doubt. Oh, and don’t forget the gloves either. Why, do you ask? To save Verlander the ignominy of a no-hit loss, of course. They do happen – most recently to fellow Cy Young front-runner Jered Weaver et al. in 2008 who lost to the Dodgers 1-0 without allowing a hit, and didn’t get credit for the no-hitter since there was no need for the Dodgers to bat in the bottom of the ninth. This fate also befell Matt Young in 1992 and Andy Hawkins in 1990. It’s also possible to get credit for a no-hitter but still lose, though only at home. The last time that happened was April 30, 1967 – and the Tigers were the beneficiaries, defeating the Orioles 2-1 without ever needing a hit [thanks to 10 walks, 4 sacrifices, 2 hit batters, 2 errors, a wild pitch and a stolen base – and of course great Tigers pitching that allowed only 2 hits themselves].

What are the odds of Justin Verlander throwing a no-hitter? As near as I can tell, about 1774 to 1. His career batting average against (not to be confused with BABIP) is .242, so if we ignore all those extraneous things (like walks, errors, double-plays, etc…) that don’t much matter for no-hitters, each at-bat has a 75.8% chance of ending in an out and the likelihood that JV can do that 27 times in a row should be .758^27, or 0.0564%. Doesn’t seem so unlikely? Keep in mind that he’ll probably only make about 500 starts over his whole career. Thus far, Rick Porcello has a career batting average against of .280 – so the likelihood that he would throw a no-hitter is only 0.0141% or 1 in 7112. We’ll probably have to wait for JV to throw his fourth before we see one from Kid Rick.

We’re now far enough along in the season for to start giving us 2011 value stats like WAR that require the calculation of a replacement level baseline. A point of concern – based on the team dWAR stat (Wins Above Replacement solely based on defense) the Tigers defense is loads worse than last year’s. Last year we were about average (thus a little above replacement level) this year the Tigers are sitting at -1.1 dWAR as a team 20% of the way through the season. Inge is in the red. Austin Jackson is in the red. And who is the Tigers defensive hero? Our leading light? Ryan Raburn, with a +0.4 dWAR. If that doesn’t seem like a huge number, if he keeps it up and finishes with 2.0 dWAR that will put him among the elite outfielders in the league.  It seems a little laughable since Raburn’s outrageous gaffes in the field stick in the mind more than anything else, but he makes some spectacular plays in the outfield as well. Balls I didn’t think he could get to, or plays I can’t believe he even almost made. Maybe that’s enough to balance out the gaffes (which Inge has been known to make too), or maybe baseball-reference .com just doesn’t know quite how to handle a guy that plays a little left and a little second.

Austin Jackson’s bat is heating up! Before yesterday’s game I noticed that his BABIP for the week before was .500, and yesterday he collected 3 hits in 5 at bats (without striking out!). Today he was 3 for 5 with a dinger and, once again, no strikeouts. I keep mentioning the strikeouts because while putting up a .500 BABIP in the week to May 7 Austin Jackson couldn’t even match his 2010 production – he had 9 strikeouts but only 10 balls in play!