Detroit Tigers Will Increase Analytics in 2016
Baseball analytics is at an all-time high and drew more attention with Goose Gossage’s analytics rant. Basically every team has commented on their analytics department, with the Detroit Tigers commenting Tuesday. At his daily press briefing, Brad Ausmus voiced his opinions on analytics and numeric trends.
Brad Ausmus hinted at the increase with his exhibition opener lineup where he hit Justin Upton second in the order. Ausmus has not completely bought into the idea by batting Miguel Cabrera second, but you can read here how the Tigers’ order should be constructed.
In short, managers need to get the most at bats out of their best players and cannot construct their lineup just for the first inning. After the first, that lineup will only perfectly lay out 11% of the time. Each spot in the batting order loses about 0.11 plate appearances per game or 18 at bats per season. Brad Ausmus needs to use this reasoning while compiling his lineups to maximize his lineup efficiently and get his five best hitters those 18 at bats over the season. It could be the difference in games throughout the season to not leave Miguel Cabrera on deck in the 9th inning.
The Tigers can also take analytics into account defensively with shifts. The Tigers were a team that shifted in the outfield in 2015, but were not a team that implemented the infield shift as much as others. The Houston Astros take this to the extreme, but the Tigers could use the analytics to specifically place their infielders to take away hits.
The Tigers’ other weaknesses in 2015 were their base running and bullpen; analytics can help more with the bullpen than the base running.
Analytics does not care about attitudes, rookies, veterans, or roles. The best pitchers should pitch at the most important time of the games. Ausmus loves his roles, but you can only do that with elite pitchers all around. The Tigers don’t have that, and Ausmus will have to intelligently use his pitchers, even with their revamped bullpen.
Since Al Avila was named the general manager after the trade deadline, he has stated his desire to develop an analytics department and act on numbers.
This offseason, the Tigers acted on their analytics department by signing Jordan Zimmermann. Zimmermann’s peripherals were strong in the past, but have declined, mostly revolving around his fastball velocity and rotation: velocity is down, location is up. Although his fastball is not as strong, Zimmermann’s K/9, LOB%, and FIP are all still strong.
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The Tigers signings of Upton and Pelfrey do not fall into the analytics category. Upton was a need and money based signing in competition with Yoenis Cespedes. Pelfrey was a scout signing where the Tigers thought they saw something. Although they were not analytics signings, they should be put in the best analytics position to succeed by the Tigers in 2016.
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