January 12, 2003

So much for that

Typically, I write an article for Friday and then leave it as the "new" article through the weekend, until I post another article for Monday.

This weekend was no different, as I left the article from Friday up over the entire weekend.

Sometime around Saturday afternoon I was considering either writing a new article for the weekend or at least modifying Friday's article.

The reason for that was because I had written somewhat extensively on the reported 3-way trade between the Reds, Marlins and Expos.

Then, shortly after I posted my thoughts on the deal, the Marlins announced that they were no longer interested in Bartolo Colon and they then proceeded to make a trade for another starting pitcher, Mark Redman.

Friday's column wasn't a total loss though, because I did talk about several other subjects and also gave this disclaimer for the 3-way trade:

"Of course, it's possible that this 3-way deal may never get done."

Got that right.

I have read a few articles and discussions about the trade and it seems as though a lot of people are scratching their heads wondering why the Tigers would trade someone like Redman.

The thought being that they need pitching and Redman was pretty good last year and able to give them 200+ innings.

I agree that the Tigers need pitching (and hitting and fielding and...) and I basically agree that Redman was pretty good last year, but he wasn't anywhere close to as good as his "raw" numbers would indicate.

Comerica Park has been a pitcher's park for its entire existance and even more than an overall pitcher's park, it is a park that is death to right handed home run hitters.

According to Diamond-Mind's park factors, Comerica yielded 53% fewer homers to right handed hitters than the "average" park did in 2002.

That number is pretty huge. On the other end of the spectrum, Coors Field gave up 53% more homers to right handed hitters than the average park in 2002.

So, as much as we think of Coors as a haven for hitters, Comerica is the exact opposite, at least for righties (and switch-hitters batting against southpaws).

And guess what?

Mark Redman is a left handed pitcher, which means when he is on the mound, the opposition's lineup is going to feature primarily right handed hitters.

So, you have a pitcher facing a ton of righties in a home ballpark that takes an incredible amount of home run power away from righty hitters.

Add that up and that pitcher has a pretty good chance of pitching very well at home.

Redman's splits for 2002:

Ballpark             IP      ERA     SO     BB     HR

At Comerica 98 3.30 52 21 4
Anywhere else 105 5.07 57 30 11

Basically, everything about Redman is identical everywhere he pitches, except he gave up almost 3 times as many homers on the road as he did at home.

He struck out 4.8 per 9 innings at home and 4.9 per 9 on the road.

He walked 1.9 per 9 innings at home and 2.5 per 9 on the road.

And he served up 1 homer per 24.5 innings at home and 1 per 9.5 innings on the road.

Like I said, the increase in homers away from Comerica really shouldn't be a surprise because of the way Comerica affects the ability of right handed hitters to hit homers and the amount of right handed batters Redman faced throughout the year (about 76% of the batters he faced hit right handed in 2002).

All of this is a long way of me saying that the Tigers trading Mark Redman shouldn't be looked at as any sort of a surprising or major transaction.

Mark Redman is an average starting pitcher who was perfectly suited for pitching in Comerica Park.

However, the plan for 2003 is to move the left field fences in at Comerica, which will most likely take away a lot of that incredible effect on right handed power that the park had.

In a normal park, Mark Redman is basically a league average pitcher.

He doesn't strike anyone out, he has pretty good control and, outside of Comerica, he'll probably give up about a homer every 9 innings or so.

Redman was extremely durable last year, logging 203 innings in only 30 starts, but he does have a real history of being injured and up until 2002 he had pitched a total of 222 Major League innings.

Plus, he is already 29 years old, so this is about as good as it is going to get, barring some type of mind meld with Jamie Moyer.

The Tigers are a bad team that don't appear to be in any danger of becoming a good team anytime soon, so trading a 29 year old pitcher that will probably only be good for an ERA around 4.50 in a "normal" ballpark and may or may not be a good bet to be healthy enough to pitch 200 innings is just something a bad team that is trying to rebuild does.

The Tigers are no doubt hoping that one of the pitchers they got back from the Marlins can turn into a serviceable Major Leaguer by the time Detroit is ready to start thinking about contending again (assuming that time actually arrives at some point).

On a somewhat related note, I think the Tigers are making a gigantic mistake by moving the fences in.

I am of the belief that anytime you have a "unique" home field, you should take as much advantage of it as humanly possible.

In some cases that is easier said than done.

For instance, the best way to utilize Coors Field is far from being found, although I truly believe that a "best way" does exist and I even have a few ideas of my own on the subject.

On the other hand, for a park such as Comerica, the differences in the ballpark are very clear and the way to take advantage of it is fairly simple.

Assuming the fences were left in the same position, there are two main things the Tigers should do to take advantage of their ballpark:

1) Focus on left handed pitching.

2) Focus on left handed hitting.

Like I said, very simple.

You play 81 games per season in a park that is death to right handed hitters, so you want to make it so that your pitchers face as many of them as possible.

The best way to do that is to stock up on left handed pitching, both starters and relievers.

And, of course, the exact opposite is true for your offense.

You want to get as many at bats as possible from left handed hitters, particularly left handed hitters with power.

Obviously no lineup can succeed batting 9 straight lefties. However, as long as the hitter doesn't rely primarily on home run power, it doesn't matter if he is a righty or a lefty.

The 3-4-5 hitters should be lefties, or at least switch hitters. The leadoff guy and 7-8-9 hitters can be righties or lefties, it doesn't much matter unless they hit homers.

Those 2 relatively simple things could do a lot of good for the Tigers.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have decided to ditch an area of their organization that is currently a potential strong point and turn the ballpark into just another "average" park, with no advantage available to Detroit.

One of the reasons why my own hometown team, the Minnesota Twins, had a great deal of success in 2002 (and to a lesser extent 2001) is because their organizational approach to hitting took advantage of the Metrodome.

In 2002, The Dome was 21% below average in allowing homers to righties and 26% below average allowing homers to lefties.

At the same time, The Dome was a great place for doubles hitters, yielding 12% and 15% more doubles to righties and lefties respectively.

The general offensive philosophy of the Twins appears to be to produce hitters that have more of strength for doubles power than they do home run power.

Guys like Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Koskie, A.J. Pierzynski and even Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones.

They are not big sluggers, but they hit balls into gaps and use the Metrodome and its turf to their advantage.

At the same time, the Twins have quite a few pitchers that struggle giving up home runs.

However, their homerific tendencies become less of a disadvantage because The Dome decreased homers across the board last year.

To be honest, I am not sure if The Dome and its advantages were part of the overall plan for the Twins organization or if they just "lucked" into it.

I suspect it was at least a small part of the plan, primarily because the general consensus is to focus on speed and defense (and not power) when you are playing your home games on turf, as the Twins are.

There are a lot of different things in the world of baseball that can produce positive results for whichever team takes advantage of them.

For a team like the Tigers, they need to take advantage of pretty much anything and everything possible at this point.

As those fences move in, one big potential advantage disappears.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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