Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tigers make big signing

The Tigers made big news on Tuesday, signing a huge big ticket free agent to a 9 year 214 million dollar deal. However, this post isn't about Prince. The Tigers also signed Warwick Saupold, an Australian Pitcher who was pitching for the Perth Heat in the Australian Baseball League. In 70 innings this season, he had an ERA of 1.41 and WHIP of .93. This projects to about a 3.53 ERA in the MLB according to our minor league and ABL metrics. However, the previous year for Saupold was much less pleasant. In the 2010-2011 season, he had an awful 5.52 ERA in 44 innings. Is this just a case of things evening out with larger sample sizes, or was there another explanation. Just on the surface, while he still got more groundballs than flyballs, he had less groundballs last season than this season. He gave up 5 homers last season, while he only gave up 2 this year. Strangely, he had a better strikeout in his bad season than his good season. This would suggest a bit of BABIP luck, but also the factoring of the difference in flyballs and homers. So which Saupold will the Tigers be getting? That is very hard to predict, but one would figure that the more recent season should hold more weight, and that his improved groundball and home run rate is probably not flukey. That is to say, there seems to be a genuine improvement from the previous year to this season. So it would make sense to call his 2011 season that projects to a 3.53 ERA his ceiling. However, we could create a "floor" for Saupold, using his average from his 2 seasons in the ABL. Overall, he has a 3.00 ERA in 114 innings, which is not quite a full season. This projects to an ERA over 5, meaning a below replacement pitcher. This is a wide range of projections, and keep in mind its a relatively small sample size. While I like his home run rate (.55 HR/9IP overall), his lack of strikeouts are concerning. His best hope is to make it as a groundball pitcher who pitches to contact. While there are some decent pitchers in the MLB, they are highly volatile (for the most part) and not in the elite category. Even though the ERA projection projects a ceiling of middle rotation, I would say the ceiling is likely back of rotation or long reliever. However, even if that happens and he has some success down the road, it would be a nice pickup for the Tigers, and may make some MLB franchises take the ABL more seriously.

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