Monday, September 19, 2011

Catfight: 1987 Tigers vs. 2011 Tigers

So your Detroit Tigers are the AL Central Division champs. Feels nice, doesn’t it? And as every single article written about this fact has no doubt told you, this is the first divisional championship the team has won since 1987. But for poops and giggles, overall, how does this current crop of Tigers stand up to those Tigers that fought off the Blue Jays to win the AL East 24 years ago?

I did this last month using one day’s lineup with each team, but since we’ve clinched, I thought it would be interesting to compare the entire teams against each other this time around.
That, my friends (and commenters that say I’m the Anitchrist at mLive), is the subject of today’s Catfight.



CATCHER

2011: Alex Avila, .297/.388/.517, 19 HR, 77 RBI, 5.4 WAR
1987: Matt Nokes, .289/.345/.536, 32 HR, 87 RBI, 3.1 WAR

Advantage: Avila. As I said when comparing these two young catchers before, Nokes was a homer machine in ’87, but that was it. His defense was weak, he only had 16 extra base hits that weren’t out of the park, and quite frankly, everyone hit at least 20 homers in 1987. Even Wade Boggs hit 24 that year, despite never hitting double digits in any other season of his 18 year career, other than 1994 (11). Meanwhile, Alex has been a great well-rounded hitter this year, a solid force on defense, and an ironman when it comes to catchers in general.

FIRST BASE

2011: Miguel Cabrera, .331/.440/.557, 26 HR, 97 RBI, 6.2 WAR
1987: Darrell Evans, .257/.379/.501, 34 HR, 99 RBI, 4.9 WAR

Advantage: Big Mig trumps all. Evans is one of the most criminally underrated players in baseball history, but Cabrera is in another league when compared to most men. Miguel has answered his critics with a vengeance this year and should be among the leaders in the MVP voting once again.

SECOND BASE

2011: Ramon Santiago, .266/.318/.401, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 1.5 WAR
1987: Lou Whitaker, .265/.341/.427, 16 HR, 59 RBI, 3.3 WAR

Advantage: Well, Whitaker, duh. I find it odd that from 1982 on, ’87 was probably Whitaker’s worst season as a player when you consider the success of the other hitters on the team and in the league. But despite that, Lou’s an easy choice over the capable utility man Santiago, who has inherited the majority of the playing time at second down the stretch.

THIRD BASE

2011: Wilson Betemit (KC & Det), .281/.336/.432, 7 HR, 45 RBI, 1.1 WAR
1987: Tom Brookens, .241/.295/.376, 13 HR, 59 RBI, 0.1 WAR

Advantage: Push. Sorry, it’s too close to call for me to feel comfortable going one way or the other. Betemit’s a mess on defense. Brookens wasn’t much of a hitter (though even HE got double digit homers in the juiced ball year of ’87). Both are solid role players, though, and their contributions shouldn’t be discounted. If you’re an offense guy/gal, you’d like Wilson here. A defense fan? Brookens. I’m happy being a wuss and saying push.

SHORTSTOP

2011: Jhonny Peralta, .302/.350/.478, 19 HR, 81 RBI, 4.1 WAR
1987: Alan Trammell, .343/.402/.551, 28 HR, 105 RBI, 8.4 WAR

Advantage: Trammell, by far. And that goes to show you how amazing Tram was in ’87, because Jhonny’s been awesome for the Tigers this year. But Trammell was a man possessed. I hate George Bell to this day for somehow stealing the MVP from Tram. Jerk.

LEFT FIELD

2011: Delmon Young (Min & Det), .271/.304/.384, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 0.2 WAR
1987: Kirk Gibson, .277/.372/.489, 24 HR, 79 RBI, 4.3 WAR

Advantage: Gibson, easily. Delmon spent most of his season rotting in Minnesota and dealing with injuries, but excuses don’t matter here. Gibby was still in his prime and a year away from the NL MVP and his dramatic Dodger home run in the ’88 World Series. But even 2010 Delmon (DY’s best year), doesn’t match up to Gibson in 1987.

CENTER FIELD

2011: Austin Jackson, .248/.316/.379, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 2.3 WAR
1987: Chet Lemon, .277/.376/.481, 20 HR, 75 RBI, 3.9 WAR

Advantage: Chester wins this round. Austin has struggled at the plate in his sophomore season, despite being amazing on defense. But Chet was no slouch on D either, and he hit the crap out of the ball in ’87. With Austin’s power beginning to pick up, I’m hoping he develops into this generations’s Lemon and people will remember him the way I do Chet.

RIGHT FIELD

2011: Brennan Boesch, .283/.341/.458, 16 HR, 54 RBI, 1.5 WAR
1987: Pat Sheridan, .259/.327/.361, 14 HR, 50 RBI, 0.3 WAR

Advantage: I’m giving it to Boesch, here. Sure, he’s still learning on defense, he fell apart in the second half again, and he’s lost with his thumb owie, but he still put together a fine sophomore season when you add it all up. Sheridan was never a favorite of mine, but he did a solid job in ’87. But Boesch is the better player.

DESIGNATED HITTER

2011: Victor Martinez, .324/.375/.458, 11 HR, 94 RBI, 2.6 WAR
1987: Bill Madlock (LA & Det), .264/.337/.442, 17 HR, 57 RBI, 0.6 WAR

Advantage: Shop smart, shop V-Mart. Victor has been a hitting machine for the Tigers, offering lineup protection to Cabrera this year. And Mad Dog, as much as I loved him, just doesn’t measure up despite finishing his career with a bang coming over from the Dodgers during the ’87 campaign.

BENCH

2011: Magglio Ordonez, .252/.301/.328, 5 HR, 28 RBI, -1.9 WAR
Ryan Raburn, .250/.286/.424, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 0.8 WAR
Don Kelly, .235/.278/.352, 5 HR, 22 RBI, -0.2 WAR
Andy Dirks, .246/.295/.404, 7 HR, 25 RBI, -0.2 WAR
Brandon Inge, .203/.262/.291, 3 HR, 23 RBI, -0.5 WAR

1987: Mike Heath, .281/.339/.430, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 1.7 WAR
Larry Herndon, .324/.378/.520, 9 HR, 47 RBI, 1.7 WAR
Dave Bergman, .273/.379/.453, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 0.9 WAR
Johnny Grubb, .202/.290/.307, 2 HR, 13 RBI, -0.3 WAR
Jim Morrison, .205/.221/.333, 4 HR, 19 RBI, -0.3 WAR

Advantage: 1987. The way Jim Leyland loves to use his bench players, he would have fell in love with the ’87 Tigers. Heath, Herndon, and Bergman could have been everyday players on lots of teams. Meanwhile, Magglio and company just haven’t been very good for the Tigers this year.

And we’re done with the position players with the ’87 Tigers up by the slim score of 5-4 with 1 push. Let’s move on to the pitching staff.

ACE

2011: Justin Verlander, 24-5, 2.29 ERA, 244 IP, 244 K, 0.91 WHIP
1987: Jack Morris, 18-11, 3.38 ERA, 266 IP, 208 K, 1.20 WHIP

Advantage: Verlander. Of course, Verlander. JV is an MVP candidate and has the CY Young award wrapped up. Morris had an excellent year in ’87, but it would take a perfect season to top what Justin’s put together in ’11.

NUMBER TWO (snicker)

2011: Doug Fister (Sea & Det), 9-13, 2.98 ERA, 205.1 IP, 135 K, 1.10 WHIP
1987: Doyle Alexander (Atl & Det), 14-10, 3.01 ERA, 206 IP, 108 K, 1.12 WHIP

Advantage: Push. Yikes. It’s eerie how similar the Tigers’ two midseason acquisitions in each year are when you put their numbers next to each other. As Tigers, Fister is 6-1 with a 2.12 ERA while Alexander went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA. So Doyle was a bit better as a Tiger, but not enough to me to give him a total season’s edge over Fister, especially when The Dougie still has some work to do.

THIRD STARTER

2011: Max Scherzer, 14-9, 4.39 ERA, 184.1 IP, 162 K, 1.35 WHIP
1987: Walt Terrell, 17-10, 4.05 ERA, 244.2 IP, 143 K, 1.42 WHIP

Advantage: I really want to say push, but Terrell threw 10 complete games for Sparky’s crew in ’87, so I’m giving him a slight advantage. Yes, it was a different time, but not THAT different. Walt was an innings eater that always kept the Tigers in the game. Scherzer’s lights-out when he’s on, but sadly this year, he’s only been on about half the time.

REST OF ROTATION

2011: Rick Porcello, 14-9, 4.79 ERA, 169 IP, 96 K, 1.41 WHIP
Brad Penny, 10-10, 5.07 ERA, 172.1 IP, 71 K, 1.53 WHIP
Jacob Turner, 0-1, 7.45 ERA, 9.2 IP, 8 K, 1.35 WHIP

1987: Frank Tanana, 15-10, 3.91 ERA, 218.2 IP, 146 K, 1.24 WHIP
Dan Petry, 9-7, 5.61 ERA, 134.1 IP, 93 K, 1.66 WHIP
Jeff Robinson, 9-6, 5.37 ERA, 127.1 IP, 98 K, 1.46 WHIP

Advantage: ’87 again. Rick, like Scherzer, is good half the time. Penny is always an advanture. And whether I say Turner or early-season-starter Coke, none of them are going to stand up to the years Tanana, Petry, and Robinson had at the backs of the ’87 rotation.

CLOSER

2011: Jose Valverde, 2-4, 2.41 ERA, 46 SV, 67.1 IP, 62 K, 1.20 WHIP
1987: Eric King, 6-9, 4.89 ERA, 9 SV, 116 IP, 89 K, 1.47 WHIP

Advantage: Valverde. To be fair, the ’87 Tigers used several guys to close out games and King actually started 4 games for them. But he led the team in saves, so I’m putting him here. But no matter who you list as their closer, no one’s going to approach the perfect 46/46 save streak that Papa Grande has put together.

BULLPEN

2011: Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Daniel Schlereth, Al Alburquerque
1987: Mike Henneman, Willie Hernandez, Mark Thurmond, Nate Snell

Advantage: 2011, but I don’t feel great about it. The current crop of guys have better stats, which you can see I finally got sick of copying from the excellent baseball-reference.com. But these four from the ’87 squad weren’t one-inning guys like we see now. Apples and oranges? Maybe. But it’s my blog, so screw you. :) I like the current crop better.

7-7…can’t have a tie…

MANAGER

2011: Jim Leyland, 89-64 so far this year, 1580-1579 in career, 1 time World Series champ, 2 time Manager of the Year
1987: Sparky Anderson, 98-64, 2194-1834 in career, 3 time World Series champ, 2 time Manager of the Year

Advantage: Sorry, Jim…Sparky’s a God to me.

THE VERDICT

By this admittedly not scientific way of scoring things, I have the 1987 Tigers barely beating out the 2011 Tigers by a score of 8-7 with 2 pushes.

Both teams have relied on contributions from the entire roster. Both teams are going to be unforgettable to the fans of Detroit.

But hopefully this 2011 squad can do what their predecessors couldn’t do…get to and win the World Series.

4 comments:

H2OPoloPunk said...

Don't forget, Chet Lemon had to deal with that damn flag pole in the middle of center field. I agree with everything you said. Funny thing is, I totally forgot about Matt Nokes at the plate -- that's why the transatiion 

Oldenglishd said...

Cannot believe you have Betemit in a push with Brookens.  I cry foul.  Betemit has been here two days and is not a full time player.  I think Tom deserves a little more respect.

SRogo said...

Brookens only started 110 games at third in '87. So I wouldn't exactly give him "full time" player status. And it's not Betemit's fault he wasn't here all season. I think I was fair. Tom's OPS+ was a horrible 80 that year. Betemit's is 111, and 118 as a Tiger. I gave it a push because I admired Tom's D.

I know everyone worships Brookens for his years in Detroit, but it's not about popularity.

Oldenglishd said...

Only 110?  That's 68% of the starts at third.  More than a role player.  Actually, you kind of copped out using Betemit here, anyway.  He's had 32 starts at third in Detroit this season.  Inge has had 74.  You just didn't want to use Inge.  Ha.