DETROIT, MI: (L-R) CEO and general manager Dave Dombrowski of the Detroit Tigers, Prince Fielder, and owner Mike Ilitch pose during a press conference annnouncing the signing of Fielder at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Jorge Lemus/Getty Images)
Pitchers in the National League are really good. Some of the best in the world! Pitchers in the American League are even better, and now Prince Fielder gets to face them 144 times in one season.
One of my hobby horses over the last some years has been the American League's obvious superiority over the National League, which of course some National League fans would just like to wish away.
Sorry. That doesn't work. MGL:
Since 2005 (an arbitrary beginning point mind you), the AL has a .555 WP in IL games. That is a lot! That suggests an average AL team would be a 90 win team in the NL.
My research in the past (do a search in this blog and I think I wrote a piece a while back on THT or BP) indicated that the edge has mostly been in pitching and in fact the NL may have had equal or better hitting than the AL in the last few years. Keep in mind this has nothing to do with league rpg or ERA or the fact that the AL bats 9 real hitters and the NL only 8 (plus pinch hitters for the pitcher of course). When we say that the AL is a better pitching team that means that if you took a pitcher from the AL and put him the NL, his rank among pitchers and thus his value, like WAR, would go up. Same for batters.
Mickey then runs through some moderately complicated calculations, most of which I moderately understand. Anyway, the upshot is that in 2011, nearly all of the American League's big edge was due to better pitching: pitching, a little fielding, and a teeny tiny bit of better hitting.
Has the pitching equation changed this winter? Not really. I believe that only two truly notable starting pitchers have changed leagues: Hiroki Kuroda to the American, Mark Buehrle to the National. Well, the Athletics' housecleaning sent both Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill to the National League. But Edwin Jackson and/or Roy Oswalt seem likely to move from the National to the American. Overall, the equation's not likely to change much in 2012; if the American League was the better league because of better pitching last season, the American League will probably be the better league because of better pitching this season.
Which I bring up today because a) I grew up resenting the National League, always bullying my poor little American Leaguers in the All-Star Game; and 2) hey, we have another reason to think the Detroit Tigers aren't getting the Prince Fielder they think they're getting.
We know that baseball players typically peak between the ages of 26 and 28, and Fielder turns 28 this spring. We also know that heavy players, historically speaking, don't age well. At all.
We know that Comerica Park is tough on left-handed power hitters. How tough? Over the last three seasons, Comerica has been the fifth-toughest (for homers) in the American League. Granted, Fielder doesn't hit many cheap home runs and might be little affected by that spacious right-field territory. But I'll bet you Comerica costs him two or three taters per season.
And now we know that Prince Fielder will soon be facing tougher pitchers than he's used to. And with smaller benches in the American League, there are presumably a few more lefty relievers available to A.L. managers.
Prediction: Prince Fielder hits 32 home runs in 2012. Leaving a lot of fans in Detroit to wonder if 32 home runs are worth $23 million. Before the decline begins.