Going into the 2012 season, it was clear the Detroit Tigers were going to have a bad defense. They have had bad defensive clubs for years prior but got around the defensive problems with a good offense.
In 2011 the Tigers had the fifth most errors in the American League, but also had a top four offense. With the addition of Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera — an already below average fielder — would have to move to third base. The Tigers had no consistent second basemen going into the season. And Jhonny Peralta, who can get balls hit to him but has no range at Shortstop. Then an outfield that had one good defensive player in it.
The Tigers tried to fix their problems at second with Omar Infante, but he has not been quite what they had hoped for. Fielder has been worse at first base than Cabrera was. Peralta has a hard time turning routine double play balls, and Cabrera hasn’t been bad at third, but he’s no Brooks Robinson. When you look in the outfield, it features one good defensive player.
Here is how many runs the Tigers defense has given up by each player:
Prince Fielder: eight errors, -0.9 UZR/150
Omar Infante: seven errors (with the Tigers, 15 overall), 11 UZR/150
Jhonny Peralta: five errors, 13.3 UZR/150
Miguel Cabrera: 13 errors, -12 UZR/150
Brennan Boesch: two errors, -19.1 UZR/150
Austin Jackson: one error, 3 UZR/150
Delmon Young: two errors, -30.3 UZR/150
Alex Avila: four errors
Andy Dirks: three errors, -13.5 UZR/150
These are just the stats for the players who see the most starting time, which does not include Ryan Raburn’s horrible defense. Young’s UZR/150 is a bit skewed due to spending a lot of time at DH this season. Infante and Peralta have both managed to save runs, but their inability to turn double plays have murdered Tigers’ pitching. The big men on the corners have been as expected, but are sometimes just brutal to watch their lack of defensive skill.
The Tigers defensive woes are not going away anytime soon. Peralta will most likely be re-signed due to a thin free agent market for middle infielders. Infante is signed another year, and Cabrera and Fielder will be on the corners again next year. Young will probably be gone with the return of Victor Martinez, so they lose his terrible glove in the outfield.
But there maybe some hope for the outfield. Jackson is as good as they come in center, but Avisail Garcia could see some a lot of starting time next year. Garcia has a cannon for an arm, and so far it looks like he as good range in the outfield with his surprising speed for a big man.
Nick Castellanos, the Tigers top rated prospect, is currently in transition to become an outfielder in the future because Cabrera is currently a big block at third. Castellanos was not a good third basemen in the minors, but who knows? He could turn out to be a good outfielder.
It’s been a long time since the Tigers could claim they had a good defense. If they could score runs on a consistent basis to make up for lack of defense then there would be no problems. But you’re not going to win any games when you’re giving up more runs than you score. Which makes having a bad defense a big problem that doesn’t look like it’s going to be fixed anytime soon.
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