Tigers good at catching the ball

In 2008 Detroit’s pitching was awful, but it had some help in allowing runs to score. After being a stellar defensive team in 2006 and a pretty good one in 2007, the ‘08 Tigers were awful. The team ranked 26th in UZR (-39 runs) and 24th in defensive efficiency. An emphasis on run prevention was the theme this offseason. And it seems to be working in the early going.

Last year the Tigers had very little stability in terms of defense. Miguel Cabrera did awful at third and learned first base on the fly. Carlos Guillen struggled at first and re-learned third base while battling injuries. Edgar Renteria got really old. And the relatively stable (stable in the sense that they weren’t shifting positions) outfield of Ordonez/Granderson/Thames (et al in left) saw regression from their past defensive numbers.

In ‘09 there are fewer question marks, or at least less shuffling. Brandon Inge is back at third, Cabrera has a season under his belt at first, Adam Everett is supposed to stabilize short. The only real question is left field where Guillen is learning on the job.

As for the stats, they show the Tigers as very good. They are the top rated team in the AL in terms of defensive efficiency at .726 and they rank only behind the Dodgers in all of baseball.

Looking at UZR/150, the Tigers are currently 5th overall and 3rd behind the Mariners and Rangers in the American League at 5.1 runs.

Looking at +/- the team leads the AL with a +9 and trail the Dodgers for the MLB lead. Moving on to RZR the team is 3rd in the AL overall, 1st for outfielders and 4th for infielders.

The bulk of the improvement has come from 2 positions, and one of them isn’t shortstop where Adam Everett has been pretty bad in limited playing time (like awful).  Last year Detroit’s centerfielders ranked in the bottom half at –5.4 runs/150 games according to UZR as Granderson had a poor year defensively. So far this year he has corrected to his previous levels and is +2.1 runs.

The other big swing is at third base. With Inge manning the hot corner the team is +1.4 runs at third (5th overall) as opposed to the –14.0 they were last year (which ranked 28th).

Cabrera looks to be more comfortable at first and is +.7 this year whereas last year the team’s first basemen were –4.1.

Also showing a bump up this year is Polanco who according to UZR was essentially a slightly above average defender. This year the Tigers rank 2nd at 2nd (+1.8).

Of course sample size warnings should be heeded. Many stats are quite volatile a dozen games into the season, and many defensive stats are especially prone to this volatility. A bad week and many of these things will change. Still, the early results are encouraging, and I’m sure the pitching staff is appreciative also.


  1. Chris in Dallas

    April 20, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    As far as 3rd base goes, Inge already has at least 3 ‘Wow!’ plays under his belt. I see that trend continuing. Granderson’s poor ’08 was an anomaly – the ’09 version should be back to normal. SS will remain a cause for concern if Everett doesn’t get back to being Everett. I’m not going to talk about Guillen because then I’ll just start whining. He makes my eyes bleed out there.

  2. Pingback: Why I’m high on this Tigers team » Mack Avenue Tigers : A Detroit Tigers Blog

  3. Ryan P.

    April 20, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I can’t believe they gave yesterdays top web gem to Ryan Howard over Inge!

  4. Coleman

    April 20, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    @Ryan P: I guess they panicked when they couldn’t find any Mets/Yankees/Red Sox plays that would work…

  5. ouchudied

    April 20, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    In Howard’s defense, that first diving stop he made was pretty ridiculous, especially when you consider the size of the man that made the play.

  6. rings

    April 21, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Good to see both Grandy & Polly atop the rankings….they’ve both been better, from what I’ve seen – especially Curtis. Everett has been disappointing, but Ramon has been there more than him at this point in the season, and has been good.
    Inge has made several spectacular plays…if he can clean up the silly mistakes and be more consistent (3 Es already, two of which really hurt), it would be even better.

  7. David

    April 21, 2009 at 12:12 am

    Inge is leading Major League Baseball in web gems this year with 5. The Tigers as a team are in second in web gems in all of MLB with five!

    Right now, even with Cabby as hot as he has been, and the pitching as good as it has been, he is MOST DEF. our team MVP for the first two weeks. No question. Whether his bat will slow down or not, I hope the answer is not.

  8. Coleman

    April 21, 2009 at 1:51 am

    @David: after a series of preliminary calculations I’ve concluded that Inge has more web gems than any TEAM in MLB save one (which team, by the way, is more gemmy than Inge?). Since I seem to somehow be unable to catch the webgems segments is there somewhere an archive that lists the winners?

    I think a segment of bonehead plays would be useful…I suggest Web Germs as a title (Inge should have at least one of these also).

  9. David

    April 21, 2009 at 2:20 am

    Bonehead plays? where?

    It was on baseball tonight…Drays I believe were numero uno as a team, or maybe it was the Dodgers I forget, they were only showing it for a split second. Then went to basketball 🙁

    I keep looking for archives… I find them…then find out they are taken down. If anybody knows where they be, I’m trying to make a nasty youtube vid of the guy.

    Also MLB.com videos of highlights wont work for me??… (I have updated adobe flash) wtf

    The only ones that work are those in articles by Beck and co. or on the main site. When I click on a specific vid NOTTTTTTTT in an article, nothing happens…sucks big time as I was gunna make a sweet vid.

    Here is a vid
    if you catch this post today and scroll over in their top section you’ll see webgems for yesterday, Inge’s is # 2…Why his isn’t first again I don’t know. Well I take that back, I do. It is ESPN, there are known to employ plenty of fu*k ups. Thankfully Peter is not one of them, I enjoyed what Gammons says about Inge. “I love him. If he would have been allowed to play short stop he would have played there for 15 years.” Great minds think alike Peter or should I say Peehtahh.

    Here is one I posted myself of his web gem opening day – where he pulls a Willie Mays (or should I say Tris Speaker) in LF right in front of Guillen robbing Joshua “tha natural/Roy Hobbs” Hamilton.


    I was using my camera to view ESPN’s page before they took it down, quality isn’t the best, but I tried to have steady hands. 🙂

  10. billfer

    April 21, 2009 at 5:56 am

    ESPN is tracking web gems this year and assigning points. They’ll update the standings on the site every Monday. Here is yesterday’s report:

  11. Coach Jim

    April 21, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Thanks for the ESPN link. I found another Detroit link there; it’s an article by Orel Hershiser about Rick Porcello. For the most part it doesn’t say anything meaningful, but one gaffe caught my eye. Early in the article Orel says “…he had not pitched above Class A before this season …” But towards the end he says “…the defense will be much better than the one he had in Triple-A.”

    Hey, that triple-A defense has never made an error while Rick was pitching!!!

  12. Chris in Dallas

    April 21, 2009 at 10:46 am

    David: That was a pretty sick play Inge made to rob Hambone. Tom Greive (Rangers color commentator) wouldn’t shut up about how awesome it was for like 4 innings. As usual, I was in agreement with him.

  13. Ryan P.

    April 21, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Looks like ex-Tiger Andrew Miller is headed to the DL with an oblique injury after struggling in his first four games: http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/s.....ller-on-DL

  14. Chris in Dallas

    April 21, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Ryan: I saw a bit of Miller’s start yesterday against Las Piratas. He was a mess. It doesn’t look like he’s been able to find the strike zone yet, which was a problem with him as a Tiger. Hopefully he gets it together – he’s got a lot of talent.

    On BBTN last night, they displayed a graphic for the fastest pitches of the season thus far for the ‘That’s Nasty’ segment. Verlander was #1 with a 99.9 mph fastball to Adam Lind. I guess the velo is fine…

  15. Brian P

    April 21, 2009 at 11:53 am

    I saw that same segment too, Chris. Ryan Perry was also #4 on that list. Did you catch the radar gun explanation? I missed it — I assume they just said it was a uniform standard.

  16. Chris in Dallas

    April 21, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I was only half listening so I didn’t grasp the whole explanation. They basically said that the readings on TV are bullcorn, but we all knew that already anyway.

  17. David

    April 21, 2009 at 2:44 pm


  18. David

    April 21, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Yea Chris, that play on Hamilton’s fly ball was literally right in front of me. It was pretty sweet!

  19. Kyle J

    April 21, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Could improved fielding be a sign of bigger things to come?


  20. Mr. X

    April 21, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    The improvement is twofold.
    Improved defense makes the pitching better.
    Improved pitching makes the defense better.

  21. Pingback: Why I’m high on this Tigers team | Baseball Reflections