I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know how Carlos Guillen moving to second base will work. And even if I think I knew, I’m the guy who thought Scott Sizemore would outhit Austin Jackson and that Max Scherzer would be the biggest contributor from the big trade so being wrong is nothing new here. However I like the move and I like what the Tigers are trying to do.
Impact on Defense
It is interesting that the Tigers went with an offensive first approach in 2008, saw it fail miserably, and then went with a big defensive emphasis the following year. The 2010 season saw a little balance and something in between.
The results in 2010 have certainly been mixed. The Tigers error total is shockingly bad. The errors themselves have certainly been shockingly bad with dropped fly balls at in opportune moments. It feels as if if the Tigers have had more than their share of high WPA errors.
Pitchers like Rick Porcello have seen very high BABIPs and the team also ranks 22nd in MLB in terms of defensive efficiency. John Dewan’s +/- system has the team at +5 runs which ranks the team 20th in MLB. With UZR things are better and the team ranks 10th overall.
With mixed reports such as these I’d put the data together and say the team is a little below average with the glove. So why make a move that introduces a defensively challenged player into a prominent defensive role? Because Scott Sizemore was struggling in that regard as well.
Sizemore’s strength was never his glove, but the Tigers second base defense is one of the reasons for the overall struggles. The Tigers rank in the bottom third in both +/- and UZR at the position (not just Sizemore, the position as a whole). Interestingly enough the Tigers rank tenth in revised zone rating, so the second baseman have done a good job with balls hit to them. They just haven’t had the range to extend the position with only 1 play made outside of the zone.
That’s a long explanation to say that the Tigers are only weakened defensively if Guillen proves to be awful at the position.
Guillen is a pretty good player when healthy. When healthy though has been a fleeting state for Guillen. Second base won’t make it easier for Guillen to stay healthy, but at this point I don’t know that it matters. The Tigers made him the primary DH and he still got hurt. Guillen will likely get injured again at some point this season but I doubt that second base would be the culprit.
Instead of trying to keep him healthy, the Tigers should try to get the most value from him when he is healthy.
Prudent Roster Management
Here’s the part that I like the most. The Tigers are really extending their 25 man roster by actively making it a 28-30 man roster. The doubleheader was a nuisance but it set a lot of things in motion. Even with the shuffle not playing out like I speculated the team is still doing a good job of trying to get the right mix for the situation.
The Tigers haven’t been particularly mindful of service time or option status under Dombrowski, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. The Tigers will use the players that they think will give the team the best chance to win rather than trying to milk out an extra year of club control.
Long term this has implications of course, but I don’t think trying to win now is a bad strategy.