YOU SAID IT
With the loss out of the way and no Sale to face, the stage is set for Detroit (9-7) to be Detroit (12-7).
To take our mind off the offense, let’s have a word on defense. And it will be words. I wish I had numbers, but I don’t yet have a handle on a good statistical presentation on defense. It will have to be anecdotal and observational.
Observationally, I would judge the Tigers’ defense to be average. There’s really no scathing criticism to be leveled at any one defender. The worst I could say: Alex Gonzalez was surprisingly unreliable. Victor Martinez wasn’t ready to catch out West. Nick Castellanos is a bit clunky over there at 3B sometimes. Austin Jackson has lost his above-average rating (admit it). The occasional flash from Rajai Davis, well… you get the impression that his defense is a lot like his hitting, if you catch my drift. On the other hand, Ian Kinsler has been brilliant, and the same can be said for our erstwhile MVP at 1B. Andrew Romine has been mostly impressive (work on tags, please). The oft-criticzed Alex Avila is underappreciated for a lot of defense that flies under the radar. In all, I can’t think of single guy who’s played the field and hasn’t done something notably good defensively. Even forgotten man Torii Hunter, who seems to be fielding more hits in RF than putout chances, has shown that he still has the arm. No one is awful, or even often awful.
But the notion of average is countered by the team DefEff (Defensive Efficiency) score, a stat I think I can get my head around. As I understand it, you turn balls in play into outs at a goodly rate, you get a good score. You don’t, you don’t. Simple. The Detroit Tigers don’t get a good score. Worst in the AL, last I checked. Why?
Can’t think of any major clown shows through 16. All those little things add up, I guess. The double play that almost gets turned, etc. etc. etc.. Not all of it will figure into DefEff, I suppose, like the throw to the wrong base, the missed cutoff, and suchlike. After only 16 games, “luck” could still be a factor, as well. But the Tigers aren’t playing a bunch of rangeless stiffs out there, are they? I’m wondering about positioning and whether we should be expecting better, what with the new “defensive coordinator” thing going on. Too early to expect dramatic results? I also wonder about the effect of coordinating defensive positioning strategy with pitching strategy. Maybe there’s some disjoint, similar to the way the “runner control” had until recently seemed to be every man for himself? I don’t know. I’m only speculating.
I should mention that the notion of average is also countered by what I often see from Tigers opponents. We’ve seen some bad days at the office from the other side – Hank Conger and Chase Headley come to mind – but on balance, my observation has been that the opposition has been smoother, sharper, and crisper than the Tigers at all the routine business of defense. It’s a bit of a letdown that the New Tigers we were bracing ourselves for, leaner but possibly meaner on offense, same great starting rotation, don’t yet have the defensive part of that potential winning equation together (yet?). The loss of Jose Iglesias and Andy Dirks is keenly felt. But Kinsler is certainly providing the kind of defensive energy that can raise a team, and if the Romine/Worth tandem can follow suit, it might be contagious. Let’s see how the Tigers’ DefEff looks at the end of May. Nowhere to go but up.
POSTGAME: In a game where so much is going right, my reaction is greed. 6-1? I want 12-1 (and not 12-2). Every run counts. Those “add-ons” often turn out to be game-winners, don’t they?
As the Tigers’ first six opponents caught a break by facing an offensively challenged Miggy, Detroit caught a break by not having to face newly-DL’d Chris Sale, and rookie call-up replacement Charles Leesman was in the wrong place at the wrong time against an awakening Tigers offense. For most of the game, all a White Sox fan had to hold onto were Jose Abreu’s blast to dead center in the 1st and fairly impressive work from a lot of bullpen, especially Zach Putnam. Justin Verlander was at normal efficiency and command, which is to say that he was fabulous in the way we’ve learned to take for granted.
That 3rd inning explosion was something. 9 batters with nothing but hits or walks or productive outs. I was ready for more when Andrew Romine struck out with runners at the corners to end it. But the 2 runs tacked on in the 5th, scored with two outs, turned out to be oh so vital. Infield single, steal and advance on throwing error, double, walk, double. Nice.
Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila stole the show, the former with his sudden resurgence, and the latter with his “surgence.” Who is this guy with the same name as our old catcher? He sure can hit.
However. [pause] With an 8-2 lead, the bullpen nearly gave it all right back. Oh, nothing went right. Alburquerque’s 8th was a debacle. The Tragedy Of Phil Coke was briefly interrupted by two strikeouts. A commercial break, I guess. 0-2 on Adam Dunn, 8-4 Tigers now, come on and let’s get this one in the books. Oops, gone, 8-6. Joba Chamberlain comes in and walks the first batter on four pitches. There was even some doubt and drama to the final out, with J.D. Martinez having a difficult time on the shallow flyball (lights?).
It wasn’t easy like it should have been. But it was a win. We’ll take it. And MIGGY IS BACK!