Continuing the series I began yesterday, I am grading the regular season performances of the Tigers infielders. Included in the infield will be the catchers, as well as Victor Martinez, who when he does play in the infield, it’s as a catcher of 1B. I will be taking into account both offense and defense, and much like yesterday with the starting pitching, expectations and contributions to the team are taken into account.
Without further delay…..
Alex Avila (A)
There really isn’t much to knock about Avila’s performance this season. Avila became an All Star, and led his position in WAR for the season. He produced at the dish and behind it as a catcher. Avila hit .295 on the season with 19 home runs and 82 RBI. A mainstay at the bottom of the order, Avila showed proficiency using the whole park, often flashing power to the opposite field. He also showed to be relatively proficient against left-handed pitching, hitting .273. Defensively, he struggled early, but he got better as the season wore on. I still think he can get better at blocking balls and framing pitches. I like the command he shows with the pitching staff as well.
Victor Martinez (A)
Martinez, in all actuality doesn’t even play defense. If he did regularly, I couldn’t give him a straight A. He pretty much hits, and he does that outstandingly well. For the first time since the Tigers traded for Miguel Cabrera, there is real protection behind him. Martinez is the reason for that. All year Martinez has made teams pay for walking Cabrera, driving in over 100 runs and hitting .330. As a switch-hitter, he is proficient from both sides of the plate, making it easy for manager Jim Leyland to write his name in the lineup every day.
Miguel Cabrera (A-)
I don’t know if I wanted to do this just to be controversial or not. Hmm….maybe. Yes, Cabrera is such an offensive force that it almost doesn’t matter what he does defensively, but, I took him down half a grade for being a poor defender. Offensively, Cabrera is an absolute monster, finishing first in BA, and 2nd in almost every advanced metric around to Jose Bautista. His wOBA and OPS were 2nd to the Toronto Blue Jay, however, Cabrera did hit only 30 homers this season, his lowest total since 2006 with the Marlins. That isn’t really a knock given that he got on base at a tremendous rate, and led the league in hitting. I take his offensive year every time. I may not have given him an A because of his defense, but I wouldn’t trade him for any other 1B out there right now. He can still do better in my opinion, especially defensively.
Ramon Santiago (B-)
Santiago has developed into a nice little player over the years. Back in 2003, when he was starting with Omar Infante, Santiago looked like a kid that you could just knock the bat right out of his hands. After taking a while to mature, Santiago is now one of the Tigers unsung heroes. Always solid with the glove whether you put him at SS or 2B, Santiago showed some pop down the stretch and ability to get the big hit. He essentially played well enough to wrestle the mostly full time job away from Carlos Guillen and Ryan Raburn.
Jhonny Peralta (A)
Jhonny Peralta was acquired from Cleveland in 2010 near the trade deadline. At the time it was kind of considered a rather mundane move, and a few of us wondered whether they should even re-sign him. Peralta has gone way beyond what I could have imagined in 2011. Peralta had an All Star season in 2011, and is probably the best offensive SS in the American League, hitting .299 with 21 homers and 86 RBI this season. Defensively, he is really a solid guy with the glove. His range isn’t going to be in the same league as Elvis Andrus or Alcides Escobar, but what he gets to, he converts into an out. His arm is average, but it’s accurate, and he has good hands.
Brandon Inge (F)
I don’t like handing out F’s at all, but I gotta call em’ like I see em’. Brandon Inge had an atrocious 2011, one which included a demotion to AAA Toledo. Every team in baseball could’ve had Brandon, but they passed, and eventually Inge made his way back to the Tigers. Inge hit .197 on the season, provided no power, and didn’t even play defense at much more than an average level. His season is the whole reason the Tigers went out and got the next guy.
Wilson Betemit (C)
Betemit isn’t the long term answer at 3rd base either by any means, however, he doesn’t have to be. Brought over in a trade with the Kansas City Royals, Betemit came to the Tigers near the end of July. It’s been kind of a mixed bag from Betemit. A good batting average, some power from time to time, but also a ton of strikeouts, and the occasional defensive blunder. All of that adds up to an average grade.
Don Kelly (C)
I could’ve just as easily put Kelly in the outfield bunch that I will do later on, but since I think he works best at 3B, I put him here. Kelly’s best attribute is his versatility of course, and that is why he gets the generous grade from me. He plays multiple positions and does it well defensively at least. He is still pretty terrible in the batters box though, and is basically a slap hitter that doesn’t get on base. He still plays too much for my liking and isn’t an average player like the grade I gave him represents. His contribution to this Tigers squad this season though was C level.
Carlos Guillen (Inc)
This isn’t much of a shocker that I can’t really grade Carlos because of injury. When he was healthy, he played pretty poorly, and the writing was on the wall that he wasn’t going to get much playing time anyway. Ramon Santiago was playing better than Guillen.
*Again, sign in. Let me know where you disagree and agree. I’m sure there are many of you ready to jump on me about Cabrera. Have at it.