The Tigers have shuffled several people in and out of the lineup all season, and that includes the outfield. I have already graded Don Kelly in the infield, but I left Ryan Raburn for the outfield, because that is where he fits better. In keeping with consistency, as these are grades for the regular season, keep in mind I will be including Delmon Young‘s efforts with the Minnesota Twins as well.
Without further delay, here are my grades for the Tigers outfielders……….
Austin Jackson (C-)
Jackson has kind of been the player that I expected after seeing his astronomical BABIP last year lead him to a .293 BA. It was due to come down to the .249 it was this year, and that is with a still high BABIP of .340, which I think is more the norm for him. Here is the bottom line. He slugged less this season overall, despite the increase in home runs, his wOBA is well below average, and his OBP is as well. His strike out rate actually increased this season, and was at 27.1%, which is pretty terrible for a guy Jim Leyland insists hitting leadoff. Even with Jackson’s superb defense at times, he still couldn’t work his way out of the bottom 3rd of all regular CF’s in WAR with just 2.8 for the season. Still, there is hope that the increase in home runs is something to look for down the road, and if he can cut the k rate, he could be a heck of a player. But at some point, he may be what he is, a good defender that isn’t productive at the dish.
Brennan Boesch (B)
Boesch was excellent once again in the first half of the season. Starting in April, with Magglio Ordonez struggling at the dish, Boesch worked his way into full-time status by putting together a more consistent offensive season. Boesch has the look of a guy that is trending upward. His wOBA was better in 2011 than 2010, K rate was lower, OBP and slugging pct. were higher as well. Defensively, he did have his troubles and should prove to be a better LF than a RF moving forward because of his arm. His solid season came to a halt early because of injury, but there did appear to be some 2nd half issues this season as well. Boesch was hitting just .219 in the 2nd half before he sustained the injury. I’m not sure when Boesch started hurting, so the 2nd half swoon could be partly due to that. It is something to watch going forward though.
Magglio Ordonez (D)
2011 didn’t treat Magglio very well. After coming back from a broken ankle in 2010, Magglio started slowly in April this year, and never really seem to get untracked until September, where he showed he can still hit for average at least. Ordonez has clearly lost his ability to turn with power on a good fastball, and finished the season with just 5 home runs. Defensively Magglio looks very much like a guy that is 37 and had ankle surgery. He lacks mobility and frankly is a liability in the field at this point. Whether it was all about the ankle or not, I can’t give Magglio a higher grade. His performance wasn’t worth near the contract.
Ryan Raburn (D+)
Raburn, who is kind of a favorite whipping boy of Tigers fans, earned that distinction a little bit this year. Tabbed as the starting left fielder out of spring training, Raburn didn’t grab hold of the job for good and keep it. Instead he struggled through the 1st half of the season, despite being given opportunities in the both the outfield and at 2B. Raburn hit just .256 on the season, but had 14 homers and 49 RBI. He also had his regular 2nd half boom this season, batting .341 with an OPS of .967. Defensive lapses plagued him wherever he went around the field, despite having the tools necessary to do the job with a strong arm and good range. Overall, it was a disappointing season for someone who looked like they were on their way to becoming a solid regular in the bigs.
Andy Dirks (C+)
What kind of grade do you give a guy that was solid across the board? Well, a grade right around the middle of course. Andy Dirks started 2011 with an excellent spring training, putting himself into the outfield conversation early, and ultimately losing a close battle to Casper Wells. Dirks went down to Toledo and took care of business, finding himself on the Tigers soon afterwards. Dirks did pretty well at the plate, hitting .251 for the Tigers and showing some pop with 7 homers. Dirks needs to improve at getting on base, but his nose to the grindstone approach will earn him a roster spot for years to come. While he doesn’t do anything much above average, he isn’t poor in any aspect either. Defensively he fits well in the corners but can play in CF once in a while as well. I would like to see an increase in walk rate from Dirks, but it was a solid debut from a guy that never had that many expectations to begin with.
Delmon Young (C-)
Delmon Young is the epitome of a player that divides those with old school baseball thinking and the new sabremetric stat geeks. The new stat geeks will point to his less than impressive wOBA numbers and his poor OPS for a corner OF. The old school thought will point to Young’s solid batting average and RBI numbers. Whichever way you subscribe to, 2011 wasn’t a successful season overall for Young. He battled injury while in Minnesota, and while he was pretty good with Detroit since coming over, he isn’t anything more than an average offensive player. Overall, he was just .268 with 12 homers, and failed to post an OPS of even .700. His poor plate discipline is too blame, and unless it suddenly gets better, it will plague Young his whole career. Young is also scary in the OF defensively which drives his grade down even further. Statistically, he had a good year if you follow UZR, but this is a fluke season in a long line of poor ones. I’m not buying it.
*Casper Wells isn’t a Tiger anymore, but as a grade I would give him a B-. He was an above average corner OF, and he did show some decent skills at the dish. Performed well for the Tigers in his limited chances, and did alright with Seattle as well. Needs to cut down on the strike outs.