Speed and Defense: How Much The Detroit Tigers Added This Offseason

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Sep 23, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler (5) slides home ahead of the throw to Houston Astros catcher Carlos Corporan (22) on a single by shortstop Elvis Andrus (not shown) during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

2014: Alex Avila
2013: Alex Avila

I’m not going to try to compare the relative merits of backups Brayan Pena and Bryan Holaday, so for now I’ll just call this Avila’s spot and call it a push. In reality we should probably expect worse base running in 2014 than we’ve seen in the past (he’s older now, and running probably peaks earlier in a player’s twenties), but let’s favor 2014 with the numbers and say it’s the same.

Verdict: Even

First Base
2014: Miguel Cabrera
2013: Prince Fielder

Miguel Cabrera hasn’t played first base regularly since 2011, so I used his last (and only, really) three seasons of data at the position to calculate his defensive value. His three-year UZR number comes out better than that of Prince Fielder, but only marginally. We’re talking about two below average first basemen here.

On the running side of things, Cabrera was hampered for the last couple of months in 2013 and turned plenty of doubles into singles or outs, but this only cost him a few fractions of a run in his three-year average.

Verdict: +1 run of defense, +2 runs of base running.

Second Base
2014: Ian Kinsler
2013: Omar Infante

Ian Kinsler is a massive speed and defense upgrade over Prince Fielder, but it’s not really Fielder that he’s replacing, it’s Omar Infante. Kinsler does seem to run the bases aggressively (and well), and so he is a bit of upgrade over Infante in that regard, but his defense is probably not better.

Verdict: -1 run of defense, +3 runs of base running.