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

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Aug 14, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Rajai Davis (11) slides into third base before scoring on a four-base error in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Right Field
2014: Torii Hunter
2013: Torii Hunter

The third of five spots that stay the same. Hunter is solidly in his decline phase at 38 years of age, but let’s not penalize him for it just now. He didn’t always play like it last year, but he’s probably still close to average in right field, and probably also close to average on the base paths.

Verdict: Even.

Center Field
2014: Austin Jackson
2013: Austin Jackson

Fans like to point out that, for all his speed, Jackson has never been one to steal many bases. And while that’s true, it’s also true that he provides positive base running value without the gaudy stolen base totals. He’s a good runner and defender, but not an upgrade over himself.

Verdict: Even.

Left Field
2014: Andy Dirks (400 PA) / Rajai Davis (200 PA)
2013: Andy Dirks (400 PA) / Matt Tuiasosopo (200 PA)

I’m going to assume that Andy Dirks retains his spot in the strong side of the platoon and that Rajai Davis will be around to start against left-handed pitchers and to pinch run late in games. This isn’t a sure thing, but Davis’ sub-.300 career OBP versus right-handed pitching mitigates his speed advantage on the bases, and his defense in the outfield is well worse than Dirks’.

But if Davis takes the place of Tuiasosopo on the weak side of the platoon, we’ll see real, tangible gains in base running value. Davis isn’t much of a defender (limited sample size on Tui’s defense, but Davis probably isn’t better), but he is one of the better runners in the game when he gets on.

Verdict: +0 runs of defense, +6 runs of base running.