July 10, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter (left) center fielder Austin Jackson (14) left fielder Andy Dirks (12) and second baseman Ramon Santiago (right) celebrate after the game against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Detroit won 8-5. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Putting it all together
The entirety of the ‘defensive upgrade’ comes down to how much better Castellanos is at third base compared to Cabrera, and we have no credible way of gauging his defense. Not unless you’re a scout, but even scouts haven’t seen him play the position above the AA level, and not since the early part of the 2012 season. Maybe the 2014 Tigers are 10 runs better defensively or maybe they’re no better. We can guess they probably are somewhat better as a team, but it doesn’t look like a defensive revolution.
The base running thing is real, however. This estimate puts the team at +12 runs on the bases compared to last year’s mix of players. Much of that is due to the addition of Davis, but swapping out Fielder for Castellanos and Kinsler for Infante probably each also add a couple of runs.
I’m estimating that the Tigers got 17 runs better in the ‘speed and defense’ categories this offseason (that’s a little more than a win and a half), with the caveat being how little we know about Castellanos’ defense. Maybe we should really think about it as somewhere between 12 and 22 runs (one or two wins) better.
The Tigers were a combined 22.5 runs below average in terms of UZR and BsR, so our expectation for 2014 should be for them to be somewhat below average again.