The Detroit Tigers Recipe For Success: Defense


The 2015 Detroit Tigers have a little bit of a different look than the team that went to the 2012 World Series. Actually, if you include Hernan Perez’s 2 games in ’12, the Tigers astoundingly only have 6 players remaining from that championship team. Another one of those players, Justin Verlander, has yet to even see the field this season and the Tigers have four more wins than they did through 20 games in 2012.

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The 2012 squad was lead by Miguel Cabrera’s bat and a stud starting rotation that accompanied Verlander. With the offseason acquisition of Prince Fielder after losing Victor Martinez for the season with his first knee issue, Miguel happily moved back to third base to make way for Fielder at first base.

With an outfield consisting primarily of Delmon Young, Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch, and Andy Dirks, along with an infield rounded out by Jhonny Peralta and the trade deadline deal for Omar Infante, this team didn’t make too many top ten plays for defense. To give you an idea, the Tigers had 20 total outfield assists for the entire season between all outfielders. Jeff Francouer and Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals combined for 36 just between themselves.

Even last season, our defensive woes continued to be a problem. Rajai Davis was not prepared to be a full time center fielder when Jackson was dealt to Seattle and Torii Hunter is a shell of his former self compared to his Gold Glove days in Minnesota.

Jose Iglesias suddenly missing the entire year was a bit shocking. Almost as shocking as when Dave Dombrowski tried to replace him by trading for 37 year old Alex Gonzalez. The Gonzalez experiment fizzled out after about a week and Gonzalez has still not played in any game since being cut by the Tigers.

Insert Perez, Andrew Romine, and Eugenio Suarez for the rest of the season at shortstop. Yes, Eugenio Suarez started 71 games for your reigning AL Central Champs at short.

There’s no doubt with Iglesias at his side, Kinsler is my favorite to win the Gold Glove this season

Only 1/8 through the season, 2014 seems like centuries ago.

Having Jose Iglesias back in the lineup makes this whole team look a decade younger. Tigers fans were teased in 2013 when we acquired him at the trade deadline for Avisail Garcia. For two months we got to see what it was like having a defensive genius at shortstop and it was wonderful. Then, he was stolen from us. Forced to sit out a full year with stress factures.

Many of us had never seen anything like this on the Tigers. Since Alan Trammell’s Gold Glove in 1984, The Tigers have trotted out a pretty laughable group of characters since that point defensively. Peralta was no slouch at the plate, but between him and Cabrera at the hot corner, a few balls made it into left field that may not should have. Neifi Perez, Adam Everett and Danny Worth are recent names that got time as well. And just for fun, remember Deivi Cruz? I’d say Iglesias was worth the wait.

Along with Iglesias, the revamped outfield has been a nice change from years past.

Although Devon Travis is on fire in Toronto, getting Anthony Gose in return has been a nice compliment to Rajai in centerfield. Between the two, neither has an error yet this season.

Leftfield is held down by  “The Cuban Missile” Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes has had a couple problems so far this season in left, but he’s called the missile for a reason. It’s only a matter of time until he’s gunning someone down from a mile out on the fly. Give him a little longer to get used to Comerica Park’s bounces and he’ll be just fine

JD Martinez has solidified himself as an everyday player not only because of his hitting, but because of his consistency in right field. So far this season he has yet to commit an error and has two outfield assists.

Cabrera moving back over to first to allow Nick Castellanos to play third was a necessary move for the future. Castellanos generally gets pulled defensively late, but has been surprisingly decent thus far at third.

Ian Kinsler was a Gold Glove finalist last season, while dealing with which ever shortstop Brad Ausmus decided to throw out with him every day. There’s no doubt with Iglesias at his side, Kinsler is my favorite to win the Gold Glove this season, becoming the first Tiger to do so since Placido Polanco in 2009.

James McCann has not committed an error behind the plate while spelling Alex Avila so far this season. In 11 games he has caught 2 stealing while not committing and error. As for Avila, we are familiar with his great defensive abilities.

It’s amazing how quickly Dave Dombrowski and Ausmus have turned an old Jim Leyland team of big hitters, in to a young efficient team of specialists, who just so happen to be able to hit as well. Although seeming to not doing a great job of improving the bullpen year after year, at least the improved quickness and magic provided by our younger play makers, may save them if the bullpen has a rough inning.

Next: MCB Podcast #6