The biggest difference for the Detroit Tigers from 2014 to 2015 is their defense. They have drastically improved defensively in every outfield position, and both at shortstop and third base.
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In 2014, the Tigers ranked 26th in baseball according to FanGraphs and their defensive rating at a -42.2. Only the Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Houston Astros rated lower than the Tigers in 2014. So far in 2015, the Tigers rank third in all of baseball with a +13.8 rating behind only the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays.
The Tigers have four players that rank in the top 25 defensively in the American League in Jose Iglesias, Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos (that is not a typo), and Rajai Davis. If James McCann and Alex Avila’s numbers are combined, they would be 20th in the AL overall defensively and the fourth best catcher.
The Tigers have made additions, addition by subtraction, and the most significant improvement by one player defensively.
Every outfield position has improved in 2015. The outfield of Yoenis Cespedes, Anthony Gose, and J.D. Martinez is one of the best defensively in the American League, especially with their arms. Gose can run down balls and has a good arm. Cespedes has one of the best arms on the game in left field. J.D. Martinez is a solid defender in right field, which is a drastic improvement from Torii Hunter who was rated the worst defender in baseball in 2014.
On the infield, the Tigers added the best defensive shortstop in the American League with the return of Jose Iglesias. The Tigers had defensive ratings of 3.6, 3.1, 0.6, and 0.0 in Danny Worth, Eugenio Suarez, Andrew Romine, and Hernan Perez. Jose Iglesias is already at a rating of 4.7 which rates out to a 20.58 rating over the entire season, which would have been the best in all of baseball in 2014.
The most remarkable difference for the Tigers is with Nick Castellanos. He was rated the worst third baseman by far in 2014 with a -16.3 rating from FanGraphs. In 2015, his rating is 3.6 which is good for the 3rd best in the AL for third baseman. His turnaround has turned the left side of the infield into a below average one into a one with an elite shortstop and solid third baseman.
The difference the Tigers have made on defense may not have directly resulted in wins, but they have gone a long way in earning the Tigers wins earlier this season. Hitting can go into slumps, but defense does not. It is something the Tigers bring to the ballpark every night and is a joy to watch.