Detroit Tigers: Talking defense after one month of play
One month has passed in the 2017 MLB season and the Detroit Tigers are currently sitting in a big, fat, four-way tie for first in the AL Central.
The cluster with the Detroit Tigers and AL Central teams not located in Kansas City comes from good hitting.
But, what have we, the fans, seen from the Tigers when they are playing defense?
The answer: Too many mistakes and recorded errors.
But as the month changed to May, the Tigers have been improving. With the defenses gaffes that the Tigers showed earlier in April, there isn’t really any other direction that they could (or should) go.
And the Award for Most Errors Goes To…
The worst defensive plays have been from Nicholas Castellanos. He leads the Tigers with the most errors: six. He even managed to make three ugly errors in the April 28 against the Chicago White Sox. Those three errors eventually ended up as runs in the Tigers’ 3-7 loss. At the time of his errors, Alex Wilson was pitching – providing easy groundballs to his infield and Castellanos just kept making mistakes. Wilson ended up with the loss for that game, even though it was far from his fault.
The Other Ugly Defensive Plays
Tyler Collins and Jose Iglesias both have two errors. Collins’s errors have been in right field and center field. But, he has had a few moments where he has lost the ball in the lights, clouds, or ceiling only to find it again at the last minute. Of course, an out is an out, but some of his outs have created some anxiety in the fans and most likely the players, too. His most notable error was against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, April 27. Collins made an error that allowed perennial Tigers’ killer Nelson Cruz to get to second base. Kyle Seager then hit a single that got Cruz to get the first score of the game. The Mariners ended up winning that game by one run.
Terror at ‘The Trop’
Then, there was Jose Iglesias’s error against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 19. Even though Castellanos’s three-error game is going to be difficult to forget, Iggy’s error in this game was a heartbreaker as it became a walk-off win for the Rays. Francisco Rodriguez on the mound, trying to close out a win with the Tigers up 6-7. But, in his typical style in April, he loaded the bases with a walk, a double, and an intentional walk. Then, when Logan Morrison was up to bat, he hit the ball to Kinsler, who tossed the ball to Iglesias. He got the out at second, but when he threw to first, the throw was off after tripping on the base and the Rays won the game. This error then put Iglesias on the DL for a concussion.
The entire series in Tampa Bay was full of problematic defensive situations. In fact, the defense during that series was so bad, Brad Ausmus told Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press:
"“This is the worst defensive series I’ve seen the Detroit Tigers play since I’ve been here. It will stop. I think part of it was attributed to the roof, but it was awful, it cost us pitches, it cost us runs and it cost us games.”"
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During the three-game series in Florida, the Tigers looked like a semi-pro team. Collins let a few balls get past him in the outfield. Ian Kinsler lost one in the lights. Dixon Machado made a bad throw. And, a trio of Tigers missed a pop up after a fan shouted that he got it.
But, since that day (other than Castellanos’s horrendous multi-error game), the Tigers have cleaned it up. May has proven to be a better month. Other than an error by (none other than) Castellanos on May 5, the Tigers have played cleanly while on defense.
Next: Defining the offense after one month of play
As the season continues, the team should be able to clean up its defensive plays. The only consolation for the Tigers is that other teams have been making just as many errors. In fact, the Cleveland Indians recorded three of them in the first two games in May at Comerica Park.