Detroit Tigers – Five Players Who Turned Into Pumpkins
Detroit Tigers fans generally regard 2012 as a good, if ultimately disappointing season. The team won the AL Central and made it to the World Series, only to suffer an embarrassing sweep against a seemingly inferior San Francisco Giants team.
But the Tigers actually weren’t all that great in 2012. They started the year 4-0, but spent much of the season hovering around .500, and they were 18-20 and four games out of first place on May 17th, when starting center fielder Austin Jackson went down with an abdominal strain. Detroit tried Don Kelly and Andy Dirks in center field, but Kelly went just 1-for-19 and they got desperate, taking a chance on a 27-year-old minor-league free agent named Quintin Berry.
Berry ended up being electric. He recorded a bunt double in his first game, got hits in his first six games, and in the roughly three weeks Jackson was out, he hit .288 with 7 steals in as many chances. Berry’s speed helped catalyze the offense, he soon assumed regular left field duty, and through 55 games he was hitting .286 with 15 steals. He ended up setting an American League record by finishing the season with 21 steals without ever being caught.
But of course Berry turned into a pumpkin. A very fast pumpkin, but a pumpkin nonetheless. Much of his early success was due to batted-ball luck — his BABIP was .407 through his first 46 games. But over his next 47 games it dropped to .278, causing his batting average to fall to .211. Berry didn’t hit for power (.096 ISO) and despite his speed he proved to be a defensive liability in the outfield, so without his luck he wasn’t much help to the team.
He didn’t make the club out of spring training in 2013, was claimed by the Royals, and then traded to the Red Sox, where he won a World Series. After leaving Detroit he saw just 14 more regular-season at-bats in the bigs, but as a pinch runner he managed eight more steals.