Detroit Tigers: Manager AJ Hinch is masterminding robberies

The Detroit Tigers are tied for the most steals in the American League as Manager A.J. Hinch is using his players’ skill set to the maximum.

In yesterday’s victory over the Minnesota Twins yesterday afternoon to complete the sweep, there were a few highlights that the Detroit Tigers did to make this possible.

Let’s start with Derek Hill’s steal in the 3rd inning. He would later score on a Miguel Cabrera single that made the game at that point 2 to 0.

Another heads-up and hustle play by Jonathan Schoop on Saturday night led to one of the most exciting victories of the season on a pop-up by Cabrera that would have been normally caught.

While Schoop’s play in which there were two outs and he was just running the bases, Hill was stealing third earlier in the inning that made this play possible.

A.J. Hinch is playing up to the team’s strengths.

The Tigers are ranked second in the American League just behind Tampa Bay in stolen bases. The last time the Tigers finished among the league leaders in stolen bases was in 1997*. (A correction from a tweet I had that stated it was 1979). That 1997 team was led by Brian Hunter, who stole 74 bases and Damian Easley was second with 28.

Various managers throughout baseball history used stealing bases to generate runs before home runs started creeping up towards the late 1980s. Some managers hated the practice of stealing bases. Sparky Anderson, on the other hand, while with the Reds, used stolen bases along with home runs, to generate the Big Red Machine’s offense.  In 1985, the Tigers featured five players with at least 10 or more steals so whenever Sparky had some sort of speed, he used it.

Billy Martin with “Billy Ball” had many components, but one of them was aggressive baserunning and stealing bases whenever possible. Then Whitey Herzog with “Whiteyball” in the 1980’s.  Whenever his teams stole a base, his record as a manager was 549-386.

The Tigers are 34-30 when they steal a base this season according to Baseball-Reference. They have stolen 48 times and been caught 15 times. Led by Akil Baddoo, who leads the team with 14, then Niko Goodrum with 12 and Grossman with 11, Derek Hill is making a point to get to double digits as he already has six steals on the season.

The Detroit Tigers had four players or more with at least ten steals in 2001. That combo of four players was Roger Cedeno, Bobby Higginson, Damion Easley, and Jose Macias.

This weekend was a prime example of A.J. Hinch using the data and the strengths of his team to get a much-needed sweep as the Tigers march towards .500.