Friday, March 24, 2006

Detroit Tiger Preview - Part 3 (Fielding)

Earlier in the week, I posted the first two parts of my 2006 Tiger preview:

Part 1 – The Overview

Part 2 – The Offense

Today, in Part 3, I’ll look at the fielding. In Part 4, I’ll forecast the pitching and then give my prediction for total Tiger victories in 2006.

In 2005, the Tigers finished with a league average Defensive Efficiency Ratio (proportion of total balls in play turned into outs) of .696. They were strong defensively at catcher, in the infield from second base to third base and in center field. Their weakest spots were the corner outfield positions and first base.

With pretty much the same line-up coming back this year, we can probably expect the same strengths and weaknesses in 2006. Overall, they will probably be average again this year. The biggest concern is that they play half their games in Comerica Park which is not a good place for outfielders who lack range.

Defensive Efficiency Ratio is a nice way to quantify team defense. Individual defense is more difficult to evaluate but there are a lot more tools available now than there used to be. Fielding metrics are still not at the point where we can use them as we use hitting statistics but they have improved a lot in the last few years. Another good online tool is Tom Tango’s Fan Fielding Survey in which many of you participated. Plus, there are always random scouting reports, discussions with good fans and personal observation. The grades below are based on an aggregation of these objective measures and subjective impressions. C is considered an average grade.


Ivan Rodriguez (A) – Rodriguez gets mixed reviews on his game calling but there is little question about his arm, footwork and instincts around the plate. He is still among the best in baseball. He threw out 45% of base runners attempting to steal last year which was second in the majors to Yadier Molina.

Vance Wilson (C)Wilson is not on the team for his offense. He is a capable defensive backup but certainly not in the Rodriguez class.

First base

Chris Shelton (C-)Shelton is not athletic and has below average range but appears to be a steadier fielder than advertised. He should improve a little with more experience.

Carlos Pena (C) – Pena can be a very graceful first basemen and is said to have gold glove potential but , like his hitting, his performance hasn’t quite matched his perceived ability. He has good footwork around the bag but has below average range and occasional lapses in concentration. He probably won’t play much first base this year with Shelton around.

Dmitri Young (D) – Young used to be a decent fielder for a big guy but wasn’t able to play in the field last year without getting hurt. A slimmer Dmitri will try to play some third base and outfield as well as first base this year but I’m not confident he’ll be much more than a designated hitter in 2006.

Second base

Placido Polanco (B+) – Polanco has slightly above average range and one of the best gloves in the majors. He is also a solid third baseman when called upon.


Carlos Guillen (B-) – Guillen has only average range but is a steady shortstop. He and Polanco should make an excellent double play combination when they get a chance to play together consistently.

Omar Infante (B-) – Infante has had trouble with tendonitis which hampered his throwing at times last year. It’s been a problem again this spring. When healthy, he has good range and is a steady fielder. He is very capable at second base and shortstop. He can also play third base and outfield although he has not played those positions as much.

Third base

Brandon Inge (B+) – A lot of fans grumble about Inge’s throwing errors but he has excellent range. He is an above average defensive third baseman and could be gold glove caliber if his throwing settles down. He can play just about any position and many fans, including me, would like to see him used as a super-sub.

Left field

Craig Monroe (C)Monroe lacks the range desired from a Comerica Park outfielder. His defensive value is that he can play any outfield postion without embarrassing himself. I wouldn’t want to see him play center field for any length of time though.

Center field

Curtis Granderson (B) – Granderson somehow has a “corner outfielder” label which he can’t shake. However, those who have watched him in the minors on a regular basis say he will be an above average center fielder in the majors. He had outstanding fielding range stats in a small sample of games last year. I’m giving him a B for now until he shows what he can do for a full season.

Nook Logan (B+)Logan shows poor instincts at times but usually makes up for it with his speed. He was among the league leaders in all the range metrics last year.

Right field

Magglio Ordonez (C-) – Ordonez had a poor year defensively last year. He was a pretty good defender in the past but I’m not convinced that he will gain the mobility needed to be a strong defender.


  1. Agreed, the defense needs to show improvement. Just like a team can improve its fortunes by addressing an offense, I think the Tigers could help themselves quite a bit by improving on defense, most definitely when it comes to the OF defense (moreso than other teams). Given the amount of territory that's necessary to cover at the home diamond, I'm not terribly impressed with the defensive corners of Monroe and Ordonez.

    Ideally in the upcoming seasons, Maybin develops quickly, and the Tigers find another rangey OF to create a nice triumverate with Granderson while Ordonez transitioms to more DH duties. As for the '06 campaign, I think its going to be difficult for Leyland to find a consistant mix & match of offense and defense given the probable 25 man roster.

  2. I agree that outfield defense is a problem. Monroe and Ordonez don't cover enough ground in Comerica Park.
    I was hoping they would be able to upgrade leftfield this year.



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