Yesterday, I covered the Tigers offense by position. Today, I'll run down the defense using the Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) statistic. Ultimate Zone Rating tells us how many runs a fielder saved/cost his team above/below the MLB average player at his position. As a team, the Tigers were 45.1 above league average not including pitchers and catchers. Using UZR numbers from FanGraphs, the positional breakdown is shown below:
Additionally, The Driveline Mechanics site also recently rated catchers based on stolen bases/caught stealing, wild pitches/passed balls and fielding/throwing errors. Please check out that site for an explanation of their methodology. They determined that Gerald Laird was the best defensive catcher in the majors finishing 13.3 runs above the average catcher.
The first thing you might notice from the information above is that the Tigers were above average defensively at every single position in 2009. A breakdown by players follows:
Catcher - See above
First base - Miguel Cabrera was 3.4 runs above average during a season where his improvement was noticeable.
Second base - Placido Polanco (+12.1) topped all MLB second baseman with at least 800 innings.
Third base - Brandon Inge finished sixth in baseball at 8.5 despite a sub-par for him showing in the second half.
Shortstop - Adam Everett (+8.9) was clearly ahead of Ramon Santiago (-2.6)
Left field - This is just a mixture of small sample sizes (led by Jash Anderson's +7.7 in 305 innings) and should be taken with a grain of salt.
Center field - Curtis Granderson was only about average (+0.3) on UZR but was was +15 on the +/- system. This discrepancy is something we'll look at more closely this winter.
Right field - Magglio Ordonez was right around average (-0.3). Clete Thomas's +11.6 UZR in 502 innings in right field is a bit suspect due to sample size but I don't think too many would argue against his having been an above average right fielder last year.
The conclusion I would draw from this is that the Tigers had a strong defensive team last year and that likely helped their pitching staff substantially. While they need to improve their offense this winter, it should not be done at the expense of their defense - at least not too much. I'd like to see them improve offensively at DH/LF before breaking up their defensive strength.