Much has been made this off-season of the Tigers transition from a slow-footed station-to-station team that relies on hitting to a more speed-oriented club that can manufacture runs though base running. Gone are shortstop Jhonny Peralta and first baseman Prince Fielder, two of the slower runners in the game. Joining the roster are the much speedier outfielder/pinch runner Rajai Davis and second baseman Ian Kinsler. They also added shortstop Jose Iglesias during the season, but he is cancelled out by the loss of second baseman Omar Infante. Just how much, in terms of runs and wins, will the Tigers gain from their moves overall?
According to FanGraphs, the Tigers were last in the majors with -19.4 base running runs in 2013. In other words, they cost themselves an estimated 19 runs with their base running compared to an average team. That is not just stolen bases and caught stealing. It also includes moving from first to third on singles, advancing a base on a fly ball and other various base running maneuvers. In case you had not noticed, the Tigers were not good at any of those things in 2013.
Subtracting Fielder (-5.3) and Peralta (-1.8) would save the Tigers 7.1 runs assuming the same performance next year. The acquisitions of Davis (10.2) and Kinsler (3.6) would add 13.8 runs. Based on those moves, they would be gaining 20.9 runs or two wins.
The Tigers are far from the fastest team in the league. They still have Victor Martinez (who with -8.2 base running runs was the second worst base runner to White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko) and slugger Miguel Cabrera (-4.4) and catcher Alex Avila may not be able to maintain his -0.2 mark. However, add Davis and Kinsler to Austin Jackson (5.6) and perhaps an improving Iglesias and the Tigers should at least be an average base running team in 2014.