Outfielder Cameron Maybin should bolster the Tigers outfield defense.
(Photo source: Wikimedia.com)
There is not much question about his base running. He stole 23 bases in 29 attempts and netted 3.5 runs on the bases in 2015 according to the Baseball Prospectus base running statistic.
There are, however, concerns about his defense due to his performance on the two most popular advanced defensive metrics: -16 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and -7 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) This is in contrast to past years where he graded average to above average.
In addition to being careful about interpreting one year of defensive data, it's important to remember that below average numbers in center field do not make one a poor defender. In an era of highly skilled center field play, it just means that he was not as good as some great defenders.
There are indications that he still has some defensive skills. Atlanta Braves fans gave him a rating of 52 on Tom Tango's Fan Scouting Report which is slightly better than the 48 ranking given by Tigers fans to Rajai Davis, the man Maybin is presumably replacing on the roster.
What is more interesting is how fans broke down Maybin's skills. They ranked him above average on instincts, acceleraton/first few steps and sprint speed, but below average on release/footwork and throwing strength and accuracy. So, it appears he had good range but not a good arm.
Another set of statistics that I presented last week - Revised Zone Rating Numbers - backs up the fans observations of above average range. While Maybin made 13 fewer plays than expected by an average center fielder inside the zone, he also made 13 more plays outside the zone than expected.
So, Maybin can still cover a lot of ground in the outfield and he will likely spend more time in left than center for the Tigers as the roster is currently constructed. With this less elite comparison group, there is a good chance his numbers will show him to be a plus defender for the Tigers.