So, remember when we were talking about the Tigers bringing improved defense to the field? Yeah, about that. Whoops. Wea culpa.
Tigers defensive rankings
|Category||Figure||Tigers' MLB rank|
|Defensive Runs Saved||-33||29th|
Those figures look remarkably similar to the past few years. So much for the upgrades.
To be fair, before spring training we'd imagined Jose Iglesias at shortstop and Andy Dirks in left field. But those losses alone can't account for the poor showing we've seen on the field.
The issues are easy to see: the outfield has been awful and the left side of the infield has been leaky. The once-stellar Austin Jackson now appears to be below average and Torii Hunter has been awful.
Mininum of 100 innings at the position
The lack of defense has shown up in the pitching stats as well. The team ERA of 4.11 is nearly half a run higher than the Fielding Independent Pitching figure (3.73). Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander have been effected the worst by this, while it hasn't seemed to touch Anibal Sanchez or Rick Porcello much. Drew Smyly is beating the odds, with an ERA more than a run better than his FIP. (That won't last.)
With the trade deadline five weeks away, it's time to start thinking about fixes. Andy Dirks is scheduled to start his injury rehab assignment soon. That could certainly help matters. He was above average last season in left field. The Tigers may find playing J.D. Martinez in right field in place of Torii Hunter more often makes the team better, even if it feels unpalatable. Hunter just seems to have aged so much and his bat isn't justifying playing time at this point. Finding those internal solutions could allow the Tigers to look externally elsewhere.
So, we'll need to keep an eye on Nick Castellanos. Like any rookie he has gone through hot and cold periods at the plate. However, with such a below-average performance in the field, if he doesn't hit with more consistency the Tigers have an opportunity to make a temporary upgrade at the position.
In any case, the lack of glovework has been the most disappointing aspect of the season to date.