The Tigers' emphasis on aggressive baserunning may have already paid dividends in 2013. Here's how it went down.
Situation: Top of the first inning, runner on first base, no outs. Austin Jackson singled off of Minnesota Twins pitcher Vance Worley to open the game.
On a 2-1 count, Jackson takes off for second base. Torii Hunter hits a ground ball to the right side of the infield just out of the reach of a diving Brian Dozier. Jackson advances to third easily.
While Mario Impemba first identified this as a hit-and-run on the Fox Sports Detroit broadcast, but Jim Leyland insists that he had no part in the play.
"It was a hell of a play by Torii Hunter," [Leyland] said. "I would like to say that I was smart and put it on, but I didn't. He just saw the pitch and saw Jackson go and saw the hole open up and just fisted it over there. That's a credit to him."
Whether Hunter would have swung at this pitch if Jackson were not running is debatable, but the effects of Jackson's steal attempt are obvious. Dozier moves over to cover second base, leaving a sizable gap in the right side of the infield.
If Hunter hits this same pitch with Jackson stationary, it's an easy double-play ball. However, thanks to some aggressive baserunning, the Tigers had runners on first and third with no outs. A fielder's choice and a double by Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, respectively, gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead before Justin Verlander even took the mound.
Being aggressive on the basepaths may result in more outs, but plays like the one detailed above often go unnoticed, yet are important for winning close games all season long.
And if you don't think the Tigers are being more aggressive on the basepaths yet, consider this: Jhonny Peralta already has a stolen base this year.