The Tigers outfield rated among the worst in baseball in many defensive metrics in 2014, and a big reason for that was Torii Hunter. Yes, that's a harsh way to begin a post about one of the best defenders of our generation, but this is not the same Torii Hunter that earned the nickname "Spider-Man" earlier in his career.
Then there's his bat. Sure, he didn't walk much -- a 3.9 percent walk rate is pretty awful, actually -- but he hit .286 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI, many of which came out of the second spot in the batting order. That's a valuable contribution no matter what position you play. He finished the season with a .335 wOBA and 113 wRC+, both of which ranked among the top 30 outfielders in baseball. Maybe Hunter's new nickname should be "Two-Face."
Torii began the season in similar fashion to how he performed throughout most of 2013. He hit .300 in April with a trio of home runs, all of which came against the Baltimore Orioles in the second series of the year (man, those would have been nice to have in October). He also rapped out seven doubles, and added a stolen base for good measure. Hunter's average got as high as .333 on May 6th, and he was still hitting .304 when the Tigers swept the Boston Red Sox in the middle of the month.
Like most of the Tigers' lineup, Hunter fell into a major funk after the plane incident. He hit just .190/.207/.336 over the next six weeks with nine extra base hits in 121 plate appearances. The team went 18-22 from that point until July 1st, and just 12-19 in games that Hunter played in.
Things turned around in July, though. Hunter tallied 16 hits in the first 10 days of the month, and hit .364/.406/.648 with six home runs and 24 RBI. He was one of few Tigers hitting well immediately after the All-Star break, and the team went just 5-9 during the second half of the month.
Hunter cooled off somewhat down the stretch, but still hit a respectable .295/.332/.401 with 21 RBI and 22 runs scored in August and September. He only homered twice, but had 14 doubles during that stretch.
Hunter's defense was an issue throughout the year, though it seemed to improve somewhat after the All-Star break. He battled a few injuries throughout the season, including a knee injury in August and a concussion scare after colliding with Don Kelly in September. Regardless, Hunter rated as one of the worst defenders in all of baseball in 2014. His -18.3 UZR was the third-worst mark in the majors, and his -18 defensive runs saved (DRS) were fifth worst. Sadly, neither measure was the low mark on the team, as Nick Castellanos graded out even worse in both categories.
Grade: C- (Bat: B, Glove: F)
Before the season, I predicted that Hunter would be a negative win player. Man... that was close. Hunter was worth just 0.3 WAR this season, largely thanks to outfield defense that ranked among the worst in all of baseball. It was a swift fall from grace for Hunter, who made the All-Star team in 2013, but wasn't entirely surprising. Hunter's defense fell off in 2013, but was largely masked by a .346 wOBA and 117 wRC+. While his bat wasn't far off in 2014, his defense continued to decline. Will he be back in 2015? It's too early to tell, and Hunter himself hasn't decided whether he wants to go through the grind of another season. If he does return, it will likely be in a part-time role.