Detroit Tigers Player-by-Player First Half Reviews: Position Players

This is the final post of a three part series evaluating the first half for the Detroit Tigers. Past posts covered the starters and relievers. This setup differs from previous posts, as we will cover player summaries for each individual player, then grades by position, then a grade and summary on the whole.

Before beginning, I'd like to discuss the statistics that will be used during these evaluations. To start with, two traditional statistics, batting average and RBIs, will be flatly ignored. Instead, statistics such as on-base percentage (OBP), slugging percentage (Slg), and on base plus slugging percentage (OPS; favored over wOBA for the sake of familiarity) will be used in conjunction with cumulative statistics such as homeruns, stolen bases, and strikeouts. Also, the primary fielding statistic used will be the Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), which discusses the runs that a fielder prevents or allows.

Another statistic used will be Wins Above Replacement (WAR), perhaps the best metric in baseball when discussing the skill of a player. For the uninitiated, Wins Above Replacement uses a number of hitting and fielding statistics, adjusts them based on the player's position and a couple other factors, and then produces a result that states how many wins a player is worth over the average bench player. For a starter in the Majors, the median is around 1.5. It should be noted, however, that WAR is a stat that is still rather imperfect, because it overly relies on fielding statistics, which are, in my opinion, good at differentiating between players on a relative basis, but are not good at giving absolute values from which to evaluate players. The result of these issues leads to odd flukes, such as Brandon Inge's 2006 season being rated as equal to Cabrera's season this year.

Note: WAR was not used for pitching because I feel it has several issues including number of datapoints (for relievers), its reliance on FIP (which I don't particularly like), and the park factor (a terrible stat in my opinion), which plays a bigger role in pitching WAR than hitting WAR.

Austin Jackson
Grade: B
WAR: 2.3
OPS: .757
UZR: 5.2 (Runs prevented as compared to a replacement player)

For a rookie, Austin Jackson has been phenomenal. His strengths thus far have been his ability to get on base (.354 OBP), as well as his speed (he has a team high 14 SB) which has been particularly useful when it comes to covering the Comerica Park's spacious outfield. On the other hand, he's had several deficiencies, including a lack of power (.403 Slg) and a propensity to strikeout (88 K in 313 AB). Furthermore, he has shown issues with judging balls off the wall, which has resulted in extra bases. Finally, he has gotten lucky offensively, sporting a .415 BABIP without hitting for power, suggesting that he will regress in the second half. So while Jackson has been great for a rookie, there is definite room for improvement.

Miguel Cabrera
Grade: A
WAR: 3.7
OPS: 1.074
UZR: -4.9

Cabrera has without a doubt been the best player on the Tigers this year. By pretty much every metric, he has been the best offensive player in the Majors this year, and he has a real shot at winning the Triple Crown. He has displayed the ability to get on base consistently (.423 OBP) and hit for power (.651 Slg.). His only problem hitting-wise is his tendency to hit a fair number of ground balls. This is not a terrible thing, as he hits pretty much everything on the ground very hard, but ground balls in general are more likely to cause outs than fly balls, especially as Cabrera is the opposite of fast on the basepaths.

The biggest issue with Cabrera this season has been his fielding. He is tied for the Major League lead in errors this year with 9 and has the lowest fielding percentage of any first baseman. Statistically, he ranks among the worst in the Majors in terms of UZR (meaning that he is highly detrimental to the defense), although it should be noted that he has suffered from a terrible defensive infield (Brandon Inge and Ramon Santiago excluded), an issue that is very problematic for first-basemen. Still, he has definitely been well below average defensively, which prevents him from earning and A+.

Brandon Inge
Grade: B-
WAR: 1.5
OPS: .754
UZR: 1.1

Inge's ranking was originally listed as a B. This was unintentional. His ranking has now been corrected to a B-.

Brandon Inge is having an interesting season. First of all, he's actually hitting fairly well. While his power is down (.411 Slg., 6 HR), he is getting on base at a higher rate than any other time in his career (.342 OBP). It is also good to see that he is drawing walks (36, which is well above average for him) and more importantly, staying healthy. It should be noted that Inge had an absolutely atrocious May and has been largely above average every other month of the year.

On the flip side, Inge has not been great fielding-wise this year. While the drop in his fielding statistics has a lot to do with the rest of the infield not playing well, it should be noted that he is not making as many plays as he has in years past. On the other hand, it may be that he is eating more balls because the poor play of Cabrera this year has led him to decide to be more cautious, as Cabrera has not been reliable when it comes to reeling in throws that are off target.

Johnny Damon
Grade: B
WAR: 1.4
OPS: .784
UZR: 1.4

Damon has been decent, but nothing too special this year. He has been somewhat streaky at the plate, but has put out decent offensive numbers. In his limited time in the field, he has not been very good, but has not been a liability either. His strength thus far this year has definitely been the ability to get on base, posting a .362 OBP. At the same time, his power has dropped, as he has hit only 6 homeruns thus far this year. Overall, the Damon signing has been something of a success this year, as the Tigers now have a decent DH for the first time in awhile, but Damon has been a little disappointing offensively, as he has underperformed as compared to the last couple years he had with the Yankees.

Magglio Ordonez
Grade: A-
WAR: 2.6
OPS: .867
UZR: 3.6

Ordonez has been an all around solid player for the Tigers this year. He has been great at getting on base (.385 OBP), hit for decent power (.485 Slg., 11 HR) and, surprisingly, he is having a very good year in the field, as he is doing a good job of covering Right Field and his arm is noticeably improved over last year. The only issue he's had this year is a tendency to hit ground balls, which is not something you want to see out of your three hitter. Overall though, he is having a very good season, which is a pleasant surprise, considering his struggles last season.

Brennan Boesch
Grade: A
WAR: 2.7
OPS: .990
UZR: -0.7

For a player that nobody had heard of before the season, Boesch has been incredible. He has hit for average and power and is also beginning to walk of late, as pitchers are now much more wary of him than they were early in the season. If it weren't for Boesch, the Tigers would probably not be in playoff contention, as Boesch has not only been a tremendous hitter, he has also been able to protect Cabrera in the lineup. The only weakness in Boesch's game thus far has been some inconsistency in the field. Boesch is probably the key to the Tigers season, as the Tigers need him to continue to hit well in the second half if they are going to win the division.

Carlos Guillen
Grade: B-
WAR: 0.6
OPS: .788
UZR: -3.7

Guillen has thus far been a mixed bag. On one hand, Guillen has been a pretty good hitter, with a decent record of getting on base (.345) and hitting for power (.443). This, however, doesn't completely make up for his terrible fielding. First of all, in his early play in left field, his fielding was analogous to Jonas Mouton's pass coverage. Actually, I'm pretty sure it was worse. In fact, Jonas Mouton would do better at fielding left field than Guillen. And Guillen hasn't been a whole lot better at Second base, where he has exhibited pretty much no range when going for ground balls. Overall, Guillen's decent hitting and terrible fielding is good for a C+.

Ramon Santiago
Grade: C+
WAR: 1.4
OPS: .674
UZR: 6.8

Santiago has basically been the opposite of Guillen this year. He has been below average from the plate and a terrific fielder. He has been decent at getting on base (.343 OBP) but has hit for no power (.332 Slg.). Meanwhile, his fielding has been very good, despite his 6 errors, as he has shown tremendous range at the shortstop position, which has partially compensated for Guillen's total lack of range. While his hitting has been poor, Santiago has done very well in his role, saving the Tigers' infield from being a disaster and getting on base.

Gerald Laird
Grade: E
WAR: -0.6
OPS: .524
UZR: -3.0

Laird has been completely and utterly awful this season. He has not gotten on base (.261 OBP) or hit for power (.263). His fielding has been rather poor as well, throwing out a mediocre 29.2% of base-stealers and a poor .991 fielding percentage. Being a black hole in a the lineup plus contributing nothing special in the field makes for a degree of worthlessness.

Alex Avila
Grade: C-
WAR: 0.6
OPS: .644
UZR: 1.0

The fact that Avila is not the regular starting catcher is mind-boggling. While he has been poor at the plate (.304 OBP, .340 Slg.), he has been excellent when it comes to throwing out base-stealers throwing out 12 of 29 (41.4%). He has not been good by any means, but he has not been nearly as terrible as Laird.

Ryan Raburn
Grade: D
WAR: -0.1
OPS: .637
UZR: -0.2

Raburn has been a below-average replacement player. He has not hit for average or power, or fielded particularly well. His only saving grace is his versatility, as he can play pretty much every position on the field (except catcher). Still, he has not performed nearly as well as he has in years previous, which is unfortunate, but cause for hope that he will turn it around in the second half.

Don Kelly
Grade: D+
WAR: 0.3
OPS: .529
UZR: 7.1

Don Kelly is a terrible batter that doesn't hit or walk. This is a major issue. On the other hand, Kelly has shown that he, like Raburn, is a versatile fielder. Furthermore, he, unlike Raburn, is a good defensive center fielder, which he gets credit for as he has needed to fill in for Austin Jackson on numerous occasions.

Scott Sizemore
Grade: E
WAR: -0.3
OPS: .586
UZR: -2.0

In his first stint in the Majors, Sizemore was awful at the plate (.298 OBP, .289 Slg.) and in the field (6 errors, .954 fielding pct.) and was subsequently sent down. The preliminary verdict on Sizemore is that he really needed more time in the Minors. Hopefully he'll be better next time he's called up.

Adam Everett
Grade: E
WAR: -0.4
OPS: .468
UZR: 0.3

Everett is the only Tigers' position player to play worse than Gerald Laird. I'm not going to bother going into the particulars; they're too depressing.

Danny Worth
Grade: C
WAR: 0.3
OPS: .672
UZR: 0.7

The verdict is still out on Worth. What we do know is that he's a decent fielding middle infielder who does not hit for a lot of power. He seems to be very similar to Ramon Santiago. The biggest concern with Worth is that he has not walked very much, accruing only 3 in 77 plate appearances, leading to a subpar .304 OBP.

Casper Wells
Grade: N/A

Casper Wells had a very brief stay on the Tigers, playing in only 4 games. This was not long enough to evaluate his performance, but I will say that my initial impression was favorable mainly because he is a) a decent fielder, b) fast, and c) he ran hard down to first every at-bat. But, as I say, there's not much to go on.

Grade: D

The Tigers are platooning Gerald Laird, who cannot hit and isn't playing particularly well defensively this season, and Alex Avila, who hits only slightly better than Laird and is very good defensively. For some reason, Laird has gotten more playing time.

First Base
Grade: A

Miguel Cabrera has been excellent as the Tigers first baseman.

Second Base
Grade: C

Guillen, Worth, Santiago, and Sizemore have been decidedly average. Guillen can't field, Worth and Santiago aren't particularly good at hitting, and Sizemore was awful. As Raburn can also play second, at least there's no lack of replacements here.

Grade: C-

Santiago, Worth, and Everett have played here this year. At least Everett's gone, but this position could definitely use an upgrade.

Third Base
Grade: A+

I like Brandon Inge. In reality, this should be a B-, as Inge has played almost every game.

Grade: A+

The Tigers have perhaps the best outfield in the Majors, with Jackson, Boesch, and Ordonez starting and Damon as a serviceable replacement.

Designated Hitter
Grade: B

Johnny Damon has basically locked down the DH spot. When he's out of the lineup, the Tigers can sub in Carlos Guillen (and by extension, get him off the field).

Grade: B-

The Tigers would have the best lineup in baseball if catchers didn't bat. That said, the offense is definitely one of the strengths of this team. In particular, the 3-4-5 hitters on the Tigers, Ordonez, Cabrera, and Boesch, are absolutely lethal. Furthermore, the Tigers are sixth in the Majors in OPS, which is emblematic of how the lineup is definitely a strength on this team. Unfortunately, the Tigers have not been particularly efficient, scoring only 401 runs, good for tying for 16th in the Majors. Furthermore, there are clear holes at shortstop and catcher that the Tigers probably won't be able to resolve via trades. Defensively, the Tigers have been awful, producing an abysmal .981 fielding percentage. This is a major issue when you consider that the starting pitching is not particularly great either and needs all the help it can get.

Overall, the Tigers position players have done pretty well this year. Offensively, the team has been quite good if a little inconsistent. While the defense has been bad, it has, at least, been improving, as Damon and Guillen are out of the outfield and Sizemore is no longer playing. That said, the position players absolutely must play better and more consistently in the second half if the Tigers are going to win the division, as the Tigers have the most difficult schedule of the teams competing in the Central.

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