Originally posted on PRO Rumors  |  Last updated 6/29/12
Comerica Park, the way it is built has to be one of the hardest parks for hitters to hit in. Except when you have a little league defense behind you. Well, that is not necessarily true but the team that plays there, the Tigers, are one of the worst, if not the worst team in baseball in preventing runs which makes Comerica Park a nightmare to pitch in. The Detroit Tigers own the worst UZR in the Majors (-32.2), and the worst RngR (-26.4). So pretty much, they're hurting their pitchers a lot, with their lack of range on the field. I know that offense is more important that defense (OK maybe not), but you can't overlook the fact that you also need some defense to win ballgames. A baseball field could be divided into two parts. The central line where the catcher, shortstop, second baseman and center fielder are located. And the corners, where the corner outfielders and infielders are located. Anybody with knowledge of baseball knows that catcher, center field, shortstop and second base are defense first positions. You should look for a good defender there and then worry about his offense. The opposite goes for the rest of the field. The corners should provide the offensive boost for a team and then you worry about their defense. Following this premise, the Tigers should have good defenders in their central line, but do they? No, while they do have Austin Jackson who sports a 3.5 UZR and a 2.5 RngR and Alex Avila who has a 2 DSR (Defensive Saved Runs), the rest of their central line isn't exactly the kind of central line you would like to have. The second basemen who have played the most innings are Ramon Santiago (268.0 innings), who has a -1.9 UZR and a -2.0 RngR, Ryan Raburn (199.0 innings) who has a -1.6 UZR and a -1.7 RngR and Danny Worth (154.1 innings) who has a -1.7 UZR and a -1.9 RngR. The biggest problem here is that they have been hitting like middle infielders but fielding like corners infielders. Pretty much the worst combination. The shortstop with most innings in the Tigers is Johnny Peralta with 581.0 innings and as the rest of the middle infielders he also possesses a negative UZR (-2.7) and a negative RngR (-2.2). Also, his offensive production hasn't been that good to be able to look the other way when we talk about his defense (.261/.336/.395 with 98 wRC+). When you move to the corners of the field, you expect players with low to negative UZR, with huge offensive production. Well, they do have negative UZR. At first base, Prince Fielder (-3.6 UZR and -0.8 RngR), third base Miguel Cabrera (-4.0 UZR and -7.2 RngR), right field Brennan Boesch (-10.9 UZR and -10.3 RngR) and in left field we have a platoon between Andy Dirks (-0.1 UZR and 1.0 in 200.2 innings), Delmon Young (-3.6 UZR and -1.6 RngR in 183.1 innings), and Don Kelly (-0.8 UZR and 0.2 RngR in 104.1 innings). With the exception of Kelly and Dirks, they have been really bad, but Fielder and Cabrera compensate it with solid offensive production. .300/.374/.495 with 131 wRC+ for Fielder and .312/.370/.542 with 144 wRC+ for Cabrera. Dirks also has a good hitting line, making him valuable for the Tigers (.328/.379/.515 with a 145 wRC+). Boesch, who could be their worst defensive player sports a .232/.269/.346 hitting line with 65 wRC+. Meaning that he doesn't only hurt them defensively but offensively too. The Tigers defense is directly affecting their pitching. The Tigers have the 13th worst ERA in baseball with a 4.09 ERA, but the seventh best FIP with 3.72. You can read between the lines here and realize that their pitchers, when we talk about their effectiveness and without taking defense into account, they're the seventh best in baseball. But when we add the defense into the equation they drop eleven places to become the 18th team in baseball in that department. There is also something interesting that tells you how bad the Tigers defense is. They rank last in Fld (FanGraphs), and thanks to that awful defense they're the fourth worst team in WAR (6.7), but offensively, as a team, they have a 100 wRC+ and are one of the eight teams with a wRC+ of 100 or higher. In conclusion, with the Tigers defense, it's hard to say if pitching in Comerica Park is actually a blessing or a curse. Image by Keith Allison under the Creative Commons License Agreement.
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