Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why Prince Fielder at first and Miguel Cabrera at third is backfiring badly on the Detroit Tigers

At the beginning of this season, one of the major issues surrounding the Tigers was how good they would be defensively with Prince Fielder at first base and Miguel Cabrera at third base. The answer: So far, not good. It was expected Cabrera would have some problems at third. I thought he would be disaster at third. He hasn't played as poorly as I anticipated, but he hasn't been even an average major league defender at the position, either.
What I didn't anticipate was Prince Fielder's struggles at first. He has been terrible there the last week (three errors, all costly). These are the numbers. They speak for themselves. And nobody can defend these stats based on "the reason they make so many errors is because of their range and they get to a lot of balls...."
- Both Fielder and Cabrera have six errors, one behind the American League leader regardless of position, Baltimore Orioles second baseman Robert Andino.
- There are only 10 players in the AL with six or more errors.
- Besides Fielder, no AL first baseman has six errors or five errors. Only one AL first baseman has four errors (Toronto's Adam Lind). Only one AL first baseman has three (Baltimore's Chris Davis). The rest have two or fewer.
- Fielder's .983 fielding percentage ranks at the bottom of those with enough chances to be listed on the's stats site. No other first baseman listed is below .991. Cabrera's .946 fielding percentage is last among AL third basemen.
- Last year, Cabrera led AL first baseman in errors with 13 (by three) and had the worst fielding percentage at the position, .991. Fielder's fielding percentage this season is considerably worse (.983) and he is on pace to make 23 errors this season.
- The timing of Fielder's errors have been costly, especially the last two. Last Thursday vs Minnesota, he missed a throw to first base by pitcher Doug Fister for an error. The hitter, Josh Willingham, ended up on third and scored when Justin Morneau grounded out. It made a 3-0 game in the fifth inning a 4-0 game. The Tigers rallied late in the game, but lost it, 4-3. The miscue directly led to the deciding run
- Wednesday, with runners on a second and third and one out in the eighth inning of a 2-2 game, Travis Hafner of the Indians hit a routine grounder to first. Fielder threw the ball into the dirt, Tigers catcher Alex Avila couldn't hold it and Jason Kipnis scored the go-ahead run. The next hitter, Carlos Santana flew out, but instead of ending the inning, because of Fielder's error, it resulted in a sacrifice fly.
Early in the season, when people would compare this team to 2008's disaster, I didn't see it. But honestly, the last week, the Tigers have played the exact same way.
Their fielding has been awful, and it's started at the two corner spots, but especially at first base.
In addition to the breakdowns and obvious flaws mentioned above, the Tigers have been horrific when it comes to producing clutch hits. Fielder's error wouldn't have mattered Wednesday if they hadn't blown so many opportunities at the plate, particularly a bases loaded, nobody out situation that produced zero runs in the eighth inning.
But I still think eventually the run production will be there, but it will nullified if the Cabrera, and particularly Fielder, don't perform better defensively.
It's not like the Tigers have options to change the way they are setup. This is the bed they made when they signed Prince Fielder, and while he is a tremendous hitter, it's been painfully watching them sleep in it defensively.


Anonymous Jeff Klenner said...

I for one am having serious "buyer's remorse" with Fielder -- especially given that they are saddled with a DH-only sort of player for NINE (9) years.

I can live with Cabrera's defense and third base and actually think he made himself into a relatively decent first basemen -- where I think he had much more range than Fielder displays. If nothing else, Cabrera (at 6'4") figured to reach a lot more off-the-mark throws at first base than Fielder.

With Nick Castellanos hitting .411 at Lakeland, one has to wonder how long before he forces his way onto the scene as the Tigers' third baseman for the next ten years. That moves Cabrera back to first, and places Fielder firmly as the full-time DH.

Leyland has never liked having a full-time DH, but it looks like he'll be saddled with one for the next 7 or 8 years.

12:04 PM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Yeah, it appears to be quite evident that the Tigers downgraded both 3rd and first bases a lot more than anticipated.

But we did know this was coming (bad defense) - and we were prepared to swallow it given it was going to be sweetened by a line up that was going to drive in twelve runs every game to outrace the other teams offense to the end of nine.

The real story here is the inexplcable absense of hitting - top to bottom - except for Jackson who's out hurt. And Miggy and Fielder need to be hitting over .500 to outpace the opposition with this weaka** s**t.

And this to be one Verlander's story book years too.

12:22 PM 
Blogger section444 said...

AS a life long fan since 1954, it is demoralizing to watch poor defensive play, where you beat yourselves. Even more discouraging, isthe fact that, THE MONSTER CONTRACT, handcuffs any options to rectify this mistake. I sensed this when I first read of the fleecing of Mike Illich by Scott Boros. My gut felt sick, because I love this team. Unfortunately, Miguel Cabrera didn't nix this, like he could have. wanting to play to play some 3rd base. IMO it would have been much better to make a more thoughtful adjustment to Victor Martinez's injury, than to do something impulsive. Also a bit sad, is that DD didn't step in to be the voice of reason, suggesting to Mr. Illich that Fielder would be" the only difference maker". Dave

1:30 PM 
Blogger Barry said...

Pat, that is why if you can trade Porcello for another K pitcher you do it. Trade Porcello to a good infield defensive team. Pat, I think the Tigers are thinking like you beside they have not moved Castellanos from 3B yet. Nick has 337 minor league career batting average. He needs to be moved up to AA ASAP.

2:22 PM 
Blogger Contrary Guy said...

Isn't it about that time of the year where Leyland starts passive-aggressively demanding his contract extension?

10:39 PM 
Anonymous BigTimeTigerFan said...

I don't think Ilitch had ever given out 9 year contracts before....

not to Verlander and not to Cabrera (who both are more valuable than Fielder is).

Look at the Pujols contract -- it was too big and too long...Pujols is finally starting to hit but at least Albert Pujols plays solid defense (unlike Fielder)....what concerns me greatly about Fielder is that he's too much of a one dimensional player to get several hundred million dollars -- this Boras contract was total insanity and DD and Ilitch may regret it for years to come...Fielder just doesn't have the range or ability to often play "adequate" defense over at 1B on a consistent basis...and so far Fielder hasn't been able to hit nearly enough to compensate for his defensive issues...In the recent series with the Indians Fielder had many opportunities to drive in the game changing runs BUT it didn't happen...and Miguel Cabrera is far superior to Fielder at 1B and I never liked his move to 3B (which puts tremendous pressure on the Tigers infield defense and so far Cabrera hasn't hit as well since moving to his new position).

12:30 PM 
Anonymous Don H. said...

Hey Pat, I think what makes it worse is Prince seems to want to stay on the bag on pick off moves instead of moving to the ball, catching the ball or trying to catch the ball should be his # priority. Miguel just looks bad, he just doesn't seem very disaplined at his whole approuche to the game. I am also a long time Tiger fan and I think long run they can be ok, but they need to somehow change the makeup of this team.

1:31 PM 
Anonymous woody said...

both these guys are making errors, but if the team hitting was better, there wouldn't be much attention directed at it. as is, they've had 17 of 45 games decided by 1 run, so all the little things get magnified. the team is flawed defensively at the corners...but doubt it will be a decisive factor on the season. like you say, nothing can be done about it anyway.

one startling stat is that Tigers have been outhomered 41-46 through 45 games. if that trend doesn't reverse, the season will go sour.

3:49 PM 

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