Dewan: The White Sox, the Tigers and defense

From SABR member John Dewan at ACTA Sports on September 20, 2012:

The White Sox hold a two-game lead over the Tigers today in the race for the AL Central Division title. One of the key reasons the Sox are on top is defense. Not because theirs is so good, but because the Tigers’ is so bad. Detroit has the worst defense in the American League. Compared to the average team, they have lost 39 runs on defense. The White Sox’s defense has saved five runs, which makes them an average defense.

That’s a difference of 44 runs, a difference of four games in the standings.

When the Tigers signed Prince Fielder to team up with Miguel Cabrera, the plan was to supercharge their offense. While both players are having excellent seasons, it hasn’t worked as well as planned. In 2011, the Tigers scored 4.9 runs per game. This year, they are down to 4.5 runs. Defensively, both Fielder and Cabrera are hurting the team. Ten of the 39 runs lost on defense are from those two, five apiece at their respective positions.

I am somewhat surprised that Cabrera hasn’t been worse at third base. In playing third base with Florida in 2006 and 2007, he lost 29 runs defensively. He was moved to first base with good reason. Returning to third base this year, we projected him to lose about 15 runs for the Tigers this year, and he’s only lost 5 so far. Here are the defensive performances of some of the other players on contenders that have changed positions this year.

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Originally published: September 20, 2012. Last Updated: September 20, 2012.