By: Kurt Snyder
It’s been well documented how much better the Tigers have been defensively this season. The return of Jose Iglesias was arguably the most important variable in improving an area where the Tigers had previously struggled.
A couple of throwing errors were uncharacteristic blips on the screen in St. Louis, but despite that, Iggy still showed how good he is at short. Those couple of hiccups did nothing to change how good he and Kinsler have looked together; certainly they have been as good of a shortstop and second base combination as there is in the league.
In the outfield, Gose and Cespedes have not disappointed defensively either and they really have been great additions to this lineup as well.
But when we talk about Tiger defense and the improvement, the guys we have already mentioned are the ones you would expect to be mentioned and I could spend a while talking about them. All of them have been very good with the glove and the arm. And all of them have hit well. Heck, Iggy leads the American League in hitting! Gose continues to surprise and Cespedes is among the league leaders in doubles. But they have all flashed the glove, which we expected.
But the defensive improvement hasn’t ended with these guys. And the fact that it hasn’t is a great sign for the Tigers going forward. I cringed just a little, not a lot, when Alex Avila went on the DL. I thought that James McCann would be slowly groomed for the full-time gig this year, platooning with Avila. He seemed to be a guy that could thrive in a part-time role in preparation for taking over full-time next season. But I still felt Avila was an important piece.
However, game by game, McCann is making us forget about Avila. He’s shown ability with the bat. He’s shown he can run pretty well and defensively, he looks very good, possessing agility behind the plate. But also, the kid’s got a heck of an arm and is beginning to show base runners that they may want to think twice about taking off for second.
But last and certainly not least, is the defensive play of Miguel Cabrera. Until now, I was of the mind that the most important defensive player for the Tigers is Iglesias. And it’s true; he has to stay on the field for this team. He anchors the defense.
But good defensive play by Miguel Cabrera signals so many important things for the Tigers and their future success. And the most important is that it signals how healthy he is. And I don’t need to remind you how a healthy Miggy impacts the success of this team. The play he made on Saturday was incredible. And his continued banter with the St. Louis fans afterward is great to see. Because a happy-go-lucky Miggy means he feels good.
The Tigers will go nowhere when he’s not flashing that smile or messing with players at first base and having fun with the fans. It all signals how good he feels. A happy Miggy gives the Tigers a chance.
When Cabrera is hitting home runs to centerfield, doubling to the opposite field, flashing his glove and throwing frozen ropes to cut down runners, you are seeing a great athlete. His movement in the field and on the base paths is so much more fluid now; no more signs of laboring from injuries.
So, as much as Iggy anchors the infield, a healthy Cabrera anchors the ship.