After plenty of speculation and flirtatious behavior the past 24 hours, the Tigers finally came to terms with free agent Torii Hunter on a two-year, $26 million dollar contract which was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
Last season the 37-year-old Hunter posted a .313/.365/.451 batting line with 16 home runs in 584 plate appearances in right field for the Angels.
With the signing the Tigers add a veteran hitter who performs very well against left-handed pitching and can immediately be inserted into the two-spot in the lineup. Hunter also becomes a huge asset to mentor Austin Jackson who could very well become one of the best outfielders in the league as well as up and comers in Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos. More so though Hunter is an instant upgrade at the corner outfield position, an area that was quite frankly a disaster defensively as Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs highlights…
The outfield has been a defensive catastrophe, more than five runs worse than any other AL outfield. The difference between the last-place Tigers and the first-place Angels, by UZR, works out to nearly 60 runs, or nearly six wins. The Tigers have allowed the highest BABIP on line drives in baseball, and though I know you’re tempted to blame this all on Delmon Young, Young hasn’t played a lot of outfield in a while. He’s actually seventh on the team in outfield innings, at 226. UZR thinks he’s responsible for just a small fraction of the overall negative.
The guy UZR really hates is Brennan Boesch, and while I don’t want to get too deep into talking about single-season UZR, I’ll note that Boesch has batted 500 times and owns a -1.1 WAR. In retrospect, less Boesch and more someone else might have the Tigers in first, in a tie or by themselves. That’s speculation. Let’s forget about Boesch and focus on the overall picture: the Tigers’ defense has indeed been a weakness, but the numbers suggest the weakness hasn’t been in the infield, but beyond it.
So with Hunter locked in and Victor Martinez coming back next season, it would seem that the Tigers have a pretty formidable lineup that all of a sudden isn’t quite the liability defensively.
Let’s take a look at that projected 2013 batting lineup (I’ve also included each player’s 2012 batting average):
1. Austin Jackson CF, .300
2. Torii Hunter RF, .313
3. Miguel Cabrera 3B, .330
4. Prince Fielder 1B, .313
5. Victor Martinez DH, .330*
6. Andy Dirks LF, .322
7. Jhonny Peralta SS, .239
8. Alex Avila C, .243
9. Omar Infante 2B, .257
* denotes 2011 batting average
Obviously what’s seen on paper has to ultimately translate to what happens on the field but the Tigers did an extremely good job in shoring up needs on both the offensive and defensive sides of their game.
h/t: Fan Graphs, FOXSports.com, USA Today