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Miguel Cabrera is definitely the Tigers’ starting third baseman

Jan 26, 2012, 3:17 PM EDT

Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera said as much as soon as the Prince Fielder signing happened, but manager Jim Leyland made things official during Fielder’s introductory press conference today: Cabrera will be the Tigers’ starting third baseman.

And not only that, Leyland added that he doesn’t even plan to remove Cabrera for defensive purposes late in games.

Cabrera, who’s mediocre at best as a first baseman, hasn’t played third base regularly since his first season with the Tigers in 2008. He lasted two weeks there before Leyland shifted him across the diamond and started Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge at third base.

Victor Martinez returning from his torn ACL next season would put the Tigers in a tough spot and necessitate one of Fielder, Cabrera, or Martinez playing somewhere other than designated hitter, but with Martinez expected to miss all of this season it seems strange that they wouldn’t use the DH on Fielder or Cabrera.

And apparently they might not even use it on Delmon Young, at least not all the time. Imagine a world in which Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Delmon Young are on the same American League team and someone else is the designated hitter.

Of course, while the defense isn’t going to be pretty the Tigers’ offense figures to be plenty scary, with Leyland saying this is his projected batting order:

1. Austin Jackson
2. Brennan Boesch
3. Miguel Cabrera
4. Prince Fielder
5. Delmon Young
6. Alex Avila
7. Jhonny Peralta
8. Andy Dirks/Don Kelly
9. Ryan Raburn

It’s worth noting that Jackson (.331 career on-base percentage) and Boesch (.330 OBP) aren’t exactly ideal table-setters for two of the best sluggers in baseball, although Fielder would at least benefit from having Cabrera (.395 OBP) directly in front of him.

And in that above scenario the Tigers also have Brandon Inge and Ramon Santiago on the bench, which will apparently be the only place to find defense in Detroit this season.

  1. cur68 - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    Someone in Detroit must have just watched Moneyball. Do they have a former catcher who can’t throw, too?

    • philcokesbrain - Jan 26, 2012 at 5:00 PM

      Yeah, but he’s on the DL with a torn ACL

  2. paperlions - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    Cabrera has gained about 50 lbs since he last played 1B….should be fun.

    • paperlions - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:33 PM

      Obviously, that should have been 3B….I didn’t mean to insinuate that Cabrera has gained 50 lbs since November.

      • e5again - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:56 PM

        But he is in the best shape of his life.

  3. Brandon Warne - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    Quick Cleveland, sign Casey Kotchman to hit groundballs at them.

  4. shawndc04 - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    Well that will keep the field from tipping.

    • kopy - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:32 PM

      That’s actually why Fielder and Cabrera are on opposite corners; it keeps the field in balance.

  5. philliesblow - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    Defense? The only defense that matters with that batting order is de-fence the ball will be flying over on a regular basis.

    • Mark - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:41 PM

      Doug Fister and Rick Porcello who both have 50% GB rates might beg to differ.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 26, 2012 at 5:39 PM

        New Tigers pitching mantra: LOTS of pitching outside the the right handed hitters. ;-)

  6. Old Gator - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    W just spent $800 on ultrasound treatments to break up a clot of marrow bone chips that was constipating our bagle hound, Belushi. The x-ray the vet showed us looked a lot like the middle of Craig’s projected Tiggers’ batting order. I suppose they’ll have Fielder bunting a lot to move Cabrera along. It’s going to be fun watching both of them trying to take that extra base, won’t it?

    Any odds on how many triple plays the Tiggers will hit into when someone comes to bat with Fielder and Cabrera on first and second?

    • Old Gator - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:29 PM

      Aaron’s projected…

      Edit function!
      Edit function!
      EDIT FUCNTION!

      • Old Gator - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:30 PM

        FUNCTION….

        sigh

      • dwrek5 - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:00 PM

        “with LEYLAND DAYING this is his projected batting order:”

        sigh…

      • dwrek5 - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:00 PM

        “with LEYLAND SAYING this is his projected batting order:”

        sigh…

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:15 PM

      I also had no idea Tigger played baseball.

  7. humanexcrement - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    This is going to be one of the worst defensive teams of all time. Someone please tell me Jhonny Peralta isn’t the starting shortstop. Oh, good god. All you have to do to beat this team is put the ball in play to beat this team.

    • Ari Collins - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:52 PM

      To be fair, their outfield defense should be good. It’s their infield that should be worst in baseball.

      • atworkident - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:48 PM

        … and they are still hands down the best team in the AL Central.

        They should win by double digits.

      • e5again - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:58 PM

        Um. You did read the part about Delmon Young not being the DH right?

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 26, 2012 at 5:47 PM

        By UZR/150 last year

        Jackson = +8
        Boesh = -8.6
        Young = -3.7 (his best season by a lot in a long time)

        How does a pitcher make everyone hit fly balls to straightaway center? That is the question for the Tigers pitching coach

      • Ari Collins - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:52 PM

        Yeah, but Jackson’s pretty good, and I think… Umm…

        Okay, the outfield’s not good, either. Austin Jackson’s good.

        And on the infield, Ramon Santiago’s decent!

        Ouch.

    • brewcitybummer - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:26 PM

      Around the midway point of last season the Brewers were reported to have the worst infield defense on a contending team at that point in the season in the modern era of the game. (I believe it was using the UZR metric).

      They won their division by 6 games. There is something to be said for reinforcing your strengths. The Tigers could theoretically help themselves by loading up on strikeout pitchers through the trade market..cough…Zach Greinke..cough

      • paperlions - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:35 PM

        True, but….didn’t the Brewers kick the ball around the IF and OF a lot while losing in the NLCS?

        You can get to the post season with shoddy defense or with a decent rotation that lacks an ace…..but it is hard to consistently beat good teams when you give them extra outs or don’t have pitchers with shut down stuff. The playoffs have a way of magnifying weaknesses.

      • brewcitybummer - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:43 PM

        I would say the Brewers starting pitching got shelled in the NLCS. Its hard to look at anything else as being the deciding factor.

        But as far as the postseason magnifying flaws, the numbers I’ve seen show that good pitching and defense in the regular season generally translate to the playoffs. However, weird as it may seem, apparently there is no statistical correlation between a team’s regular season run production and its playoff run production.

  8. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Everyone said the same thing about Berkman playing RF last year, and that worked out OK. My guess is that Fielder and Miggy each get their share of DH days.

    Maybe Leyland is in the same fantasy league that TLR was in last year. If your league has Pujols and Miggy as 3B eligible, that is a winner!

    • paperlions - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:45 PM

      If being by far the worst defensive RF in the majors last year (based on UZR or on DRS) qualifies as “working out”, then, yeah it did.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:07 PM

        The question is not “will he be a good 3B.” The question is, “will his bat at 3B be good enough to make up for his defensive shortcomings?”

        As for his overall value to the team at 3B, I suppose it depends on what they do with the DH spot. If they have Cabrera at 3B and Inge as the DH, it makes no sense. If they pick up one of the good DH types still available for peanuts (Ibanez? Damon?) or trade for a Thome type, I think the team will net a positive return on Miggy at 3rd.

        Berkman may have been the worst RF in baseball, but how many of those other RFs got a ring last year?

      • paperlions - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:15 PM

        Yeah, because that is relevant. The question at hand is: how effective is it to putting players back at positions they haven’t been capable of playing for years? Not, who won a ring. Theriot got a ring, too….that doesn’t mean SS defense isn’t important (as he was replaced because it was so bad).

        The point is that playing Cabrera at 3B and Fielder at 1B will make the Tigers worse than playing Cabrera 1B (where he is better than Fielder) and having Fielder DH.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 26, 2012 at 5:30 PM

        While I would agree with you on the two scenarios you mentioned, the lineup will have to be 9 men deep, so much will depend on

        1. If Miggy is at 1B and Fielder DH (or vice versa) who plays 3B?
        2. If Miggy is at 3B and Fielder is at 1B, who is the DH?

        Miggy was worth 7.3 WAR last year, so even if his defense is historically bad at 3B (-2 wins, but I bet he’ll be better), I would say his floor is around 5 WAR. I admittedly do not know how to calculate positional adjustments for WAR and such, but I would imagine they could net more wins with a slugging DH than with Inge at 3B.

        My point about Berkman is that, even with his poor numbers on defense, he was a 5 WAR player last year. That is serious contribution to the team. If you are comparing his contributions to the team winning the WS to those of Theriot, I will say that your argument is invalid.

      • Kevin S. - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:54 PM

        Actually, a minus twenty third baseman is the equivalent of a DH over 650 PA (positional adjustment is +2.5 for 3B, -17.5 for DH). The issues are whether Cabrera can stay healthy playing third that long and whether the replacement DH can be more than twenty-five runs better at the plate than Inge (figuring he’s a plus five defender at third).

    • thefalcon123 - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:52 PM

      Also, 3B is a bit more of an important defensive position than right field.

      Oh, and Cabrera was the *worst* defensive 3rd baseman in baseball 5 years ago. I can’t imagine 5 years of not playing there would have helped him out any.

  9. jbell55146 - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    Hey Anyone know what team had the 4th most errors in baseball last year? St Louis Cardinals. Hey, anyone know what team had the 3rd least errors in baseball last year? Chicago White Sox. But hey, Cabrera and Fielder are fat. Hahahahaaha. Oh, how many guys had an OPS of over .980? 5. How many play for the Tigers right now? 2. Oh and since those 2 are so overweight, hahahaha, what 2 players played in the most games last year? Oh yeah, Prince and Miggy. GO TIGERS!!!

    • paperlions - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:50 PM

      Errors. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

      The teams that were best at turning batted balls into outs last year (and therefore, by definition, the best defensive teams) were the Rays and the Rangers. I seem to remember them being pretty good and facing each other in the playoffs.

      The teams that were the worst at turning batted balls into outs last year (and therefore, by definition, the worst defensive teams) were the Twins and the White Sox. I seem to remember them both sucking last year.

      The Cardinals were the 20th best defensive team last year; but better at the end of the year with Jay and Furcal replacing Rasmus and Erriot.

    • cur68 - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:51 PM

      Amazing how many people fail to notice those numbers. If we ever get a “Prince BSOL” post to follow up the Miggy one, what are people gonna do for humor ’round here?

    • drewsylvania - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:23 PM

      Errors mean dick.

      • atworkident - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:50 PM

        I thought there was a different meaning for that word.

  10. whittle79 - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    Haters !!
    There defense will be better than everyone thinks !
    You have to “get a hit” to put it in play !!

    • Ari Collins - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:14 PM

      Actually, you have to put it in play to get a hit.

      • drewsylvania - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:25 PM

        Technically you can hit it “out of play” and have it be a hit, e.g. a home run.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:57 PM

        True, true.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:58 PM

        Of course, the greater criticisms of his “argument” are that a) the Tigers don’t have such a great pitching staff that their fielders dont’ matter and b) they in fact have a fairly strongly groundball-oriented staff.

        Should be fun to watch.

  11. ultimatecardinalwarrior - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    Everybody said Lance Berkman was too fat to play RF last year, but that turned out ok. He definitely wasnt great in the field, but his offensive value more than made up for his lacking defensively. Now, 3B is a prime defensive position compared to RF, but Cabrera is also a better offensive player than Berkman. My belief is that this will be a disaster and someone, probably Martinez, will be traded, but this does have a chance for success.

  12. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:09 PM

    Hey, at least it’ll be nice to have him in fantasy leagues this year even more so, right?

    • Ari Collins - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:17 PM

      Wow, that’ll be a great pick. Too bad (thank god) I don’t play fantasy baseball anymore.

  13. drewsylvania - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Hitters are going to have a field day against that infield.

  14. Detroit Michael - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    Brandon Inge must hate Scott Boras by now:
    1) Lost the starting catching job when Tigers signed Ivan Rodriguez.
    2) Lost the starting third base job when Tigers signed Miguel Cabrera (but got it back eventually)
    3) Lost the starting third base job when Tigers signed Prince Fielder (although he might have lost it to Don Kelly anyway).

    • unclemosesgreen - Jan 26, 2012 at 5:56 PM

      He should hate his collection of baseball bats even more. Full of holes where the sweet spot should be.

      • cur68 - Jan 26, 2012 at 11:31 PM

        Swiss made, those bats.

    • JBerardi - Jan 26, 2012 at 6:50 PM

      So what did Scott Boras do to make Brandon Inge a shitty hitter?

  15. jpeterson4743 - Jan 26, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    can we all agree miguel cabrera will be as bad as mark reynolds at third base?

    under that assumption the total WAR for the 2011 Tigers was 23.8, now WAR is split into oWAR + dWAR. If you take the tigers 2011 oWAR totals (25.8) and subtract Inge (-.8) and Martinez (3.1) and add prince fielder (5.9) you come up with 29.4.

    Looking at dWAR, I replaced miguel cabrera with mark reynolds (assuming that’s as bad as one can be at 3b defense) so in essence I subtracted inge at 3b (.2) , subtracted cabrera at 1b (-.7), added fielder at 1b (-.7) and added mark reynolds at 3b (-2.5) from the Tigers dWAR total of last year (-2.0-.2-(-.7)+-.7+-2.5) and the figure goes from -2.0 to -4.7. Seeing as how the tigers original WAR in 2011 was 23.8 and this deal coupled with the martinez injury leave you with a grand total WAR of 24.7 its illogical to say the tigers are worse off…

    if you want to argue cabrera will be worse that mark reynolds, verlander cant possibly repeat last season, fister cant be as effective as he was or that .9 war is not worth 24 million that’s ok….but lay off the importance of defense…please

    • Ari Collins - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:56 PM

      I don’t think anyone was saying Fielder will make them worse off. Just that (as you demonstrated), they’re not much better htan last year, because of the defensejitsu they have to do to get him into the lineup. And that he might not make them better at all when Victor comes back.

      Did you adjust the oWAR for Cabrera’s new position, though? It should go up.

  16. jpeterson4743 - Jan 27, 2012 at 12:14 AM

    Actually i removed vmarts oWAR of 3.1 completly so when he returns its 27.8 if he plays only dh. And i no i didnt adjust any numbers because im assuming players will play at their current levels or worse just like most ppl on this site are…i agree this is a great signing i was just sick of hearing ppl make the tigers out like a low tier team….they will be just as good as last year amd when vmart returns they will ne 4 war superior to the 2011 team

    • jpeterson4743 - Jan 27, 2012 at 12:23 AM

      Damn iphone…..they will have a better combined war when martinez rerurns.

  17. scoregasmic - Jan 27, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    The tigers will be great, cabby has been working on third base since before the world series, and if he struggles at first they can always put Inge or raburn at third and have cabby DH for awhile while he works on third for a whole freakin year before victor comes back and they have this alleged “problem” of having too many good players…

  18. scoregasmic - Jan 27, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    And one thing about the actual article…the statement about all the defense being on the bench…peralta has surprising range and doesnt make a whole lot of errors and Austin Jackson is the best fielding center fielder in the league period, plus raburn can actually field very well at 2nd and Avila is a great catcher.

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